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By now you know that Instagram gets more engagement than any other social network.  If you are a local business who is just starting to use Instagram to try to get more people to come in, you’ll be playing catchup. That does not mean that you can’t succeed. Very often, small local businesses stop being “active” on Instagram within a month or so. They get discouraged because they see no results from just sharing a picture. I’m going to be honest here, Instagram takes strategy, consistency, and work. Today, we’ll give you the break down on how Instagram works; then we’ll give you 15 easy to implement Instagram Tips for Local Business.

How Instagram Works

Instagram is a social network that revolves around images – both photos and videos. When someone first logs onto Instagram, they see images taken by people they follow. Instagram users can also use the search feature to search the top posts for a particular term, people, hashtags and places.

How are Images Organized on Instagram

When you log onto Instagram and you see the images posted by people you follow, they are prioritized by how often you engage them. So, if you always like and comment on someone’s posts, it is most likely that you will see those first.

If you search people, those you follow will come up first, then those you engage most, then those that are active on the network.

If you search by hashtag or location, you will first be shown the top 9 performing posts, then you will be shown the latest images to be posted with that hashtag.

Why Should You Use Instagram to Market Your Small Business?

Instagram is an incredibly effective marketing tool for small businesses. As a business, you can grow followers and directly speak to them on the network. Because the site is focused on images, it makes it easy to tell the story of your business or brand. It is also one of the fastest growing social networks. As of September 2017, there were 500 MILLION active users. Those are some strong numbers.

Before we get to the tips to help you maximize your return on investment, let’s cover the basics.

How to Create a Solid Instagram Business Account

Create Your Username and Fill Out Your Profile

Create uniformity by creating consistent usernames for all social networks

The above example is a good profile for a local business on Instagram. Why? The profile clearly and simply states what this account is and where it is located. There is no question that this is a French restaurant in New York City. Here are some tips on how to make your Instagram business account effective:

Use Consistent Handles

When choosing the name of your Instagram account, try as much as you can to be consistent with your username/handle. Sign up for an Instagram account with the same name as your Twitter & Facebook account. Madison Bistro has the same handles across Social Media, including Twitter. This makes them super easy to find across networks. If your desired username is taken up, keep the new version as simple as possible.

Connect to Facebook

Make sure to connect your account to Facebook. When eligible, switch to a business profile.

Take Care of Branding

Add a profile photo or brand logo. Bear in mind that your profile photo or brand logo will be cropped into a circle and appear as a 150 x 150-pixel image on most phones, so your logo or image needs to be legible on smartphones and mobile devices.

Link Out to Your Website

Add a link to your website. This is especially important because you can’t add links to Instagram posts. Your profile is the only spot where a link can push people towards your website, so make this a priority.

SEO Your Profile

Make sure to include call-to-action phrases and geo-location information so people know where your local business is located. In the example above we have “Traditional French Cuisine” and “Madison Avenue”.  This gets the point across without being spammy.

Convert to a Business Account

You will hear from many that it is harder to get engagement as a business account. To these people, I say – analytics are key. What does engagement matter if the people who are following you are not your target audience? If you were the above restaurant in NYC and your following was in Spain, you’d want to know and re-work your strategy, right? The idea is not to have vanity metrics, but to have followers who can convert. If you don’t have access to analytics, you will have a much harder time getting people to convert.

Instagram Tips for Local Businesses

Start with Clear Goals

Consider how Instagram fits into your overall brand marketing strategy. Is your objective to increase awareness, shift perception, or reach a new audience? Pick a goal or two that can be achieved by connecting with Instagram’s highly visual and creative community. If you were this French restaurant in NYC, you could start with setting a goal to get 100 people in NYC to follow your account. This is clear, attainable, and measurable. Once this goal is set, then you can create more aggressive goals, like getting 50 people to click thru to your website to make reservations for an event. Again, the key here is that your goals are clear and attainable.

How to set a consistent theme on Instagram

Choose Themes to Tell a Cohesive Story

Choose storylines that are authentic to your brand and are best conveyed through captivating imagery. Create posts that follow these themes for a diversity of content that also remains consistent over time. For example, pick a filter and stick with it. Make all your images black and white…you get the idea. The example above uses Tiffany’s iconic blue as the overall theme of their account.

Create High-quality Content Work with your brand or creative team to produce images and videos that are well-crafted and feel at home on the platform. Or, if you’re a one-person shop, take some time to learn from other brands and popular Instagrammers and follow their lead. 


Come to our bar and we’ll help you out! – 37th St. at Madison Ave. A photo posted by Madison Bistro NY (@madisonbistrony) on

Limit Text

Keep captions short and fresh. People online have a short attention span, so don’t give them a book to read.

A good Instagram tip for small business is to ask questions

Ask questions to engage people This will get them to comment on your post and increase your engagement. A few examples: What do you think our most popular dish is? Are you ready for Happy Hour/Friday/The Weekend? Are you Hungry? [fve]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZ5Nj7HIC0w&feature=youtu.be[/fve] Comment & Like Use hashtags, location, and photos of you to find others’ images of your brand. Engage with them by liking and commenting on their images. Since you are a local business, you will also want to engage those posting images of your city, state, and neighborhood. They’re nearby…you can convert them! A tip to get more reach out of your Instagram account

Geo-Tag your Posts

Include the location of your photo or video when it helps tell the story of the image. This will make it so your image comes up when people search by location, it’s a great way to be discovered especially now that people will be able to follow hashtags.


Tag Relevant People Use the Add People feature to tag accounts in your image when they will help you reach a broader audience. Note how Le Bernadin tags their Chef Eric Ripert.   [fve]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVu4aVZRDcE[/fve] Use Image Editing Apps Edit your images with filters and other tools available in the Instagram app. These effects give images that unmistakable “Instagram” look that people respond to. You can also use these to say add a logo to brand all your images. Highlight Your Brand’s Identity Post photos and videos of beautiful and unexpected moments that also feel authentic and immediate. Whether your subject is a person or an object, capture it in a context that gives a sense of your brand’s identity or point of view.  


#SoupDumplingSaturdays thanks for the photo, @eatingnyc ?! #xiaolongbao #dimsum #westvillage #uws A photo posted by RedFarm (@redfarmnyc) on

Use Hashtags

Hashtags are one of the keys to success on Instagram. Make sure to use relevant, popular (but not too popular) ones for your image content. Incorporate a mix of targeted and general hashtags (we recommend you use all 30). If you don’t know how to use Instagram hashtags, click here. But in the meantime, make sure you use location-specific hashtags.

Pay Attention To The Background

Sometimes the background in your photograph is more interesting than the person or image in the foreground. You don’t want someone to sneak in the background for a photobomb that can ruin your shot. Or maybe you do want things like that to happen. As long as it’s interesting it can get you and your brand attention.

Take Photos From Unique Angles

Cheers to the weekend!!!!!! #regram #dinner #tgif #friday #weekend #nyc #food #wine #foodie #uws #centralpark #eat #datenight #date #potd #ny #newyork #newyorkcity #instagood #instamood #instafood #manhattan #nom #nomnom #nomnomnom

A photo posted by Bellini Italian Restaurant (@bellininyc) on

There are a lot of photos on Instagram, as in billions of photos.  You’ll know when you’re getting too much light in the frame and when you’re not getting enough. “There is a lot more you could do with light, but for quick ways to make your photos different try shooting from unique angles. Get real low and shoot up on things like buildings, walls, and people. These photos will stand out and will get you lots of attention.”

Promote your business on both Instagram and Facebook

Promote Your Business on Both Facebook and Instagram

If you really want to maximize your efforts, then boost them with paid media. Chances are your competitors are not currently doing this which means you can get some amazing ad prices and tons of rewards.

Widen Your Exposure to Other Brands

Social Media Examiner advises small businesses to follow other brands on Instagram. It’s good to research, you can engage their followers, and you can stay fresh with ideas.

Balance Fun Images With Pictures From Your Business

Keep your Instagram feed fun. Don’t just push out promotional items, Instagram is all about lifestyle. Take pics of your staff, customers (always with permission) and get them involved in the process.

Post to Instagram daily

Studies show that if you don’t post consistently, your audience will leave and your reach will drop. It will also make it harder for you to come up on search. That’s why it is so important that you post daily on Instagram. You can schedule posts for multiple Instagram accounts using the all-in-one social media tool, Socialdraft.

Socialdraft is more than just an Instagram management tool. With Socialdraft, you can:

  • Schedule to multiple Instagram accounts, Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, Pinterest boards, and LinkedIn pages
  • Schedule one time, duplicate, or recurring posts
  • Schedule in bulk (perfect if you run recurring promotions, post reviews, and evergreen content).
  • Set up different people on your team with different permissions.
  • Pull reports
  • and much more

If you want to take Socialdraft for a risk-free trial, just click here. 

Instagram offers a great marketing opportunity to businesses. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Instagram is a social network that lets users take pictures and videos, apply filters to them, and share them with their followers. It has grown exponentially and continues to grow. Let’s look at some stats before we give you an essential set of Instagram local business tips to help you convert eyes to customers:


  • 200 million active users
  • 70% of which logged in daily


  • 400 million active users
  • 60% of which logged in daily


  • 500 million active users
  • 300 million of which log in daily.


This means your current and potential customers are on Instagram. It also means that if you are not using the platform, you are missing out on some pretty good opportunities.

You may think you waited too long, but you haven’t. If you are willing to put in the work and you have the right strategy and tools, you can catch up in no time and convert eyes on Instagram into customers. Let’s give you the arsenal you need to get your local business started on Instagram.


How to format your local business Instagram profile

Choose a Username 

This is how people will find you. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to find you again. This means that you should not use any weird characters or words. When choosing your handle, keep it simple and constant with the rest of your branding. Let’s use Epicerie Boulud, a French restaurant/shop in New York as an example, they do things right!

If your business was “Epicerie Boulud”, your ideal Instagram handle should be @EpicerieBoulud. If that was already taken, you could try something like @EpicerieBouludNY (add the location marker). If that is taken, you can try @EpicerieBouludUWS (hyper-local – with the neighborhood as the marker). Stay away from numbers, caps, or weird letters, that will make it harder for people to remember your handle.

Measure ROI with branded hashtags

Personalized-Branded #hashtags 

Create a hashtag for your business. The easiest one to go with would be your username #EpicerieBoulud. Use this hashtag on all pictures posted to Instagram. This will help you later on when sharing your Instagram content to other social media channels. Encourage clients to use this hashtag on your profile (this would be an improvement to the EB account) or by pushing contests and discounts. As you see in the example above, your branded hashtag can be used by your marketing team, press, and consumers. it can help you convert your customers into a marketing army. That’s some pretty powerful stuff.

Use keywords and local info in your Instagram profile

Optimize Your Listing

There are certain things your listing should always have. These include:

a. Your business name (Epicerie Boulud)

b. What your business does with keywords (@DanielBoulud‘s eat-in/take-out market and catering)

c. Your location (?Upper West Side?Plaza Food Hall?WTC Oculus)

d. Call to action (this one is missing here – a call to action to share with a branded hashtag would be perfect here)

e. URL (www.epicerieboulud.com)

Epicerie Boulud has an almost perfect Instagram page profile. All they are missing is a call to action to the public. They could add a tag us on your #EpicerieBoulud pics for a chance at free coffee.
How to get customers to come to your local business with Instagram

Reply to Comments

You wouldn’t ignore someone who complimented your products or services at your local business. Same goes for Instagram. That’s one thing EB is not doing right compared to our second example, Burger & Lobster. Burger & Lobster engages almost every single person who leaves a comment on their profile. This is a smart way to build a relationship and get customers to come back and spread the word.

Use local hashtags to attract a local audience

Use Local Hashtags

You’re already using your custom hashtag. As a local business you need to use other hashtags that will attract the eyes of those who can convert to customers, that means using local hashtags. If you were a local business in NY, you’d want to use hashtags related to the city, neighborhood and nearby landmarks. This way, when people search Instagram for them, you have a chance of being discovered by locals and tourists.

Posting Frequency

Post often, not too many businesses are taking advantage of this platform. Post at least 1 time a day.  If you’re too busy and can’t post daily, it is better to skip a day than put out bad content. But try not to skip more than 1 day. The Instagram algorithm can be brutal and if you don’t post daily, your reach can suffer.

Cross promote your Instagram on other social networks


Remember we told you to create a personalized hashtag? This is where it comes in handy. Although you can instantly share your Instagram photos to Facebook and Twitter, you don’t want to. If someone is a fan of your local business on multiple social networks, you’ll just bore them that way. However, you can cross-promote networks to let people know that you’re active elsewhere and that you have different offerings.


Amplify User Generated Content

A simpler way to say this is “repost content from people who post about your local business”. It’s that simple. Remember that branded hashtag? Simply click on that branded hashtag to find people who posted about your biz. They’re creating content daily, sharing it to their audience…so why not share it with yours. But don’t just go and share without first asking for permission. You want to do this because you’re using someone else’s content AND because when you ask for permission you are building a relationship with this loyal customer. It’s a win in so many ways…and, if you use the Socialdraft dashboard, you can do this with ease!

(Shameless plug – if you don’t have a Socialdraft account, take a test drive – it won’t cost you anything to try us out).

Be a part of the conversation 

Go beyond waiting for people to comment on your images to engage them. Do hashtag searches for your city, neighborhood…then engage those creating content around your area. Chances are they’re nearby and you’re making it easier for them to discover you. Don’t be shy here. Do the work for them.


Use A Social Media Scheduler Like Socialdraft

Socialdraft is an all-in-one social media tool geared for local businesses. With Socialdraft, you can manage your local business’ entire social media presence. Here are a few things you can do with Socialdraft”

  • Schedule posts to Facebook pages, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn
  • Give access to your team members or marketing company and set permissions on them. This keeps your social media accounts safe and lets you delegate.
  • Schedule recurring posts for promotions, reviews, sales and holidays.
  • Find out which influencers you need to engage.
  • Know whenever your business is mentioned on the web or on social.
  • Share the great mentions to social with a few clicks.
  • Repost from Instagram to all other social networks.
  • Pull reports so you can analyze your performance.
  • And tons more.

If you’re curious about Socialdraft, sign up for our risk-free trial. If you have questions, just ask by clicking on support.


Instagram is unlike all other social networks. I’ve been recently getting more and more active and LOVE the interaction and connections to be made here. However, it is not as easy to get engagement and to grow your account as it used to be. First, Instagram was purchased by Facebook. Then, the Instagram algorithm was put into place. Lastly, Instagram announced not just that it has 800 million users, 500 million of which log on daily and 200 million who advertise. This means that there is more competition and that you need to be smarter than ever in how you use Instagram.

How to Grow Your Instagram Following

As a brand or local business, you may be a little concerned on how to get started with your Instagram account and how to grow your audience.  But if you take it step by step, you will be just fine.

Steady growth comes from consistent engagement and posting

Understand Your Audience

If you are going to grow your Instagram, you need to know your audience. Instagram’s demographic has changed tons, especially with its rapid growth. Let’s look at who uses Instagram today:

  • 80% of Instagram users are outside the US
  • 31% of American women and 24% of men use Instagram
  • 32% of all people who use the Internet use Instagram
  • 59% of people between the ages of 18 & 29 who use the web use Instagram
  • 33% of people 30-49 years old who use the web use Instagram
  • 38% of women who use the internet use Instagram
  • 26% of men who use the internet use Instagram
  • 17% of teenagers say Instagram is the most important social network

Start by making a user profile. Then begin to think about what other accounts like yours they will like. Check out the followers of those accounts and engage them. This is your audience. One Socialdraft user, Cognac Maniacs, represents the Cognac region. Since this beverage is very popular within the male urban market., Instagram was the perfect platform for them. They were able to grow their account organically on the platform by 5,000 followers in just 3 months by engaging followers of similar accounts.


2. Make Things Personal

Instagram is all about passion…and pictures, of course. Make sure your content expresses that passion, be creative. This is the last place you want to be boring, repetitive, or overly salesy. Keep the 80/20 rule in mind and don’t bore your audience with constant product shots. Instead, highlight your team at work, take pics of your neighborhood, or of silly things that happen. A repost campaign is perfect for this. With a repost campaign, you are publishing other people’s content. They are the ones creating the message, not you. It’s all about rewarding your audience for being loyal. If you use Socialdraft, scheduling these reposts is super easy.

3. Take a Photography Class

Yes, I said that. Instagram is all about visuals, and high-quality photos and videos can make or break your marketing efforts.  Luckily, you have the internet at your fingers and there are tons of great tutorials out there. Start off with learning about the rule of thirds.

Mobile Photo Applications

4. Get Appy

There are tons of apps out there to help you create amazing photos, check out Afterlight, VSCOcam, PicFrame, and PhotoStudio. These are a few of our staff’s favorites photo editing apps to get you started.

5. Post Daily

We polled Socialdraft users, and the overwhelming opinion was that not posting daily can result in lower engagement. This is dangerous, as your fans can lose interest, or your competition could swoop in and steal them from you. Make sure to post on a daily basis, twice a day if possible. Don’t overpost either. Once a day is good for most brands but look at analytics. Your brand is not average, so make use of the info given to you by Instagram’s analytics dashboard to figure out what is best for you.

6. Engage (Lots)

With all the extra competition out there, you can’t rely on hashtags and the algorithm to get people to come to you. The best way to get followers is to get out there and engage them. Find other accounts that are similar to yours (same industry or brand type). Find the people who engage them by checking out their latest images. Click through to their profile and engage them. Comment on their images, but make the comments good. “Great picture” is not going to get you anywhere. Engage them, like their image and comment. You will begin to see them reciprocate.

7. Get Organized

You create a calendar and strategy for Facebook and Twitter, you should do the same for Instagram. Yes, I know you can’t “publish” posts, but with Socialdraft you can schedule your posts. They will go to your phone and you can schedule from there. It is the best way to make sure you publish daily.

8. Repost Community Content

This is especially powerful if you are a brand (as in the cognac example above) or even a local business. Search for content created about you on Instagram (super easy to do on Socialdraft). Then, share this content not just to Instagram, but the rest of your social networks. We recommend that you ask permission before you do. When you do this you are both complimenting the content creator, and starting a conversation. This is a fabulous way to build brand advocates.

9. Measure

A game is no fun if you don’t keep score. This also applies to Instagram. The one issue with Instagram is that it only gives you 7 days worth of analytics, so make sure to keep track of them on Google docs.


10. Shorten URLS

Since you can’t add links to pictures on Instagram, you can use a URL shortener (like Bit.ly) to create easy to remember URLs that will help point people to where you want them to go. This will also allow you to measure if people are actually going outside of Instagram to your website. If you can get them to do this, then you’re an Instagram success.

Got questions about Instagram? Need help with Social Media? Ask for an invite to our Facebook group. We’re there to help!