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  • Writer's pictureAlison Ellerbrook

How to use Instagram to get more local customers

I love Instagram and increasingly so in recent weeks since Facebook decided to throttle organic traffic even more than it was already. However I find many businesses I speak to shy away from it, intimidated by the prospect of having to constantly post quality photographs and often unable to see how it can attract local customers.

Instagram is about far more than pretty photographs and it's a fantastic platform to connect and engage with your audience.

Think about your content

To encourage likes and follows, your content should be attractive and/or interesting.. Don't just post product pictures; think about your location and take local shots. Consider using pictures of your staff or topics related to your business. A fish & chip shop could post photos of the boats in the harbour. A builder post photos of completed projects and/or DIY hints and tips. If you're a recruitment consultant what about some motiviational quotes?

To attract a local audience, try to give your captions a regional flavour and familiarity. As well as photographs, you can post quotes and/or advice relevant to your business. Apps such as WordSwag and Textgram make it easy to create this type of content.

Images should be square (never use a portrait image), the app Squaready is what I use to do this quickly.

Think about how your grid will look - a consistent approach will look more professional.

Use location tags

I see so many posts without a location tag and that's fine. Fine if you don't want or need to appeal to a local audience, but if you do, always tag your posts with your location. Hopefully your business already exists as a public location on Facebook so that customers can 'check in'. If this is the case, it will also be available on Instagram so you can tag posts with your business address. If not, make sure you go and add your premises as a location on Facebook.

You may prefer just to tag your local town or county if you're a home based business or a service. Either way, make sure you add a relevant location if you're after local customers.

Find the locals

As well as tagging your posts, you should be searching on your location. Like and comment on posts from that location as these accounts are likely to be potential customers.

When you search, the first 9 posts you see are the top performing from that location. Ensure you follow and engage with these users, if their posts have lots of engagement they will be influential. You want to be liking and commenting as much as you can to get your account noticed.

You could go one step further and message top users in your location and invite them to your premises. Offer a free XYZ - they will likely post to Instagram when they visit and spread the word to their own followers.

Make sure you follow lots of local accounts and like and comment on their posts. Spend as much time as you can doing this; whenever you have a few spare minutes like and comment. When I'm growing a client's account I spend at least an hour a day following, liking and commenting on posts to grow a relevant audience.

Use relevant hashtags

Hashtags are how people will find your account; think of them as Instagram's SEO. Think carefully about which hashtags you use and consider creating one for your own brand.

Don't always use the most popular hashtags as your content is likely to get lost amongst the millions of other posts. If you have a clothing brand, don't use #fashion or #style - try something more specific such as #tallfashion or #plussizefashion.

Use local hashtags too; I'm in Northumberland and I use hashtags such as #NorthEast #NorthEastbusiness and #Northumberland as well as tagging my posts with my location. Search on these hashtags and engage with other accounts using them.

You want to draw attention to your profile and remember this is SOCIAL media and requires an element of being SOCIAL! There is some debate as to how many hashtags to use on a post, but if you're growing from a small number of followers I would use 15-30 hashtags initially so your posts and account can be found.

Optimise your profile

The only place you can put a clickable link on Instagram is in your bio.

Write a snappy sentence describing your business. Put a link together with a call to action telling your followers what to do. Avoid just linking to your homepage here, you could link to current special offers, a newsletter sign up or recent blog article.

Engage with your followers

As I mentioned before, social media is about being social. It's amazing how many businesses just broadcast what they're selling and forget to enter into conversation with their audience. When you post, think about asking a question to encourage your followers to interact with your post. ALWAYS try to reply to and like comments made on your posts.

Remember to look through your feed and like and comment on your followers posts too, it's not all about you!

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