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Instagram has upped its game in a big way over these past few years.

We wrote a post back in 2016 called  How to Use Instagram for Local Businesses, which needs so much updating in 2019, we decided to write another one!

What we’ll be covering:

  1. Making Your Bio Count
  2. Creating Content Specific to Instagram
  3. Hashtags
  4. Being Consistent
  5. Using video
  6. Instagram Stories
  7. IGTV
  8. Going Live
  9. Engaging your audience
  10. Manage, Measure, and Repeat
  11. Cross-posting to other networks with intention 

Social Media has changed and grown over the years. It’s everywhere, and how people engage with it, and what platforms they favor have been changing as well.

Instagram, in particular, has seen a major spike in growth over the past two years.

Pew Research social media
Image credit: Pew Research Center

YouTube and Facebook remain higher in the number of users, but Instagram has been seen a bigger increase in the number of new users in the past five years and its popularity seems to still be growing.

In addition to Instagram being the fastest growing social network, user engagement is also stronger on Instagram.
instagram local businesses guide

Along with this strong growth, Instagram is rolling out some new features designed to help local businesses make the most of the platform. Earlier this year, they rolled out Local Business Pages as a way to give a business a presence on the platform.  Similar to Google’s Google My Business pages, They include the business’ address, hours, contact information, and website when searched in the “Locations” tab within the Instagram app. This feature was spotted in March of 2019 and is slowly rolling out to other countries at the time this article was written.  There are still a few unknowns about the Local Business Pages, including if we’ll be able to change the images, or where they pull information from. We assume they’re being pulled from Facebook, but we weren’t able to find a source confirming.

Even though we still don’t know all of the details about these pages,  what is clear is Instagram is investing in new features to help Local Businesses draw in new customers via the platform.

instagram local business listing

So, how can your local business get in front of customers on this picture-perfect platform?

Instagram isn’t for every business. The first question you should ask is if your customers are likely to engage with your content on this platform.  Every cupcake store in the world should have an Instagram page and be posting regularly. We could even come up with some fun ideas for a Honey Bucket Instagram campaign.  But just because you made Tax Accounting funny and have thousands of followers doesn’t necessarily mean it will turn into any real business.  You may just be spinning your wheels.

If you need help deciding which platform is best for your business or want a more done-for-you approach, you can learn more about our Social Media Management for Small Business

social media marketing

If you’re ready to really utilize Instagram for your Local Business, then read on!

1. Make Your Bio and Link Count

First, make sure your Instagram is set up as a business profile. There are only a few differences between a personal and a business profile, but a business profile comes with some key advantages, like access to your analytics, the ability to add users that can help manage your account, and of course, get access to the Ads dashboard. This post from Sprout Social breaks down how to switch profile types if you haven’t already.

Even with a business account, you still only get one clickable link in your bio. A free service like LinkTree will enable you to add several links in your bio and help direct your customers to the right place!

Some recommendations for links to add:

  • A link to your menu.
  • A list of services.
  • A recent blog post where you answer some of your most FAQs.
  • A way for people to schedule an appointment.

2. Create content specific to Instagram

Instagram is a visual platform, meaning if you don’t have engaging images, your posts may not get the traction you’d like. Make sure your images stand out. Pick a theme and stick with it to create a consistent brand feel on your Instagram page.

You can do this by posting images with the same filter, the same or similar lighting, or even the same colors.

Apps like A Color Story will help you plan out your grid in advance as well as schedule posts for you.

Depending on your business, service, or product, your images, of course, will vary.

Some post tips:

  • Be sure to geo-tag your images! Tag the location of your city, neighborhood, and of course your business depending on where your photos were taken.
  • Create posts about your area, aka local posts. Think about your customers. What are their lives like when they’re not using your product or service? Probably a lot like yours!
  • Tag other businesses in your posts.  Are there other businesses you have a partnership with? What about your neighbors? Look for opportunities to showcase other local products and services alongside yours to get more eyes on your content.
  • Share images from followers or customers who tag you in their posts. If your product or service is tagged in a post, it’s great to be able to share it and thank the person who posted it. (Note: if you’re NOT tagged but you found an image of your product or company, be sure to ask the person if you can share their post on your feed before you do.)

3. Hashtags

Yup, hashtags are still a thing and a great way for people to discover your content on Instagram. Doing a little research on the best hashtags to use in advance will help a great deal. Here are some tips on finding and using the right hashtags.

  • Study your competitors and other accounts within your industry to see what tags they are using.
  • Avoid using too broad of hashtags like #love or #awesome. Yes, there are millions of photos in those tags, but it also means more competition and a greater chance your image will be lost in the noise.
  • Use location-specific hashtags. When appealing to a local audience, make sure the people near you can find you!
  • Only use relevant hashtags. While you can add up to thirty hashtags per post, only choose hashtags that fit with your brand and content.
  • Make a list of the hashtags you will use most often and save somewhere you can access them easily.
  • Follow relevant hashtags – just like accounts, you can follow hashtags you want to see in your feed. This is a great way to keep an eye on trends and engage with others who are also using that hashtag.

4. Be Consistent

Be consistent with posting your content and showing up regularly on the platform. Consistency may be the most important factor in growing your audience on any social platform. Choose what days and how often you are going to post. It doesn’t have to be every day, but at least once a week is recommended. Aim for quality over quantity.

5. Use Video

Video is one of the most engaging forms of media and still one of the most under-utilized on social media. Create videos to share in your posts to break up your static images. Video in posts can only be one minute in length. (vs Stories, IGTV, and Live videos which we’ll cover next)

Feeling stuck deciding what kind of videos to create for your Instagram feed?

Here are some ideas:

  • Time-lapse.
    Time-lapse videos are super fun to watch. Create a time lapse of a project coming together. A meal being made. A day in your office. The view out your window!
  • Personal stories.
    Do a short interview with one of your employees or customers! Make a series out of it and ask the same question of everyone. Like, “What’s your favorite way to spend a Seattle summer day? “ Personal stories are relatable and fun to watch. Plus, people will tend to pause on the scroll when they see a persons face.
  • Product demonstrations.
    If you sell physical products, videos are a great way to show them in use!

Need more inspiration? See 17 Inspiring Instagram Video Examples From Oreo, GoPro, BuzzFeed & More

6. Instagram Stories

Instagram stories are a series of short videos that are viewed differently than scrolling through the main photo feed on Instagram. Each story is only 15 seconds, however, you can upload longer videos that will automatically be broken into 15-second segments.
They are only visible for 24 hours, so they’re a great way to share quick updates and in-the-moment events.
You can also create simple text images as a part of your story that can help you share your message without video or images. These mini-videos within the Story section help keep your brand in front of mind as when you have a story running, your profile will have a multi-color ring around your profile image.

instagram stories local business- top pot

PRO TIP: Add text overlay to Stories that include talking or dialogue whenever you can.

Not only does this help convey your message to people who are flipping through their stories without the sound on, but it will also help reach over 460 million deaf people in the world. While Instagram doesn’t offer closed captioning, there are several third-party apps like Clipomatic that will help you add closed captioning text to your videos.text overlay for stories on Instagram


IGTV, or Instagram TV, is yet another way to use video on the Instagram platform.  Think of IGTV as Instagram’s solution to get YouTubers on Instagram.
There are a couple of different ways to use IGTV. Download the IGTV app or use it right within Instagram.
First, you will be asked to create a channel by tapping on the IGTV icon (which looks like an itty bitty television) then the settings icon. Follow the prompts then you’ll be ready to upload your first video!  On IGTV you can upload up to an hour of pre-recorded video or create a video right within your channel.
Once your video is ready you can upload it to your channel and from there you will be able to edit the cover image and add a video description and tags.

IGTV can be a powerful way to showcase more long-form content. Remember, Instagram is a mobile-first platform, so always film your videos vertically.

8.  Go Live

Live videos are a great way to share events and in-the-moment announcements! Live videos can also be recorded for up to one hour, so they are great for longer videos.  One of the best things about live video is how interactive it can be. You can answer questions in-the-moment from anyone who is tuning in live. This can be a powerful way to engage with your audience. Senator Elizabeth Warren even used Instagram Live to announce her 2020 candidacy.

When you create a live video you can also invite others to go live with you.  If you invite someone to share your live stream, the screen will split and you both be seen by the audience. This is a great way to perform interviews or even invite a member of your audience to answer questions live from them.

live instagram

Even though you are recording the video live, it will also stay available to your followers for 24 hours after your broadcast has ended.
Some great examples of live video usage

  • Answer questions from your followers. Schedule a live event and say when you’ll be live answering any questions they have! Scheduling is key here so people know when to tune in.
  • Announce a sale coming up.
  • Create something live – this can be a fun way to show your followers behind the scenes of your business.  
    Really the options are limitless!

PRO TIP: IGTV, Live, and Instagram Stories are all best viewed and filmed VERTICALLY

9. Engage!

Don’t forget, Instagram is a Social Network. Ask questions. Respond to comments on your posts. Comment on other images. Follow other accounts. Especially other local businesses with whom you interact with!

Find feature accounts to engage with that you can also tag to have your posts featured. A good example of this is the account  Visit Seattle. If you use the hashtag #visitseattle or tag them in your posts, you have a chance to be featured on their account as all of their images are generally crowdsourced.

Take 15-20 minutes a day just to start conversations and be social on the platform. It will pay off in a big way. We promise.

10. Manage, Measure, and Repeat

Managing a social platform can be overwhelming and feel like another thing to do on your never-ending to-do list. Here are some resources that help make it easier!

Here is a list of some tools and resources to help you grow and manage your Instagram account:

  • Buffer: Schedule your posts across several platforms. Buffer makes it easier to schedule out your content and to customize your posts for each platform.
  • Hootsuite: Similar to Buffer, with a few more bells and whistles
  • WordSwag: Create cool text overlay on photos or as stand-alone posts. Easy to use and there are a lot of really neat text options to choose from.
  • Canva: If want to add text or other fancy effects to your Instagram post, Canva is a great app to use. What I love about Canva is that they include some great templates to choose from which you can easily customize.  It’s available on desktop and mobile, (although, I find the mobile version does not work as well as the desktop), and you can set your brand colors even in the free version. You can invite others on your team to join your account if you need more than one person working on posts.  The pro version offers much more customization, but there is still so much you can do with the free version.

11. Cross-post to other networks intentionally

A note about cross-posting.

Since Facebook owns Instagram, they make it super easy to post from Instagram to Facebook. Many of the scheduling apps listed above will allow for this too.  There are some instances where cross-posting works great, other times, not so much. Be mindful of the content you share on both platforms. If you’re using scheduling software, it’s easy to remove the hashtags from your Instagram post for a Facebook post. Vertical videos do OK on Facebook but tend to have much lower performance and views than on Instagram, which really remains a mobile-first app.

Once you’ve been posting for a little while, review and adjust your strategy if needed.

The analytics Instagram gives you lets you know which of your posts are getting the most engagement, where your followers are, and when they are most likely to be online.

Instagram for local business analytics

Review and adjust. Remember, social is always changing. Try different things and make sure to pay attention to the results!

Does your business rock on Instagram? Leave your IG handle below and we’ll check ya out!

Our Digital Marketing Agency has Social Media Packages for Small Business that may be right up your alley! In addition, to be an award-winning SEO Company we help small to large businesses streamline their marketing efforts including all social channels. Sounds good? Drop us a line!

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