When people are generally interested in and genuinely engaged by local business, they're quick to make their feelings known. That's the best case scenario. When things don't go according to plan, however, the long and short of it is this: consumers today see no need to do business with companies that fail to excite, or at least elicit participation of one form or another.

Enter Instagram.

EZlocal customers and local business owners have taken to asking about Instagram in recent weeks—and for good reason. Instagram, it turns out, has over 700 million monthly active users, less competition and a more engaged audience than other social media giants such as Facebook or Twitter (sources: Statista). And many longtime EZlocal customers have sensed its potential to open new doors.

EZlocal is responding.

We're proud to announce the introduction of Instagram. While it's true many of our longtime customers have been asking about it, we found that there were still a fair number that hadn't heard much about Instagram. To them we say this: not to worry! It's not as newfangled as it may sound. Not only that—it's new to a few of our own people as well. Whatever your level of familiarity, make no mistake: all that deadly serious talk of "building a magnetic brand," or that discussion of how your "feed" or “grid” looks, will be replaced here with a brass tacks examination at how you can leverage Instagram to increase customer awareness and, ultimately, profits.

Here are three ways to do exactly that.


1.) Gather User Generated Content

Local businesses have a unique opportunity to ask for, and in turn receive, great User Generated Content. Mind you, the amount of legwork that's required is minimal.

Even something as simple as creating a hashtag for your seasonal sale, and then posting it for people to see, can encourage UGC. Whether it ends up being the power of suggestion, or just a moderate buzz that's passed around a group of 10 friends, it's apt to create worthwhile User Generate Content.

Case in point—last week's show.

Last week, I visited a local show with my daughter—a puppet show no less (as ancient a form of entertainment as we have in 2018). Toward the end, I noticed placards with hashtag that were specific to the show we'd seen. Because my daughter is an avid photographer, I'd already taken a handful of photos. It also happened to be a great show. Bottom line? We uploaded a few pictures to social media for the benefit of her cousins, many of whom had been calling throughout to see if she could play.

And did we use the theater's suggested hashtags? We did. And on Instagram no less. This led to three additional audience members that I know of, and three that this particular theater would not have otherwise seen. In all likelihood, it was more than that considering the exponential awareness that social media has been known to bring. 

If a puppet show can leverage that kind of exposure (I say again: ancient!), just think of what you can do with your business.


2.) Build Anticipation and Offer Exclusivity

Steadily preserving interest is an essential function of your social media and marketing efforts. To that end, try rewarding loyalty with exclusive content. Let those coming back for more be the first to know about new products, services, or events, and be sure they know they're getting The Preferred Customer Preview. Make teaser photos that stir anticipation. Pique curiosity for your new releases, special offers, or new menu items. This kind of preview makes your Instagram followers feel privy—and thus special.

Instagram really lends itself to this function, photo-centric as it is. 

Before you know it, you have new customers standing before you, telling you about those offers and how it all eventually led them to see for themselves.


3.) Showcase What You Do—in a Creative Way

Try homing in on the solution you provide as a local business, as opposed to the products you sell. On Instagram, as on all social media platforms, it behooves us to add value to the customer experience.

What's distinct about Instagram is that it helps enormously if you (or your process!) can be photogenic while you're at it!

If your business is service-oriented, try showcasing the process behind the service (restaurants really lend themselves to this structure). Take people behind-the-scenes. Give a snapshot of your company culture, share your mission, profile a willing customer, or simply share some tips and how-tos. Note: it’s possible to upload not only photos, but short videos (similar to GIFs, they're called "Boomerangs"), and videos up to one minute in length as well