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 In Managing & Growing, Marketing

Social media is a vital marketing tool for every small business owner – especially those in the hospitality industry. Here’s how harnessing Instagram can grow your small business.

It’s visual

A picture tells a thousand words, and Instagram is a global community built on the power of visual storytelling. Looking at beautiful pictures of delicious food can influence customers to try somewhere new, or keep them coming back.

Co-owner of Glovers Station in Elsternwick, Mary-Jane Daffy, says Instagram has changed how cafés approach the creation of brunch dishes. She notes that her patrons don’t order from the menu but from Instagram: “They scroll through [the feed] and the photo that looks best, that’s what they order.”

Everyone’s on it

With so many hospitality businesses already using the platform, not having an active Instagram profile could mean you’re losing potential business to your competitors. So if your establishment has been slow to embrace Instagram, it’s time to join and catch up with your socially savvy competition.

It entices new customers

For a growing number of Australian customers, being able to look at a venue on Instagram before setting foot in the door will determine whether or not they visit a particular café.

Increase your chance of being their first choice by sharing some enticing Instagram images that let customers try (virtually) before they buy. Also be sure to add your location to every image. Along with hashtag search, geolocation is one of the top ways Instagram users find images. Tagging your suburb will ensure your business is noticed by potential customers nearby.

Competitions are also an easy way to entice new customers and ensure repeat business. Keep them simple – give customers the chance to win a free coffee in exchange for them uploading a photo of your food plus your café’s hashtag.

Showcase your culture

As well as food, customers want an experience to share with their friends. Instagram enables you to engage with them more deeply by sharing the stories behind your business. So rather than just selling your venue as somewhere to eat, showcase the day-to-day activities and bring your business to life.

Mastered Marketing’s Mitch Hills says using Instagram to share stories can increase customer loyalty. Introducing the barista who is responsible for turning out the coffee, and sharing images from staff events, can connect customers with your café and nurture repeat patronage.

Spruik your specials

Successful café owners know that offering the right blend of old and new dishes keep patrons coming back. Instagram is an effective way to show your regulars that it’s time to swing by and sample something new.

Village on Cloey, in Sydney’s Clovelly, uses Instagram to let its followers know what’s on the specials menu each week. This strategy showcases the innovative side of the business, while a regular posting schedule develops a strong relationship with followers.

In addition, Village’s co-owner Diogo Ferreira says running Instagram promotions and specials boosts business on slow days and provides more opportunities to engage with clients.

Low-cost advertising

The cost of traditional media advertising campaigns – like television and radio – can cost tens of thousands of dollars. It’s big-budget stuff that’s well beyond the reach of most standalone café operators.

Collect a crowd of hungry followers on Instagram and they’ll do the job of traditional advertising for you, minus the price tag. Make it easy for patrons to tag you in their latest foodie posts by incorporating your Instagram handle in menus and signage.

It’s a strategy that works well for Sarah Hendriks, who owns the popular Porch and Parlour in North Bondi. Instagram is the venue’s main marketing tool and is used to post photos of patrons and local scenery, as well as menu items.

Sharing beautiful images has helped the café collect over 33,000 followers so far.

Lessons to note

Instagram is a huge part of Australia’s ‘foodie’. If you’re not on the platform, you’re missing a marketing opportunity that your competitors are making the most of.

Harnessing the immediacy and appeal of Instagram makes sound sense for café owners. Boost your turnover by ensuring your venue is the first choice for more customers, more often.

If you need some funds to cover the costs of increased social media presence, apply online at Prospa for a small business loan or call our friendly team on 1300 882 867.

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