From 2015 to 2021, social media was one of the top three marketing channels my family’s business used to grow our customer base and stand out among the competition. Below I share the top three ways I used Instagram to help bring new customers into our store, and keep current customers returning.
01. Consistent posting schedule & engagement
One of the ways our business clearly stood out was our posting schedule. For years, I posted multiple times a week on Instagram and Facebook. This consistency meant that our followers could expect interesting posts from us. It also meant that we started to show up on popular hashtags and food review pages. We build credibility in the community as an active business that loved engaging with people who commented on and shared our content. This is why I so often reference consistency and engagement as two of THE most important aspects of how a business can build authentic online presence. I say authentic, because people knew there was a person behind each post who wanted to hear what they had to say. I made it my job to respond back to every person who reached out to us, and over time we created friendships around the world. People would engage with our page before coming on vacation, and when they walked into our store and introduced themselves, it was like meeting a friend for the first time!
02. Posting content that excited our customers
Posting consistently only works if you’re posting topics your customers, or prospective customers can get excited about. For our store, this meant posting tasty videos of our food, funny commentary on our store cats, and captivating scenic images from our community. Because I consistently posted on these three topics, customers knew what to expect and followed our page intentionally. When we posted about a delicious new menu item, many customers would make it a point to visit us and try it out! We not only were able to sell our products, but we were also able to get feedback from customers about what they did and did not like. We used this feedback to shape our menu, which helped customers feel like they had a say in what we carried. I loved this dynamic of our business where the customer was so close to the creation of new products. When we would post about our regular menu items, people who had tried them in the past would see them online and decide to stop in for lunch. For us, this type of response would have been unlikely even with paid advertising. Social media let us interact with our community and provide the foods they loved most!
03. Creating reasons for people to care about our brand
Perhaps one of my favorite elements of Instagram for our business was how we were able to share our store’s history. My great grandmother had originally built the building as a gas station, and my family had owned it for four generations. I was able to weave this heritage into the way I wrote our social media posts. The page became a natural way to share bits of every day life at the store through videos and silly captions. This transparency in how we posted allowed people to actually connect with us. The page was an extension of the way my family and our employees conducted business in-person. People could expect us to be friendly and attentive both online and at the checkout counter. Because I was able to share our store’s story, customers had a reason to listen. Our brand was set apart from other, even more convenient options. The people behind the brand had always been the reason to shop with us, and by translating that reason through social media, we built a community that outlasted the final closing day of our business.
Another highlight of our Instagram page was our lovable collection of store cats, headed by fearless leader Pickles. We shared pictures and reels of the cats and their rescue stories. I was thrilled that there were so many caring people who reached out about Pickles and the gang over the years. Seeing Pickles bring so much joy to people was something that made our business really special for me. More than one person traveled to our store especially to meet Pickles. Although I operated our social media as a way to market our business, the page evolved into a way for me to meet a community of incredible people.
Do you have questions about how to create community around your brand? Drop a comment below or reach out to me on Instagram @_janasoli_
Note: We retired our business in 2021, and you can visit our store Instagram page @lowstorehawaii. We keep it active for our community that was built over the years.
One thought on “3 Ways I Used Instagram to Market my Restaurant & General Store”