Instagram is the new word-of-mouth for businesses

In recent years, Instagram has become a marketing hot-spot for companies. The ‘powerful’ platform is brimming with perfectly-crafted images thanks to a thriving industry of social media influencers who promote or endorse products and services. But businesses don’t have to splash out on sponsored content to reap the benefits.

Millennials tend to gravitate towards establishments—whether it’s bars, restaurants or shops—that are aesthetically pleasing to snap ‘Insta-worthy’ photos and spruce up their feed. Research discovered that 75% of restaurant users say they’ve actually picked a place to eat based on shared food photos.

Emily Cocker, senior digital strategist at Instagram marketing agency Bigfoot Digital, said: “Instagram is powerful, so are many forms of social media. It’s the modern-day replacement to word-of-mouth as it carries photo evidence. People use Instagram as bragging rights, but you can use that to your advantage.

“Having a creative and quirky space is going to inspire people to take photos. The more pictures posted about your establishment, the more business and publicity you will receive without paying a penny for marketing.”

More organisations are using clever signs, bold colours and murals to encourage customers to generate free publicity with social media posts. Earlier this year it was found that 62.1% of people use Instagram to find things they want in real life.

Graeme Hoole, head of product development at NeonPlus said: “Instagrammable décor helps companies showcase a brand image, whether that’s a modern, cool bar or a sophisticated, feminine café. This attracts a particular target market and increases brand awareness.”

Stand out with eye-catching interiors

Glamour recently declared several restaurants and bars as ‘the most Instagrammable places in the UK’. Among the eateries and bars mentioned, velvet furniture, all-pink colour palettes, artwork, flowers and glitter string curtains were used to form swoon-worthy back drops.

Emily continued: “I think design is personal to a brand. It all depends on the audience you’re looking to attract. The vast majority of people who use Instagram are millennials who are led by what they see online.”

According to research, over two thirds of total Instagram audiences are aged 34 years and younger.

“Certain aesthetics will appeal to your brand/audience and others won’t. The key is to make the experience at your establishment one to remember,” Emily said.

Decorative forms of lighting, like neon signs and fairy lights, have recently seen a surge in popularity across many industries. Neon is often associated with parties and helps to create a certain type of atmosphere. Neon also lends itself perfectly to photo opportunities by adding personality and extra light, which can highlight certain aspects of the space.

Emily added: “Neon adds a burst of colour into an otherwise dull space. The signs are almost unmissable and great for capturing the attention of customers. Also, they aren’t as harsh on the eyes or camera lens as lights, which makes for an ‘Insta-worthy’ photo (without the glare).”

Several of the cafes and bars cited displayed neon signs with playful phrases—such as ‘well-behaved women don’t make history’ and ‘I licked it so it’s mine’—as Instagram-bait.­ Neon can also be used to light up branding and exhibit images and symbols.

“A neon sign can be an establishment’s ‘hook’ that draws customers in. Displaying a catchy phrase delivers an added experience to customers. It encourages them to take photographs and make memories that they can upload to Instagram,” Graeme added.

A similar type of lighting available is faux neon, which uses plastic tubing instead of glass, and LEDs instead of neon. These lights are easy to design, build at speed and are often more appropriate for the bespoke market.

Instagram hacks to generate business

Social media users can tag pictures to a location (with a geotag), or use hashtags to show where the photo was taken. Hashtags can often mention the city the establishment resides in (e.g #sheffieldissuper and #manchestergram). They can also describe striking design features such as #ihavethisthingwithfloors which contains almost 2,000 ‘shoefie’ photos of people’s feet on stylish floor tiling. Other examples include #neonsignage and #flowerwall.

As these images will appear in other user’s search of a tag, this practise helps to increase a brand’s online visibility. This tool can be used to discover local gems and attract tourists. Further findings revealed that 40.1% of millennials choose a travel spot based on how ‘Instagrammable’ it is.

“A great tip is to create a unique brand hashtag and encourage customers to use this when posting about your establishment. Perhaps include this on the menu or mention it in person as you take an order,” Emma continued.

Companies with Instagram accounts also have an added advantage, as customers can tag the profile directly when posting about their visit to the venue. And it provides the option to upload aspirational content that can attract customers who want to replicate the pictures for their personal profile.

Emma said: “Of course, if you choose, you can upload pictures to a business account dedicated to showing people why they should dine with you. Use high-quality images on your social media accounts to clearly show the design and aesthetics of your surroundings. Get your photography spot on to show people what they’re missing.”

The platform previously discovered that more than 200 million Instagrammers visit at least one business profile daily, and a recent study found that 75% of Instagram users engage with a company after seeing the brand post.

“As more and more enterprises emerge with stunning interiors, the ones that don’t are likely to fall short,” Graeme added. “Just having good products or services won’t always be enough to compete with firms that offer this as well as the ‘Instagrammable’ experience.”

Although many companies have prioritised appearances in the past, it has never been so important. Not only do establishments need to look visually impressive in person, the space must be photogenic to produce shareable content. With an unlimited amount of choice, customers can be easily swayed by pretty interiors and drawn to neon lights that will help get them extra likes. Businesses that don’t stand out run the risk of falling off the radar.