Instagram is a fast-growing platform. It currently has 500 million monthly active users, with 300 million of those using Instagram on a daily basis. It’s not just popular with individuals either. Nearly 50 percent of businesses are using Instagram, with that number expected to jump to more than 70% in 2017.

Instagram can be an effective local marketing tool for businesses, but there are some nuances to the platform you will need to learn to be successful. Lucky for you, we’ve compiled tips, tricks, and advice from digital marketing experts to help you master local marketing with Instagram. To make it easy for you navigate, we’ve divided the advice into a number of different relevant topics.

Use hashtags

The first step toward improving local marketing with Instagram is getting a handle on hashtags. Hashtags are important because they help you become part of conversations that are relevant to both your industry and to your community.

Unlike SEO, businesses aren’t penalized for stuffing posts with keywords in the form of hashtags. Oftentimes they are rewarded with additional likes and maybe even new followers. Alex Bar, Owner at Third Temple Digital says, “Putting a lot of hashtags on posts doesn’t mean that they will become oversaturated and be put away into obscurity by search algorithms. In fact, posts with the biggest number of reactions usually have more than 11 hashtags.”

Beth Adan, Senior Publicist & Graphic Designer at Three Girls Media suggests identifying hashtags that are popular in your area. She says, “Create a local hashtag to use with your images as you snap photos around town. If you already know of local hashtags or are attending a local event, make note of these to use with your Instagram images.”

One mistake that many businesses make is getting too creative with their hashtags. Meghan Wier, Website Project Manager at LocalDirective points out, “It is easy to come up with a clever hashtag as you post to Instagram, but the real power is not in the one-time witty hashtag, it is in leveraging your set of consistently branded hashtags. Keep a list of hashtags in a spreadsheet and monitor which ones get the most shares and attention.”

Finally, it’s important to do your due diligence before you select your hashtags so you can ensure they will provide the most benefit to your marketing with Instagram. Kristopher Johnson, Digital Marketing Strategist at The Gantry Restaurant & Bar states, “Make sure you’ve done the appropriate keyword research so that your hashtags are relevant to your brand, but are also being searched for frequently. My favorite keyword search tool for Instagram is Iconosquare, which provides easy-to-use analytics.”

Incorporate local influencers

Another key component of marketing with Instagram is influencers, but you don’t need to be a big brand to start an influencer program. Most communities have local celebrities or tastemakers with popular Instagram accounts that you can build relationships with.

“You can always find popular content makers or businesses from different fields (you do not want to drive the competition, obviously) and establish a business relationship,” relates Bar. “Local bloggers (or locally popular) can be guests in your restaurant, or you can band up with some other service or product maker in the area for special offers.”

Another tactic to consider is identifying businesses in your area that are finding success and look for ways you can incorporate what they are doing into your marketing with Instagram. David Christopher, Director of Marketing and Growth at Tailwind, has found that independent coffee shops are usually a good point of reference to follow.

“Baristas seem to be the perfect age and disposition to do amazing things on the network, and coffee shops and coffee itself is very photogenic,” says Christopher. “Follow them and watch what kind of photos they post that get engagement, how they tell their story, how they engage their followers in the comments, the hashtags they use, and how they use Instagram stories – you’ll learn a lot.  One independent coffee shop near me opened last year and already has more than 4,000 Instagram followers.”

Be a resource to your community

One of the best ways for a local business to gain loyal followers on Instagram is by being a valuable resource to the community. Rebekah Sine Decker, co-founder and CEO of Method Agency, says, “Small businesses have a huge opportunity to become experts in their local communities and share interesting, engaging, and HELPFUL info to their followers which will amplify the reach of their posts and provide real value to customers or potential customers.”

Todd Spodek, Managing Partner at Spodek Law Group, says that marketing with Instagram has been a valuable branding tool and has helped them be better connected with potential clients in their community. He says, “We post daily, informative posts on local legal issues and cross-reference art, history, cinema, and cultural references in order to broaden our reach online. The marketing has been successful, and I believe that it allows the community to see our firm in a much broader, well-rounded light.”

Be authentic and consistent

Stephen Twomey, Owner at points out that Instagram is the “happy” social media platform. People go there to get inspired, and this is manifested literally in the form of inspirational quotes frequently posted there. Businesses should incorporate inspirational posts into their editorial calendar and not be overtly promotional all the time.

Twomey says, “Don’t simply post what your daily specials are. Instagram doesn’t allow clickable links in posts for reasons like that. Instead, stick to a rough guideline of 80% inspirational or helpful posts with 20% going toward self-promotional posts.”

While it might be tempting to use stock imagery, Isabelle Glastonbury, Interactive Producer at Agency Entourage, says you should post original images and videos when you can. “Be creative with your postings and try to post imagery that is somewhat abstract, unique, and reflects your brand’s personality,” Glastonbury says. “Take your local audience into a different world and expose them to something original that they don’t see every day.”

Beyond that Glastonbury encourages businesses to post regularly. She continues, “Instagram is saturated with small businesses who are making their mark on the world. Don’t get drowned out – make sure you post regularly and at popular times. A minimum would be once a day – at least!”

Don’t reinvent the wheel (keep it simple)

One thing to remember when doing local marketing with Instagram is it’s not rocket science. People are going to Instagram to take a break from their lives, so don’t overthink the images you post. Keep it fun and light. David Mitroff, Ph.D., CEO, Founder & Chief Consultant at Piedmont Avenue Consulting says, “When it comes to Instagram for a small business – the key thing is to keep it simple. Puppy dogs, ice cream, and money all attract attention and the most interaction on Instagram. So ask yourself – what product, service, or topic can I post on Instagram that makes people smile, want more, and increases their interest?”

Be strategic with your likes and follows

Another way to improve local marketing with Instagram is being strategic with what you like and who you follow. Doing so could help increase engagement with your audience as well as your following. Alexandra Golaszewska, Social Media Strategist and Founder at Helios Media recommends liking or commenting on photos that were taken nearby your location or follow those individuals who are posting near you.

Golaszewska also suggests using Facebook Ads Manager to run promoted posts on Instagram. “You can target people by demographics, interests, and location,” says Golaszewska. “Location targeting offers three options: everyone in a location, those who live there, or those who are traveling there. Location can be as broad as a country or as narrow as a ZIP code. If I’m promoting a café, I’d want to reach everyone nearby, within a pretty small radius. If it’s a furniture store, I’d expand the radius but limit it to people who live there.”

Don’t forget to post stories

Earlier this year, Instagram added a new feature called Stories. This update allows you to share moments that happen throughout the day that you might find funny or interesting, but might not warrant a permanent place on your profile.  Sarah Cantu, Community Organizer at the San Antonio Campus of Tech Talent South, has had a lot of success using Instagram Stories as part of their local marketing strategy.

“Instagram stories have become our best friend,” says Cantu. “We use the feature to list upcoming courses in a way that’s quick, temporary, and doesn’t take up space on our feed. We also love to post pictures of the events that we host and attend locally, both on our story and on our feed.”

Engage your audience

The last bit of advice, and maybe the most important, is to stay engaged and build relationships with your audience. “Instagram works best when you build personal relationships with your followers,” says Jon Westenberg, Founder and CEO at Creatomic, “If you can keep track of your top engagers and ensure that you are responsive, you become more than just a brand they follow and become a connection that they want to regularly converse and contribute to.”