Small Business Instagram TipsI recently followed along with "live tweeting" on Twitter during the Social Media Club LA (SMCLA) Foodie Event. While I wasn't physically there, I was still inspired and through social media I was able to "be there" virtually. God, how I love social technology.  One of the panelists, a local restaurant owner said that they bring more foot traffic through their doors through Instagram than any other network. It makes a lot of sense. #foodporn anyone?

Restaurants are a no-brainer for adding Instagram to their overall social media strategy. People love looking at food. I know I do. But restaurants aren't alone in this. Other small businesses can utilize Instagram to bring people through their doors.

I've talked about Instagram a lot on this blog. The value is two-fold. One part of the story comes from the business side of things. This is the images shared by the business that bring the business to life through images. These images tell the behind the scenes story of the people and the products they sell.

The other side is the story the consumer paints for you on Instagram. There are millions of people taking pictures and documenting their lives through Instagram on a daily basis. While the businesses' story matters, it is no longer the only one. In fact, the much more powerful story is in the hands of your consumers, customers, and passer-byes. It is the side of the story that you can't control that really influences people.

Social media is the new word-of-mouth marketing. People share experience with their friends, fans, and followers all day long. And many times those friends, family, and fans will follow their lead. Instagram has brought about a new type of Influencer, the photo sharing Influencer. And through their shares, they are influencing the decisions of their friends.

As a business you have to learn how to tap into that and encourage that behavior. After all, people are already sharing their experiences, good and bad online. Instagram, because of the visual nature, is very powerful.

Here's how to make your local business more Instagram-able:

How To Use Instagram For Small Business

4 Ways To Encourage Your Customers To Instagram Their Experience

1. Decor
If you want people to take pictures of your local business, you need to look good. People would much rather take a picture of something pretty than something ugly. The decor is the first step. Think about creating an Instagram-able area in your store. This could be a corner that people can try on your goods and snap away. It could be something thought provoking or intriguing. The bottom line is that it has to have appeal. By changing the way your business looks, you have better odds of getting snapped.

2. Encourage Users To Snap Away
People need a little encouragement. Think about hanging signs encouraging Instagram usage. I know it sounds simple, but it works. When someone is asked to do something, you have a better chance of them doing it. No one reads minds. Ask and you shall receive. You could even go all Instagram here and encourage Instagram use through your message strategy on Instagram.

3. Discounts
Take a tip from the world's first Instagram Hotel, who offers excitement for the Instagram crowd. They even give away free nights if you have a certain amount of followers. You could give discounts for people who say they have come to you through Instagram, or even make a scavenger hunt out of your place and give discounts to certain items if they share on Instagram. You can make a contest out of it and see ask people to share a wish-list using a specific hashtag and in return you might grant that wish for them.

4. Connect With Local Influencers
Instagram's new direct messaging feature allows you to connect with Influencers in a way that has never been seen before on the platform. Here's my article on how to achieve a little Influencer love through Instagram.

Instagram and image sharing will continue to be huge in the following years. How are you getting your business Instagram-ready?