With more than 700 million monthly active users, businesses are paying more attention to Instagram than ever before.
In fact, the photo-centric service is so popular that in an effort to make themselves more attractive to Instagrammers, some businesses are designing their physical spaces to be more photogenic.
Take restaurants , for example. According to research conducted by Italian restaurant group Zizzi, 18 to 35 year-olds spend five full days a year  viewing food images on Instagram. Nearly a third will avoid a restaurant if its Instagram presence isn’t up to scratch.
While it can be difficult to evaluate the ROI of their Instagram presences  (something Instagram itself is working to change with measurement tools) there’s evidence that many businesses are seeing tangible value from their Instagram efforts. The number of companies buying Instagram ads  rose past one million this year, and according to BIA/Kelsey’s Local Commerce Monitor report, of the local businesses using Instagram, more than a third  plan to increase their spend in the next 12 months.
What’s more, the majority of these businesses report a return of at least five times their spend and 11% report an extraordinary return of 20 times or more compared to their spend.
While creating Instagram-friendly spaces isn’t the be-all and end-all of Instagram success, it’s an increasingly important part of it. Here are five ways businesses of all shapes and sizes can make their physical locations more Instagram-friendly.
Create special events
One of the best ways to turn a store or other physical location into an Instagram power-up is to create special events. For small and local businesses, there are literally countless opportunities to do this. These opportunities include parties for VIP customers, fundraisers for charities and local organizations, and fashion shows.
Large brands also have the opportunity to take advantage of events. For example, in 2006, International House of Pancakes (IHOP) gave customers a free short-stack of pancakes on National Pancake Day. One of the goals of the promotion was to propel sharing on social media; the company even set up a war room  in MRM//McCann’s New York headquarters for the day to monitor and influence the action.
Create Instagram-friendly products
Knowing the value of Instagram exposure , brands are increasingly designing products with Instagram in mind. In many cases, these are limited-time offerings designed to spark even more excitement and encourage patrons to post their purchases to Instagram as a way of showing off.
Perhaps the best example of a limited-time product that sparked an Instagram frenzy is Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino. Despite the fact that it was only available for five days, on Instagram the “limited-time-only pink-and-blue sugary swirled behemoth”, the tag #unicornfrappuccino was used more than 150,000 times.
The Unicorn Frappuccino was a huge success, with analytics firm Brandwatch estimating that the drink generated 1.3 billion impressions on Twitter.
Instagram-friendly products, particularly limited editions and those only available for a short period of time, can be a potent method of generating a buzz across social media. However, businesses should be cautious – overusing this strategy could devalue your brand and leave customers feeling that your promotional products are just gimmicks.
Add dynamic store components
While many stores are already dynamic places, the age of Instagram has created an opportunity for businesses to be more thoughtful and intentional about the dynamic components they add to their locations.
For instance, lots of independent cafes and restaurants are using their spaces to exhibit art. Alternative exhibition spaces as they are called were “the center of American artistic life in the ’70s” and as they give businesses a new way to offer their patrons something worth photographing and posting to Instagram, it’s not surprisingly that rotating art exhibits are back in vogue.
That probably explains why such exhibits can now be found beyond cafes and restaurants in a myriad of other types of locations, including hotels, malls and even banks.
Keep lighting in mind
Alfred Stieglitz, considered one of the pioneers of modern photography, once stated, “Wherever there is light, one can photograph.”
Lighting has always been an important aspect of a physical store. It not only serves a functional purpose, but can set the mood and impact the overall customer experience.
In the age of Instagram, the importance of lighting is even more pronounced. After all, a physical location could have a great atmosphere and many Instagram-worthy components, but if customers can’t capture a decent photo, it’s all for nothing.
For this reason, companies should keep photographability in mind when making decisions about lighting.
Don’t forget about overall customer experience
While there are specific things businesses can do to make their locations more Instagram-friendly, it’s important to heed the words of famous photojournalist Alfred Eisenstaedt, who observed “It is more important to click with people than to click the shutter.”
Put simply, just having an Instagram-friendly location isn’t enough if customers aren’t excited and delighted. Ultimately, it’s the customer experience that will encourage customers to capture their visit for posterity, and ensure that they’re happy and smiling when they do.
Perhaps the best example of the importance of customer experience in Instagram-friendliness comes from the most-Instagrammed tourist attraction in the world : Disneyland. Disneyland employees are instructed to follow Disney’s Seven Service Guidelines, which are:
- Be Happy…make eye contact and smile!
- Be like Sneezy…greet and welcome each and every guest. Spread the spirit of Hospitality…It’s contagious!
- Don’t be Bashful…seek out Guest contact.
- Be like Doc…provide immediate service recovery.
- Don’t be Grumpy…always display appropriate body language at all times.
- Be like Sleepy…create DREAMS and preserve the “MAGICAL” Guest experience.
- Don’t be Dopey…thank each and every Guest!
The effects of these guidelines can be seen in many of the Instagram photos taken at Disneyland.
Snapchat has been something of a mystery to marketers over the last year. But with fresh features, an engaged audience and new advertising capabilities, should Snapchat be a part of every brand’s social media marketing strategy?
The vast majority of brands are familiar with how to use social media mainstays like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. But each of these social networks came from somewhere – and those brands who were prescient enough to get in on the ground floor were able to reap the “early adopter” rewards.
Snapchat recently announced the launch of Snap Map, a new feature that could become very useful among brands looking for new ways to benefit from location marketing.
- ^ restaurants (www.theverge.com)
- ^ five full days a year (www.independent.co.uk)
- ^ evaluate the ROI of their Instagram presences (www.clickz.com)
- ^ Instagram ads (www.clickz.com)
- ^ more than a third (blog.biakelsey.com)
- ^ even set up a war room (www.adweek.com)
- ^ Instagram exposure (www.clickz.com)
- ^ the most-Instagrammed tourist attraction in the world (www.latimes.com)