Coffee culture is growing in the UK, with the World Coffee Portal noting that the sector has achieved 20 years of revenue growth. Brits are more than happy to collaborate over a coffee, whether it is a business meeting with a latte or just chatting with friends over a mocha. There is a growing love of 30 minutes away from the fray in a friendly outlet.

However, the UK market is flooded with huge chains opening shops on what seems like every corner. When you are on the high street, few people immediately consider going to an independent outlet – instead opting for the certainty and convenience of the Costa, Starbuck or the Caffe Nero. Allegra research shows that MacDonald’s is listed as the fourth largest coffee shop in the country.

In this David and Goliath world, Instagram could be the tool to help the little guy make the mark they need. It is an excellent way to create a coffee shop culture that gets people talking about your brand.

Setting up your account

Using Instagram for your coffee shop needs to be separate from your personal account. You need an optimized business Instagram account. The point about a separation between you and your business might seem a false one – as you see yourself as the face of the brand. However, your customers want to recognize you as the coffee shop with a distinct atmosphere and experience. This means keeping your snapshots off your business site. You need to create an account that will only work to boost sales.

When setting up your account, you are given one opportunity to include a clickable link to your business website close to your shop name and biography. The branding around this needs to be robust, recognizable and consistent. Therefore, getting someone professional to make the initial choices about your account could make a significant difference to the results you achieve.

It is the small details that will matter to your customer — keeping a consistent profile image, with the same thumbnail of your profile picture, that ensures a professional and recognizable brand. Then, your biography will set the tone of the character of your shop. If your shop is popular because it is quirky and cozy, this should be the message communicated in your account setup.

Posting powerfully

You must then begin to post regularly. The type of post you choose will make all the difference. The human brain takes 90% of the information transmitted from images. Visuals of people loving your coffee shop are going to create a consistent and positive message about your outlet.

When posting, it is sometimes more important to understand what to avoid than what to include. Your customers will not love you if you use your Instagram account to hard-sell your products. They want to influence and not persuade. If you have a new hot chocolate that comes adorned in glitter and chocolate shapes, post a picture of the drink with a simple hashtag and let the natural desire for the goodies do the work. There is no need to tell the reader to come to your shop and order your drink. Just your coffee shop in the background, on your feed, with the image of the drink, influences the connection you are trying to make. You sell by not selling.

Professional quality material

Instagram will make your images square. If you just upload without thought, your image can look blurred and weirdly cropped. Your snapshots from your phone can also make you look unprofessional. The follower will take more from the nature of the photo than the content of the picture.

The message here is clear: you need professional photos that are optimized for your business account. Social media marketing is not an amateur endeavor. If you want to harness the power of this vast network to take on the more prominent brands, you need to compete on the same level of professionalism as these larger companies. The bonus for small coffee shop owners is that the democratizing effects of the internet mean this is affordable and accessible. If you are starting out and cannot afford the services of professional marketers, you can use apps such as Squaready, which will shape your photographs and optimize them for Instagram. Alternatively, there are editing tools on Instagram that can help you maximize the power of the image.

As well as images, you should use hashtags. Hashtags are searchable and trackable terms. These are the words connected to your brand that will guide the right users to your material. You have the option to include up to thirty hashtags per post. Realistically, three is the perfect number of hashtags, which will define your brand and make you discoverable. Again, seeking professional help to develop your hashtags is essential for increasing the success of your Instagram strategy.

Promote a lifestyle on Instagram

To create a coffee culture, you need to promote this lifestyle. You need to show shots of people enjoying this scene. Tell stories of people enjoying your coffee shop. There is no problem with these being staged life-inspired backgrounds if they appear natural to the audience.

You can also create a sense of community with your Instagram account. The need to belong is a powerful driver. If you can use exclusive announcements and promotions for your followers, which are not available elsewhere, you invite the user to feel a part of your community. This will be particularly powerful if you use context and introduce seasonal drinks. Take a hint from the more prominent brands who present Christmas drinks or your iced summer range.

You can really jumpstart interest in your account by running competitions for your community.

And finally

The point to remember is that an Instagram feed is fast, and you can get buried quickly. You may think posting once or twice a week makes you a regular presence in your customer’s mind. However, if you are going to post occasionally, then you are going to have to use the analytics on the site to maximize the timing of your post on Instagram. If you do this, post to a consistent schedule, so your user begins to expect to see your beautifully professional images with the best hashtags selected.

Laura McLoughlin is a Digital PR based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She has previous experience as a website editor and journalist, and currently works with Omnia, which has offices in Dubai.

Instagram stock photo by Bogdan Sonjachnyj/Shutterstock