There are 500 million active daily Instagram Stories users, according to TechJury. This is the social media marketing medium of choice at the moment, and if you’re not posting stories regularly you are missing out on an inexpensive way to promote your shop. But wouldn’t it be even better to have others post some stories for you?

If your products lend themselves to appealing photos and videos, you will want to provide opportunities for customers to be seen with them. It’s even worthwhile to have some unusual merchandise on the shelf that makes great props, as long as it’s related to what you sell. Don’t be shy about encouraging customers to take selfies, and remind them to use your hashtag.

Shops that are in a tourist area, or even a small community, can band together to encourage Instagram tours. It’s a creative way to get extra PR for your restaurants, shops, spas and attractions. In Tokyo, for example, visitors can sign up to explore the teen fashion and culture area of Harajuku with Rikarin, a popular fashion Instagrammer.

An IG tour could be a free or paid walking tour, and should feature a combination of unique shops, picturesque murals or scenery, and unique food or cocktails. Ask each business to provide a free gift or discount in exchange for being featured, and offer a nice prize for one participant chosen at random from those who post a story using your area’s hashtag.

Individual shops and restaurants can make the same offer to anyone doing a story (or post) that tags them. Ask permission to post photos or video of the group having a good time on the tour and post these as your own story – not only will your business gain exposure as a fun place to shop, but others may be inspired to participate in your next event.

Meetup is an easy way to gather a group interested in a certain type of shopping, such as vintage clothing and antiques. You could also extend an invitation to a social Meetup group that may be looking for free or low-cost activities for newcomers or others looking to make new friends.

Your own email subscribers and Facebook followers would be another good source of participants – especially if the event is free. You’ll be inviting people to spend a couple of fun hours exploring your area, getting to know your fellow businesses, and enjoying some freebies and discounts – all in exchange for sharing their experience on social media. Sounds like a good deal, doesn’t it?

Happy Retailing,
Carol “Orange” Schroeder