A Guide to Instagram Marketing for Small Businesses

Learn how Instagram marketing works for small businesses of all kinds, from restaurants and liquor stores to supermarkets and pet shops.

12 min read
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How does Instagram help small businesses?

Even before checking out a business’s website, potential customers — especially Millennials and Gen Z — tend to turn to Instagram to find out important information about a business. Consumers follow businesses they’re interested in, and whose brands resonate with them — and that trust makes them more likely to buy. 

Whether they want to find up-to-date opening hours, or want to see if there are any sales or special items available, consumers know they can often find what they need on Instagram.

Because so many people flock to Instagram to get a sense of what a business is like, it’s an extremely important place to show off your brand. By sharing photos and videos on a regular basis, you can show off all the things you’re most proud of: your products, your team, your vibe and personality, and your space. Whatever it is that makes your business special helps you stand out from the competition. 

In addition to being an excellent brand-building platform, Instagram also lets businesses actively advertise their products and services, letting them choose audience segments, create ads, and boost existing posts to reach more people. 

Finally, Instagram is also a revenue stream: with DoorDash, you can offer direct online ordering through your social media pages, including Instagram. Depending on the type of business, you can also implement Instagram’s in-app shopping tools and take and process orders right within the platform. 

How small businesses can approach Instagram marketing

There are so many ways to use instagram to grow your business — so where do you start?

First, consider what you want to accomplish with your Instagram presence. Here are a few ideas: 

  1. Show off your brand and give potential customers an idea of who you are

  2. Create Instagram ads to reach new customers

  3. Share Instagram-only promotions that encourage your followers to order from you

  4. Increase orders by X% a month with DoorDash

Once you’ve gotten in the groove of working toward one of these goals, you can always tack on another — but it’s helpful to start small and focused.

When building the instagram strategy for your business, consider the two different ways of posting available on Instagram: Instagram stories and Instagram feed posts.

Promote your brand and products on Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories are temporary posts that disappear after 24 hours. They’re great for promoting timely content like limited-time sales, weekly specials, or even for posting a behind-the-scenes video or photo that shows off your business’s personality, like your team’s take on a trending dance. 

Showcase your products and team on your brand Instagram feed

Feed posts stay up forever (unless you delete or archive them), so it’s what customers will scroll through when they want to get information about your business. Feed posts are where you should post evergreen content that builds your brand, like a photo of your signature dish, a video of your team at work or preparing a popular dish, or photos of the items you’re selling. For example, Saigon Pai posted this great video to their feed, and now anyone can check out what their delicious Banh Xèo Cuốn looks like.

Note that whenever you publish a feed post, you can also share it to your Instagram Stories to give it an extra boost of visibility. 

Leverage your Instagram bio to promote your business

In your bio — at the top of your Instagram profile — be sure to include a link to your website or online ordering platform, and share your location, opening hours, and ways to order. Here’s a great example of an Instagram bio doing everything it needs to: Mo Thai shows their location, hours, and online ordering link in their bio — and they infuse their personality in every Instagram post.

Using a social media marketing plan can help you plot the way forward as you test out instagram for your business. Brainstorm a few ideas for photos, videos, and posts, and plan who will create them and when they’ll be posted. Keep an eye on what kinds of posts do well, and then do more of those. 

Instagram marketing for restaurants 

Marketing a restaurant on Instagram is a popular and effective strategy for all types of restaurants. Sharing photos of food is a huge part of Instagram, and restaurant businesses can use the platform to show off their amazing food and ambiance and attract more customers. 

Porchetta & Co knows what their community likes to see on Instagram: well-lit, mouthwatering photos of their sandwiches. They share specials on Instagram and let people know how long they’re available to drive more orders and visits, plus the occasional video showing off the preparation of their decadent sandwiches:

Many restaurants also post opening hours as a feed post when holidays are coming up in order to prevent disappointed customers showing up and finding the restaurant closed. Y93 Sushi did this for updated hours — and after a prospective customer has found the info they needed, they’re able to scroll through dozens of photos of their delicious dishes. 

Here are a few more restaurant Instagram ideas: 

  • Post an image with a coupon code exclusive for instagram followers

  • Share a video of how a dish is prepared by your cooks

  • Spotlight your team

  • Show before-and-after photos of a renovated space

  • Repost photos taken by customers who tagged you on Instagram (and credit and thank them!)

Instagram marketing for liquor stores 

Liquor stores can attract new business on Instagram by sharing new and favorite product spotlights, limited-time deals, and drink recipes — which Fraser Commons Liquor Co manages to do all in one post. 

You can even get a little lighthearted and share videos that use trending sounds (which are audio clips or music clips popular on TikTok and Instagram Reels), like this one:

Some more liquor store Instagram marketing ideas: 

  • Cocktail technique demo videos

  • Weekly promotions, discounts, and sales 

  • Team member spotlights

  • Educational wine tasting videos 

  • Demos on topics like how to choose the right beers for an at-home beer flight

Instagram marketing for supermarkets and grocery stores

Grocery stores aren’t always on Instagram — which means that getting your grocery store onto the platform can be an easy way to stand out from the competition. Sharing recipes, weekly deals, and even cart hauls (where you show off how affordable your store can be), is a great way to reach new customers. 

Bespoke Butchers shares customer reviews (written out on a branded template so it fits the business’s aesthetic), videos of their team at work, and recipes that prominently feature their products.

And Amerex Caribbean Grocers share short videos with fun music that highlight particular products. 

Loblaws also has a great Instagram game, and they post tons of recipes like this one:

More supermarket Instagram post ideas:

  • Employee spotlights

  • Weekly flyers shared in the feed and on stories

  • Product taste test videos, or showing employees choosing their favorite items

  • Spotlighting a customer loyalty program

Instagram marketing for pet stores

Pet stores are at a huge advantage when it comes to Instagram marketing, because if there’s anything that Instagram loves as much as (if not more than) delicious food, it’s adorable pets. 

Petsmart uses photos and videos of animals to spotlight flash sales, announce seasonal collections, and talk about partnerships with charitable organizations.

And the Petsmart franchise in Toronto’s Liberty Village has a great local Instagram page of their own, showing off their grooming services (and how to book), sharing about adoption events in the store, and even just sharing that they’ve upgraded their bird food selection. 

Here are some more pet store Instagram post ideas:

  • Post photos and videos of animals being silly 

  • Have employees demonstrate how to perform certain care tasks for various animals

  • Share about promotions and sales

Instagram marketing for convenience stores 

Convenience stores are often hyper-local businesses, with people often having a convenience store (or bodega, or dépanneur, or whatever it’s called in your area) of choice — because it’s right around the corner. But posting on Instagram to show off your inventory is a great way to tempt your neighbors to come by and try a new snack or an old nostalgic favorite, like Hasty Markets Prince of Wales does.

Some more convenience store Instagram marketing ideas: 

  • Share about on-sale items

  • Spotlight employees

  • Get silly and try a trending audio or dance

  • Share appreciation posts about loyal customers

Promote online ordering with Instagram marketing

No matter what kind of small business you run, it’s a great idea to show potential customers all the ways they can order from your business. For example, posting a video that walks customers through the process of placing an online order is a great way to remind customers about your takeout options and boost your delivery sales. 

With DoorDash, you can offer direct online ordering right on Instagram. Learn more about small business social media — and get your business on DoorDash and meet customers wherever they are.


Allison Van Duyne
Allison Van Duyne

Content Marketing, DoorDash

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