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How Two Local Businesses Extend their Reach through Instagram

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Are you intrigued by using Instagram for your business? Let me share two creative ways businesses near me have used this mobile photo platform to build loyalty, gather content, and extend their reach.

In-store promotion, like this window sign, were vital to the success of Boomerangs’ Instagram contest.

Boomerangs is a hip-with-a-heart thrift store with three locations in the Boston area. (All proceeds from Boomerangs support The AIDS Action Committee.) Customers constantly tell Boomerangs employees how their purchases are a part of their personal style. So the stores created an opportunity for customers to share their Boomerangs finds with others — and also get a chance to win a store gift card. With that, the “Boomerangs Thrift Throwdown Instagram Contest” was born.

“Instagram is streamlined and easy to use. It also has become a popular vehicle for fashion trends, with many people posting daily outfits and shopping finds. It seemed like a perfect fit to showcase our customers’ fashion styling talents,” remarked Jasmine Crafts, Boomerangs General Manager.

She told me that her staff was immediately on board with this promotion. In fact, many of them entered the contest just for fun! Their enthusiasm was instrumental in spreading the word about the Throwdown. (During my visit to Boomerangs’ Cambridge store, employees even tried to get my daughter to enter — but she was too young.)

Entrants Instagramned themselves with a special contest sticker and something they’ve purchased at Boomerangs. The description of the photo had to include the hashtag #boomerangsthrowdown. By monitoring the hashtag, the stores gathered over fifty photos of cool, frugal stylings from its customers. They also benefited from great brand awareness — these photos generated nearly 430 “likes.

Based on the success of the contest, Crafts told me that she’s “definitely open” to holding another Instagram contest, perhaps this winter.


This Cape Cod Magazine mobile photo feature caught the attention of both its regular readership and active Instagrammers.

This March, Cape Cod Magazine presented a 9-page feature article with photos taken by local Instagrammers (Instagram users). Creative director Alison Caron was inspired to run the magazine‘s first mobile photo essay after attending a presentation on iPhonography. “I was impressed with the images these local photographers were able to produce with their smartphones,” Caron told me. 

By searching for hashtags such as #capecod, Caron poured through hundreds of photos on Instagram and selected works by four standout photographers. She contacted the photographers, got them to send the high-resolution images, and began working on the spread.

Although the magazine promoted the photo essay through their established social media channels, it was the selected Instagrammers who generated most of the excitement by announcing it to their followers. Both parties witnessed consequent growth. Not only did Cape Cod Magazine get more exposure from the Instagrammers, but the featured Instagrammers noticed an increase in their followers upon the March publication.

Due to the increased exposure from the spread and the positive reaction from her originally-skeptical colleagues, Caron considers the photo feature a success. She’s toying with the idea of running another mobile photo spread in the near future — perhaps a mobile-only assignment given to a local photographer.

Have you used Instagram to promote your business? Tell me about it in the comments!


Headline Photo Credit: Flickr CC/ Moomettes

Boomerangs Photo:Flickr CC / Sierra Tierra

Cape Cod Magazine Photo: Courtesy of Alison Caron with permission

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