You know the scene: At every coffee shop, invariably there’s that one person snapping photos for long minutes before taking a bite of their perfect blueberry muffin. Or maybe it’s you, trying to capture that classic flat lay of your caffeine fix to post.
You’re doing it all for the ‘gram.
Instagram, that is.
Some local businesses are taking advantage of this impulse to document, and they’re doing it brilliantly.
The Loveliest Coffee + Clothes in Sewickley claims the title of “most Instagrammable coffee shop” in Pittsburgh. The shop is designed to make Instagrammable moments easy, from the seasonal quotes on the floor (for that perfect #FromWhereIStand shot) to the basket chairs ready for your casual selfie.
The coffee, of course, is literally pretty as a picture — and adorned with one.
They offer an app called Ripple that allows you to upload your own logo, quotes and even selfies and other photos to have turned into “100% drinkable coffee art on milk foam.” (And yes, they do have vegan milks available.) Or you can pick an image or quote from their library.
It’s all been planned with care.
“People do want these moments or places that make you feel like you’re on vacation,” says owner Kathyrn Richardson. She’s traveled the world and wanted to bring this kind of boutique coffeehouse concept to her hometown. “There is a need for it and Pittsburgh people are trendy enough for it.”
Richardson is one of many local small business owners — emerging entrepreneurs and established veterans — turning to Instagram to attract customers and publicize their business.
The Loveliest Coffee + Clothes. Screenshot from Instagram.
“A good business profile can provide a small business with not only brand awareness but brand recognition,” says Nikki Staley, owner of the Pittsburgh-based digital marketing agency, Cosmitto.
Not every business needs neon quotes on the wall or peonies to be successful on Instagram. Staley says being relatable and consistently posting new content are the keys to success. Over time, the two-way communication of social media can help establish “trust and credibility for the brand.”
So what does it mean for a business to be successfully “Instagrammable?” Richardson says it means offering good lighting and a pretty atmosphere for photos. If a business has that, customers may feel motivated to go there “to get that photo, that shot, so people know that you were here, had your coffee, or shopped the clothes.”
Her hope is that people who come to The Loveliest Coffee + Clothes for a photo will return because of the atmosphere.
“I wanted people to feel warm and cozy, just really accepted,” she says. “People have said they feel that vibe. So that was the bigger picture.” (We assume no pun intended.)
Like Richardson’s shop, Victoria’s Mobile Flower Shop has used Instagram as a hook to build a customer base all over the city.
Owner Victoria Smith says people seek out the little mint green flatbed truck full of flowers to build bouquets — and to snap photos.
“We wanted the truck to be cute enough — different enough — that people felt the need to drop what they were doing and take a photo,” she says.
With hundreds of tags on Instagram and the use of her hashtag #pittsburghflowertruck, her customers are doing just that.
Smith knows that consumers are willing to pay for that Instagrammable moment.
“Everyone has a story that they’d like to tell via their Instagram feed and I think that they will definitely invest if it means adding to their personal brand,” she said.
It seems to be working: In addition to a packed schedule of events, Smith is in the process of opening a storefront flower shop in Avalon this winter.
At the moment, Instagram is Smith’s main tool for marketing.
“Because of hashtags and Instagram’s Discover feed, we really get in front of a lot of eyes and it pushes consumers to learn about new businesses and experiences while they scroll.”
Other local business owners, Smith says, are also “bringing Instagram to the forefront of their operations.”
Those include the beloved and well-established Oakmont Bakery.
“It has always been important to us to keep up with what is going on in and around Pittsburgh. And that’s by keeping up with what the next generation believes in. Instagram is a great source to show off what our amazing staff creates every day,” explains Samantha Serrao, director of social media for Oakmont Bakery.
The bakery, which opened in 1988, has put effort into researching trends and maintaining daily posts, and the work has paid off.
In just one year, the bakery’s Instagram account gained nearly 20,000 new followers, bringing their total to more than 30,000.
Their posts, specifically their time-lapse videos, receive tens of thousands of views regularly, with one from last March surpassing 120,000 views. (We, too, have been mesmerized.)
Those likes and views have translated into increased business.
“When we post products,” says Serrao, “we get a lot of people calling asking for ‘that cake on Instagram.’”
So the next time you see that person trying to create just the right mix of coffee, flowers and cute shoes into one perfect cell phone photo, consider: There’s more than vanity at play here.
That social media user might be highlighting a favorite business while also supporting our local economy by sharing free user-generated marketing with the community — and potentially the world — on Instagram.