Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

How This Dessert Shop Got 20,000 Instagram Followers in 6 Months Without Advertising

What you can learn from this New York dessert shop's social media strategy.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

How does an ice cream shop in a crowded city grow a mass following in less than six months with zero advertising budget?

Klaus Vedfelt | Getty Images


New Territories is a dessert shop in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, specializing in Hong Kong sweets with a bit of New York flavor. The sweets include the Hong Kong street snack (the bubble waffle), topped with ice cream and crazy, over-the-top milkshakes. As a new business with no advertising budget, New Territories decided to use Instagram to build their following.

It's a good spot for an Instagram account. The store is designed to imitate the Lower East Side, which is lined with galleries. As such, art pieces are placed throughout the shop, which naturally act as the backdrop for a photo.

Even so, the company's Instagram strategy will work for other businesses as well.

Related: 8 Inspiring Instagram Accounts You Should Follow

Unified style

Every post reinforces New Territories's fun brand. For your business, develop a style sheet of 10 posts which represent your style and keep them as a reference sheet when new posts are being created so they stay within your brand’s persona.

Seek feedback

New Territories used posts to gather feedback on favorite flavors and dessert toppings, which helped the company develop its menu and weekly specials. Use your page to get feedback from your followers on their likes, dislikes, and interests.

Customer interaction

New Territories's followers are the first to receive the latest news, such as new items and weekly specials. Make your followers feel special by giving them unique perks like discount codes, specials, and contests.

Ask for help

Be sure to ask your followers to help you promote your posts by making it part of the post itself.

Related: Post Smarter: The Best Times to Use Social Platforms (Infographic)

Good hashtags

They researched what hashtags their influencers use, and then use them in every post.

Research the top 10 pages in your industry and make a note of the hashtags they use and start testing them on your own page.

Audience photos

New Territories encourages its customers to take pictures in the store and post them. Then, it reposts those photos, giving credit to the original account. This not only provides a treasure trove of content, but helps turn customers into celebrities, giving them something to be proud to share with their friends and family.

Best customers

If the idea of creating buzz with this channel is overwhelming, start with just one thing from the list above.  Once you have it working, go on to the next.  Leverage these tips and strategies and you can grow your business using Instagram, even without paid ads.

Entrepreneur Editors' Picks