Written by Louisa Stewart

Let’s start with a statement – I am not by any means a professional photographer. I pick up a camera or phone and point, sometimes with a little nuance, but this is not my chosen path in life. I know the value of photographs to enhance and enrich a story, but I’ll often forget to photograph something useful, or I’ll miss the moment!

In 2016 I started using Google Maps to document where I was. I took a couple of photos in the Cavern Club, Liverpool and posted them. They weren’t amazing but it was to show that there was a performer on the same stage The Beatles used to perform. Posted and forgotten.

After a while I started to post a little more, particularly as I had refocussed Blue Ninja Business Support in the UK to work with the rural sector. This is an area that does not get a huge amount of visibility and I wanted to give them a little cudos.

Pubs are Opening Doors to Small Businesses

With the rethinking of how businesses can cope with lockdown in the UK, I was pleased to see pubs opening their doors in the UK more attentively to small businesses to work, as I used to do that all the time when I travelled. It was difficult to find places with the set up needed to work, but I posted working at The Fishes in Hinksey Village near Oxford whilst I was remote working there – that’s now on just over 7,000 views.

The posts weren’t dazzling, but they were informative. I tried to photograph the space so you could see the venue as I figured that was the point of why someone would go to Google Maps to look at photos. There are a few more entries around Leiden, The Netherlands where I moved 3 years ago with my partner. Some bitterballen at Annie’s, a glass of bubbles at Pakhuis – this was the photo that started to show some views initially – it jumped up to 12,000 views in a couple of months and I thought ‘wow’ that’s so many views!

Promoting Farm Shops in Scotland

I then went back to the UK for a couple of weeks at the start of 2018 and as I was still working with Farm Shops I thought I’d go around to a few in and around the Fife area in Scotland (within 30 minutes drive from Dunfermline) and write some reviews – give them support. It was also about cake, but farm shops are such a valuable part of the community so I wanted to give them some visibility in a way that I could.

The four farm shops that I took photos and wrote a review at were:

Craigie’s Farm Deli and Café

(Blue Ninja subsequently worked with in 2018 but not at the time I did the review)

Craigie’s is a wonderful space a short trip outside of Edinburgh. Founded by John Sinclair, his wife Kirsteen and the family they offer a modern farm experience. It started as a one-table shop in a converted barn, then expanded to include a fantastic Café, Play area for kids (a new play barn is under construction), extensive Pick Your Own where you can wander the fields and select your own fruit and vegetables, lovely animals (I assisted in the process of naming Elvis, the goat) and an enjoyable place to get out into nature.

Loch Leven’s Larder

A treasure in Fife, Loch Leven’s Larder is a bustling space on Channel Farm. The farm has gone from strength to strength with expansion and community programmes. We couldn’t get into the café at the time and there was plans for redevelopment but it was still a lovely farm shop to visit.

I took a few photos of the space, showing the shop. Nothing particularly amazing about the photos, but it reflected the beautiful layout of the shop.

Lochend Farm Shop

As we couldn’t get into the Loch Leven’s Larder café I found another Farm Shop 5 minutes drive around Loch Leven called the Lochend Farm Shop. It was a particularly snowy day but we had no difficulty in getting to the café/shop building. It was small but charming, very much what a farm shop should be.

Here is where things get interesting. The food was lovely and the tea generously provided, so I took a photo of my cake and tea on the table. I think took a photo of what was in front of me, still seated, and also of the view from the café to the shop. There are some external photos and one looking out a window.

There was no puff to the space, it was lovely and simple. The team there was so friendly and kind, we spent about an hour relaxing and enjoying the food and the atmosphere – it also helps when it’s snowing to have a cozy place to settle in!

The photo I took of the Lochend shop from the café has been viewed over 1.5 million times. I don’t think there’s anything particularly styled about the photo but it is honest and shows what is a fairly typical farm shop view.

Hopetoun House Farm Shop

The final shop we went to (actually could have been the first!) was Hopetoun House Farm Shop. Set on the Hopetoun estate, the Farm shop and separate space the Garden Centre and café was impressive. It felt like it had been designed from the start as a well-constructed shopping area, whereas many farm shops do start out as a table at the back of a shed.

There was a lot of quality produce, and to be honest it could have been taken from a magazine it was so polished and styled. But that works with the poise and impression that Hopetoun House has.

I remember we didn’t stay long at the Farm Shop but took a few photos to capture the elegant space. The displays were photo friendly and the building itself was lovely to photograph.

One photo I took of the display towards the front has been viewed just under 1.5 million times to date. It shows fresh produce and a selection of jams and chutneys long the side wall. You can also see the cold storage display behind the produce.

The Power of Google Maps

The set up of Google Maps is powerful – it not only grows business visibility via Google My Business but allows others to also promote a business through contributions. You can also post suggestions and edits for business profiles to help fill in the gaps. If a business is not on Google Maps then you’re missing out on a lot of visibility.

With a small number of photos and some honest words, I’ve been able to promote, support and guide on a few small businesses in and around Scotland that can always benefit from as much visibility as possible. 

Utilise Google Maps for Your Business

Although these photos and reviews are provided by my own account, you can tap into Google Maps for your Business.

Set up a Google My Business page and make sure it’s as complete as possible. The amount of people who use Google Maps for finding business information is staggering, so make sure you’re bringing that audience to your business. 

Develop some photographic elements to your space – use it to incentivise people to want to photo and talk about your business. Many cafes and restaurants have feature walls that people use for Instagram, so this is becoming much more popular and people will look for spaces to photograph. 

You will need to register a business address with Google my Business so be mindful of using your home address for your business, but with a little work you too could be harnessing others to talk about your business and show it off. 

Let’s see how long it takes for my photos to hit 4 million views!