Instagram for Restaurants

You are probably already on Facebook (if not, you probably should be!), maybe on Twitter, so why do you need to take care of another social network?

Loyal customers are the lifeblood of smaller retailers and restaurants; using Instagram for your restaurant will help you connect with fans on a personal level with the active visual content.

You have an advantage over internet companies because you have something customers can see, feel, and most of all, taste. Don't waste this strength, show them what you've got.

Here are a few things restaurants downtown or uptown can try when getting started with Instagram:

Hashtags: Use Popular Ones and Create Your Own

In their essence hashtags (#) are a way to organize information; that may not be how many people use them now, but that is what they are intended to do. Instagram takes hashtags to the next level, and smart usage is how your pictures will get found and how you can start a movement of your own.

Use popular hashtags to get noticed.

People will search for pictures using hashtags, so using popular hashtags will put your photos in front of the largest audience possible. The downside is there’s much competition, so your posts will not live long.

Find a few hashtags that will almost always apply to your photos, things like #Foodporn (60.7 million posts) or #healthychoices (7.6 million posts).

Use specific hashtags to target your niche

Popular hashtags will get you in front of a big audience but using specific hashtags will get you in front of people who are interested in what you are serving. There are thousands of hashtags from which to choose, just start searching Instagram for different tags that you think could apply to your food.

Test various combinations and start working on a list of tags that works for you. Here are some examples: * #hangovercure * #veganeats * #brunchtime

Create a new hashtag

As you grow your Instagram account creating your hashtag will let you see how far your influence can reach.

To create your hashtag, continue your search on Instagram until you find one that has zero posts. It will not be easy to find one specific to your business that’s also never been used and is easy to remember but keep searching, you’ll find one.

Post a Variety of Content

As with any content generation system, post a variety of content to appeal to a variety of people.

Of course, as a restaurant, you’ll post pictures of the food you serve but take it a step further to offer potential customers a reason to visit. Here are a few ideas:

  • Post a photo of the dish beside the ingredients that go into it. People want to know what they are eating, what better way than to show them the two, side-by-side.

  • Behind the scenes. What better way to show your business’ personality than to show what goes on behind the scenes? Exclusive photos will help in two ways. First, customers like making a connection, so a personal touch will go a long way. Second, a behind-the-scenes shot of a spotless kitchen will show customers that you take food preparation seriously.

  • Photos of the night’s specials will show customers what you have on offer. A beautiful picture is better than a line on a menu, and it can reach a lot more people on a platform like Instagram.

  • Ask your customers’ opinion on new menu items or decoration ideas. People love to see a business that listens so if you do take their advice, tag them in a follow-up, and they’ll be yours forever.

Here’s an example of a restaurant that posts interesting and unique content, they will not appeal to everyone, but they do appeal to over 10,000 people:

Leverage User Content

Social media is Social. It says it right in the name.

Just like in the real world, making connections is about giving and taking (it is mostly giving). Spend time each day interacting with others’ content, even if they are on the other side of the world. You never know what connections you’ll make and how they could pay off.

The more you feature others' stuff, the more they’ll want to post things you might like.

One way to do this is to use the hashtag you created to curate a feed of photos people are posting about you. You can put it up on your website or maybe even in the restaurant somewhere.

The beautiful thing about leveraging user content is that customers know it is a raw feed so they can see you are not just curating the best stuff. The other benefit is that unlike review sites, people rarely post negative photos. A feed of Instagram photos is likely to look a lot better than a feed of reviews.

Find Influencers

There’s no better way to gain new followers than to find people who are already influential to your target market. When it comes to food, there are many influencers.

The first step is what you’ve probably already been doing, search for people posting about things similar to you. Eventually, you’ll find a few individuals who seem to post a lot and have quite a large following. Start by posting something you think they might like, use similar hashtags, and maybe even tag them in a comment.

Many influencers are also open to sponsored posts. Look for an email address or a way to contact them in their bio, if you see one, they are likely open to a sponsored post. The cost of a sponsored post is usually not too expensive, anywhere from $5 to $50 depending on the person. Reach out to a few and see what you get back.

Run Events

Events are another (although potentially more expensive) way to quickly increase your audience.

Get creative with what you do but whatever it is should be enough of an incentive that people are excited to take part. An example is a discount for posting a picture on Instagram, and maybe you run it once a week on a night that’s usually slow.

Not only will this get you some quick publicity but it will be a strong endorsement (a suggestion from a friend holds more weight than a radio or newspaper ad). It will also excite people who see it and will likely bring in extra business on what is usually a slow day—a 10% or 15% discount on more business is worth it.

Another way to run an event is to invite influencers for a free meal if they post it on their accounts. You'll reach a large audience, and if they like it, they’ll likely be back as paying customers.

An interesting contest would be to get menu ideas from your followers. Get them to post pictures of food that they like and choose one to go on the menu; maybe even have them come in and show your team how to make it. Special events like this will create an instant evangelist out of the winner, and you are sure to bring in all the person’s friends and family to try the dish.

Use it in Marketing Material

Turn static content into live content by embedding your feed or one of the feeds for your hashtags in marketing materials like email. MoveableInk has a great post on how Hyatt uses pictures posted guests to bring fresh content to their marketing emails.

You can do the same. Text gets boring, putting a live feed in the emails creates an option for people after they’ve read your content and wanted to follow up; plus you are likely to get some extra followers!

Whatever else you do, Be Consistent

This is perhaps the most important part of all this. Whatever other strategies you use, post consistently. If you get in the habit of only posting once every week or two people will not bother following you or getting to know you.

Consistent posting keeps you top of mind and gives people a reason to come back.

Do you have an Instagram account you want to share with us, or strategies that we have not mentioned here? We’d love to hear from you. Comment below.