When it comes to the restaurant industry, reviews and recommendations are the bread and butter of bringing new customers through the door. And, there’s no doubt about it, social media is a powerful marketing tool that can help build any restaurant’s reputation if done right. Of all social media platforms, Instagram is the one that restaurants must have in their marketing tool kit because it is the social food capital of the world! When it comes to social media for restaurants, we love Instagram!

Social Media for RestaurantsAccording to one poll, 92% of frequent social media users eat at a sit-down restaurant at least once a month and 32% of these diners are on their mobile device during their meal. You’ve probably noticed it yourself when dining out: the people at the table next to you snapping photos of their food. What you may not see is that they are probably sharing those photos to their Instagram, Facebook or other social media platform.

As much as you are probably loving the free advertising (don’t we all?) that your customers are giving your restaurant, you don’t want to rely on your customers alone to share your awesome food, special promotions and news about your restaurant. It’s time for you to dive into Instagram marketing.

With its popularity, many restaurants already have Instagram accounts, but how they actually use it to interact with customers can be trickier. Assuming you’ve already created an account, you have a good starting follower base, and maybe you’ve made a post or two, it’s now time to beef it up. We’re serving up some tips to help you take your Instagram marketing to the next level and show you just why it’s the perfect platform to promote your restaurant.

Tips… they’re not just for servers!

Vary Your Photos

Food is a uniting experience throughout our world. Other than pictures of baby animals, there is no other category of photo that makes almost everyone stop, pause, and stare. The term “food porn” has been applied for years now to over-the-top,beautifully designed and drool-worthy photos of food. Instagram remains the perfect place to showcase your restaurant’s beautiful dishes, and we all know that appealing to peoples’ appetites is a great way to get customers through the door.

Instagram can be so much more than photos of food itself. Have an incredible staff member? Showcase them with a photo and a caption. Proud of your restaurant ambiance and décor? Show people why dining in your restaurant is more than just tasty food; it’s an experience. Varying the types of posts you use on Instagram will keep your followers engaged and your page fresh.

Use Hashtags, Creative Ones

Instagram is first and foremost a visual platform. However, the use of hashtags can greatly increase your likelihood of showing up on certain feeds, and it’s a great way to show off your personality and sense of humor. Traditionally, hashtags are labels that help people interested in specific content quickly find links (or in Instagram’s case, photos) on that content.

For example, if a user types in “#foodporn” they will probably get a multitude of photos with melty cheeseburgers, decadent chocolate cakes, etc. An appropriately used hashtag increases a restaurant’s chance of their photo being seen by a wider audience.  For example, using a simple #patiolife with a cold drink could easily draw people in to your place for a cool drink this summer or using a hashtag like #lunchtime will including your restaurant with other lunch time posts and then it’s all about the photo to catch the attention of the potential customer! The question is…will your photos draw the most attention! We love this simple post from @715restaurant  We think they are doing an outstanding job of keeping things simple and tasty!

pepperoni pizza with a cup of soup or small salad $9 #lunchtime

A post shared by 715 (@715restaurant) on

Be sure to check and see what hashtags are trending on Twitter to help give you a leg up on what people are talking about. Just head on over to hashtags.org and see what’s trending. Enter your topic and see what you find.

Use Videos

Instagram is not just for photos anymore. In a fantastic attempt at staying trendy and current with social media competitors like Snapchat, Instagram has increased its video capabilities, and it’s very easy to use and leaves an impact on your Instagram page. Leave your #foodporn for still photos, and focus more on people and experiences in your videos for ultimate engagement.

One of the ideas we love to see happening on Instagram is video of chef’s preparing a dish off the dinner menu or a bartender making a signature drink. This is a fantastic way to engage your audience and get them talking!

Watch Chef @min_gohr create one of our favorite looks – a rustic textured buttercream finish. #cakeislove #cakedecorating #buttercream

A post shared by Bittersweet Pastry Shop & Cafe (@bittersweetpastryshop) on

And, don’t worry if a full on video isn’t your thing, you can always give apps like Boomerang or Ripl a try to create quick gif style videos or just something fun.

Balance Your Posts

As a restaurant, it can be easy to post photos with a promotion attached to it in order to drive a call to action. For example, perhaps every Tuesday you have a two-for-one deal you want to promote. Instagram is a perfect platform to do so. However, if you are posting deals and promotions everyday, your message may begin to become saturated and Instagram followers are pretty quick to unfollow accounts that don’t hold their interests. That is why balancing your promotional posts with engagement style posts is something to keep in mind.

Know Your Audience and When to Post

The best time of day and day of week to post on Instagram can vary depending on your business. A coffee shop, for example, might find they best reach their target audience at a completely different time of day than a place that focuses on dinner. So, the best bet is to know your product/brand and know your audience and what they are typically doing. There are some general statements out there that “most users are on Instagram during…,” but take these with a grain of salt.

Interesting fact: Pizza is the most popular Instagrammed food, behind sushi and steak.Click To Tweet

For example, some research shows Fridays at 8pm is a really active time for Instagram users. However, just because people are on Instagram, most likely posting photos about their night out, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re scrolling through their feed during that time actually viewing, liking and commenting on posts. Also, think about the purpose of your post. If your post is promotional and has a time restriction, you may find that figuring out a specific time to post is more important than an engagement style of post.

Create a Sense of Community

Finally, once you’ve maximized your potential on your own Instagram page, reach out to others. Be sure to reply to comments from other users who have commented on your posts or tagged you in posts. Many restaurants also share cross-promotion on Instagram to mutually benefit. For example, if you serve a certain type of local wine at your restaurant and they have any social media, you can easily link to them to promote them…share the love! You can also engage customers by holding photo contests where users upload photos and videos of your food or restaurant to your account. Anytime you can bring in and include others, you are creating a sense of community that leads to a positive reputation about your establishment.

Marketing a business on social media, specifically Instagram marketing, can be beneficial for any business, especially in the restaurant industry. Instagram can connect you with current and potential customers, showcase food and ambiance, and increase your reputation.

If you need help creating and maintaining a targeted social media campaign, we would love to hear from you. Contact us and let us help!