Did you know that 18-35-year-olds spend five days a year browsing food images on Instagram? Even 30% of them would avoid a restaurant if their Instagram presence was weak. Instagram can make or break your business, especially if you’re in the food industry. It’s a real holy grail for restaurants and other food venues – and a fantastic opportunity to get found, attract new customers, and boost revenue. People are using Instagram to not only document what they eat, but to also decide where to eat.
That makes Instagram an immensely powerful tool for restaurants to tap into, as it provides an easy way to connect directly with the customer, build your brand online, encourage engagement, and create buzz.
We recently completed a survey of London-based males and females aged 28 to 45 who are followers of restaurants and cafes about the reason they’re following that particular venue on Instagram. The results (from 158 respondents) revealed that 38% of the people we surveyed said they were following a business because they want to learn more about it and 41% used it because they were planning a visit and were looking at what to order.
When used correctly, Instagram can become your restaurant’s best friend. It can help you get the word out about your brand, build buzz, bring in lots of new customers, and build brand loyalty with your existing ones. You just need to use it effectively.
1 Create an amazing profile
If you don’t have an attractive and fully-optimised Instagram account, be prepared to lose a lot of potential customers. Your account is the face of your business online representation of who you are, so make it great. Pick a professional profile image (preferably – your logo) and write a few words about your venue - add in your address and make sure your customers can geotag your location. And don’t forget to add a link to your website.
2 Chronicle the life of your restaurant
Let your audience get the feel for what your restaurant is all about. Snap and share photos of your food; take photos of any new dishes in your menu, or shine a light on some old favourites as a way to inspire both regulars and newcomers to try the dishes. Make sure to write short captions for each of the photos or videos, explaining the photo, and encouraging feedback. You can even do a ‘special of the day’ post and add in a coupon code to encourage people to visit your restaurant that day and order that particular dish. You’d be surprised by the number of people who’ll do it. Don’t just stop at food photos, either. Share shots of your dining area, of the chef preparing the dishes, of staff serving customers to give people a behind-the scenes look at your business.
3 Encourage customers to share their photos
Instagram is one of the best social platforms for user-generated content thanks to the fact that hashtags and geotagging make it so easy to share and find content created by your customers. As a business you should be tapping into this immense power and encouraging your customers to share photos taken at your restaurant. It can be shots of their food, drinks, or just photos of them enjoying themselves. For greater engagement, consider running a hashtag campaign. Create a hashtag that’s unique to your restaurant and encourage your customers to use it. There are lots of ways to do this: print your hashtag and Instagram account name on your menu, or strategically display it on the walls. All you need to do is look through all the photos tagged with your hashtag, account name, or geo-location, and choose the best ones to share. Never forget to tag and thank the person who took and shared the photo.
4 Post at the right time of day
According to Later, an Instagram scheduling tool, the best times to post are lunchtime (11am-1pm) and evenings (7-9pm). If you’re just getting started on Instagram, it’s probably a good idea to start with those times. But that’s just general data, and may not work for your specific audience. Try posting at different times and see when your audience is online and the most engaged. Then, simply adjust your posting schedule accordingly.
5 Leverage hashtags and geo-tagging
Much of Instagram’s success and popularity among restaurant-owners can be attributed to hashtag-use and geotagging as both make it extremely easy to get your restaurant found. As well as creating your own hashtags and encouraging customers to use them you should also tap into the power of other trending hashtags. To start, do some research and find popular hashtags that are relevant to your business - for example, if you run a restaurant in London, you might use hashtags such as #londonfood, #londonfoodie, #londonrestaurants. By putting your restaurant on the Instagram map, you’re making it very easy for people to find you. And, if you haven’t done so already, create a location for your business on Facebook. This means you or your customers will be able to geotag photos with your location and enables other Instagram users who are searching for a place to eat in your area to find you.
Neil Sheth is the founder of Only Way Online, a London- based social media agency, specialising in Instagram, content marketing and SEO. Visit its website here