Right now, Instagram is my favorite social media platform for restaurants. It’s visual, it’s friendly (commenters skew way more to the positive), and it’s still fairly ‘unregulated’ (unlike Facebook which has bee seriously curtailed the reach of businesses).
In a previous post, I dropped 7 tips for maximizing social media for your restaurant. If you haven’t read that one, please do. They’re good tips, and now we are going to delve deeper into Instagram and how to make it work for your restaurant.
You Look Marvelous
This should go without saying: your Instagram account is an extension of your brand. The same thought and care that went into creating your menu or your wine list should go into your Instagram feed.
Since Instagram is primarily visual, with captions a distant second, the importance of quality photography cannot be stressed enough. You literally have a split-second to catch someone’s attention when they are scrolling through their feed.
Clear, bright, colorful images are scroll-stoppers. Once you have their attention with the photo, then they might read your cleverly-worded caption. Plenty of light (preferably natural light) is the key to quality photography.
Never shoot a plate of food in the kitchen under direct, harsh overhead lights and definitely don’t try it in a dim dining area. Make your photos near a window, in a well-lit area but out of direct sunlight.
Stay tuned for an in-depth guide to making awesome instagram photos.
Who Dares, Wins
If you’re just posting your specials several times a week, you’re boring your followers and training them to tune you out. You have to mix it up and you have to be bold to stand out from the crowd.
Some think that it’s best to play it safe to help you attract a wider audience. They are wrong. You don’t want a wider audience, you want the right audience. Show the character of your restaurant and you will attract customers that are predisposed to liking your restaurant.
Spoiler Alert: it’s the internet. Some people live to complain and hate online. Be bold, be yourself, and you will attract some people who want to bash you. That’s ok, it’s a sign that you’re standing out from the crowd. Just concentrate on the people who appreciate your brand.
It’s Not Just About You
The great thing about social media is the ability for restaurants to interact with potential customers and loyal customers. Yet so many businesses are using just as another broadcasting avenue.
You have to monitor your Instagram presence. Anytime someone posts an image from your restaurant or of your food, you should know about this. You can do this by monitoring hashtags, your location, and mentions.
As you find these posts, the very least thing you should do is like them. Seriously, that’s the bare minimum. What you should really do is comment. Get the conversation going. People absolutely love it when brands acknowledge their posts.
Having conversations on social media with customers is a sure-fire way of turning them into fans and repeat customers.
Get Some Help
We’re talking about user-generated content. Why not add to your feed with pictures from delighted customers? There’s even an app called Repost for sharing their photo on your Instagram feed. It’s a triple-whammy of adding content to your feed, recognizing a customer’s post, and providing social proof.
How do you do this? First, as previously mentioned, you have to monitor Instagram for mentions of your restaurant. You can do regular searches on Instagram or there are several tools like Hootsuite and Sprout that help manage and monitor your social media presence.
We mentioned hashtags. A great way to encourage customers to post is to create a hashtag for your restaurant and make it a contest with a prize. The prize could be a free appetizer or their picture on the wall of “Instagram Photo of the Week” with their profile so people can follow them. Keep it simple.
You’re So Vain
Stop obsessing about how many followers you have. We call that a vanity metric. It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. 500 engaged, local followers are going to mean a lot more to your business than 5000 mostly disinterested followers spread out all over the world.
You can sign up for an Instagram bot service that will like and follow Instagram accounts to get allows in return to boost your follow count. While that looks good, statistics show that most of those services result in a majority of followers from other countries. That won’t help you grow your restaurant business.
Be patient. If you spend your time and budget on engaging and delighting your followers with relevant, quality content, you will attract more engaged followers over time. These loyal followers can easily be loyal customers.
Instagram Master Class
Once you’ve mastered these 5 steps, you might be ready to spend more time and effort into taking your Instagram marketing to the highest level.Stay tuned for my Instagram Master class which will teach you 3 advanced methods of drawing in new customers and staying on top-of-mind with your existing customers.