With a camera in everyone’s pocket nowadays, we’ve become pre-programmed to snap pictures of our food, whether it’s to show friends and family, or to post it on social media. According to Yelp, users searching for the word “Instagram” in their restaurant and food searches grew 3,000 percent from May of 2015 compared to August of 2017.
So how does a restaurant become “Instagrammable?” It starts with you.
1. Create an Instagram account.
If you don’t already have an account for your restaurant on Instagram, create one and start populating it with professional-quality photos of your food, interior, specials, catering and more. If you have an account that’s collecting dust, bring it back to life.
2. Use hashtags and mentions.
Research has shown that including just one hashtag with your photo can increase engagement by more than 10 percent. Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags, so aim for an easy five to 10 relevant hashtags that will make it easier to find your photos on Instagram. Don’t forget location tags if you’re in a specific city such as #LosAngeles or #Miami. Don’t forget to mention a company, a guest or a chef who you reference in the photo with an @mention. You can boost engagement more than 50 percent with a simple @mention since the post will be seen in more places than just your page.
3. Monitor your feed.
It’s imperative to monitor what happens once you start posting to any social media platform, especially one that moves as quickly as Instagram. Use a social media monitoring service to track and respond to the activity on your page. Once visitors start commenting and liking the photos that you’re posting, respond in kind with likes and appreciation. If someone posts a photo of your restaurant (which you’ll also be able to track), like it and thank them. This encourages customers to take more pictures and share them in more places.
4. Post more “Instagrammable” photos.
A lot of what gets shared on Instagram are drool-inducing “food porn” photos that make serial scrollers stop in their tracks. With 95 million photos shared every day on Instagram, it will take some work to compete. There are currently 260 million photos with the hashtag #food, after all. One way to start is to take advantage of trends. Remember #unicorn and #cronut? Find out what’s trending now and post your own version of it on your page.
5. Create “Instagrammable” food and experiences.
Whether you’re following a trend or creating something unique that integrates with your brand (e.g., latte art at a coffee shop or a 30-scoop sundae at a sweet shop), enlist the feedback of your staff and social media followers when creating signature dishes and experiences. If you need help, consider hiring a food stylist on a contract basis for additional thoughts and opinions.
6. Deliver on the hype.
Last, but not least, deliver on your social promises. Don’t build up a social media frenzy and then fall short of delivering great food and service when your customers come in. If you’re showing off 12-inch chocolate cakes and triple-stack cheeseburgers on Instagram, make sure those items are available and ready to take their breath away when guests stop by.
Many factors play into how much time you’ll end up spending to build and manage an Instagram account that gets followed. You’ll want to post one to three times per day, and each one of those posts will need to be planned, photographed, have a caption, hashtags, etc.
Your social media monitoring and posting software will help you organize and schedule posts, but you can still expect to spend at least an hour per day on it if you’re aiming to build a real presence on Instagram. If this doesn’t seem doable for you, consider hiring a freelancer or putting a staff member in charge of the Instagram account.
Last but not least, don’t get discouraged. Trying to attract customers with an Instagram account may feel like a daunting task in the beginning, but with a little practice, you’ll soon get hooked on the free marketing.