A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words. Here's How Instagram Will Get Your Customers Talking.
In the world of Foursquare restaurant check-ins, self-proclaimed "Foodies", and endless #nom hashtags on Twitter, we can make a pretty obvious assertion about the link between dining and social media: people LOVE sharing pictures of their food. What's not so obvious, however, is that snap-happy diners have become a viable form of free advertisement for your restaurant. The best case in point? Instagram. This photo-sharing social network has 130 million active users per month, with over 45 million photo uploads per day.
Setting up an Instagram account for your restaurant not only allows you to share enticing images of your food, but creates a space to interact with customers before and after they leave your establishment. The best part? It's 100% free advertising for your restaurant. Check out the tips below to utilize Instagram to the fullest.
1. Be Searchable and Shareable
Make yourself searchable.
Select an easily recognizable Instagram username and use relevant business keywords in your profile to help increase your search-results. Tag posts with hashtags, and be sure to make them relevant (and not too out-of-the-ordinary) so users can find you. Some key hashtags to include are your restaurant name and a signature dish or drink name. And remember, stay consistent in your use.
Stay Twitter friendly.
Keep your Instagram caption word count under 140 characters. Any caption longer than that will be cut off if someone shares one of your images on Twitter.
2. Integrate Instagram with Other Social Media
Overlap Instagram with all of your social media accounts.
Even if a user doesn't follow you on Instagram, they still might follow you on Facebook or Twitter. Share photos on all of your networks to increase views and gain followers.
Utilize Instagram's new embed feature.
Now you can add photos and videos to your restaurant website or blog, even if you're not an HTML code wizard. This user-friendly web embed feature lets you simply copy and paste an Instagram photo's code to easily place the image on your website or blog.
#Hashtags a la Carte.
Consider printing your Instagram account name and Twitter handle directly onto your in-restaurant menu. That way, patrons need only to look at the menu to tag you in their latest foodie post. Consider displaying your accounts on your sidewalk sign as well, for those who walk or drive by your establishment.
Of course, keep your clientele in mind when integrating social media into your restaurant's marketing plan. While fast-casual restaurants tend to attract more hashtag-happy crowds, an upscale dining establishment with an older client base might not be the best venue to print social media handles directly onto the menu.
3. Interact with Patrons and Reward Them
Create fill-in-the-blank posts.
Follow the lead of Pinkberry (they have over 37,000 followers!) by posting interactive fill-in-the-blank posts. For example, "The best #pinkberry frozen yogurt flavor is ____"
Ask for customer opinions.
Offering a new ice cream flavor, beverage or dish? Ask your customers to help you name it! By enrolling customers in the process, they'll feel compelled to continue following you to learn the end result of the contest.
Hold Photo Challenges.
Encourage customers to share photos and add your restaurant tag. Ask followers to post an iconic image of the city your restaurant is located in, with your business name tagged in the photo. Offer winners gift cards, a free meal, or a similar reward.
Reward Customer Shares.
Encourage Instagram users with more than 300 followers to post a photo that mentions your restaurant (a hashtag, Foursquare check-in, or similar shout out) and reward them with a free treat! After all, they just advertised your restaurant to 300 potential customers - for free!
4. Create a Home Base
Create a Location page for your restaurant so users can instantly tag you in their pics.
Consider establishing a Foursquare for Business account. Instagram now has an iPhone app that makes it easier than ever for people to directly connect their pics to a Foursquare location. It publicly shows that customers have "checked in" at your restaurant, and - bonus - saves your location to their phones to remind them of it when they're nearby.
5. Take Advantage of Video
Instagram's newly launched video option allows you to take customer interaction one step further. Be among the first of restaurants to highlight your specials, staff, and customers with this highly popular feature! Verve Coffee's creative brewing video earned them over 20,000 likes. We've provided just a few ideas below.
- Uncork a wine bottle, pour into a glass, and raise it to salute the weekend
- Introduce diners to your chef at work in the kitchen
- Ask diners for reviews (get permission before posting!)
- Show a "before" shot of ingredients, the food prep process, and the final dish being served
6. Fool-Proof Photo Tips
When showing off your entrees, the last thing you want is a pale, washed-out image of your pièce de résistance. Avoid using flash and harsh overhead lights. Instead, snap photos near a window or softer light source for a more natural-looking appearance.
Create action with simple kitchen props.
Like fashion, food lends itself to accessories! Place chopsticks by sushi, or a spoon resting in a bowl of soup. Add a piece of silverware to a plated dish. Enhance the drama of a wine glass by showing the wine cork and bottle, or add flair to a mixed drink by placing ice cubes and splashes of water around the serving glass.
When photographing food with a "mushy" texture (such as soup, stew, or ice cream), add a garnish that contrasts in color and texture from the dish to add more defined dimension to the photo. Bright berries are a great accent for ice cream and sorbet, while rich green garnishes like parsley add dimension to soup.
Filter images with easy-to-use Apps.
A little filtering goes a long way to enhance the quality of your images. Applications like VSCO and Camera Plus are a great platform for edits like cropping and modifying color. PicFrame and A Beautiful Mess allow you to add frames and clip art, while Whitagram adds a crisp white outline to photos. Pic Stitch and Diptic allow you to create collage-type pictures.
Don't just show off your menu items! Snap a warm, inviting image of your restaurant's interior. Capture photos of your staff working, or guests enjoying their food (with their permission, of course). Please note - if you show staff, make sure they're practicing food-safe procedures (such as wearing gloves) to avoid negative feedback for unsafe food handling captured via image.
Stick to the Rule of Thirds.
Break away from front-and-center pics and use the rule of thirds to create intriguing images. As shown in the diagram at left, imagine your photo being broken down into thirds (both horizontally and vertically), so that you have nine total parts. Place points of interest at intersection points (shown in red) for a more balanced image - for example, the steaming mug of coffee shown at left.