While you may have thought that Instagram was just a silly photo sharing app, over 400 million monthly active users are putting their eyes and clicks on the app. Acquired by Facebook in 2012, Instagram is now a powerful place for restaurants to attract new patrons and share the inside workings of their company and culture. Instagram marketing can't be ignored among the foodies of the world.
But how to get started? Simple. In this piece, I’ll share with you everything you need to know about marketing your restaurant on Instagram, assuming that your restaurant has both a Facebook business page and an Instagram account.
Link Your Restaurant’s Facebook Page to Your Instagram Account
This is a relatively new functionality on your Facebook restaurant page, so get a jump on it. Simply go to Settings in the top right of your brand page, and then click on Instagram Ads. This will be useful for creating ads on Instagram, which I’ll cover shortly.
Do Some Competitive Research
It always helps to know what restaurants like yours are already doing—and successfully—on Instagram. There’s a cool tool called Gramfeed that will help you see what’s what in a jiffy. Just head over to their search tool (it’s free). From here, you can search by hashtags related to your neighborhood, by Instagram user (if you want to look at a shortlist of fellow restaurants), by location (if you’re curious about other businesses like yours in your area or even in other cities) and more. Make your marketing job easier by seeing what works for other restaurants and how you can make their successful efforts on-brand for your business.
Keep an eye on image style and how it relates to the brand, any use of text on images and especially comments from fans and diners saying what they like.
Know What You Want to Promote
Keep in mind that if you’re always trying to sell something, it’s highly likely that your Instagram followers will start to pass you by. A successful Instagram marketing strategy is a combination of personality, brand, visuals and goals. Make the most of what your restaurant markets on Instagram:
- Think visual: New dishes or cocktails? Behind-the-scenes, in-the-kitchen action? Pictures of parties on the patio? A beautiful setup for a wedding reception? All of these make for great Instagram posts.
- Think offers and sales: Instagram is special deal and flash sale central. Want to offer something special just for your Instagram audience? Post a picture of your daily happy-hour special, maybe a buy one/get one offer or even special invitations to chef’s dinners.
- Think moving: Instagram isn’t just for pictures. Short videos are all the rage. Share a smile with your followers by creating short video snippets of your day—from your front-of-house staff rocking to tunes to your sous chef’s mad knife skills, or even your bartender pouring a tall, cold beer on a hot summer day. Whatever you film, make the most of it: Instagram just upped their video length to 60 seconds.
- Think consistency: While I’ll talk to you about graphics in a minute, your restaurant has a brand—its colors, fonts and textures. Make sure what you share as part of your marketing efforts is on-brand all the time.
- Hash it up: Use hashtags relevant to your type of cuisine, geography and even local events. Hashtags help Instagram users choose new dining destinations, so make sure your food and beverage pictures are well-lit and inviting. Need help with hashtags? Find out what hashtags other local restaurants are using with Gramfeed. You may also want to head on over to Iconosquare and use the search function at the top of the page. Simply enter a hashtag you were thinking about using and it’ll come back with how popular that hashtag is and other hashtags to consider using. Don’t forget to keep up to date on hashtags for local events if they’re in your area so you could possibly attract customers on their way to and from those community or cultural events.
Get Graphic with Instagram Marketing
Remember consistency? It’s easy with several online tools to help you build on-brand Instagram marketing graphics and photo overlays with ease, even if you’re not a graphic designer.
At the top of the list is Canva, which has pre-built Instagram marketing templates. Choose from hundreds of layouts and insert your own images. Canva makes online photo storage easy, so upload everything from professional foodie shots to your staff’s on-the-go pictures. Then, you can download those handcrafted images and upload them to Instagram. For ease, you can save your photos in a cloud-based storage solution like Dropbox and upload them right to Instagram from your phone. If you sign up for a Canva for Work account, you can even upload your own fonts right into Canva to always keep you on-brand.
Other online photo creation services like PicMonkey and Snappa can help you quickly and beautifully create Instagram-worthy images right from your computer.
Promote Your Restaurant with Instagram Ads
Instagram Ads are built and managed using either Facebook’s ad creator or Power Editor. That's why I suggested you may want to link up your accounts up earlier. To get started using Instagram ads, check out Facebook's powerful how-to guides. They'll guide you through everything from building your first ad to testing which ones may be the most effective. Instagram ads may be beneficial to your restaurant for a few reasons:
- Sharing food photos is easy and popular: According to Mintel, 29+ million Americans have shared a photo of food or drink they've taken in a restaurant. Using pictures of food and drink may help power your ads.
- Simplicity: Instead of searching for just the right combination of words to get people to click, Instagram ads are as simple as a photo and maybe a few words. The goal is awareness, not clicks.
- Less noise: On Facebook, your ads are competing with videos, words, blog posts, articles and daily life in people's news feeds. On Instagram, you're competing with other photos. Lower noise means a potentially higher response.
So, What’s Stopping You?
You’ve got your accounts and the guidelines you need to find what’s working and for whom, as well as thoughts on how you can launch your marketing efforts on Instagram. Keep in mind that with any marketing effort, it’ll take some fine-tuning to catch your groove. There’s no substitute for a little trial and error.
But one thing’s for sure: Everything you post in Instagram should have a goal. Likes, some new happy hour patrons, an increase in families dining on the weekends or simply raising brand awareness by spreading a smile... Know why you’re posting everything you post and make sure it always does two things: offers value to your audience and honors your restaurant’s mission to deliver delicious food on-brand and to people who love what you do.
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