Instagram might be the easiest platform for growing a culture of organic user generated content and branching your brand into an online community - it's also likely one of the most underutilised tools in your kit as a restaurant owner. Let's see if we can't sharpen it up.
We've created a quick guide, with 5 steps towards making the most of Instagram as an effective marketing and community building tool for your restaurant.
1. Plate Beautifully, and Stay On Trend
Let’s take it from the top.
If you wanna get on Gram, you’ve got to put out some plates that people actually want to share. No matter what cuisine you’re serving, you can serve it in a way that is visually appealing.
Where possible, add a unique talking point or twist to your dish, and consider getting in early on food trends.
This is something that people naturally want to engage with and post about. It can also generate some (very valuable) media attention if done well.
2. Take Great Pictures
While perhaps the most obvious of all the points - it's also the most often neglected. No matter how amazing your food, or how thought out your Instagram dash is, if you cannot provide a solid standard of photo quality and consistency, you’re missing out on SO much.
You don’t need an expensive camera - an iPhone will do! But when photographing a dish, consider:
Find a naturally well lit area. Photos taken in bad light can look messy and decrease photo quality.
- Surroundings & Framing
Don’t take an extremely close up shot of your dish! No matter what it is, you’ll struggle to make it look appealing. Don’t snap the dish against a scratched up stainless steel bench. Take it out to a table, have some of the interior visible in the framing, show other dishes nearby, maybe take it as a flatlay. Don’t take the photo purely for the purpose of showing the contents of the plate- take it for the purpose of creating a visually appealing shot to compliment your Instagram feed.
- OR Professional Photography
If you do not have the time to do photos well, hire a good photographer! This is an expense that is 100% worth it and the photos are usable over all platforms, not just Instagram.
3. Let Your Fans Tell Your Story
Think about implementing a easy to remember original hashtag and encouraging users to tag when posting about you. You should put in tag in your bio, so it’s super accessible and also clickable. This creates a community behind your brand, and lets you easily find people talking about you!
Once you’ve got some great photos flowing in from your visitors, you can potentially be filling a large majority of your feed with reposts. When you find a well-taken snap you want to repost, be sure not to lessen the quality of the picture with the way you choose to grab it off their page. Generally, the initial post will be of a high/decent quality (if it isn't, don't post it!). If you choose to screenshot and repost, when stretched to size, you’ll lose a lot of resolution. Try using websites like dinsta.com to collect an image directly from the source without quality compromise. All you need is the post link!
Don’t forget to shout out the original poster - it’s a common courtesy and also makes that person more inclined to post for you again!
On another note: It’s exciting to see positive feedback, but you should steer clear of posting screenshots of reviews on your Instagram. If someone is interested, they’ll find those reviews themselves, and a screenshot simply clutters your feed and usually looks pretty visually jarring. Sharing guests photos is more ‘real’ and does much better than a big chunk of text.
4. Think Before You Post
(Gramercy Social, Prahran.)
Before you create or revamp your Instagram, set a little time aside to plan what you’re going to be posting and when. While it’s easy to continuously post shots of food, you can develop stronger branding by incorporating a broader range of post types. These could include food pictures, reposts, venue shots, announcements, team member introductions, videos, or promotions. Remember that balance is important, set achievable goals.
As an example, in a fortnight you could aim to post something like this:
4 x Food
2 x Venue
1 x Video
1 x Promotion or Giveaway
1 x Announcement, Meet The Team, or Mood Graphics
As for timing - We find posting between 8-10am does best, but you should use some trial and error to find out what works for you!
5. Know Your Tools, and Sharpen Them.
While spamming hashtags can bring in a bunch of likes and comments, you’ll find that they are generally untargeted or ‘bot’ comments. They look good - but they’re doing nothing for you and are therefore not worth your time. Furthermore, Instagram shadow-banning means over use of the same tags remove your post entirely from feeds.
Aim for relevant, well thought out tags. The first should always be your own hashtag (if you don’t have one, make one!) - the rest a mix of location based, cuisine type, ingredient, etc. Tags can be "followed" by users now, so you’ll find that the audience behind these tags will bring traffic that is relevant, targeted and potentially beneficial towards your branding and exposure.
Follow whoever you like - but there’s still benefits involved with following accounts that are relevant to yours. Follow chefs, bloggers, cafe/restaurant frequents. You’ll be including yourself in a community of foodies, that enjoy engaging with and seeing content similar to their own.
Where possible, reward your followers for engaging with you! Reply to comments, share pictures (as discussed in point 3), comment on their shots, like their pictures. This is an easy way to make people want to engage with you more. Even more importantly - Instagram has updated their algorithm to push followers content from the brands that they mutually engage with, making this more beneficial than ever.
For text based posts: Use Canva
(Image created on Canva in literally a minute)
We get it - you’ve got important messages to announce and little time to do it. We often see restaurants producing quality content and gorgeous pictures only to break the continuity and quality of their feed with a screenshotted note, hand written sign or even just a message grabbed off Google. No matter what you’ve got to say, whether it be a new menu item, a change in opening hours or even just a couple lines of wisdom or joke - it’s so easy to make it look appealing! You’ll find that visually appealing text posts will naturally perform better and generally be read more.
Platforms like Canva provide a foolproof way of creating text posts, giving you a range of well designed templates that you’re free to edit to fill your requirements and then repost. Easy!
For scheduling: Use Later
(Later interactive grid display screen.)
Hospitality can be chaotic, and it’s no wonder that it’s hard to find time to master the Instagram scene. If you’ve created a bunch of content and got a basic idea of what order/when you’d like your shots to go out, jump onto Later. Later allows you to plan your posts ahead for a month, also giving you a visual drag and drop interactive display of what your feed will look like as a whole. This way, you can pre-write clever captions and create an appealing looking grid without having to plan it by the day.
6. Don't Neglect Instagram Stories!
Instagram has recently updated its algorithm to reward Instagram Story use more than ever before.
It's easy to post content that prompts engagement from your audience, and is measureable with stats directly under each post. If you're a business account with over 10k followers, you will also have access to "Swipe Up" links - which are extremely valuable in seamlessly directing followers to external pages.
Frequent viewing, clicks on links, or polls interaction counts as engagement, that will register the users interest in your page, and push your content towards the top of their feed.
Be original, interactive and fun!
Instagram has so much to offer.