You know that social media matters. Chances are, you’ve taken the time to set up a Facebook profile or Twitter account. You understand the importance of connecting with your regular patrons and potential customers whenever you can and of creating opportunities to engage.
However, have you had time to think outside of the traditional social media giants? To look at other networks that might be effective in reaching and engaging your target market? Perhaps now is the time. It all starts with Instagram and it all starts now.
Instagram: The Basics
Launched in 2010, Instagram is a photo sharing network with over 200 million monthly users, 20 billion photos shared and 60 million new photos shared on a daily basis. It’s also one of the fastest growing social networks.
Similar to Twitter, but only sharing photos and videos, Instagram allows users to connect with hashtags (#) and direct tags (@). Users can follow one another just like they can on any other social network, and the newsfeed is comprised of updates from users that someone follows. This simple format makes it perfect for mobile users, meaning it’s a potentially hot area for brands, especially restaurants, looking for an innovative form of marketing.
Check out the tips and strategies below for marketing your restaurant on Instagram.
You’re probably used to scouring the web for content to share. You know that special offers can go a long way on social media sites and that statistics that relate to your industry might be of interest to your followers. But, are you appealing to them on a visual level?
Studies have shown that when people make a purchase — whether at a retail store or a restaurant — the visual appeal matters in 93% of cases. Furthermore, prospective customers make a sub-conscious judgment about an environment, like a restaurant, within 90 seconds of initial viewing. This means that photos can make or break your marketing strategy and should be considered highly important.
As an example, check out Chobani — the Greek yogurt brand you might know from your local supermarket — and their Instagram account. On a regular basis, the brand shares something new you can make with their product, using the hashtag #creationaday… and the photos look good enough to eat!
Consider Your Hashtags
After you’ve created your account, it’s time to consider how you’d like to be known on the network. This is where your hashtags come into play. After you pick a few slogans or words that represent how you’d like to be found and searched, you can start using them immediately. Over time, followers will pick up on your strategy and incorporate those hashtags into their own posts. This leads to searchability and viral potential.
Burger fans are probably familiar with the iconic NYC-based chain Shake Shack, and their hashtagging is a great example to emulate. Customers share their enthusiasm for the restaurant using their hashtags #shakeshack or #shackfan. It creates a great positive community around their food – and even leads to some great marketable opportunities like the one above.
Think About Your Images
Variety is a key to life. This is just as true on Instagram as anywhere else. Yes, your food may be appealing, and followers will probably enjoy seeing pictures of it, but if that’s all that is shared, it may become tiring. Instead, think of other ways to drive interest.
Team member photos, photos of diners having a good time, drink specials, and photos of your town around the restaurant can also pique interest. Keep it interesting by mixing up what you share.
Sonya Yu is a food photographer, and the shots of even simple dishes on her Instagram feed are impeccable. But she’s not all-food, all the time – she breaks up the feed with shots of her adorable dogs, her favorite shops, and gorgeous outdoor scenery.
Share Special Offers
No, Instagram is not a network for sharing text-based special offers. That said, there’s no reason you can’t create a graphic “coupon” that can be used by any follower. Simply upload a special offer photo or graphic, and encourage followers to show it to their servers when they visit. When discounts and promotions are on the line, you’re likely to attract attention quickly.
Top Shop is known for offering promo codes, coupons, and free shipping offers via their Instagram account – and it’s probably partially responsible for their 2 million plus followers! This is a great way to give your customers a little extra reason to come back.
Start a Contest
If you are looking to attract an increased amount of attention without breaking the marketing budget bank, look no further than Instagram. By hosting a contest — consider a month-long contest with a different challenge each day — you’ll attract an exponential amount of attention while changing very little.
Here are the basics. On day one, post an image that outlines 30 days with a different theme for each day; get creative with concepts like “blue,” “comfort food,” or “outside.” The options don’t have to have anything to do with your restaurant. Let followers know that each day they post a photo matching that day’s theme, along with a specific contest hashtag and your restaurant’s tag, they’ll be entered into a contest for a gift card or another prize.
Not only are your followers likely to participate, they’re likely to think of your restaurant every day during the competition, and will be spreading your message to their own followers.
If you’re looking for something a little simpler, follow the footsteps of many other companies who post one-off contests, like the one below by Nourish Organic.
Whatever route you decide to take, Instagram is an excellent way to reach out to your target market where they are: on the go. It’s simple, requires very little effort and leads to high levels of engagement, especially for restaurant owners trying to make a mark online.
What is your restaurant doing on Instagram? Share your experiences in the comments below or via Twitter!