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Instagram is now the second largest social media site in the world with over a billion active users.

This photo-centric social media site has become a haven for food photography, and now run by Facebook, it has the same targeted marketing capabilities as Facebook for businesses.

This makes it a powerful and appropriate tool for restaurants who are looking to grow their online presence, drive footfall and increase their online orders.

Image from Mexicali Fresh Instagram feed.
Image from Mexicali Fresh Instagram feed

Managing your Instagram presence

To get set up you need to download the app onto one of your devices and create a new account. Then: Tap Settings. < Tap Account. < Tap Switch to Professional Account. < Tap Business.

You can only post on Instagram from a mobile device unless you use a social media scheduling tool like one of these. However, you manage your posting schedule it’s a good idea for someone on your team to take control of your account so that they can post to it regularly while at work.

If you do use a social media scheduling tool you can easily syndicate your content across all of your accounts. For example, Facebook and Twitter. This will help you reach a larger audience, build engagement, and cross-promote your channels. 

What to photograph?

If you want to build your following on Instagram you need to take a little extra time and effort to create high quality and engaging photos. While still a social media channel, meaning the aim is to create community engagement, higher quality imagery generally performs better.

There are several approaches you can use. First, keep your photography to a theme to create something that is visually stunning and that will that will make your followers hungry. Secondly, you could focus on the personal side of your business, making it intimate and showing your passion for what you’re doing.

A few post topic ideas include:

  • Staff functions
  • Industry events
  • Your staff at work
  • Dishes from the menu
  • Changes to the décor
zambrero social

Get organised

One of the most common ways people discover new posts is through hashtags. Like Twitter, these are words that are pre-empted by a # – unlike Twitter, however, it’s acceptable to use many in a single post to increase your potential reach.

You can use a specific hashtag for your restaurant, and encourage patrons when they take photos at your restaurant to use that hashtag or tag your Instagram account in their post. By doing this you will increase your community engagement and reach new audiences. There are several strategies that bars and restaurants use to encourage this behaviour.

First, incentives. For example, get a discount or a free drink when you tag the restaurant or use the designated hashtag. Alternatively by using the hashtag you could be entered into a competition to win something like a free meal for two. Secondly, have a designated photo area or a particularly photo worthy section to your restaurant. This could take the form for example of a high quality mural or a flower arch. If your decor is Instagram worthy, then people will Instagram it.

Getting noticed on Instagram

Once you’ve gotten used to Instagram, it’s time to let people know that you’re online! Add mentions to your menu and promotional materials. Encourage people to follow your account. Sharing photos across all your social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter will also help build visibility. 

You can additionally assign a small budget to your Social media campaigns from your marketing budget which will give your social media accounts a big lift.

instagrammable salad bowl from Toss
An Instagram worthy salad bowl from Toss

Instagram is a great promotional tool. It’s almost too easy to get the photography bug with this app, so go with it and show the web a more personal side to your business.