According to a recent study published on Hootsuite, Instagram is literally the seventh most visited website on the Internet. Roughly 2.9 billion people visit it every single month. All told, it’s the fourth most popular social media platform, and the coveted 18-year-old to 34-year-old demographic makes up an incredible 60% of its total audience.
But it’s a misconception to think that Instagram is all about sharing photos with friends, family members, and other loved ones. Businesses of all types have experienced an enormous amount of success generating sales on Instagram – and restaurants, in particular, have come out on top. This is why having an Instagram marketing strategy is essential – it helps smaller organizations, in particular, connect to an audience that goes far beyond what they may be able to do through other means.
Why Should Restaurants Have an Instagram Marketing Strategy?
One of the reasons why Instagram marketing is so important to restaurants, in particular, is because it’s visual. That’s not to say that other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter don’t have their strengths. Facebook could be a great way to post announcements about certain events that you’re having in great detail. Twitter is a perfect way to get short-form content out there, like letting people know about a change in your menu. But with Instagram, you have that added visual flair – something that helps connect with people in a bold new way.
Another recent study revealed that about 65% of people are visual learners. In order to retain information, they need to see it. The same source indicated that the human brain can process images and videos roughly 60,000 times faster than text alone.
If you take a basic piece of content and present it in two ways to people – one in a text-based blog post and the other visually in the form of something like an infographic – the vast majority of people will choose the infographic. This is true despite the fact that they’re being presented with essentially the same thing in just two different formats.
From that perspective, it’s not a surprise that Instagram has been such a boost for restaurants. People don’t necessarily want to read about your menu, they want to see the dishes, and they want to see the variety. They want to see what the inside of your location looks like. What better way to do that than in the form of a compelling image? Instagram puts the visual part of marketing front and center, whereas other avenues like Facebook do not. That simple idea is the key to much of the success you can enjoy with the right Instagram marketing strategy.
Tips on Mastering Restaurant Marketing on Instagram
One of the most important things to understand about restaurant marketing on Instagram is that there truly is no “one size fits all” approach to what you’re doing. There’s not necessarily a hard and firm roadmap to follow – different things work for different businesses.
First and foremost, you need to start with the people who matter most of all: your audience. What do they like, and what do they dislike? What do they want to see? In many ways, it’s no different from the way you initially shaped your menu. Having said that, there are a number of best practices that you can follow to help make the most effective impression that you can and reach your restaurant business plan targets. They include but are certainly not limited to the following.
1. Post About Giveaways
Success in terms of social media marketing – especially on a platform like Instagram – ultimately comes down to your ability to engage with your audience. Giveaways and contests are a fun way to do that – who doesn’t like to win something? Try to get creative with your promotions in a way that builds excitement and anticipation. Yes, there will only be one winner – but as people engage more, you’ll also see an uptick in likes, comments, and tags.
You could tell your followers to take a guess on how many of a particular dish will be sold that day, for example. You could ask people to guess how many ingredients you go through in a week. Once you get the conversation started, the momentum will build on its own. You could award the best guesses with discounted meals or even free merchandise with your restaurants’ branding like a personalized apron, a hat, a cutting board, and more.
2. Post Images, Videos, Reels, Stories, and Go Live
Again, the strength of Instagram is that it is arguably the most visually oriented of all the social networks – something that puts restaurants in a unique position to thrive. Nothing gets people more excited than a compelling image of a delicious-looking meal. However, you also need to make sure you’re varying the type of content that you’re posting. Don’t just post images. Try to be on top of social media trends and get a heads up when competitors publish new Instagram posts.
You could also take videos of your kitchen staff preparing meals, giving people a “behind the scenes” look at how you operate.
Take full advantage of some of the more innovative aspects of the platform, like the “Reels” and “Stories” features. The “Stories” feature is a great way to let your followers know when you’ve posted new content, even if they haven’t already seen it in their feed. When you post a regular image or similar piece of content, it gets mixed in with all of the other accounts that they’re following. But when you post to “Stories,” there is a badge at the top of someone’s feed letting them know that there is a new post. This is especially helpful for timely promotions – like specials that you may have around Christmas time or if you’re having a New Year’s Eve bash.
Whenever possible, go live – meaning you’re giving people a real-time look into your restaurant’s operations. Keep in mind that live content usually gets people to watch 27% longer than pre-recorded content, and it keeps people’s attention for about 24 minutes on average. This could be the perfect way to show off your specials for the night, show off recent renovations you’ve made, or even just give people a tour through your restaurant to highlight what makes you special.
3. Interact with Followers and Reward Them
If there is a recurring theme to a lot of these tips, engagement would undoubtedly be it. It isn’t just enough to give people a passive Instagram experience as a restaurant – meaning that you’re just posting images, and you don’t really check your page beyond that. You need to engage with them, which means you need to interact with your followers in a way that keeps the conversation going.
Rewarding your Instagram followers can be a perfect chance not just to build an audience but also to keep them coming back to your page for more, too. To generate more likes or tags, you could tell your followers that “the 51st person to tag us on this post will earn a discounted meal.” You could say, “if this post receives 300 likes, we’ll exclusively reveal our next special on Instagram.” The rewards themselves don’t have to be huge – they just need to incentivize people to stay engaged with the content you’re posting.
4. Explore Your Competitors on Instagram
Another key tip involves paying attention to what a lot of your competitors are doing on Instagram. Check as many local restaurants as you can and see what is working and, more importantly, what isn’t. Both sides of the equation will give you an invaluable wealth of information to learn from – and you can select what successful techniques you think would work for your audience and leave the rest aside.
5. Encourage Customers to Follow Your Account
One of the most overlooked aspects of restaurant Instagram marketing involves calls-to-action. If someone is engaged with your business, they’ll be willing to take some next step – they just have to know what it is to do so. Therefore, including calls-to-action in your posts is a crucial step. It can be something as simple as “if you liked this video, be sure to follow our account to find out more about our restaurant.” So long as you’re able to guide people, they’ll be more than willing to follow you – you just have to take that first step.
6. Share Videos and Stories
Another essential aspect of restaurant marketing on Instagram (and on social media in general, for that matter) involves sharing as many videos and stories as you can. Video content creation is hard and it takes a great deal of time – but in the fast-paced digital world that we’re now living in, consistency is king.
Therefore, there will be times when you don’t necessarily have something new to post. That’s okay because you can share a relevant image or news item to keep people checking your profile. Maybe you’re friends with another local restaurant owner, and you want to do some cross-promotion. Maybe there’s an industry topic that you can record a video about to give your unique insight. Regardless, it’s a great way to keep the content stream flowing.
7. Try Instagram Ads
Instagram Ads are another great way to boost your exposure even further. For example, it’s estimated that as many as 130 million people per month click on shopping ads that they see. For a restaurant, this can be huge – once again exposing your business to an audience that is far beyond the one that currently exists. Combined with additional methods such as local PPC, email marketing, or SEO, digital ads, in general, bring the most productive results.
If you are considering using Instagram ads and going into it for the first time, be sure to set smaller budgets and time frames for your campaigns. Try out both Instagram stories ads and feed ads. Experiment and see what works best for you before spending a more significant amount of money. Check out these tips for creating Instagram Ads for better engagement and more efficient first-time campaigns.
8. Partner with Influencers and Food Bloggers
Partnering with local area influencers and food bloggers is also another great way to get noticed in terms of restaurant marketing on Instagram. You could reach out to someone with a larger audience and offer them a free meal if they’ll review it on their channel.
It is important to identify high-quality influencers without fake followers. You do, however, have to be clear about your relationship with this person – although the same will undoubtedly be true of them for the sake of ethics.
9. Feature Posts from Customers
Another great tip to master restaurant marketing on Instagram involves featuring posts from customers. It’s another form of generating as much social proof as you can – something that is hugely important these days.
So if a customer comes into your restaurant, enjoys themselves, and posts a particularly enthusiastic message about it, be sure to feature that post so that others can see it. It’s been estimated that as many as 93% of people look to customer reviews when they’re dealing with a business they aren’t familiar with. Featuring positive posts from customers may just be the thing that gets someone to come down off the fence and come into your restaurant.
10. Reward Posts from Customers
Finally, we have the idea of rewarding posts from customers – something that is similar to holding a giveaway, albeit in a slightly different way. Again, you could say something like, “if this post gets a certain number of shares, we’ll reveal an exciting new piece of news about our menu here before we tell anyone else.” Or you could allow people to offer input into what your next special should be or which items you should substitute off your menu.
It doesn’t matter what the reward is – it matters that the reward is there. That’s what keeps people coming back to check on your content, which is ultimately what keeps them engaged with your restaurant. The longer that goes on, the more loyalty you instill in them – which will have them telling their friends and family members about you, too.
In the end, Instagram and restaurants really are the perfect pairing for a variety of reasons. For starters, it’s a platform that skews towards a younger audience, a generation that is most likely to eat out in the first place – a perfect storm for a growing restaurant.
Instagram users are nothing if not active, meaning that you’re likely to attract a large set of people with each post without getting lost in the noise that you would on other sites like Facebook. But most crucially, Instagram is visual by its very nature – and food is a perfect pairing with that. That’s why, when leveraged properly, the right Instagram marketing strategy could very likely take your business to a whole new level.