Restaurants, bakeries, and cafes can use Instagram to gain new customers, increase engagement, and create memorable branding.
Everyone is on Instagram these days, including most businesses and restaurants. This image-centric social media site has been setting the trends for years now. Every restaurant should be promoting themselves on Instagram in 2021, here’s why:
- Visually promote your food items, specials, and events
- Create a hype about your food and drinks that makes people excited to try them
- Interact with your customers to make their dining experience extraordinary
- Stay in your customer’s feed so they crave your food
- Use Instagram live and stories to create in-depth content
- Use paid advertising to reach new potential customers
- Host contests and giveaways to promote engagement
- Coordinate with Tik-Tok to reach new audiences
Instagram has actually changed the way restaurants advertise and market their food and atmosphere, and has drastically increased the free or inexpensive marketing opportunities for small local businesses. The rise of social media has been great for small restaurants and hidden gems in attracting new business and keeping current customers updated and engaged.
When it comes to food, presentation matters. That’s why presentation is a major aspect of cooking contests and is a prominent feature of the food at highly rated restaurants. Since its beginnings, Instagram has been at the forefront of platforms for food enthusiasts to share pictures of food. When businesses started using Instagram, they took advantage of the already-established interest in food photography. Taking and sharing great photos of your food can go a long way in gaining social media fame and followers. Many food service businesses have gone viral due to widely shared photos of their food and beverages.
A great way to get photos of your items shared on Instagram is to offer something unique, creative, or visually interesting. Social media users and influencers are always looking for the next great thing and most of them have seen it all at this point. Restaurants that offer a food or beverage item that is unique in a visual way, or even that is packaged in a different way, can garner attention and create a buzz on social media. You’ve probably seen Instagram photos buzzing around of rainbow colored bagels, boba drinks in lightbulb shaped glasses, or ultra-decadent milkshakes stacked with candy and treats. These items attract attention and lead to likes, shares, and reposts. From there you can gain a lot of new potential customers who want to try your food items, some may even travel far to try them!
On the topic of visuals, it may also be a good idea to use emojis in your social media posts. Research from Zazzle media showed that posts with emojis have a 57% higher like rate, a 33% higher comment rate and a 33% higher share rate than posts without. Younger generations use emojis frequently to change the tone of their words, so it is a great way to reach your younger and tech-savvy followers on a more personal level.
You should also consider the design of your restaurant space and it’s potential impact on social media. A unique mural on your wall, interesting design elements, or an overall ‘theme’ to your dining space can also prompt customers to take photos and share them on Instagram or other social platforms. Many newer restaurants have considered this a part of their design structure, and even put up certain art pieces or fixtures knowing that they will be a prime photo op for the gram.
Branded Packaging Design
You can also use your custom branded restaurant packaging to gain traction on social media, by designing packaging that is eye-catching or unique in some way. Your packaging design may play a large role in your social media presence as well. As many Instagram users like to post photos of their beverage cups, takeout bags, or plates of food with food sheets underneath, these are all opportunities to get your branding in front of more Instagram users. Low-cost custom packaging options include printed cups, printed food safe tissue sheets, or printed paper takeout bags.
Instagram Stories and Other Content Features
Instagram has greatly expanded their content sharing options in the past few years. Adding Instagram stories, Instagram live, Reels, and IGTV to their lineup of options. To create more interactive content, Instagram stories has several features that can gain the attention of your followers. There are options to create polls, attach links to your stories, provide Q and A boxes, and more. This allows you to create unique engagement ideas, such as asking what followers’ favorite pizza topping is or what they would like to see added to your menu next.
You can also host live events on Instagram where you can chat with customers and followers, show demonstrations on how to make food or cocktails, or behind the scenes live video. This feature has been especially important in helping restaurants get through the pandemic-related closure periods while staying connected with customers. Customers can also message you during a live stream so you can interact with them directly by answering questions or responding to their comments. This type of interaction can help customers connect with businesses in a more meaningful way, making them feel more positive about your business as a whole.
And if you want to create longer video content, IGTV allows you to post your videos on your profile page in a separate tab. IGTV is a great option for restaurants to post cooking tutorials, tips, or Q and A’s. Instagram Reels is the newest feature added to rival Tik-Tok’s platform of quick, witty videos with added music or effects. Reels is a great option for creating fun and short video posts that will grab people’s attention, make them laugh, or teach them something useful.
Use Hashtags and Location Data
Remember to always use hashtags when you post on Instagram, as this allows your photos to be seen on explore pages and through hashtag follows. You can either add the hashtags to your image caption, or if you prefer a cleaner look, you can comment on your post with the hashtags in the comment for the same effect. For best results, choose 10 or 11 of the most relevant hashtags to your post, although you can use more if you want to. Try to use hashtags that are not extremely popular and instead choose hashtags that are medium popularity so your post won’t be immediately lost in a sea of other posts.
You can also tag your location in your posts, which can help with your local traffic and can help customers find your business better. It’s important to make your location information easy to find for Instagram users who find your restaurant on the social platform and want to know when they can visit. It also helps travelers find restaurants to go to when they are exploring a new city.
Host Contests and Giveaways to Drive Engagement
If your restaurant’s Instagram profile is lacking engagement, there are a few ways you can improve it using clever marketing tactics. Hosting a contest, giveaway, or special promotion can help increase your follower engagement, and can lead to new followers.
Asking customers to post photos of your food, beverages, or restaurant with a tag or hashtag attached can help increase your engagement and visibility and may help you gain new customers. This type of help from your customers creates authenticity in your marketing and branding.
An example of this comes from an Arizona local restaurant chain, Wildflower, that offered a giveaway contest to win free food for a year. They asked customers to post a photo with a caption that said their favorite thing to eat or favorite ‘way to Wildflower’ and tag the restaurant’s page and hashtag. One winner was chosen per week for several weeks to keep the momentum of the contest going and to increase the amount of entries from followers.
Use Paid Advertising to Reach New Customers
Social media advertising is relatively inexpensive compared to Google and other larger ad platforms. It is also very easy to target people based on their location and interests. On Instagram, you can use visual advertising to target potential new customers that live in nearby areas or have an established interest in food. Facebook (who runs the Instagram advertising platform) allows a variety of ways to target audiences for your advertising. This lets you target specific people who are more likely to be potential customers of your restaurant. The advertising is inexpensive based on impressions or other metrics and can reach a lot of people for a very low dollar amount. You could start with a small budget like $100 and potentially earn several new lifelong customers.
What about Tik-Tok?
The newest social media app to draw the world’s attention is all about video. As a business, you may be thinking that Tik-Tok is not the right platform for you to market on, but that is not true. Businesses can absolutely gain attention and traction on Tik-Tok using videos. The key is to create engaging and creative content that will hit your target demographics.
Some ideas for your Tik-Tok videos that will help you gain attention are to show how your food is made, or behind the scenes videos. Instructional videos on how to make food or drink items. Or even just funny, or timely content that will engage people and create a friendly rapport with customers. Younger consumers love to connect with brands in more personal ways, and they tend to care more about social issues and current trends.
Remember to Update Your Info!
A forgotten Instagram or Facebook page can confuse potential customers, they may think you are closed down or not very popular and decide not to visit. It’s important to update your profile pages often and make sure that you have accurate information and links on your pages at all times. Be sure to post your events, happy hours, and holiday or other closure dates as well. Linktr.ee is a useful tool for adding multiple links to your Instagram profile page so you can keep all of your important links like website, events, or social profiles on one page and easy to find.
Also, on a related note, be sure to always keep your Google business profile updated with your current hours, holiday closures, phone numbers, and reservation info if applicable. Paying attention to your profile information can largely influence who wants to visit your restaurant. If a potential customer can’t quickly find your address, phone number, or menu online they may just get frustrated and go somewhere else.
Customers may also use Instagram or other social media platforms to post reviews, comments, or questions about your restaurant and/or your food items. Be sure to check your messages and comments every day so you can quickly respond to any questions or comments from your followers.