Instagram may be all the rage among Millennials, but it’s quickly becoming one of the most influential social media marketing channels across the board. According to MomentFeed, a digital marketing platform connecting brands to consumers, there are over 200 million monthly active Instagram users, an average of 60 million photos posted daily to Instagram, and 1.6 billion “likes” on Instagram posts daily.
What makes Instagram so valuable, though, is the high user engagement rate. Posts on Instagram have 18 times more consumer engagement than on Facebook and 48 times more engagement than on Twitter.
Since Instagram is relatively new when it comes to social media for restaurant marketing, it’s crucial to develop a usage plan before integrating it into your marketing strategy. MomentFeed recently hosted a webinar on “The Year of the Instagram Strategy”, which gave advice that I found easily applicable to the restaurant industry. With MomentFeed’s tips in mind, here are five Instagram best practices that will help build engagement with your customers, promote brand awareness, and increase restaurant sales:
1. What to Post
Most users see Instagram as a fun way to share their lives with the world, but restaurant owners need to see it as an authentic representation of their brand. We know pet photos dominate Instagram, but if your restaurant is fine or upscale it may not be an accurate representation of your brand to Instagram a goofy photo of your chef’s cat. Set the direction you want to take in your Instagram posts, including typical subject matter, tone, and intended audience. Once you have a clear vision of your Instagram content strategy, it will be easier to keep a steady stream of effective Instagram posts.
2. How to Post
The focus for every Instagram post should, of course, be the photo. Make sure the image is clear and interesting, visually portraying the message you want to send about your restaurant. A caption should be about 140 characters, like a tweet. Instagram doesn’t have character limits, but users only spend a few seconds on a post, so it’s more important for the image to capture their attention rather than bog them down with too much text. Using hashtags in a caption is also key to increasing the reach of a post. Including a frequently-used hashtag in a post increases the likeliness it will appear when a user searches for or clicks on that hashtag. Some of the trendiest hashtags you can use are #food, #best, and #photooftheday. But like most things on social media, don’t overdo it or it will lose impact.
3. How to Re-Post
You can source great Instagram content while increasing customer engagement by re-posting photos your restaurant was tagged in (with your @username) on your restaurant’s Instagram account. Instagram and MomentFeed recommend asking permission from the original poster in a comment before re-posting, though it’s not required. The downside to this, though, is that you have to wait for the user to respond. However, MomentFeed said that none of their clients have ever been declined when asking to re-post. This is probably because Instagram users post photos publicly for others to see, and getting recognition from the company they’re posting about is a huge ego boost. So unless you’re a mega-brand like Disney or Nike, you can just 1) comment on the photo saying that you’re going to re-post it or 2) tag the user who took the photo to give them credit in your post.
4. How to Respond to Negative Posts
One benefit of Instagram over other social media platforms is that you can be more effective, yet discreet, when resolving customer issues. Personally, I’ve used Instagram to share negative restaurant experiences and am disappointed when a restaurant doesn’t respond. Unlike Facebook or Twitter, which increases visibility of posts with new replies, Instagram only sorts its feed by original post time. This means you can respond to a customer’s negative post without publicly rehashing the issue and show those viewing the post that you care about your customers.
5. How to Engage Your Customers
The three basic ways to interact with your customers on Instagram are to follow them, like their posts, and comment on their posts. Find and follow your customers and potential customers from posts your restaurant is tagged in or through hashtags relevant to your business. According to MomentFeed, it’s been proven that the more you engage with others on Instagram, the more others will engage with you. Just be careful not to engage too much, as Instagram does have an activity limit (albeit a high one) that could mark you as a “spammer”.
Don’t forget to also follow industry influencers, like Rewards Network, that can help boost your Instagram account through mutual engagement. We love keeping up with our program restaurants on Instagram and share some of their great posts with our own followers! Instagram is a great choice when looking at social media for restaurant marketing ideas – use it wisely!