By: Adam Guild - July 10, 2019
Have you ever heard the saying that "People eat with their eyes"? It used to be that you didn't know what a dish looked like until it was set down on the table in front of you. But now restaurants and customers alike post tantalizing photos of delicious food on social media daily.
Instagram, as a completely visual platform, is the place for restaurants to focus their marketing power. Food and beverage users are more engaged on Instagram than on any other social media app
Further, 90% of Instagram users are under 35. And Millennials eat out more than any other generation!
I can't think of any reasons not to use Instagram for your marketing. But if you're still on the fence about where to focus your marketing efforts, here are 7 reasons Instagram is the best social platform for restaurants.
1. You can save moneyLabor is expensive and margins are tight. So any marketing platform must be affordable. Instagram is 100% free to use, unless you decide to do any advertising. It doesn't get much more affordable than free. Also, you can test what works and what doesn't without sacrificing your hard-earned cash. And your reach is virtually unlimited.
You can find the locals looking for somewhere new to add to their regular haunts. Or you can find the tourists planning a trip to your town. With 26% of domestic travel expenses spent on food, this is a huge market!
You can share new menu items, changes to your hours, or upcoming events. And you can experiment to figure out the best Instagram captions for your restaurant – all without spending a penny.
You don't even need an expensive camera. Most smartphone cameras these days are capable of taking high-quality photos. Just make sure you have enough natural light and you'll be good to go.
2. You can work with influencersInstagram didn't create the "influencer." But it did give non-celebrities a new platform where they could grow a big following. There are thousands of food influencers. They range from micro-influencers with 2,000 followers to huge accounts of 150,000.
Fact: 49% of consumers count on influencer recommendations when making purchasing decisions. This is great news for the restaurant industry.
These tastemakers aren't focused on Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat. In fact, 91% of influencers say that Instagram is their #1 platform. This is especially true for food bloggers and influencers. People love food photography!
Find some of the popular influencers in your area and start interacting with them on Instagram. Liking and commenting on their posts will help them remember your restaurant's name.
Soon, you can reach out to see if they'd be willing to do a post about your restaurant in exchange for a free meal. If they see you as a fan, they may be more likely to work with you.
If you can find an influencer willing to work with your restaurant, you can gain access to their followers without a big investment. That could be thousands of new potential customers, all without spending any money.
3. You can reach millionsInstagram has 1 billion active monthly users and 500 million daily users. And those users spend a lot of time on Instagram – an average of 53 minutes per day.
Compare that to Facebook's daily users, who spend about 41 minutes per day on the app. That's 22% less time than they spend on Instagram. This level of use provides businesses with unprecedented levels of access to potential customers.
And users aren't interacting only with their friends and influencers: 80% of accounts follow at least one business on Instagram. And 75% of users take some kind of action, like visiting a website, after looking at a brand's post.
With that kind of reach at your disposal, you'd be crazy not to start posting!
4. You can easily talk to customersOne of the key benefits of all this activity is that you can interact with your customers after they've come and gone. When people want to communicate, they turn to Instagram. Just look at the numbers.
There currently are 184 million total Yelp reviews. Compare that with more than 95 million new Instagram posts per day. And people interact with brands on Instagram more than any other platform. They actually want to hear from you!
When people post photos of their meal or experience, reach out! Let them know that you appreciate them coming in.
If someone makes a complaint on one of their posts, you can send them a message to get more information about their visit. And you can follow up with an apology or a gift card to get them to come back.
If a customer took a great photo during their visit, send them a quick message and ask if you can re-post it on your feed. They'll usually say yes as long as you give them photo credit. That's free user-generated content for you.
This kind of rapport can turn customers into advocates and encourage repeat business.
5. You can use geotags to attract new customersOne of Instagram's key benefits is how easy it is for users to find new accounts to follow. Unlike Facebook where you have to actively seek out content, Instagram suggests posts you might like in the "Explore" feed.
By using geotags on your posts, you make your content visible to users who search for that location. Geotag your restaurant address so that anyone searching for your location will see your content.
Also geotag your street, neighborhood, or city. You'll provide an opportunity for users searching those locations to discover you. Local Instagram users may tag the same areas, and those common geotags will make you more likely to show up in their searches.
Geotags can also help your visibility with tourists. Visitors to the area search local geotags to get an idea for what is going on in the neighborhood. If they're staying at the hotel down the street, you want to make sure that your restaurant is popping up when they are exploring on Instagram.
The benefits of geotags aren't limited to what the restaurant can do with them. Customers can also use your geotag on Instagram. And all geotagged content will appear when users click on the tag, whether it was created by the restaurant or the customers.
These geotag results show delicious food and customers having a great time. There's also an important piece of news: the restaurant is closed for repairs.
This was an easy way to communicate with anyone checking out their geotag.
6. You can use hashtags to attract new customersHashtags are another great way to attract new customers. You can use local hashtags with your business name, street, neighborhood, or city to help people nearby find you.
You can use restaurant or food hashtags to attract the notice of foodies and people looking for somewhere to eat.
Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags, so you can really expand your reach. Different guides to Instagram have differing opinions on how many hashtags you should use on each post. Experiment with different numbers to see what gets the most engagement.
People can also follow hashtags on Instagram. Your content can appear in a user's feed if you use a hashtag they follow, even if they're not following your account.
I'm not following this account. This post appeared in my feed because I'm following #ramen.
7. You can expand your reach with easy advertisingIf you'd like to take your marketing to the next level, using Instagram ads is simple. Your ad can be a single photo, photo series, video, or slideshow. They can appear as posts or stories.
You can control how much you spend and customize the audience you're trying to reach. You can pause your campaign at any time, and you'll get detailed analytics of how it performed.
You'll create your ad through Facebook's Ad Manager, which will walk you through the process step-by-step.
Besides the benefit of getting your ad in front of more users, you'll also be able to include a link with your promotion.
Currently, Instagram doesn't allow links in your posts for most accounts, and you only get one link in your profile. But if you use a paid ad, you can include a clickable link right there. This will provide an easy way to get visits to your website, event page, or menu.
ConclusionInstagram can be a challenging platform for some industries. If you don't have an attractive physical product, it can be hard to build an interesting feed that gets engagement. But for restaurants, Instagram is the best way to get out there.
Engagement is high and more people sign up every day. Users are looking for new content, and it's free! Take some beautiful photos of your food, and you'll have the kind of content people keep coming back for.
More followers leads to more brand awareness. And then it's just a short step to customers in seats and money in the bank.
So now you understand what a powerful resource Instagram can be for restaurants.
Are you going to take advantage of this tool to grow your business? Or are you going to let yourself be outpaced by your competitors who do?
It's up to you!
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