How to Use Instagram to Market Your Restaurant

People like food. They like to eat food. They like to cook food (well, some people do anyway) and they like to look at food. And you know what else people like? To take pictures of themselves. You know what people like even more than taking pictures of themselves? Taking pictures of themselves doing something cool, like eating dinner out or having a drink at the bar. And this is where Instagram comes in.

This photo app, designed for iPhones and Android phones, allows users to take pictures and upload them instantly to their favorite social media sites. Restaurants can capitalize on people's love of food and selfies in a variety of ways.

So What Is Instagram?

According to Elise Moreau from Wed Trends, Instagram is a photo app that is available for free from the iTunes App Store and from Google Play. The difference in using Instagram to take photos versus your regular camera is that it allows you to follow other users' photo streams as they post them and you can be followed back by those users (or other users) as well.

Use Instagram to Engage Customers

Social media sites have revolutionized the way restaurants advertise, but some of the most effective marketing campaigns for any restaurants are good old food shots. According to National Restaurant News, many restaurant brands, like Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen, took traditional advertising methods and transposed them onto their social media page.

So, essentially they took content that would work for a print ad or a menu insert and posted it on their Facebook page. Simple as that. They posted a picture of its Dip'n Chick'n as a limited time offer and received more than 37,000 likes and 1,700 shares for that one photo. This article from the National Restaurant Association recently reported that monitoring platform MomentFeed (which tracks social media campaigns of 65 different chain restaurants) showed that half a million photos were tagged at various restaurant locations from July through September 2013.

127,384 at Starbucks, alone. Other popular places for selfies – The Cheesecake Factory, In-N-Out Burger and Applebee's. That is a lot of photos being tracked in only a small number of US restaurants chains.

Offer Incentives to Take Selfies

The increase in Instagram users and restaurants might be less about selfies and more about marketing. Some restaurants encourage people to check in with sites like Instagram, in order to receive discounts, coupons or be entered into contests. For example, in October 2013, Dairy Queen offered a five dollar gift card contest if people uploaded pictures of themselves enjoying a five dollar lunch special, Blizzard or chicken strip basket.

Instagram is a social media site in and of itself. However, it can be shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest – the last of which is one of the largest growing social media sites at the moment. Encouraging customers to promote your restaurant through their own photos is an effective and, not to mention, a FREE way to advertise your restaurant. Using Instagram to promote old fashion advertising ideas, like photos of specials is another FREE way to promote your restaurant. Read more about how to use social media at your restaurant.

So what does this all mean? Do more Instagram photos (or Facebook likes, or tweets or pins) equate to more sales? To bigger profits? According to Joergen Aaboe, MomentFeeds director of marketing at MomentFeed, "You can look at local engagement on the channel as a representative proxy for foot traffic...there's a correlation between check-in's [on Instagram, at least] and sales."

Source: Lorri Mealey for The Balance