Restaurant Marketing with Instagram: The Definitive Guide (2017 Update)

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restaurant marketing on instagram

Few online marketing channels are as engrossing and engaging as Instagram. With its focus on photo and video sharing, it presents a huge opportunity for restaurant managers and marketers to expand their reach and attract new and returning customers.

At the same time however, you likely already have your hands full juggling staff, ensuring quality food and making sure each customer has a positive experience with your establishment. The truth is, you don’t have time to keep up to date with the latest, greatest and proven social media marketing strategies.

That’s where this guide comes in. By the time you finish reading the strategies presented here, you’ll not only be able to promote your restaurant on Instagram with style, but you’ll have the knowledge to stomp on the competition and reach eager customers who can’t wait to have their next dining experience with you.

So whether you sell pizza or sushi, steak or burgers, keep reading, because we’re about to show you how to make Instagram promotion a whole lot more appetizing!

Instagram Facts & Stats Restaurants Should Know

What’s so great about Instagram anyway? Isn’t it just for teenagers?

Not at all. People from all backgrounds and age groups are hungry for content, and Instagram delivers. The platform is particularly enticing to restaurant managers and marketers because it’s so visually driven. Here are some bite-sized statistics you should know that demonstrate just how vital this social network is to your marketing plan:

  • By 2017, Instagram’s global mobile ad revenues will reach $2.81 billion [Tweet this]
  • Instagram currently has over 700 million active users [Tweet this]
  • Over 60% of those users log in every day, making Instagram the second most engaged social network after Facebook [Tweet this]
  • Pizza is the most popular Instagrammed food – sushi and steak are second and third respectively [Tweet this]
  • 90% of Instagram users are younger than 35 [Tweet this]
  • Engagement with brands on Instagram is 10x higher than Facebook, 54x higher than Pinterest and 84x higher than Twitter [Tweet this]

So now that you have an idea of just how powerful this platform is, how do you use it to the fullest and get up to speed on the latest Instagram marketing tips quickly?

Let’s go through the process step-by-step..

What is Instagram?

Instagram is a social networking app designed for sharing photos and videos from your smartphone. Much like Twitter and Facebook, everyone who creates an Instagram account has a profile and a news feed. Whenever you post a photo or video on Instagram, it is shown on your profile. Other users who follow you will see your posts in their feed. You can also follow users and see their posts in your feed.

If this sounds a lot like Facebook, that’s partly because Facebook bought Instagram. The difference is that a big part of Instagram’s popularity comes from its focus on sharing, commenting and interacting with photos and videos shared from smartphones.

The Instagram app is available to download free on iOS and Android devices. You can also access it from your desktop or laptop computer, but you can only upload and share videos and images from your mobile devices.

How Can Instagram Help My Restaurant?

If Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare checkins are any indication, people love sharing photos of their food. This is, essentially, free advertising for your restaurant as well as a means for opening a discussion with your customers before, during and after they leave your establishment.

Instagram isn’t just another notch to add to your social media belt, though ideally it is yet another tool that you can use together with your existing social media channels. If a user doesn’t follow you on Instagram, they may still follow you on Twitter or Facebook. By sharing photos across all your social networks, you’ll be sure to reach the largest number of potential diners.

How Do I Set Up an Instagram Account?

Before you can start using the Instagram app, you’ll need to create an account (it’s free). To help streamline the process, you can even sign up for Instagram using your existing Facebook account. If you do this, Instagram will ask if you’d like to follow any of the same people in your Facebook friends group who also happen to be on Instagram. You can do this during the setup process, or skip it and come back later.

instagram log in pageinstagram profile option page

You’ll want to complete the account sign-up process by adding information about your restaurant including the name, photo, a description and a link to your website. After your account is set up, you’ll want to start your marketing outreach as soon as possible. Consider printing your restaurant’s Instagram username on your menus, signage and table tents to encourage patrons to follow you. If your users have the Instagram iOS app on their Apple iPhone or iPad, they’ll also see a Foursquare button which lets people check-in and save the location on their app. It’s a win-win for restaurants as well, since Foursquare will remind you when you’re near the restaurant you’ve added.

Take away: Print your restaurant’s Instagram username on your menus, signage and table tents.

Need help to set up your account? Choose a freelancer!

instagram set up account serviceinstagram set up account serviceinstagram set up account service

How Do I Post a Photo on Instagram?

Restaurateurs have a plethora of options when it comes to taking and posting photos on Instagram. To upload or take a new photo, click theinstagram add photo iconcamera sign at the bottom of the screen.

fiverr instagram pagetake photo option instagram

If you’d like to add an image from your existing phone photo library, tap Library at the bottom of the screen and select the image you want to share. To take a new photo, tap Photo at the bottom of the screen and then tap the circle.

You can also tap the circular double arrows to switch between front and rear-facing cameras, and the lightning bolt icon to adjust the flash. See the section below titled “What Do The Instagram Icons Mean?” if you’re not sure what these icons are referring to.

Using Filters and Effects

Once you’ve taken or uploaded the photo, you can post it as-is, but then you’d be missing out on the best parts – the effects and filters! There are countless Instagram filters to give your image a distinctive look, from a sepia tone to a vibrant and bold look.

The most popular and most-used Instagram filter is an all-purpose filter that highlights, brightens and intensifies shadows, known as Clarendon. It’s also the default filter right after the normal option when editing photos.

instagram filtersinstagram filters optionsinstagram tag options

Take away: For foodies, the most popular filter is Skyline, a filter that intensifies the natural colors in food to make it “pop”. Other popular choices include Helena, Slumber, Aden, Brooklyn and Vesper.

Why bother filtering images at all? A study by Yahoo! Labs and Georgia Tech discovered that “filtered photos are 21% more likely to be viewed and 45% more likely to be commented on” by followers. With the potential to increase your restaurant’s exposure and attract customers, why wouldn’t you want that added edge?

To add a filter, simply choose the photo you want to add it to, tap Next, then tap the filter you want to apply. You can adjust the filter strength up or down by using the slider. Tap Done when you are finished to save the changes.

Keep in mind that just because certain photo effects are well-liked by the Instagramming public doesn’t mean you should stick to just those filters – experiment and see which ones resonate best with your patrons!

Instagram and Photos

Now that you’ve discovered filters, you’re probably thinking “I’m a restaurateur, not a photographer!” And filters will do some of the heavy lifting when it comes to making great food look even better. But a crash course in photography wouldn’t hurt – and fortunately, it’s very easy to make your menu items look even more scrumptious.

Here are 4 tips you must retain

  1. Choose Lighting Carefully
  2. Harsh lighting and an unforgiving flash can ruin even the best-looking meal. Ideally you’ll want to take food photos near a window or an area where softer, more natural light comes through.

  3. Emphasize Texture
  4. Choosing a great angle and adding a garnish can offset the texture of runny, soupy or mushy foods (think sauces, ice cream, soups and so on).

  5. Don’t Forget About Props
  6. Showcasing your food is just as much about the ambience surrounding it. Look for ways to add flair and flavor to photos through the use of carefully-selected props.

  7. More than Menu Items
  8. Don’t forget to highlight the natural atmosphere of your restaurant as well by showing off some photos of the interior, images of the staff at work or guests enjoying themselves (but please get permission first!).

    Starting with high-quality photos makes your Instagram marketing more effective (Peg Fitzpatrick – co-author of The Art of Social Media, via Social Media Examiner

    Need help with you images? Find an Instagram freelance photo editor

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    Apps to Help with Photo Editing

    While Instagram does let you add filters to make your photos look better, sometimes you want to make changes beyond what the app itself supports. But don’t worry, there are a wide variety of apps to help make your Instagram photos and videos truly shine. Here are a few of the best:

    facetune photo appFaceTune(iOS only) – originally designed for editing faces for selfies, FaceTune is also great for editing food images as well. You can use it to remove stray crumbs from a plate, smooth out the backdrop and make other enhancements so that the focus is squarely on the food.

    foodie photo appFoodie (iOS and Android) – has filters for a wide range of food types. There’s a filter to make your Korean BBQ look absolutely sizzling, and a filter to make ice cream look so good you’ll want to lick your screen.

    litely photo appLitely (iOS) – Created by a photographer who is responsible for many of the most-loved filters on Instagram, Litely lets you adjust the exposure, sharpness, crop and other features of your photo, as well as allowing for custom vignetting.

    adobe photoshop express photo appAdobe Photoshop Express (iOS, Android, Windows Phone) – Ever wanted to put the photo-editing power of Photoshop in your pocket? Photoshop Express makes that possible. With tools including red eye removal, rotate, flip, straighten and resize, you’ll have everything you need to make your photos Instagram-ready.

    Best Instagram Photo Size and Type

    Instagram photo sizes have changed over the years. Today the social platform takes advantage of high-resolution displays on tablets and smartphones.

    • The maximum original size of a square Instagram image is 1080 pixels wide by 1080 pixels tall [Tweet this]
    • The maximum size of a vertical Instagram image is 1080 pixels wide by 1350 pixels tall [Tweet this]
    • The maximum size of a horizontal Instagram image is 1080 pixels wide by 566 pixels tall [Tweet this]

    When taking photos for Instagram, you want to be sure that your phone’s camera is set to the highest possible resolution so that your images don’t look pixelated or “washed out”.

    How to Create a Slideshow on Instagram

    Instagram’s new slideshow feature is a highly popular option that lets you combine up to 10 photos and videos into a single post. Fortunately, creating such a gallery is easy. Here’s how to do it:

    1. First, decide on a theme for your gallery. You don’t want to combine a bunch of different images with a host of different filters. Instead, you want your new gallery/slideshow to be consistent and easy for your users to browse
    2. You’ll start by tapping the instagram add photo icon camera icon at the bottom of the screen to add a photo or video as you normally would. You can select up to 10 photos or videos (or a mix of both). You’ll see numbers in the upper-right corner showing how many photos/videos you’ve added so far
    3. fiverr instagram slideshowfiverr instagram slideshow_pic2fiverr instagram slideshow_pic3
    4. You can then adjust the order of the photos by tapping and dragging them
    5. fiverr instagram slideshow_orderfiverr instagram slideshow_filters
    6. When you post a slideshow or album, whatever location and caption you set will be applied to all the images and videos; the same goes for likes and comments. However, you can individually tag and edit each image. If you’d like to apply the same filter to every image, you can tap the filter at the bottom of the slideshow to apply it to all of the images
    7. fiverr instagram slideshow_localisationfiverr instagram slideshow_hashtagsfiverr instagram slideshow_final

    How to Tag People on Instagram

    Whether you post a single image, a video or an album, you can also tag people who appear in it. Once you’ve chosen the photo/video and added the effects and filters, you’ll simply click Tag People from the share screen. Tap the person in the photo, then start typing their name or username and choose it from the dropdown menu. If their name doesn’t appear, tap search for a person.

    instagram tag featureinstagram tagsinstagram tags feature

    If you want to tag someone in a comment, such as thanking guests for sharing their photos of their meal, simply type the @ followed immediately by their username. When you mention them, they’ll see a notification in their activity feed that lets them know. You can also follow and tag well-known people in your industry, and they’ll get a notification. Some may even like your photos or comment!

    How Do I Use Instagram Hashtags?

    A hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by a hash mark (#) to identify a specific topic and make it easier to search for. Examples for a restaurant might be #steak, #sushi, or #pizza. Why bother with hashtags? Well, for one thing, posts with at least one Instagram hashtag average 12.6% more engagement than posts without one. Furthermore, it makes it extremely easy for users who are searching for great places to eat to find your location and see what you have to offer.

    instagram hashtagsinstagram fiverr hashtag

    Common hashtags (#) include the restaurant name, the city or town and other hashtags used by members of the community.

    Take away: Check out what hashtags your competitors and the people that follow them are using – you’ll quickly get some great ideas!

    To start using hashtags, after you’ve added a filter to your photo (including no filter at all), the next option is to add a caption. Just start your caption with a hash # and a keyword (with no space in between) and you’ll have created your very first Instagram hashtag. People can then click on these hashtags to see other items associated with this tag. Further on in this guide, we’ve listed some of the most common hashtags that foodies tend to use!

    What Do The Instagram Icons Mean?

    Because Instagram is a mobile app, a lot of information has to be condensed into a smaller screen space. Icons are one of the most common ways to do this – but not all of them are easily understood at first glance. Thanks to social networking, most people understand that a heart or a thumbs-up means you liked a post – but what about other Instagram icons? Here are some you may not be aware of, and what they mean:

    instagram camera stabilizationCamera stabilization – when taking a photo or video, helps to prevent shakiness from blurring the image.

    instagram flashFlash – turn on or off.

    switch camera viewSwitch camera view – from front to rear camera or vice versa, on devices that have both.

    instagram add captionAdd caption – type @username to add someone to your caption. You can also use hashtags.

    instagram save collections iconSave collections – save an image or video as collections to your Instagram account.

    share icon on instagramInstagram Report – a shortcut for sharing on Facebook, Twitter or Messenger as well as to report an image

    send to icon on instagramInstagram direct – a method of displaying posts, photos or videos as a threaded conversation (more on that below)

    photos of you instagram iconPhotos of you – Whenever people tag you in a photo, your images appear within this section and you can then decided whether to add them or not to your account

    What is Instagram Direct?

    Instagram Direct lets you have conversations with one or more people and share posts in your feed as messages. You can send a wide variety of things as messages through Instagram Direct, including:

    • Photos or videos you take or upload from your library
    • Photos you see in a feed
    • User profiles
    • Text
    • Hashtags
    • Locations

    You can see the messages you’ve sent from Instagram Direct by tapping in the upper-right corner of feed. Keep in mind that photos and videos sent through Instagram Direct can’t be shared through Instagram itself to other sites like Facebook or Twitter, and won’t appear on hashtag or location pages.

    How to Set Up Instagram Messaging

    To send a message with Instagram Direct, choose your image then simply tap the icon send to icon on instagramat the left corner just below the photo. Select the people you’d like to share the image with and automatically a “write a message” box will appear, click “send” and you’re done.

    instagram direct procedureinstagram direct message page 1instagram direct

    To create a group conversation just follow the same steps as above, except select two or more people you’d like to send the message to.

    How Do I Create an Instagram Marketing Strategy?

    Crafting a marketing strategy for your restaurant on Instagram isn’t just about posting beautiful images – but rather having a strategy in mind that follows carefully measured and thought-out processes step by step. Consider, for example:

    • How Instagram will tie into your overall social media strategy and how it works with other social networks you’re a part of, such as Twitter and Facebook
    • How many of your patrons are already on Instagram

    Knowing these points can then allow you to create different objectives accordingly. You might want to increase awareness of your restaurant locally, or showcase your team and recruit new talent. You may want to announce a special or a customer loyalty program and get people talking. Whatever your strategies, you’ll have these objectives in place to guide you and give you metrics as to how successful your efforts are.

    The next step is to concentrate on the content you want to show. Your menu items, your team, your location, the atmosphere and ambience of your restaurant – all of them provide a rich bed of fertile ideas to grow your restaurant.

    Take away: Create a content calendar that keeps you abreast of important dates and marketing campaigns so that you can plan ahead.

    The one thing you don’t want to do is post and not follow up. Instagram is about real-time engagement, so publish quickly and encourage discussion by participating.

    You can also invite your restaurant patrons to submit their own content. This is known as user generated content (UGC). Customers love submitting photos, videos and other items on Instagram. If you’d like to share their photo, ask their permission first before doing so, and be sure to give them credit by mentioning their @username in your caption.

    Most of all, you’ll want to have a unified brand “voice” and tone on Instagram. If you have several people involved in the upkeep and management of your Instagram account, it may be worth creating a sort of “style guide” to showcase aesthetics, guidelines for photo and video composition, filters, captions, hashtags and more, so that everyone is on the same page.

    For instance, what kind of backgrounds should food photos have? Should they be consistent? How much white space do you want to have in the shot? Are there any dominant colors that you want to have pop out? What about the subject matter itself? These may seem like small and insignificant things, but they’ll make a big impact in projecting your restaurant as one that customers find polished and professional.

    Need help into running an effective Instagram strategy? Find some help on Fiverr

    Instagram marketing gig servicesInstagram marketing gig offerInstagram marketing gig services

    Anatomy Of A Successful Restaurant’s Instagram Page

    Here is the Instagram page of Massimo Bottura an italian restaurateur and chef patron of Osteria Francescana, a three-Michelin-star restaurant based in Modena, Italy with over 510,000 followers.

    In addition to run his world known restaurant, he’s also behind a non profit organization aimed to create community kitchens “Food for Soul”

    Instagram restaurateur pageInstagram restaurant owner page

    Key points to take away:

    1. Properly sized high-quality self-portrait profile picture
    2. Bio accurately build including his full name, restaurant and non profit organization
    3. The “Food for Soul” Instagram page is mentioned (@), so people can search & see all the photo posted associated with
    4. The Osteria Francescana’s website is displayed and linked to drive bookings & sales
    5. Videos are largely used to help create an experience and boost social shares
    6. Casual & authentic pictures are posted showing a normal person accessible to anyone
    7. Relevant hashtags are used

    How Do I Work with Instagram and Videos?

    Working with videos is straightforward as it’s pretty much similar to posting photos, with the only exception that within the video mode you can record multiple video clips by tapping the switch between camera switch camera viewicon.

    Without a doubts working with videos offers you several advantages as it will be easier for you to vehiculate emotions and grab your customer’s attention, but that’s not all. Videos being highly shareable as well you will naturally grow your followers base and therefore increase the odds of turning them into customers through social media marketing or email marketing campaigns.

    If you want to get technical, the maximum video size allowed is 4GB and the best video format for Instagram is MP4 H.264 codec with stereo AAC audio compression. Instagram will let you host up to 60 seconds of video within 3 different video aspect ratios, such as landscape (1.91:1), square (1:1) and vertical (4:5)

    Once uploaded you can add a filter, a caption (2,200 characters maximum) and a location.

    Take away:

    If you already have videos you’d like to share on Instagram, but they’re on YouTube, you can use free the tube2gram.com website to download them from YouTube and re-upload to Instagram. This service also works with Twitter. You can download the finished video to your computer or mobile device.

    How Do I Gain Instagram Followers?

    This is the question on every serious Instagram marketer’s mind – getting more followers. There’s a lot you can do both offline and online to get more followers on Instagram.

    1. Use your bio to the fullest – It’s a good idea to keep this updated and use that clickable link option to drive traffic to new or popular content.
    2. Use descriptive captions – Master the art of telling a story with every meal.
    3. Embrace influencer marketing – These are big names in your industry – the people you want to notice you. It could be anyone from a TV celebrity to your local news channel and anything in between. You can turn on post notifications to get a heads-up when these influencers share new content. You can then comment on the items they share on a regular basis so that they get to know your brand.
    4. Attract local users – There’s no one better than your local community to help promote your restaurant, so take advantage of this by using Instagram’s Places tab. You can type in the name of your city or town to find all photos tagged with that location.
    5. Make use of food-related hashtags – There’s no shortage of food photos on Instagram and people showing off their meals, so why not join in? Some of the most popular include:
      • #foodporn – this is not what you think. Rather, it’s a way for users to show food that’s beautiful to look at, but also a secret indulgence
      • #foodgasm – food so beautiful, it’s gluttonously guilty
      • #forkyeah, #eatingfortheinsta – for those who like to indulge, yet don’t want to come across as a binge eater
      • #cleaneating – for healthy, clean, green foods
      • #hungry – when your stomach’s rumbling and you can’t think of a more creative hashtag
    6. Go beyond digital media – Be sure to let people know about your Instagram account on other forms of social, print and local media as well. Print it on menus, table tents, signs or even billboards.

    What Can I Do to Get Instagram Followers Fast?

    You’ll notice that the methods listed above will help build up your Instagram following over time, but people really do judge a book by its cover (or in this case, an account by the number of followers), so here’s what you can do to build up your following fast:

    1. Advertise on Instagram
    2. Link to your Instagram account in other types of communication with your customers, such as emails, mobile alerts, postcards, flyers and more
    3. Run contests online, through the radio, or with TV commercials
    4. Mention your Instagram account when being interviewed or reviewed by the press
    5. Mention your Instagram account on other social networks like Facebook and Twitter
    6. Link to your Instagram account on your restaurant website
    7. Host offline events that encourage users to follow or snap photos and share them on your Instagram accounts

    The whole idea is not just to promote your food – although that’s part of the strategy. It’s also to integrate yourself as a strong, well-liked establishment within the community.

    Other Ideas for Promoting Your Restaurant on Instagram

    Beyond the ideas presented here, there are many other strategies you can employ to get the most out of Instagram. Don’t hesitate to consult with your staff or even customers for possible ideas. Here are a few ways to help you get started:

    1. Choose an easily recognizable username – your Instagram handle is one of the main ways people will search for your particular restaurant, so choose wisely!
    2. Use relevant keywords related to your restaurant and the type of food you serve to help ensure that you show up in Instagram search results
    3. Include your location in your bio to help increase local foot traffic
    4. Use some of the popular hashtags above to get your food photos better publicity across the network
    5. Follow other local businesses (non-competitive) to help bolster the spirit of your local community
    6. Partner up with local suppliers or other media channels. Radio stations, news outlets and local newspapers can all be found on Instagram
    7. When you take a photo, you can opt to Add Location before you share it (after you add any filters or effects). Here’s how to do that, step by step
    8. Share your story! How did you get into the restaurant business? What made you decide to start a restaurant? What do you hope customers know about you and the food you serve?
    9. Share “Special of the day” or “Menu of the day” photos
    10. Share behind-the-scenes photos of your kitchen or fresh ingredients
    11. Show off the chef or brag about the staff!

    The Bottom Line on Promoting Your Restaurant on Instagram

    As you can see, getting started with Instagram and making the most out of this social networking platform is a great way to spread the word about your restaurant and get people’s mouths watering for your expertly-crafted meals.

    By taking the time to integrate Instagram with your other social media initiatives, you’ll build a great visual foundation that helps ensure that your restaurant is front-of-mind whenever people have a craving for your specialties. Feel free to bookmark this guide so you can come back to it time and time again as your Instagram account grows and flourishes.

    And don’t forget that marketing your restaurant on Instagram is not a “once and done” process, nor is it something you can “set and forget”. As with any social network, you’ll want to make it an integrated part of your new campaigns and other promotions, so that posting on Instagram is as natural as writing an email.

    And if you have any comments or suggestions, or you’ve enjoyed incredible success as a result of using these strategies to promote a restaurant on Instagram, we’d love to hear about it! Above all, keep brainstorming new and creative photo ideas just as readily as you brainstorm new menu additions.

    You may even find that customers look forward to the new flavors and products as much as you do in creating and announcing them! By keeping your community involved and tempting their taste buds through this visual social network, you’re sure to continue to amass hungry followers who can’t wait to try your next culinary creation.

    Best of success on promoting your restaurant on Instagram, and remember to check out Fiverr’s social media experts for any help you might need!

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Nicolo Grossi
SEO & content marketing expert with 7+ years experience, working at Fiverr since 2016 Nicolo is responsible to follow and implement SEO’s best practices and inbound marketing strategies in order to increase reach and exposure.
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Tracy B
Guest

Nicolo you put together a crazy guide. Really well done with great tips and photos, very useful. Thank you

Shemara Williams
Guest
Shemara Williams

Well defined. Great article. It was well put together, Thanks.

Catherine
Guest

What a great peace of article nicolo really nice actionable tips which I believe are valuable for all and not restaurant owners only. Thank you

axcelleria
Guest

Am really impressed with article design:
– Consistent font size
– Clear normal text color
– Split long article with several sub title
– Put special note to interesting design
– Group images gallery to one columns per subtitle

Really inspiring, now that I really want to create something similar based on this reference. But is it good idea on this designer perspective ? 🙂
Regards,

Yoga

Dayana
Guest

Just want to say thank you because I’ve applied some of the strategies and tips you have suggested within this article 🙂 and they have worked marvellously well. Thank you!!!

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