This article was written by Kristi Turner, CMO of Compeat for Modern Restaurant Management.
Love it or hate it, Instagram is affecting your business. With more than one billion accounts worldwide, it is time to accept that it is not going away soon; therefore it is time to embrace it. The best part is that, when used correctly, your customers will start to do the work for you by liking, tagging, and interacting with your account.
In talking to restaurants who have a strong social media presence, we see how interacting with guests and prospects can really give restaurants a competitive edge. “Today’s market demands social engagement with the guest,” states Kendra Moreland, Public Relations Director for Stan Clark Companies (including Eskimo Joe’s in Stillwater). “Our goal is to create a conversation so that the guest feels recognized and valued. People want to go where they feel a connection.”
Here are a few basic tips to make your restaurant a social media hotspot:
Add Your Business Geotag
Posts tagged with a location result in a 79 percent higher engagement than ones who don’t. If you already have a Facebook page for your restaurant, then you should be also coming up as a location choice on Instagram. Be sure to make sure that the address is correct. This is extremely important because when a hungry customer searches Instagram for “pho,” you want to show up on that search. Even better, you will appear on a map so that customers can find your location instantly.
Monitor and Interact with Customers on Social Media
Be sure to follow your customers on Instagram. Like and share images that they post that paint your restaurant in a good light. The more you engage with customers online, the quicker they will become loyal customers and brand advocates. Thank them for coming in. Speak the social media language by using single words and emojis to show your appreciation. The best times to post daily on Instagram are weekdays between 10 a.m.–3 p.m., so block off an hour in your calendar before or after the lunch rush to concentrate on your online marketing.
Create Interactive Ads
Interactive stories on Instagram allow you to engage clients and prospects by letting them experience your brand first-hand. Get started by trying out the polling sticker to gain insights from your customers and start conversations about your brand. You just choose “Instagram Stories” as your only ad placement in Facebook’s “Ads Manager” (since the platforms share the same ad management platform). Then, where you upload your creative and edit your ad’s text, check the box that says, “add an interactive poll.” Pose light, entertaining questions such as, “How do you prefer your coffee?” with the choices “hot” or “iced” or “How do you dress your burger?” with the options “mayo,” “mustard”, “ketchup,” and “all of the above” to get the conversation started. And be sure to monitor the comments and interact with users.
Pay Attention to Your Lighting
Having the proper lighting is so important for a shareable photo. Lighting makes a huge difference in pictures so be sure that you have great quality lighting. It’s understood that not all restaurants can do this due to an expected ambiance, and that’s ok. Operators have been successful with creating a corner, wall, or outdoor area that makes for great photos without affecting the rest of the restaurant. Oddly enough, the bathroom or back office often turns out to be the top place for people to take selfies and post on social media. So, make sure your bathrooms are clean and tidy as well!
Upgrade your Plating Techniques
Instagram is all about sharing pics, and the photos that are shared represent your menu and your brand. Create photos and photo opportunities that will attract customers to you. Your staff should be checking every plate that leaves the kitchen with the attitude that this may be the one that shows up on Instagram today. Dessert photos are particularly on trend right now, so if you have been wanting to upgrade your dessert offerings – now is the time!
People love a good deal. Especially when they feel like they are in competition with other people. Post a special deal for your Instagram followers such as, “Come in and tag us in your dining picture and receive $5 off or a free dessert!” Or even something as simple as, “First 10 people to direct message us your favorite dish at our restaurant will receive a free dessert gift certificate.” Both of these not only create engagement; they bring in business and help provide insight to your most popular menu items.
Need some inspiration? Below are just a few of Compeat’s customers that have an incredible social media presence. Follow these restaurants on Instagram to learn how some of the best social media players use social media to their advantage:
- https://www.instagram.com/eskimojoes/ – Stan Clark Companies
- https://www.instagram.com/hopdoddy/ – Hopdoddy
- https://www.instagram.com/originalfishcompany/ – Original Fish Company
- https://www.instagram.com/bjsrestaurants/ – BJ’s
- https://www.instagram.com/daveandbusters/ – Dave and Busters