Tapping into the Power of Instagram: A Guide for Restaurants

Gone are the days when you could enjoy a nice meal out on the town without having one of your friends frantically yell, "Wait! I need to take a photo of it first," as you're about to dig in. Today's youth (myself included) love to update their followers on what they're up to, and meals are no exception. 

So, what does this mean for restaurants and their marketing strategies? Opportunity.

Check out these five tips on how your restaurant can drive traffic and boost sales by harnessing the power of Instagram.

1. Make announcements

Tease out new menus, events, or exciting news about your restaurant on Instagram. If you're introducing a new addition to the menu, consider taking a semi-concealed photo of it, and draft accompanying copy that teases its launch without fully revealing its identity. You can also take it a step further by asking your followers to guess what it is, making them feel invested in the final announcement.

To continue building up anticipation about a big reveal or an upcoming event, continue to post about it to boost its promotion.

2. Get instant feedback

Looking for a new dish to add to your line-up? Tap into your followers to crowdsource ideas straight from the horse's mouth. 

Post a photo, video, or story asking your followers to either submit their ideas, or give them options to choose from. The poll feature in stories is a free micro-market research platform. And, followers will feel more invested in the final product, upping the likelihood they come in and order your newest menu addition. 

3. Invite influencers

Influencers and micro-influencers are taking Instagram by storm. These are accounts that generally have more than 1,000 followers and receive strong engagement from their followers. Because of their third-party credibility and the fact that people are 56 percent more likely to purchase a product after seeing it in a positive or relatable user-generated post, influencers can help drive customers into your restaurant. 

Consider hosting an influencer meal, where you choose five local influencers that are in your target market and invite them to your restaurant for a comped meal in exchange for their posts from the restaurant. Or, invite influencers into your restaurant for a photoshoot in exchange for a comped meal. Although many influencers do charge per post, it's easy to find those who are willing to do it in exchange for meals.

4. Partner with brands

Cultivate a sense of community by partnering with other brands in your neighborhood. Considering shouting out some of the local faces you love: the farmer down the road who grows your produce, the boutique on the corner that dropped off a care package, the yoga studio across the street that keeps your team zen after long shifts. 

Not only will it introduce their brands to your followers and boost your reputation as being a member of the community, but the brands may share content on their pages, helping you reach more audiences as well. And, these partners can be great resources for future contests you hold. 

5. Run contests

Spreading the word about your restaurant and its Instagram account is key to a successful instagram marketing strategy, and contests are a sure-fire way to boost followers. In fact, a three-month study found that Instagram accounts that ran contests had a 70 percent higher follower growth rate than accounts that did not. 

Reach new audiences with these contest ideas:

  • Post a photo of a meal and ask followers to tag three of their friends they would want to share it with for a chance to win a gift card. But, make sure to require all tagged friends to follow the page. 
  • Ask your followers to name a new drink or dish by submitting their ideas in the comments. 
  • Host a giveaway with a relevant, like-minded brand and ask followers to follow both your page and the partner's page.

As with any marketing endeavor, try to think outside the box. Being creative and innovative in your Instagram campaigns will separate you from the competition, attract new followers, increase engagement, and, ultimately, drive customers into your restaurant. 

Leg Up Marketing + Communications offers a variety of social media services for its clients, including full-service management, consulting, strategy creation, reporting and analytics, photography, and workshops. To learn more, visit our Services page or reach out with questions.