Restaurants run on tight margins with many averaging just 2% to 4% per check. This can make it a challenge to find room in your budget for marketing. But the proliferation of social media can be a boon for your business. Social media for restaurants is a low-cost opportunity to promote your business without busting your bottom line. There are a great many social media channels you can choose from to market your eatery, but one that's particularly well-suited to your industry is Instagram. Here's a look at five smart ways to use this photo-based tool to show the best you have to offer and bring in more customers.
#1 Show more than just your food
There's more to a dining experience than just what you put on the plate. There's ambiance, friendly staff, signature cocktails, special events, catering and your overall optics. Of course, you also want to show your food. You don't need to make it an online menu, but you want to show your best. A combination of great looking photos of food by itself, people enjoying cocktails, hanging out at your bar, new food and beverage options, smiling servers, hard working chefs and special events will comprise an online experience where potential customers can get a feel for how they'll enjoy your establishment.
#2 Post regularly rather than doing a dump
Google loves social media posts and social shares can increase your website's SEO. Every restaurant needs a website with menus, directions, contact information and great content. You can share Instagram posts there and vice-versa. What Google doesn't like is a dump of content. Instead, build your Instagram presence gradually. Post a photo a day or several a week, and before you know it, you'll have an impressive virtual photo album. Don't use the Instagram app to snap your photos - instead, use your smartphone or a quality digital camera to take photos. Although the app is convenient, it won't give you the highest quality photos.
#3 Use geotags and hashtags
Geotags are information embedded in images that reveals where the photos were taken. You can turn off this functionality on your smart phone camera, but in this case, it pays to turn on this feature. This allows Instagram users searching in your area to find your restaurant. It also allows you to take advantage of user generated content (UGC) when they post photos of your restaurant. Click here for a primer on adding geotags. Also use hashtags to promote your restaurant. You can set up hashtags that are basic like #YourRestaurantName but also for special events like #MardiGras or trending food and drink items like #GruitAle or #Kalettes.
#4 Encourage customer sharing
What's great about setting up an Instagram with geotags and hashtags related to your establishment is that it invites user generated content. This lets your diners share photos of their favorite food, drinks and experience at your restaurant. You can also encourage UGC through hashtagged promotions and special events. For instance, offer a free meal for the best photo bomb at your bar or in front of your restaurant. Or offer free appetizers and drinks for a themed photo for an upcoming holiday. The possibilities are endless and as most people share their IG posts across all their social channels which promotes your restaurant exponentially at no cost to you.
#5 Share across your other channels
Any time you create a social media post, whether it's on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, be sure to share across all your other social media profiles. This is where hashtags can come in especially handy to create continuity across these posts. It only takes a few moments to share across your channels and many channels have built in functionality to cross-promote across other platforms. This allows you to maximize the impact of each photo, tweet or time line post. You can exhaust yourself generating social media content and posts - but you don't have to. Just a couple of posts a week on each channel shared across your other profiles will give you wall to wall promotional opportunities.
Instagram is one of the best social media channels to get your feet wet with this type of marketing because it's image driven rather than text driven. It can be a challenge to sit down and write a blog or crunch something savvy into 140 characters on Twitter but snapping a quick pic, assigning a caption and a hashtag can be done within moments and can have a lasting impact with virtually no associated cost.
Images from Fox in the Snow Cafe