Did you know that at least 200 million of Instagram's more than one billion users visit a business profile at least once a day?
Are they visiting yours?
Brands and businesses with an Instagram account see ten times more engagement on it than they see on their Facebook account. Since people often first eat with their eyes, it makes sense for restaurants to entice this Instagram audience with images of their offerings along with other restaurant-related content. However, many businesses have found that their posts are only reaching about 10 percent of their target audience. Why is that, and what can they do about it?
The Challenge with the Instagram Algorithm
A lot of work goes into those perfect Instagram posts.
Perhaps your restaurant has a dedicated team of staff who photograph images of menu items and your setting and then edit the photos before posting on Instagram. Perhaps you think that all of your target audience will be drooling over your double chocolate cake.
The truth is, however, that the Instagram algorithm will decide which posts are displayed when users open their feed.
Fortunately, there are tips for ensuring that you’re creating effective posts.
Creating Effective Instagram Posts for Your Restaurant
The algorithm relies on ranking signals to determine what posts warrant visibility. These signals are related to the poster's interaction history, the timeliness of posts, and the post type. Once your restaurant understands the nature of Instagram's algorithm, it can create more Instagram-friendly posts that are likely to enjoy greater reach. Here's how:
RELATED READING: How to Create a Restaurant Marketing Plan
1. Tell a Story
Using imagery to tell a story is a big deal on Instagram. Your restaurant should consider posting images about its daily process or telling its story through best-selling menu items. The story angle draws more viewers in, and so Instagram puts more value on these types of posts. A piece of cake may, in itself, be an attractive image, but pair that cake with a diner about to take a bite, or the chef adding the final dusting of powdered sugar and you have a story. Not only do you have the enticing menu item, but you've managed to create a narrative around that image.
2. Post IG Stories
Both Instagram and Facebook value the 'stories' aspects of their platforms. Be sure that your marketing team is posting stories about how your chefs or cooks prepare your restaurant's signature dishes or unusual menu items. Showcase your staff along with your food and try to give a sneak peek of dishes or new specials to followers. Your audience will enjoy it, but Instagram's algorithm will also pick up on the fact that you are diversifying your posting types. This can spell improved reach for all of your posts.
3. Use IGTV
IGTV is a video app that you can use alone or with Instagram to deliver video content. Using this app with your Instagram is a great way to grab the algorithm's attention. Do you create dishes at home before trying them out in the restaurant kitchen? Video and showcase your process. How does your team select new recipes? New wine? New entertainment? Again, show the process and give your audience some insight into how you create the experience for your diners.
4. Use Call to Action Buttons
Using Instagram's new features like its call to action buttons will signal the site's algorithm. For instance, as a restaurant, you can link this convenient new feature with action buttons to order on Doordash or Chownow. In fact, you can use buttons to denote all the delivery services you partner with. And to make it easier to field all those orders that come in, use Cuboh to manage them from one streamlined dashboard.
5. Don't Skip the Hashtags
Posts with hashtags tend to receive 12 percent more engagement than posts without. So, if you want to let Instagram's algorithm know that your posts are engagement-friendly, be sure you're adding relevant hashtags. As a restaurant, you can consider building your own hashtag library so that you always have popular terms like #food #foodie or #pizza at the ready!
6. Reply DM and Comments
Instagram has made it easier for businesses like restaurants to reply to their audience. With the touch of a button, you can send a canned 'quick reply' to a customer's comment or query. The algorithm 'likes' these engagements, so be sure that you're using this tool to not only entice the algorithm, but to demonstrate to customers that you are tuned in.
RELATED READING: A Simple Guide to Restaurant Social Media
Tips to Increase Your Restaurant’s Instagram Following
Posting often doesn't guarantee success.
Unfortunately, there's just too much going on on social media for that to be the case.
But there are some best practices you can follow in order to optimize your chances of gaining new followers.
1. Stay Consistent With Your Brand Image
For any business, brand image is of the utmost importance, and you need to demonstrate this with your Instagram content. Only include photos that are consistent with your restaurant operation, and avoid any picture with an unusual premise that might confuse your customer base. You want to nurture customer relationships, and if they're choosing to follow you on social media, it's because they like what you do. You wouldn't post irrelevant pictures on your restaurant website, so avoid doing it on your Instagram as well.
Most restaurant owners would likely focus on showing the restaurant experience from the perspective of a guest. This means showing off pictures of your most impressive-looking or popular items that attract repeat customers or the atmosphere people can expect when they dine in. If you like to have your patrons dine while listening to live music, for example, you can focus on some of the acts or bands that perform on location.
2. Be Active Within Your Niche
If you want to maximize your followers online, it isn't enough to just post good pictures with relevant captions every day. It's called social media for a reason, and you need to participate in other ways. One of the best ways to do this is to seek out other accounts relevant to your target niche and like and comment on their posts. This doesn't need to be done during business hours, of course—just hop on your mobile device, and start building connections any time. People often visit sites and mobile apps like Instagram to find things to do, and your restaurant is a perfect contender.
3. Use Calls to Action in Your Captions
While just blatantly asking for likes and followers will come off as desperate and fail to get you followers, you can still practically do that in a different way. If you're a seafood restaurant, for example, your captions can include a call to action for people in the local area to swing by and try some of your most popular menu items (don't forget to include your location as well). If you want, you can do promotions on Instagram as well, offering discounts or coupons to customers who come in or order takeout during a certain window of time. Guests who have a pleasant ordering experience and enjoy your food will be inspired to follow you.
Of course, you can also take this opportunity to showcase your other social media accounts and request customers to follow you on those as well. Every bit helps, after all.
4. Use Your POS System to Gain Real-Time Insights.
This is a more roundabout way to get followers, but any modern restaurant that offers convenient takeout options and online ordering should be using a point of sale system (POS).
A POS can give you valuable insights into your most popular menu items with its instant tracking of credit card payments and other transaction fees. This also makes inventory management easier, since it will always be clear when you'll need to contact your vendor for more supplies.
A POS is even better with integration with a customer relationship management (CRM) solution. These systems make it easy to automatically store and retrieve customer data, so you can determine who your best customers are. This makes it even easier to create loyalty programs for repeat customers and inspire further customer loyalty. It also helps you with email marketing, so you don't have to bet everything on social media. With intelligent insights from your POS system, you can determine what people love most about your restaurant and focus more on those elements in your future Instagram posts.
5. Show Off Delivery Options and Other Conveniences
Convenience is one of the most important aspects of good customer service, and the COVID-19 restrictions have made customers used to using an online order system for pickup and food delivery. If you're offering curbside pickup and delivery at your restaurant, you need to do everything in your power to make sure the whole world knows it.
Many restaurants decide to partner with online ordering platforms like ChowNow, Grubhub, DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Postmates. While these delivery systems provide convenient mobile ordering that's great for customers, they also charge commission fees for delivery orders, which might eat into your revenue stream. Wouldn't it be great if there was a way to unite your online order system and all your delivery platforms in one location for a flat monthly fee? Well, that's the exact service we provide at Cuboh.