Our Sean Beckingham dished on some of the best Instagram marketing tips in the Restaurants Canada May/June issue of Canadian Restaurant and Foodservice News. From snapping the perfect pic to choosing the right hashtag, learn how to become an Instagram pro with these simple techniques that will get your restaurant noticed.

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If you use social media for business, chances are that your brand is already on Facebook and Twitter. Size and scope alone can make both platforms very useful in building your online presence. But did you know that your customers are expecting your brand to be active on an increasing number of social media platforms? Customers are using the web to build their perception of your business before they even set foot in your restaurant, so a deep and diverse online presence is key to promoting your brand.

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A strong case can be made for Instagram as your next social media pursuit. Instagram now has more than 300 million users worldwide posting more than 70 million photos each day, and with a 50-per-cent increase in active users in just nine months last year, it’s now the world’s fastest growing social media platform. According to Hubspot, 40 per cent of people will respond better to visual information than plain text, meaning that posting images is far more likely to inspire action in your audience than text alone. With its surging popularity, what better place to share images than on Instagram?

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HUGE MARKETING POTENTIAL

Restaurants and Instagram truly are a perfect pair. People love taking pictures of food. Everyone and their sous chef is nowaself-proclaimedfoodphotographer and the sight of a diner hopping up on their chair to snap an aerial shot of the table is no longer out of the ordinary. Though the trend can be mildly inconvenient – and at times rather obnoxious – it offers a world of possibility for restaurant marketing.

Toronto restaurateur and chef @MattDeanPettit, is an expert on using Instagram to generate buzz for his brand. The Rock Lobster Caesar, a menu staple at all his Rock Lobster locations, arrives at the table with a full lobster tail standing tall right inside the glass, a unique touch that has made it the most Instagrammed Caesar in Canada. On the subject of his cocktail-turned- social sensation, Matt simply states, “I always knew I wanted a show-stopping menu item that was just as photographable as it was delicious!” Matt’s Caesar is now a constant source of user-generated buzz for his brand, and is just one example of how restaurateurs can use Instagram to create engaging online interactions that are inspirational, memorable, and most importantly brand-driven – or what we at Branding and Buzzing like to call Making Friends Not Ads.

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Photo credit: Brilynn Ferguson

EXPAND AUDIENCE REACH

Instagram offers an opportunity to reach an audience that doesn’t necessarily hang out on Facebook and Twitter. Instagram’s user base is younger than Facebook’s – 44 per cent of Millennials are on Instagram versus the 23 per cent that are active on Facebook. A ratio of 2-to-1 Millennials also claim to prefer Instagram to Facebook.

That doesn’t mean that these two powerful social media platforms need to operate in isolation, however. Instagram makes it easy to link your social media accounts and post Instagram photos across various platforms. Brands that use Instagram typically share 98 per cent of their photos on Facebook and 59 per cent of their images on Twitter, extending the marketing reach and maximizing exposure.

Research has shown that Instagrammers are also more engaged than their Facebook and Twitter counterparts. A study by Forrester looked into engagement rates by social platform, and found that Instagram delivered, on average, an average of 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook, and 120 times more than Twitter. As one example, the same 17-second Freeride World Tour snowsport video posted by RedBull garnered just over 57,000 likes on Instagram, but received only 1,900 likes on Facebook. The reason for this massive “engagement gap” is the clean and authentic feel of the Instagram feed that the app is careful to maintain. As new advertising programs like sponsored photos and carousel ads are slowly rolled out, Instagram makes sure branded content is blended into users’ personal feeds so that the advertising that is present is seamless and unobtrusive, offering the potential for genuine connections between brands and consumers. Studies show that Instagram users are open to interacting with brands – 65 per cent of users report feeling flattered when a brand likes their post.

If you haven’t done so already, there couldn’t be a better time to get your brand active on Instagram. Here are some of the best ways to get people buzzing about your restaurant:

DELIVER EXCLUSIVE INFO

A great way to encourage customers to follow your brand – on any social media platform – is to offer up information they can’t find elsewhere. Showing off the amazing new cocktail you’ve created, your $5 drink special, or the mouth- watering dish your chef just concocted, simultaneously encourages guests to stop by your restaurant and follow your account for more exclusive info in the future. According to a 2015 study by Iconosquare, 41 per cent of Instagram users follow – or would follow – a brand to take advantage of perks and giveaways. The insider scoop doesn’t need to stop at product information either. Letting guests know about contests, events you’re hosting, brands you partner with and media accolades you’ve received all serve to build your brand’s image in the mind of your consumer.

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TAKE GUESTS BEHIND THE SCENES

The old adage “a picture’s worth a thousand words” is certainly true when it comes to building your brand’s image on social media. With so many restaurants to choose from, and so much information about each available at the swipe of a finger, consumers are empowered to be much more discerning about the businesses they support. Consumers want a relationship on a personal level and the right behind-the-scenes imagery has the power to build that trust. You can convey a lot about your businesses’ values through the use of the right image. That could mean capturing casual snapshots of your happy employees having a great time at work, or staging more artistic images that showcase the care your chefs take in preparing your dishes. Whatever values you wish to convey, the right kind of behind-the-scenes imagery can be an extremely effective tool in earning the trust of your customers.

SNAPPING THE PERFECT PIC

Though it looks simple enough, like a good sauce, food photography can be tricky. Caught at the wrong angle, under the wrong lighting or with the wrong backdrop, even the most delicious meal can look unappetizing. But never fear, we have a few tips and tricks on how to make your dishes look more #FoodPorn and less #CookingForBae. We know you are an amazing chef and we can teach you how to make it come across on camera. Here are three tips for making your food more photogenic:

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NATURAL LIGHT IS YOUR FRIEND

Lighting is one of the most important aspects of food photography, and when shooting a delicious dish, indirect sunlight is your best option. Artificial lighting can make the colours in your food look “off,” and nobody wants to eat funky-coloured food. If you have to move your table setting to the floor to catch the right lighting, do it.

That said, too much bright light – even sunlight – can be harsh, making your food look colourless or flat. The ideal lighting scenario occurs on a slightly overcast day or in a shady spot on a sunny day, but if nature refuses to cooperate, hanging a semi-sheer white curtain over a sunny window will also do the trick.

 

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THINK STYLING AND COMPOSITION

Creating a beautiful composition is a piece of cake if you were born with a photographer’s eye or have spent years honing the craft. Fortunately for the rest of us, there is a golden rule in design called “The Rule of Thirds.” All you need to do is turn on the grid function on your phone or camera. The grid breaks your image into 9 equal squares, the intersections of which are where our eyes are naturally drawn. The idea is to place your main subject matter on one of those intersecting points (either one-third or two-thirds of the way down from the top of the image). But just using your grid won’t help your photo if the subject matter isn’t interesting. These are my favourite quick tricks for styling a food photo:

1. Be aware of your background – a textured backdrop works nicely, and be sure to keep latex gloves, stained cloths, and other signs of a messy kitchen out of your photo.

2. Don’t be afraid of colour – the colours in your dish can be a big part of its visual appeal. Don’t be afraid to add napkins, plates, and garnishes in complementary colours.

3. Go for an action shot – sometimes the best way to photograph a burger is in the hands of someone ready to devour it!

YOU DON’T NEED A HIGH-END CAMERA

Your smartphone can capture beautiful images as long as you know how to use it. Most modern phone cameras are capable of producing crystal-clear, high-quality images if you have the proper lighting on your side. Your phone also allows for some quick colour correcting through the use of Instagram filters, which can help to create a cohesive brand image. A southern BBQ spot might choose to cast a warm, smoky glow over all their imagery, or an organic food bar may want to keep everything bright, clear, and airy. Whatever your brand, these simple filters can be a very useful tool in conveying your desired image.

When all else fails, hire a professional photographer! Take it from Mark McEwan, noted chef, restaurant owner, cookbook author, and TV personality: “It doesn’t matter if you’re serving burgers or caviar – no one wants to eat it if it doesn’t look beautiful.”

 

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DON’T FORGET THE HASHTAGS

Once you’ve got the perfect pic, it’s time to share it with the world. This is where the hashtag, or pound sign (#) comes into play. On social media sites, this symbol followed by a keyword is used to help categorize similar content, and can be integral to getting your brand noticed.

In a weekly segment on his late-night talk show, host Jimmy Fallon “crowdsources” content using a hashtag topic he sends out every Wednesday. Often, his topics become worldwide trends within the hour, and consequently, he ends up with hilarious user- generated content for his show. With nearly 25 million followers on Twitter alone, Fallon has a unique ability to popularize hashtags, but all brands can use hashtags to increase reach and visibility, connect with followers, and generate buzz.

One of our clients, the Toronto BBQ and bourbon bar @SmoqueNBones, has made a name for itself online and off by following some of the tips mentioned above. They offer followers exclusive info on Instagram by announcing menu specials and brand partnerships (such as an event hosted in conjunction with Samuel Adams brewery). Followers can see behind-the-scenes photos of bartenders pouring up delicious new cocktails or chefs slicing up a freshly smoked rack of ribs. They also use hashtags – such as #BoneyardTO – to get guests buzzing about their experience, and host contests where guests can win free goodies just by sharing a photo using the designated hashtag.

Whether you’re a national chain with a massive marketing budget or a start-up looking to be the next local hot spot, you too can find your own version of great success with the right social media strategy. By partnering with the three key audiences able to help you grow your social media: fans, brands, and influencers, you can reach massive audiences at a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising. And don’t be afraid to give us a shout at @BrandandBuzz – we love making new friends!

 

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