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Using Instagram to promote a local business

Author's avatar By Expert commentator 11 Jun, 2013
Essential Essential topic

12 tips and examples from using Instagram to market a restaurant

If you haven’t heard of Instagram already then:, where have you been?! It’s a popular photo sharing app available to both Android and iOS smartphone users? Instagram was launched in 2010 by co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger and has enjoyed phenomenal growth, helped in part by Facebook purchasing the app in 2012 for a mere $1 billion in cash. But even with this social giant becoming their owners, Instagram continues to stand out on its own as a very credible social network that should not be ignored.

If you need convincing of its potential value to marketers then just take a look at these current stats:

  • 100 million Monthly Active Users
  • 40 million Photos Per Day
  • 8500 Likes Per Second
  • 1000 Comments Per Second.

So how can you take advantage of all this social activity to promote a small business?

To help give a more tangible picture of how Instagram can be used to promote a local business, in this post I’ve put together some useful tips on how to use Instagram to market a restaurant. I hope they will be useful for other types of business too!

  • Tip 1.Take photos of all aspects of your business.

Many restaurants just focus on photos of their food and drinks. This is great but don’t ignore special events, a look behind-the-scenes or photos of your customers (remember to ask their permission before publishing). These all add personality and atmosphere when portraying your restaurant on Instagram.

how to use Instagram to market your restaurant

  • Tip 2. Tag your photos with a hashtag

Using hashtags in your photo’s caption helps Instagram users searching for a topic to discover your image.

For example, use a hashtag with the location of your restaurant, such as #London. Someone who is planning a visit to London and does a search on Instagram may find your image, and be inspired to check out your restaurant.

  • Tip 3. Use the camera on your phone

Rather than taking a photo using the Instagram app, use the camera on your phone. In most cases this will have more features available such as zoom. You can then upload the photo by accessing your Camera Roll from the Instagram app and still use all of Instagram’s popular photo-editing tools like the filters.

  • Tip 4. Link your Instagram account to Foursquare

Tag your restaurant as the location of your photo when uploading on Instagram. The app uses foursquare’s venue search, which hopefully your restaurant is on.

If you have linked your Instagram account to Foursquare, then you can also check in when uploading the photo, by clicking on Foursquare in the ‘Share’ options. The photo will then be added to the public photos displayed at your restaurant’s page on foursquare.

how to use Instagram to market your restaurant

  • Tip 5. Avoid using filters when photographing food

Don’t use filters when taking photos of your restaurant’s dishes. If you have pride in how your restaurant’s food looks then show it to Instagram users as it’s meant to be seen, and not disguised with a filter.

  • Tip 6. Ask a question

Increase engagement and encourage comments on your Instagram photo by asking a question in the caption.

For example, if you photograph a new dish then ask the Instagram users if they like the presentation. More comments means more exposure for your photo and you’ll get some valuable feedback in the process.

  • Tip 7. Share your photo on other social media networks

Create as much exposure as possible for your photo by sharing on other social media networks. Instagram gives you the option to share on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, Foursquare and even by email when uploading your photo.

How to use Instagram to market your restaurant

  • Tip 8. Tell a story with your photos

Encourage users to follow your restaurant on Instagram by publishing a story with your images.

For instance if you are undergoing a restaurant refurbishment, why not track the process by publishing a photo every day, all building up to your magnificent relaunch event.

  • Tip 9. Encourage your customers to post Instagram photos

Your customers become your publicists by encouraging them to post images of their meal at your restaurant. Make sure they add a hashtag for your restaurant so that the images can be found with an Instagram search.

A Latin American restaurant in New York called Comodo took this one step further by creating an Instagram menu. This does have its risks, which you can read about Comodo's instagram strategy.

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  • Tip 10. Add text to your photos

There are many apps available that enable you to add text to your Instagram photo. This is useful for adding a ‘call to action’ or inspiring comment on your image. If you publish a photo of a menu item, why not add the name of the dish to the image.

Remember not to go over the top with adding text, as this will just succeed in annoying other Instagram users.

  • Tip 11. Use the @mention

Just like on Twitter, you can use the @mention to tag other Instagram users in your photo’s caption (and in comments). If the @mentioned has connected Instagram to Twitter then it will appear on the tweet when the photo is shared on Twitter.

  • Tip 12. Run an Instagram contest

Contests are an excellent way of increasing the visibility of your restaurant on Instagram and engaging with your customers.

A simple Instagram contest would be to ask your customers to tag photos of their meal at your restaurant with a hashtag and then at the end of each month one customer is selected to win a free meal for two. These images will also create valuable content for your Facebook Page and Twitter profile.

Although I’ve written these tips from the perspective of a restaurant, I hope they can be adapted for any type of business wanting to capitalise on the popularity of Instagram.


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