Every successful marketing strategy has a cohesive plan. For restaurants, this means considering your style, your cuisine, and your ambiance. Each aspect of your strategy should fit together seamlessly. For example, it makes sense for a casual burger joint to offer guests a free drink with their 10th purchase. However, this easy-going approach wouldn’t fit as well in an upscale sushi restaurant.

But any restaurant can – and should – use social media. No matter how you approach your guests, here are some key tips for leveraging Instagram as part of your restaurant marketing strategy.

 

1. Look Your Best

Consider hiring a professional photographer to take pictures of your food and your restaurant. If that’s outside your budget, it’s doubly important that you take the time to stage and edit your own photos. IG users’ standards for what makes a great photo are going up all the time. Take a look at other user accounts to see what’s getting the most attention, and follow their lead when you’re setting up your own photos.

 

2. Find Your Voice

If your restaurant is kitschy and cute, your Instagram should reflect that. Set a colorful profile picture, pick a cute username, and take bright, exciting photos of your cuisine. If your restaurant is minimalist, on the other hand, perhaps you should use a black and white photo for your profile picture. Whatever style fits your business best, make sure that every choice you make on social media – from filters to hashtags – goes along with that style. This will also come through in the comments you write, both on your own posts and on other users’ images. Your style will evolve over time – as it should. But it’s important to build a unique, recognizable voice for your brand across the web.

 

3. Save the Data

Every social media platform has certain times of the day and days of the week that are more popular. Because these platforms are so dynamic, these times change pretty regularly. Start by doing some research into the best times to post about food and restaurants. Follow the best practices you can find online, and then track your own numbers carefully. If BuzzFeed says IG posts made between 12pm-3pm get the most likes, that’s a great place to start. But if you run a late-night bar, your guests might be more active from 11pm-3am. In this case, knowledge really is power. Keep an eye on your most popular posts, and update your strategy as needed.

 

4. Get Involved

Social engagement is the number one way to increase your followers. Like and follow other users’ posts, and comment if you have something pleasant to say. They’ll probably follow you back, which may make your new posts show up in their friends’ feeds, exponentially increasing your reach. The more attention you can get online – from anyone, anywhere – the more likely it is that people in your area will hear about your restaurant and come in to try your food.

 

5. Seal the Deal

Once you’ve built up a following, it’s time to start running promotions. You can go in either direction with these: encourage your online followers to come into your restaurant, and/or encourage in-store guests to follow you online. Either strategy will improve your popularity both online and in person. You can offer incentives for guests to like and share your content, or even generate their own. Run a photo contest for the best picture of an item from your seasonal special menu. Everyone loves getting attention online, and the chance to win a competition will draw them into your restaurant. No matter who takes the prize, your restaurant will win followers, photos, and guest loyalty.

Instagram is the most important social media platform for restaurants today – but it’s not the only one. Make sure you engage with Facebook and Twitter as well, to capture business from as many different guests as possible. Give your customers the opportunity to follow with you online, and you’ll have a permanent way to connect.