Reader Asks: Should I Use Instagram to Promote My Restaurant?

How to Use Instagram for Restaurant Promotions

Dear Lorri,

A lot of my friends and most of my employees are always taking pictures on Instagram with their phones. Is this something I should be using at my restaurant? I already have a Facebook page, do I need to have another site to manage? And what is Instagram, exactly? How is it different from just a regular camera on your phone?



Dear Dan,

I admit I am not on the Instagram band wagon either.

I am just too old to embrace the selfie culture. But as I researched information for this article about how to use Instagram and your restaurant, I realized that it is a brilliant (and free) way to garner some word-of-mouth advertising.

So what exactly is Instagram?

Instagram is a photo app for an iPhone or Android, allowing you to take pictures and edit them. The difference in using Instagram to take photos versus your regular ​camera, is that Instagram allows you to follow other users' photo streams as they post them and you can be followed back by those users (or other users) as well. Elise Moreau, ​expert on web trends does a much better job describing Instagram than I could - check out Elise’s  for more details.

How can I use Instagram at my restaurant?

As far as using Instagram at your restaurant, like Facebook, there are many different ways to use this social media site for advertising and promotions.

It was reported by MomentFeed, an organization who tracks social media activity for a variety of restaurant chains, that Instagram activity is a growing trend among customers. Think about it: people like taking pictures of themselves, or like having their picture taken. Especially when they are doing something fun or cool, like eating dinner out on the town.

According to MomentFeed, from July to October 2013 half a million photos were posted to Instagram, tagging various restaurants. And MomentFeed is only tracking a small fraction of restaurant chains. The actual numbers of restaurant related Instagram photos is likely much higher.

Chain restaurants have capitalized on people’s desire to share cool pictures of themselves; for example dairy queen offered a five dollar gift card contest if people uploaded pictures of themselves enjoying a five dollar lunch special, Blizzard or chicken strip basket. Chains also use old fashion advertising methods in new ways. Like snapping good quality food photos and posting it directly to their Facebook page or other social media sites.

Will Instagram make me more money?

So, you are probably wondering, great, my restaurant is tagged on Instagram and liked, and retweeted and such, but does that mean more money? More sales? More customers walking through the door? According to MomentFeed’s director of marketing, Joergen Aaboe, it certainly does. “You can look at local engagement on the channel as a representative proxy for foot traffic…there’s a correlation between check-in’s [on Instagram, at least] and sales.”

How much time is this going to take?

So, while Instagram is free, like all social media marketing, it does require time. But it is still low maintenance for a pretty good return. In many cases, you are asking your customers to do the work for you – to take the photos and share them on your social media pages as well as their own.

Keep in mind that though social media campaigns, whether through Instagram or Facebook, or any of the others sites out there, can help get customers through the door, good food and good customer service is what will keep them coming back.