Dubbed 2018’s fastest-growing social media platform with more than one billion active users, Instagram has become a powerful marketing tool in the last few years.
Today, around 25 million businesses use this social media platform to promote their products and reach target audiences.
But for most restaurants, Instagram is still an underutilized marketing tool. It’s impossible to sell directly on Instagram (unless you’re an eCommerce business, that is), and it can take a good deal of time and effort to convince your Instagram followers to visit your restaurant.
Plus, for restaurant chains with multiple locations, it can be difficult to manage location-specific comments.
Why should you engage with Instagram marketing?
Having a presence on Instagram is a must for restaurants these days.
Why? Not only does Instagram allow companies to optimize accounts for local reach with localized hashtags and geotags, but it also tests in-app profile pages for local businesses — a feature that could have great potential for discoverability.
In fact, #food is one of the most popular hashtags on Instagram, with 367 million posts using it right now.
According to Instagram Business, 41% of occasional diners agree that their mobile phone is the first place they go to decide on a restaurant, 66% of people want to visit a fast-food restaurant after seeing friends’ photos and videos of it on Instagram, and US Instagrammers interested in restaurants like 4.5x more content, post 3x more, and are also 7x more likely to comment on posts than the average Instagrammer.
So, wouldn’t it be great if your client’s business could make the most out of Instagram? In this article, I’ll provide you with ten actionable steps for restaurants to attract local customers with Instagram.
Optimize for local discoverability
Restaurants can’t sell directly on Instagram, but this platform still helps your clients get more visibility as people often use Instagram to discover new local businesses to visit.
In fact, 90% of customers use the internet when looking for a product or service within a specific geographic area.
Since an average Instagram user spends 53 minutes a day on the platform, and 200 million users visit the Instagram ‘Explore’ page every day, there’s no doubt that people will use Instagram to find local businesses, too.
Moreover, many Instagram features help to promote local businesses.
Whether you want to promote single-location small and medium businesses (SMBs), national enterprise brands, or global chains, it’s important to optimize for searches with local intent to make sure your potential customers find the right profiles when conducting location-based searches.
1. Write an engaging bio
The number of active social media users is constantly growing, so it’s no doubt that local businesses need social media to increase brand awareness, promote a product or service, and reach potential customers.
When it comes to Instagram marketing, the first step is naturally to tell users about the restaurant, its location, cuisine, and the price range, in order to attract a relevant, local buyer.
We all know that first impressions can make or break a decision. Therefore, it’s important to write an engaging Instagram bio. Be sure to select a relevant category for your business, including your business’s NAP and opening hours.
Not sure where to start? Here are my top tips for building the perfect profile:
- Choose a relevant business category
- Tell people about your business — what would potential customers want to know?
- Include target keywords
- Write your opening hours
- Insert a website link (perhaps one straight to your menu)
- Add your location
- Choose a “Reserve” action button (only available for business profiles)
It’s also worth checking you’re working with an Instagram business profile, not a personal one. This allows you to add more information about your client’s business, and therefore it leads to a better marketing experience on Instagram.
Business profiles also allow you to monitor Insights through the app itself, such as how many impressions or saves a photo has received.
In addition to the existing business profile features, Instagram has started testing local business profile pages. When an Instagram user searches for a keyword related to your client’s local business, a box could appear in the search results with the relevant information.
Restaurants like New York’s aRoqa were granted access to this profile type, and here’s what it looks like:
2. Separate Instagram accounts by location
If you want to promote a multi-location restaurant on Instagram, consider creating multiple Instagram accounts for each location or country. Having multiple Instagram accounts for the same restaurant is a perfect way to customize your marketing messaging to different local audiences.
Not only may locals have different preferences, but they also may speak different languages. For example, Domino’s Pizza has more than 14,100 restaurants in 84 countries, so it’s no wonder that the company has separate Instagram accounts for each country.
3. Include geotags and location hashtags
The best way to interact with the local community is to include geotags and location hashtags when posting on Instagram. Taking advantage of features such as these boosts your chances of appearing on Instagram’s coveted ‘Explore’ page.
What’s more, geotags help to achieve two specific business goals. They can:
- Tell your Instagram visitors and followers where your client’s restaurant is located.
- Attract potential customers who are looking for a restaurant within a specific area.
First, publishing mouth-watering images of dishes isn’t enough to find restaurant customers on Instagram; people want to understand whether they can visit your client’s restaurant or not, so it’s important to add a geotag or location hashtag and therefore tell visitors and followers where a restaurant is located.
Second, it’s no secret that more and more people use Instagram to discover new products and services.
Since the Instagram ‘Explore’ page is personalized to each user, people often use this feature to find a local business on Instagram, too. For example, a user can search for ‘Shake Shack Chicago’ in the search bar to find relevant results. When you add a geotag or location hashtag, you help potential customers find your profile.
Geotags and location hashtags also contribute to social media signals that point to your location, which can help improve rankings for local searches elsewhere.
4. Use location stickers on Instagram Stories
Today, over 500 million people create or watch Instagram Stories daily. With a short lifespan of 24 hours, Instagram Stories create a fear of missing out (FOMO) effect that encourages users to take action faster. Since Instagram has a variety of stickers suitable for businesses available on Instagram Stories, it’s no doubt that restaurants can also use this short-lived content to optimize for local searches.
For example, using Instagram Stories’ location stickers helps to highlight your business location and get more local exposure.
If you want to find more local customers who might like to visit your client’s restaurant, not only should you add your own custom location and a branded hashtag, but you should also include the city-specific sticker (like the Brooklyn ones pictured below), if there’s one available.
Increase organic reach
No matter how popular your client’s restaurant is, it’s still likely you’ll want to attract more local customers.
Although you can run paid ad campaigns, increasing organic reach on Instagram is a great way to attract more local customers who might already be interested in visiting a local business such as your clients, meaning you can go about promoting without being pushy.
5. Publish fan-made content
BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey showed that 32% of customers pay attention to the presence of photos when judging a local business on reviews.
Since Instagram is a place for visual inspiration, restaurants need to publish fan-made content to prove that their company is worth visiting and build brand loyalty and trust.
After all, your customers are already generating this content! As many as 69% of people admit to taking photos of their food before eating it.
Starbucks often publishes fan-made content on Instagram — such as the flat lay “regrammed” below — and these posts get many likes and comments. Not only does this create a sense of belonging, but it also helps to achieve recognition, so customers produce user-generated content for a chance to be featured on Starbucks’ Instagram profile.
If you have a location tag for your client’s restaurant, it’s important to check it out regularly to see if customers have posted photos or Stories tagged with the location. If they have, you can reach out to these customers to thank them, perhaps even sharing a discount code with them for a future visit.
6. Team up with local food bloggers
According to Hubspot, 71% of people are more likely to purchase based on social media referrals. As ‘food’ is one of the most profitable Instagram niches, it’s no wonder that the number of food bloggers and influencers is constantly growing.
For restaurants, this provides a great opportunity to work with local influencers and spread the word about their business among potential customers. Here’s how one food blogger writes restaurant reviews on her Instagram feed:
But if you don’t have the budget to work with food bloggers, consider using word-of-mouth marketing; it’s still the most effective advertising form for restaurants and helps to acquire new customers and keep existing ones.
To give people a reason to spread the word about your client’s restaurant, offer referral rewards that nudge loyal customers into taking action, and promote these through your Instagram profile. For example, you can offer both the customer and the friend a discount, a gift card, or a free meal.
7. Organize a giveaway
There’s no better way to increase organic reach and user engagement than organizing an Instagram giveaway. After all, who doesn’t love a freebie?
Giveaways and contests are extremely popular among Instagrammers as they give users an opportunity to win something valuable for nothing.
When it comes to promoting your client’s restaurant, you can attract customers who are interested in visiting a local business if you give away vouchers, discount codes, or merch when running a giveaway. For example, Piada Italian Street Food knows that the holiday season is a perfect time to reward its loyal customers, so the restaurant gives away gift certificates that allow winners to choose whatever they want during the next visit.
Grab the attention of potential customers
In 2017, there were 25 million businesses on Instagram, and 200 million users visiting the profile of a business every day. It goes without saying that Instagram has great marketing potential for brands of all shapes and sizes.
However, the competition is high, so it takes time and effort to cut through the noise and grab the attention of potential customers.
8. Create a thoughtful Instagram feed
First and foremost, Instagram is a photo-sharing app, so it helps local customers find visual inspiration when they are looking for a new restaurant to visit. Since 65% of people are visual learners, having a unified or even themed Instagram feed, in terms of content and color palette, is a must.
Not only does it help to grab and hold the attention of Instagrammers, but it also helps potential customers get a glimpse of dishes. Moreover, 60% of customers say that local search results with good photos encourage them to take action faster.
Just look at how creative Taco Bell got with its feed:
The good news? There’s no need to hire a professional food photographer as modern customers crave authenticity and want to get a real feel for your business.
UK-based pizza chain Franco Manca perfectly displays how good a more authentic grid can look:
If you want to create an eye-catching Instagram feed, check out the current visual trends that could help to communicate your brand message to local customers.
9. Spy on your customers’ profiles
The popularity of social media platforms has changed consumer behavior, so people often use their Instagram accounts to share their customer experiences without being interrupted.
Given the mutually understood importance of reviews among consumers, most diners want to provide their genuine feedback after eating out, in order to let others know how good or bad the restaurant experience was.
Interestingly, however, 96% of people who discuss brands and restaurants online do not follow their profile.
As a result, if you want to understand what customers think about your client’s restaurant, it’s important to spy on your customers’ profiles.
For example, the restaurant ‘Sunday In Brooklyn’ checks if customers have posted photos dining in, before publishing fan-made photos — just make sure to get permission first. With a variety of social media management tools, restaurants of all sizes and shapes can afford to monitor brand mentions with ease.
10. Promote offline events
Offline marketing is a must for restaurants, and hosting offline events is one of the most popular marketing strategies for restaurants. But if you promote a local restaurant on Instagram, it’s important to combine online and offline marketing, so you should always try to showcase offline events that attract customers.
Case in point: The Meatball Shop shares Instagram Stories about its offline events and adds them to a separate ‘Events’ Instagram Stories Highlight that appears right below the bio section:
Restaurant visitors crave great customer experience, so it’s important to showcase offline events that highlight happy customers. If you don’t want to clog your main feed up with time-sensitive content, it’s a good idea to promote and showcase your offline events via Instagram Stories.
Today, local customers use Instagram to discover new restaurants and decide where to eat. For restaurants, this means an opportunity to attract local customers online, and the examples prove that Instagram marketing is a must for local restaurants of all sizes and shapes.
Have you ever used Instagram marketing to attract local customers? If so, please share your tips and tricks in the comments!