Growing a food business or restaurant requires ongoing promotional activities to market it so it’s always in your audience’s minds. One of the best ways to do this is to leverage photo-sharing social media platforms like Instagram. With 4.48 billion people using social media worldwide in 2021, it goes without saying that you cannot dismiss social media marketing as unimportant. If you are wondering how to grow a food business on Instagram, this blog is for you.
Instagram was initially used by people to document one’s personal life through photos clicked by a mobile device. Within just a few months of being launched, it became a hot favorite as it allowed users to communicate a wide range of things through pictures. Even business owners hopped on to this opportunity and started sharing their products and services as a way of promoting them. The results? Users started relying on social media more than ever to gather information about a brand.
Needless to say, business owners had to up their game to stay relevant and ensure they are able to connect with the audience and convert them into loyal customers. For food business owners, Instagram marketing became one of the most popular digital marketing strategies as it allowed them to not just showcase their food but also share promotions and offers to entice customers. Here are some of the top ideas successful food business owners swear by to grow on Instagram:
Decide your brand voice
When starting a business page for your food business, it is crucial to be sure about the image you want to portray through your content. Your content can be witty, informative, guidance-based, etc. This sets the tone for the audience and helps them understand your business better.
For instance, if you run a modern cafe that mainly sells fast food, pictures of youngsters having a good time at the cafe, fast food images in a bright background, funny captions with GenZ lingo are more likely to help you connect with your audience. The images you share should capture the brand’s essence in the best possible way and stay true to your brand voice. If you are consistent with these, it becomes easy to attract the right audience to your Instagram page.
Pro tip: Use a consistent color theme that compliments your logo colors as it creates a cohesive look and reflects your brand voice/niche in an aesthetically appealing way.
Research research research
Hashtags have emerged to be an excellent way of filtering information on Instagram. People follow various hashtags on Instagram based on their likings. It helps users discover content on a specific topic based on the keyword they use to search for a word. For instance, if I were to look for a caterer in Mumbai for an event I was hosting, I would search for #cateringinMumbai or #catererinMumbai to get targeted results.
Using the right hashtags will help increase your page’s engagement and make your business visible to a larger audience. But you can’t just add any hashtags to your posts; it requires thorough research to find the right ones. Ideally, these hashtags should be in line with your brand’s voice and allow you to rank high when someone searches for that word. Head to the Instagram search bar and check the usage of a hashtag before using it in your post captions.
Location-based hashtags are helpful for food businesses as users often look for results in a particular area. So instead of using a generic hashtag like #cafe, having #bangalorecafe helps in narrowing down the right audience when you own a cafe in Bangalore. Although you can add up to 30 hashtags to a post, overstuffing can create the wrong impression. Since there is no difference in their functionality, you can even add hashtags to the comments to hide them.
Pro tip: Use a hashtag research tool to find the most relevant hashtags and ensure your posts reach your target audience
Creating an Instagram business page is just the first step. To successfully grow a food business through Instagram marketing, you need to keep posting regularly. Your customers and Instagram followers need to be tempted through your content. There are thousands of food businesses out there trying to grab customer attention. If you don’t post regularly, your customers will most likely forget about your business. After all, out of sight is out of mind.
Take a cue from the Instagram page of the popular Mumbai restaurant, Ministry Of Crab, known for its seafood. The page has regular posts about their food presented through visually appealing images, videos of customers having a good time while dining in, offers being run at the restaurant, new additions to the menu, announcements of festive menu items, and more. The only thing I find missing is some reels of food & drinks getting prepared behind the scenes.
Pro tip: Your post timings should be based on your audience availability. As per Hubspot, the best time to post on Instagram is from 10 AM – 3 PM CDT. Use this cheat sheet to find the best time to post on Instagram based on the type of your organization and the day of the week. You can also use Instagram analytics tools like Sprout Social that measure follower growth and identify high engagement posts during specific timeframes.
Engage with your audience
Apart from posting regularly, you need to develop connections with your Instagram followers. Instagram stories are a godsend and are viewed much more than a post. A user may miss out on your post but there is a higher chance of them seeing your story. Since they disappear in 24 hours, people are more likely to view them than a post that will stay on your Instagram page forever. They last 15 seconds and are much more fun.
Before you post something on your Instagram food business page, engage with your audience through polls or by asking a question. This makes the post more relevant and helps the audience connect with it more effortlessly. For instance, if you’re adding a new pizza on the menu, before announcing it on Instagram, create buzz around it by asking your audience to guess its name. Or you can create a poll to ask your Instagram followers to guess what the new pizza is named.
Here is an Instagram poll idea for restaurants to gather information about their follower’s favorite pizza toppings. Polls are not only easy to participate in when viewed from the follower’s point of view, but also give you insight into their likes & dislikes. This allows you to include popular items that may be missing from your food menu.
Pro tip: Save your top stories as Highlights on your profile to ensure they stay on your Instagram page permanently.
Make your audience a part of your journey
A great engagement strategy is taking your audience to your food business’ or restaurants ’ behind-the-scenes action. Usually, your customers only see the Front of House, i.e. the servers, waiters, the restaurant manager, etc. Giving them a glimpse of how a menu item is created through a video is very powerful in piquing their interest. You can share interviews with your chef and show the chef in the process of creating a bestseller item from the menu.
For instance, look at this reel by Puppy’s Gastronomy, Bangalore that shows snippets of how their famous Golden Lava Cake is created and plated. So many customers order this Cake at their restaurant, but showing them a little BTS helps them relate to it and increases the page engagement rate. Since reels are created keeping in mind the short human attention span, they are proven to drive more engagement than any other form of Instagram content.
Pro tip: You can also include positive customer interactions in your reels to give your content a personal touch. Tag them so they can reshare it to their profile with their followers.
Share your Instagram handle with customers
So you place the perfectly presented dish in front of the customer. The food looks great, the lighting is just right, and the picture they click to post on social media turns out to be delightful. Would you not want them to tag your food business Instagram page while uploading the picture? But it’s not always possible to be present in front of a customer and tell them to do so.
A good solution for this is to include your Instagram handle on the QR menu scanner tabletop you place on each table. Since the pandemic, most restaurants have opted for these touchless menus to minimize contact. When seating a guest and informing them about the menu scanner, make sure to point out your Instagram handle printed on it so your guests remember to tag your business page when they upload the picture.
Pro tip: You can add a banner outside the restaurant with your Instagram page name and logo so people waiting outside the restaurant can go through it while waiting for a table.
With customers knowing your food business’s Instagram handle name, you open up your channel to lots of pictures featuring your food business. When customers tag your business on their stories, make sure to repost the ones that are in line with your business’s aesthetics. Resharing customer stories is a great way to liven up your Instagram page content and show appreciation towards the customer.
Similarly, your Instagram handle has a Tagged section where all the posts where your food business has been tagged are displayed. Always comment on those images thanking the customer for visiting. Even a comment as basic as “That’s a great picture! Thank you for visiting. We hope to see you again soon” is a great way of showing some love!
Create a giveaway
This is a great way to promote your restaurant online. Run a contest and giveaway a reward to the winner of the contest. The contest can include a series of food-related questions and tasks such as tagging other users in the comments. Such tasks highly increase your Instagram page’s engagement and get more people to visit your page.
Make sure the tasks are doable so your Instagram followers feel encouraged to participate. You can even include a task where your followers post a story about your giveaway on their Instagram page, further increasing your reach. The best part is, the reward can be a discount coupon on availing your business services.
Pro tip: Leverage occasions like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s day, and more to host giveaways. This way you can offer a free meal to the winner and their +1. For instance, you can offer a free romantic dinner for two to the winner of the Valentine’s Day giveaway.
Collaborate with food bloggers:
Partnering with food bloggers is a recent trend that has benefitted many restaurants. Food bloggers share their authentic experience of dining at a restaurant through pictures and content in their blogs. Inviting a food blogger to visit your restaurant and share their views about your business ensures your audience gets a fresh third-party perspective.
Influencers are known to increase awareness about brands and their products/services by posting pictures and reels about their own experience. Doing a paid collaboration with a food blogger or an influencer to post about your food business opens it up to their large network of followers. You can combine this with the above idea and get the influencer to include coupons of your food business in their giveaway being hosted on their Instagram page.
Pro tip: To find the best bloggers and influencers that can help improve your Instagram following, use dedicated tools or run a hashtag search and look for Top posts.
Run paid ads
Lastly, a tried & tested way of growing and promoting your food business is to run paid ads on Instagram and Facebook. With an advertising audience of 2.14 billion, Facebook is a great platform to get more people to pay attention to your business. Paid photo ads and video ads crafted to convey a strong message can help in making more people notice your food business online.
When using a business page, you can easily turn any post into an ad with the Promote button. It is important to run ads with content that will fulfill the purpose of your promotional strategy. For instance, if you are hosting an event at your restaurant and want more people to find out about it, sharing a poster of the event with an option to DM allows the ad viewers to request more details via messages.
The good thing is, you can select the audience that will view your ads. For example, a Bangalore-based cafe running an ad to increase their follower count can target 28-40 year olds located within a 20 km radius of their cafe. They can shortlist their audience based on their interests such as food, photography, coffee, etc. This way they can target your local audience that has the maximum chances of actually visiting the cafe.
Pro tip: Evaluate your existing posts and stories to understand what your core audience likes & appreciates the most. Run paid ads by reusing those posts or creating organic content similar to that for best results.
Ultimately, the challenge of “how to make my business grow on Instagram” can be overcome by having a digital marketing strategy, developing a brand voice, and staying true to your brand’s voice. Trying to copy someone else’s hit idea may not guarantee the success they are enjoying. Of course, you can always take inspiration, but make sure they align with your business’s core ideas. We hope these tips give you a fair idea of growing your business on Instagram. Let us know in the comments if you would like to add any ideas to this list.
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