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No social media platform has changed restaurants more than Instagram. Have your plates gotten prettier over the years? Do they look just a tad more delicious when they leave the kitchen? Ask your kitchen team, and they may admit that they’ve thought about customers snapping pictures of their food. Maybe you have even purposefully created a few Instagram-worthy dishes or drinks.
With 800 million total active users as of September 2017, and 111 million projected US users by 2019, according to Statista, you’re potentially ignoring hundreds or thousands of customers if you aren’t participating in one of the world’s most popular photo and video sharing networks.
But with millions of users, how do you engage with those who can benefit your business, and vice versa? This is where Instagram influencers come in. You’ve heard the term “influencer” before, but understanding how they work can be complicated if you don’t know where to start.
Step 1: Reach influencers around the corner.
Some of your most important Instagram influencers are those living near your restaurant who can more directly impact potential visitors to your restaurant. Gary Vaynerchuk of VaynerMedia suggested in an online video: Run a search of your city and state on Instagram. Dozens of posts will pop up, but you want to focus on the top posts, which received the most activity. Explore who has the most followers and what types of photos they’re sharing. From there, you can send them a direct message letting them know how you appreciate their love for the city and how you’d like to invite them in for a meal or send them a special coupon. With any luck, they’ll post about their visit on their page.
Step 2: Explore your niche.
Inside the Instagram app, you can sort users using the Explore button located in the bottom left. Search for users that most relate to your brand, whether that be coffee, pizza, farm-to-table, vegetarian, etc. Doing this will help you get a feeling for some of the big influencers on Instagram who may be interested in your brand. Once you find high-ranking influencers, send them a direct message.
Step 3: Pay for posts.
To help you kick-start your Instagram influence, there are Instagram influencers who would like to serve as regular online promoters of your brand—many for just $5 to $10 per post. According to Sebastian Esqueda, a dropshipper who posts videos on YouTube touting how he employs influencer marketing to market his products, he reaches out to 100 Instagram influencers every day who are in his product’s specific niches. He determines pay rate per post by how many followers and likes each influencer has on their page.
Step 4: Host an Instagram takeover.
You’ve seen it happen at media companies when restaurants are invited to take over their social media pages, so steal the idea and invite an Instagram expert or local influencer to take over your Instagram account for a week. It’s an interesting story for the local press to follow, you’ll have great posts and feedback to look back on as examples, and you and your staff can learn along the way.

Final Thoughts
Embracing Instagram gives you one more great marketing channel for your restaurant – one that can have both a local and far-reaching impact.

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