Restaurants and the Instagram Buzz

Last week, Facebook purchased Instagram, the barely 2-year old photo sharing startup for $1 billion dollars. The New York Times recently chronicled Instagram’s road to success, struggling as a fledgling start-up to keep up with server demand as thousands downloaded the iPhone version of the app and began uploading pictures hours after it went live. It isn’t exactly clear how Facebook will leverage their purchase, but the 11 members of the Instagram team and the venture capitalist that backed them hit a home run.

After recently reading a Nation’s Restaurant News article titled “How to make the most of Instagram”, which reviews this image-sharing service and best practices for restaurants, we decided to download the app and see for ourselves how restaurants can use this service to connect with their patrons. But first, let’s review some of the cool features that make it a winner:

  1. The built-in Hipstamatic-like programing allows you to add retro looking effects to your pictures.
  2. Instantly find and connect with your friends and customers using the “Find friends” option that allows you to find people from your phone’s contacts, Facebook or Twitter.
  3. Automatically share pictures you take with social-media services: Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr, Posterous and FourSquare. In addition, you can automatically forward pictures you take to any email address.
  4. Supports the use of #hashtags in descriptions of your photos, which makes them searchable on Twitter and other social-media sites.
  5. Your followers can add comments to your photos, or they can share your tantalizing pictures on their social-media sites.

After recently spending the afternoon snapping pictures at the Boston Marathon in sweltering heat, applying Hipstamatic-like filters and sharing photos on Facebook and Twitter it’s easy to see how a restaurant could use this technology to connect with patrons by posting pictures of specialty dishes, interior shots of your restaurant, special events or contests, charity work in the community, league sporting events you sponsor and even photos of willing patrons that want to share their foodie experience with the entire social universe.

Pinkberry’s Pamela Naumes, Director of Digital, summed it up perfectly for NRN:  “Engage with your audience: Don’t just post images, connect with the community.”  “Instagram is passionate,” she said. “Respond to comments, ask questions, follow back, listen and develop a relationship. You’ll earn trust and gain advocates … and learn something new.”

Brands like Pepsi and Red Bull have been tinkering with Instagram for months trying to figure out to monetize the app to connect with consumers. People love pictures, so why not let Instagram do the heavy lifting for you. All you have to do is download the iPhone or Android app, start taking pictures and add content to your photographs. Remember to add #hashtags to keywords or phrases to make them searchable on Twitter. Prior to uploading pictures, spend time on Instagram looking at the larger chains such as Pizza Hut and Pinkberry to get ideas from the photos they upload.

Please share your experiences with Instagram by posting your comments.

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Tags: Facebook, Instagram, Restaurant marketing

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Comment by Jon Rock on April 24, 2012 at 6:39am

Meagan, your comments are very insightful. It’s too bad that some restaurants don’t embrace social media and online marketing. Chains, for the most part get it. I think the Indy restaurants have a real opportunity here to catch up to the Goliath’s of the world when it comes to social. I’m always amazed when I search for a restaurant on Google or Bing and find that the site isn’t owner verified or some other crucial piece of information is missing e.g. credit cards accepted. Or when there are multiple Facebook pages for the same location found in search results. (In some cases, FB automatically created a business page for the restaurant,  then the owner/manager also created a page.) This creates a huge disconnect between a restaurant and their patrons. And to your point, there are so many platforms out there it gets overwhelming. I have a hard time keeping up with the orders on some days and my head is in the game almost 24x7.

Comment by Jim M on April 24, 2012 at 5:46am

We've used several different social media platforms including Instagram for a variety of clients and although it is sometimes challenging for some of the "old school" business owners, Instagram is a great tool to promote their brand, product and/or services. 

@Meagan - sorry to hear about your situation. It's unfortunate that some individuals are unable to understand how important social media is in 2012. 

Comment by Meagan A Burns on April 23, 2012 at 2:42pm

I was recently fired from a restaurant group that did not understand the importance of social media and thought most of it was a waste of time. In addition to all the other platforms, I posted pics on Instagram and always made sure the photos told a story, just as Instagram would intend. The goal was not to get likes; I believe that people like pics for a personal reason, unlike Facebook, where they are liking (or not) what's being sold to them. Even though not many likes were garnered, a story was being told; how crazy the happy hour bar was at the beach in Florida, the new patio that was was now ready for use in Chicago, a "Meet the Chef" weekly post, special dishes for holidays, an enthusiastic crowd for a Cowboys game in Dallas, a celebrity sighting, what was happening in the neighborhood, behind the scenes, a dish I was enjoying that moment. I see far too many restaurants posting pics from their professionally shot website pics and running around liking photos that they really should not be liking. I'm not trying to make the rules here, but I think restaurants have an opportunity to tell a story of their brand on Instagram without screaming BUY THIS SPECIAL TODAY. But it takes a bit of commitment, and in addition to a lot of other platforms screaming for attention, it's easy to see why it's not done at all or as a second thought. Although now that the Gram is IN Facebook, it makes it that much easier to get it up & off the ground because now everyone can play. But just as you must have the right chef in the kitchen, you must have the right person holding the phone. 

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