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Brand and Design

How to use Instagram for business: 6 ways to boost your engagement

Feed the eyes of your audience.

By Chloe Chaplin

You may wish people would just take a moment to delight their senses in your carefully crafted experience, but first, they’ve got to get a photo.

Those diners are likely to be Millennials who are posting to Instagram. On average, Millennials spend five days a year browsing food photos on Instagram, and 30% of them avoid going to a restaurant if it doesn’t have a social media presence. And no wonder, really – attractive food tastes better, and diners are prepared to pay three times as much for decorative food.

So that’s where we’re at. You can choose to rage against the dying of the light, or just make the most of it. If you’re a rager, this is where you get off. Everything from here is about how to turn those Insta-stories into bums on seats.

How to up your Instagram game

The first purposefully Instagrammable restaurant was Pez Playa in Mallorca. The staff encourage Instagram use and even have charging stations for your smartphone. They design the food and the dish arrangement on the table to translate best for Instagram and give diners suggestions on how to make their images look best. Tag the restaurant in a post, and they’ll even throw in free drinks or food.

You don’t have to go all out to get some benefit from the Instagram craze – even small changes can be powerful.

1. Pump up the colour

Make your food beautiful by adding layers of texture and colour. On Instagram, colour means freshness and taste.

Mondays Wholefoods 20k Insta followers have been attracted by their beautiful plating. Similarly, in Mt Albert, you’ll find L’ouef Cafe, which has, arguably, Auckland’s most Instagrammable meal. ‘The nest’ is a visual feast, with crumbed eggs in a cute crunchy nest, surrounded by colourful edible flowers in a rich green salad.

2. But make the food taste good, too

All the great exposure on Instagram from the pretty food won’t help if customers think it tastes terrible. If the food looks great, it needs to be great too. Sometimes, it’s ok to follow in the footsteps of award-winning Momofuku chef and share a little #uglydelicious.

3. Create ‘grammable’ moments

Have a few things in the restaurant that create Instagr-worthy pics. These are best if they’ve genuinely arisen from quirks of the business – Cazador in Auckland inherited an eclectic décor from the previous owners. While a refurb refreshed the look, the pavlova walls, deer heads, stuffed ducks, and peacock feathers remain (and are all over Instagram).

To create a moment at yours, think murals, lighting, insane wallpaper, or an insta-favourite, a wall of flowers.

The food can do that for you, too. With 29k Instagram followers, Giapo Kitchen in Auckland is led by a man who’s just as good at social media as he is at making ice cream. The result is a range of creations that swamp Instagram – mini finger cones, a colossal chocolate squid, a selfie ice cream and an ice cream Skytower.

4. Balance mood lighting with ‘gram lighting’

That beautiful ambient light that casts romantic shadows and makes a table feel intimate, also makes photos for Instagram impossibly dark and grainy. Natural light is best for great colour and a lack of shadows, so throw open the shades. For night time, think about placing overhead lights high to avoid harsh shadows. Diffuse the light by using reflective surfaces – play around to see what creates a gorgeous warm glow without huge shadow. Think about lighting close to the ground, too – it creates a lovely low light that adds interest to images.

5. Display your account name in the venue

Make it really easy for people to find you and tag you. Grabbing the most intuitive name for your business is the first step, making sure people know about it is the second. In the menu, list your @name and any #hashtags you like on your ‘grams.

Cereal Killa Café has 14k followers and is tagged almost daily by users drinking their freak shakes. They simply have a light blue feature wall with their name prominently displayed, simple however this is no accident – their feed is full of their over-the-top, sugar-laden drinks poised against it. Hello, free advertising.

6. Re-post customers and followers

People love when their pics get re-posted – it’s their 15 seconds of fame. Message and ask first to be polite, and then re-post. It gives you fresh content for free and shows that you care about what your customers are doing. Most importantly of all, it’s always great to be spoken about by others, rather than always talking about yourself!

Keep doing what you’re doing, only prettier

You don’t need a total overhaul to start getting more from Instagram. Start off slowly, pay attention to what people are saying and respond to your followers. Those are the basics. When you’re doing a décor refresh, go bigger and bolder, with Insta-friendly lighting and a stand-out feature. In the kitchen, start pushing for more colour and interesting presentation – anything to make the food leap off the plate and get those phone-wielding crowds in, to #hashtag about your #amazingfood.

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