by Pia Larson
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the different social media platforms available today. What is often more daunting is making sense of all the advice everyone gives you on how best to use them to benefit your business. And while social media platforms each have their uses for restaurateurs like you, a newer option seems to be optimized to help you in ways many other social media outlets cannot.
We are talking about Instagram Stories. A souped-up version of features first seen on Snapchat, Instagram Stories allows you to build short videos—with overlay functions—and string a number of them together to tell stories about your business. Once posted, these videos last twenty-four hours before they disappear (no, they don’t spontaneously combust like in Mission Impossible. As cool as that sounds…). This gives you the chance to keep your stories, offers, and connections with customers fresh and current every day. Your creativity is really the only limit to what you can get out of using Instagram Stories, and you’ll be using a platform used and seen by five times as many people as Snapchat. Just check out what others are already doing with it. To get started, click on the + icon in the top left corner of your Instagram feed and you’re ready to roll.
If all of this sounds too general to be useful, never fear—our Tips are here! Follow these to see what you can build—and stories you can tell—for your restaurant.
We mean the story of your restaurant. Which, of course, starts with the story of You. Use video clips to highlight what started you down your path, how your values and aims developed, and what you want to give out to your customers in their dining experience. You can use short catch phrases or even single words to tell your story as overlays. Sometimes, the fewer words the better.
This one may be self-explanatory, but indulge us a bit. If you either already have, or want to push, a “signature” dish, build a short video or series of them about it—its origins, your unique flourish, reactions to it, what it says about you and your restaurant, etc. Be sure to get a few words from your chef, servers, or customers about it.
People love to see how things are envisioned, created, and presented—how else to explain all the home makeover shows that are on every channel? So give your customers / site visitors just a short tease of how something is made or done—a signature dish, shopping for the best ingredients, following a staffer for a shift, a time lapse of pre-opening to after-close, and the like. People love to see how ideas come to life—it feeds their own ideas, and they’ll be very likely to remember you (and visit your restaurant) if you inspire them.
Reward your visitors on any given day with a spur-of-the-moment chance to visit your restaurant and get something just for them. Whether it’s a free coffee drink, a percentage off an appetizer, or any other discount (it doesn’t have to be crazy large, but go ahead and throw that down if you’re feeling spunky), visitors will often jump at the opportunity to be spontaneous. They may invite their friends to meet them after work and try out your place—which likely means more money spent than just on what you offered! For an example of this, check out what J.Crew did recently.
Don’t be afraid to give glimpses of just how much you care about your product and how hard you work at delivering it right. You don’t need to dump blood, sweat, and tears out on display, but giving the sense that you give those to your restaurant every day builds confidence and trust in your effort and honesty. Those traits are what people look for in anything they buy, including cuisine and dining experience. Show them that you work hard like them, and you’ll find people will want to visit you.
It’s never a bad thing to advertise your innovative ways to connect with other businesses and organizations to better distribute your brand and product(s). Or, showcase another product or company that you use daily—give them access for just one day to your Instagram Stories and let them share part of your story by telling their own. They may even reciprocate, which lets you tap into new audiences of potential customers. An easy win-win for everyone.
Whether you film a short clip as a site map or elaborate on the written copy on each page of your website, cross-promoting is one of the easiest and most effective ways to maximize the benefit of Instagram Stories. A short video can “tie together” quickly and clearly all the various info points spread throughout your site, making it easier for your visitors to find and absorb the information you want them to take away.
Getting the buzz going for an upcoming event—a new site opening, a visit to a local festival, or a celebration—is an ideal way to use Instagram Stories. Short videos that can be shared easily serve as an electronic “word of mouth” that can quickly have news of your event spreading among your customer base and towards new ones. Add some incentive for people to attend—a discounted item, a free drink with a purchase, or a giveaway —before or during your event, and you’ll likely not have to worry about your event being a flop, at least in terms of attendance!
Anniversaries are chances to remind customers that you’ve been successful, and they will often want to know why. A number of businesses use Instagram Stories for this purpose and find success with it. Show viewers all you’ve accomplished since your humble beginnings. This is the perfect avenue through which to provide testimonials, so be sure to mix in a few of those.
Instagram Stories can also interface with some other online marketing tools, including the latest from Facebook. Use Instagram to advertise for the live event you’ll broadcast and you’ll have tons of crossover advertising with customers.