Of the, “Big Three” social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – the latter has often been seen as the most niche. This is not necessarily the case.
The easily digestible nature of this photographic platform makes it ideal for smartphones. Instagram is actually more popular than Twitter with many demographics. It is believed that 200million users visit at least one corporate Instagram account every day. That means a third of all viewed stories are from businesses.
In addition, Instagram is arguably tailor-made for the catering industry. There is a common saying that, “people eat with their eyes.” A great Instagram campaign can make potential customers hungry at once.
Of course, Millennials are also famed for photographing their food before eating, with 69% of such diners doing so. If an influencer is photographing your food, just imagine all that free publicity!
You cannot rely on your customers to do all the work, though. With so many potentially customers paying attention to a business’s Instagram presence, a weak profile can deter diners. The key to maintaining a successful Instagram profile for your restaurant is understanding, and utilizing, hashtags.
The Importance of Hashtags
In essence, hashtags are a shortcut to reaching the smartphone screen of a potential customer. While it’s nice to imagine that customers will search for your business by name, you may not yet be on the radar of a potential diner. This is where hashtags come in.
Hashtags are easily hyperlinked keywords that are searched by potential consumers. Many businesses and customers also use hashtags to open a dialog and discuss current and important topics. They can act as index points, categorizing your different Instagram posts for different purposes.
Instagram allows the use of up to 30 hashtags in a single post, so don’t limit yourself to just one. Experts claim that somewhere between 6 and 11 is the ideal number. This will allow you to get your message across without looking like a spam post.
Come up a with a string of hashtags, varying from the generic to the niche. You can become progressively more deliberate in your hashtag use.
How to Find Food Hashtags
Hashtags are only effective if used appropriately. Think of hashtags as being similar to a URL. If you have an easy-to-remember, relevant domain name, you will enjoy plenty of traffic. If your web address is confusing or misleading, visitors will struggle to find you.
There are many techniques you can use to find the perfect hashtags for your restaurant.
- Look at the profiles of your most successful competitors. Big chains have dedicated social media teams that have mastered the art of hashtag use. Do not just copy these. You will be lost among the noise. Take notes and inspiration from what successful businesses are doing, though.
- Find hashtags that are relevant to your business. If running a promotion, don’t just use #MoneyOff or #Discount. That could relate to anything. You need to find hashtags are specifically relate to food and the restaurant trade.
- Look for hashtags with less than 50,000 posts. 20,000 or less may also work. Any more than this and you risk your page disappearing among the sheer number of competitors.
- Identify the key restaurant influencers in your area and research what hashtags they are using. While many Instagram users regularly check business pages, individual influencers hold a great deal of power. Just ensure you are taking inspiration from a genuine influencer. Some people and businesses have continued to circumvent crackdowns on purchased – let’s be blunt and call them fake – followers.
- Understand your target audience, and what they are looking for. This means staying on top of industry trends and current online vocabulary. A hashtag that is popular today may be laughed at as old-fashioned tomorrow. What is considered, “cool” online changes constantly, so you cannot rest on your laurels.
Searching for the right hashtags can sometimes feel like a full-time job. If you’re concerned that you do not fully understand, Snappmeal are always willing to help you craft a great online presence.
Strategies to Use Food Hashtags
Once you are ready to start using hashtags for your business, you can break your approach into four categories. If you are using up to ten or eleven hashtags, make them an even mixture of each of these.
Frequent and Generic Hashtags
Examples of frequent and generic hashtags include basic, food-based terms. This could include terms like #FoodiesOfInstagram, #Foodgasm, #FoodParadise or even something like #YumYum.
These are very popular choices, which is both a blessing and a curse. These hashtags will throw you into the mix with millions of similar profiles, from all over the world. These profiles may belong to competitors with more followers, or even personal accounts of individuals sharing their home-cooked meals.
Generic hashtags can be a foot in the door, especially when coupled with a great piece of photography. They will not help you gain an audience alone, though. You may always combine generic hashtags with more specific counterparts.
Many diners, especially non-locals, may be looking for location-based hashtags. You should always include at least one of these on your posts. This will help somebody looking for a meal in your area find you.
Let’s say, for example, that you are based in Helsinki. You could use one or two hashtags like #HelsinkiEats, #FodHeavenInHel, #HelsinkiFood or #BestRestaurantInHelsinki. Naturally, if you have enough niche and unique hashtags, a simple #Helsinki will do the trick.
Niche hashtags are designed to appeal to a narrower target audience. For example, you could use hashtags such as #Vegan, #Vegeterian, #GlutenFree, #Keto or #Paleo.
You could also use a niche hashtag to advertise a world cuisine if that is your specialty. Consider #TraditionalFinnishFood, #ItalianCuisineInHelsinki or simply #VietnameseFood. These niche hashtags will ensure that you reach the eyes of your intended audience.
Naturally, though – and we hope this goes without saying – niche hashtags must be accurate. Do not use the #Vegan hashtag for a steak or burger restaurant. This will upset and alienate potential customers.
Unique and Bespoke Hashtags
Finally, we have unique and bespoke hashtags. These should be used as marketing and branding tools.
Take the British chicken restaurant Nandos, for example. The hashtag #CheekyNandos is omnipresent online. If you can brand your restaurant accordingly, you can use hashtags to build a presence.
You could also pair unique hashtags with other, more generic alternatives. Why not download Snappmeal’s free Foodie Holiday calendar, and use this to inspire your hashtag game? #ThatsTheWayTheCookieCrumbles and #FreeCookie could be paired with #FreeCookiesInHelsinki, #WorldCookieDay and more on December 4th – aka World Cookie Day.
This way, you are piggybacking on existing hashtags, while adding your own personal flourish. This will capture the imagination of customers and build your brand in their mind. Remember, more followers means greater likelihood of more customers.
If you’d like to know more about how Snappmeal can help build and manage your Instagram profile, just get in touch. We’d be delighted to show you how we can turn your profile into an essential follow for your target audience. Alternatively, if you have any tips for your fellow restaurateurs, please do leave a comment!