Make sure that once your business profile is up and running that you post regularly.

If you run your own restaurant business, then social media marketing is a crucial element to expanding your profile and generating interest online that will ultimately lead to conversions, in the form of traffic through the door. Instagram is a particularly useful means of engaging new and existing users, and offers a number of features that you can take advantage of to maximize returns. Here’s how you can use Instagram effectively to this end.

Operate a business profile

The business profile option on Instagram is a great option to take advantage of as you can perform additional tasks, for free, that a personal profile doesn’t allow. For example, you can get access to analytics, to see who is engaging with your profile, when, and how, and you can also include a CTA (call to action) button that you could use for users to make bookings directly on your site, for example.

Post engaging content, and regularly

Make sure that once your business profile is up and running that you post regularly (if not daily, then a few times a week) and that the content that you include is relevant and seasonal, meaning that you link to important events during the year such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and Halloween.

“Show pictures of your food, of course, but also share recipe ideas, and links to other food and drink-related sources that you think would be relevant to your audience. It’s all about building up engagements, and that’s what quality content, focused on the bigger picture, does,” suggests Annie Marks, a restaurant marketer at Writinity and LastMinuteWriting.

Run contests

This is a great idea for engaging your audience, especially when you have built it up a bit. Offer free meals, or discounts as the result of contests that you run on Instagram, which will absolutely attract new users, too. And the secret here is to encourage user-generated content, so you can get followers to send recipe ideas, or take their own food pics, with the best, as selected by you, winning the free meal in your restaurant. Getting the users themselves to make the content is a win/win scenario as your account is generating plentiful content, but you don’t have to spend time doing it.

Use hashtags

This links to keeping your relevant, as you can take advantage of what is trending online to bring users to your account. For example, there may be a food fair in your city, or a healthy-eating campaign. Piggyback onto these events and the interests of users by incorporating hashtags in your content posts.

Partner with food bloggers

You may have heard of influencers—online personalities whose accounts attract high numbers of followers. Getting one of these bloggers, or influencers, to mention your restaurant could be a great move, as you are tapping into that person’s audience, and their point of view is valuable. However, please note that it will cost you something in terms of a fee, or free meals etc. It may very well be worth it. Just a word of caution here, make sure that you find the blogger/influencer that fits your profile, so you are accessing the right audience, so do a little research first.

Respond to comments

This is an old-fashioned way of doing things, akin to replying to fan mail, and it may be a little time-consuming, but it works. Keep a regular handle on what people are saying about you in the comments and replies, and try to respond as often and as sincerely as you can. That means thanking people who praise your restaurant, and then also responding to criticism in a friendly manner.

“When it comes to criticism, reply openly to say that you are sorry that the user feels that way, and then make the conversation private so you can deal with it out of the public eye. The point is that all of your users can see that you are sincerely trying to make things better, even if, ultimately, there is nothing you can do for that user. Don’t make it a public argument whatever you do,” warns Tom Zeolli, a manager at DraftBeyond and ResearchPapersUK.

Use Instagram Stories

This is a feature which you use to post several images or videos to form part of a story that runs like a slideshow at the top of your profile, that runs like a slideshow. It will disappear at the end of the day, but importantly it will appear on users’ timelines, and gives them the option to swipe up which can take them directly to your webpage.

Use paid ads

And if you are feeling particularly able, then you can pay for Instagram Ads which will appear at the top of user profiles to give you maximum exposure. Of course, you can also use Ads to reach non-users too, and these are targeted depending on your requested demographics. This is the ultimate way of marketing for new users on Instagram, but of course comes at an added cost.

Professional writer, marketing, management and recruitment expert Ashley Halsey can be found contributing her business insights at LuckyAssignments and GumEssays, where she has established her reputation as an erudite and intelligent observer of marketing trends.

Expert Takes, Feature, Marketing & Promotions