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The Importance of Social Media for Restaurants

I live in Boston, which, if you'll permit me to make up a statistic, has a higher density of college students than probably most american cities. There are 60 colleges in Boston alone, not to speak of Cambridge, Newton, Brookline, Somerville...

The point is there's a lot of young people, and I think it's pretty safe to say that young people use social media more than previous generations. Bah Humbug, I know, social media is a waste of time, it's frivolous and narcissistic and you're too far behind to catch up now anyway, right?

Excuses! Look at those millennials again and keep those Scrooge McDuckian glasses on, what do you see? Dollar signs. Being a foodie is trendy, young people go to quaint or trendy restaurants and photograph their food and post it to social media. There it is again. They quite possibly went to that specific restaurant and photographed that specific food because they saw someone else post a pic there, and that person wasn't you because you have neglected your social media! You've missed out on free advertising!

Alright so you're convinced, you admit it: you need an Instagram. But alas! You don't understand how to use it so you think your'e off the hook. And that's fine, but I'm telling you you're missing out.

Alright so you downloaded Instagram, so now what? You need content. Now This is where a professional food photographer (oh! that's me!) could be helpful. I know from experience that restaurant's have some photos lying around from their own photography and from photographers who came in to shoot for Uber, Grubhub, Doordash, etc. But those'll only get you so much mileage. That said, the golden rule of Instagram is don't post it unless its worth posting, i.e quality over quantity. If you spam people with posts 6 times a day they're going to get annoyed and unfollow you. You need to be that special treat that pops up in their feed every few days. This way they'll be eager for more.

You should share a mix of more personal posts and posts displaying your mouthwatering food. The ratio is ideally about 60 percent food porn and 40 percent personal, but you'll get a feel for it, trust your instincts.

Hashtags. There's so much pop culture surrounding hashtags now that if you don't understand them that they probably seem like some kind of esoteric millennial super technology. Really, they're no more complex than tabs in a filing cabinet. Lets say that filing cabinet is all of Instagram, and inside it are millions of photos. The hashtags are like subdividers into which those photos are sorted. For instance you took a photo of an ice cream cone in Boston, and now you want to hashtag it. The hashtag #bostonfoodphotography will be filled with photos of food photography in Boston. To place a photo in that section, all you need to do is write #bostonfoodphotography somewhere in that post and voila! it's there. The thing that makes hashtags different is that a photo can be in more than one at a time. That photo is also of ice cream, so add #icecream, then add #boston. Some hashtags you'd need to know about since they aren't obvious, like #bostonfoodies, #bostoneats. Look at other food photos on Instagram to get some ideas.

The reason you should use hashtags is it will then be displayed to anyone who is looking through #bostonfoodphotography if they are looking soon after you post, and that person my like what they see and follow you, and then tell they're friends, and on, and on.

An Instagram account is just one of many tools in your online toolbox, though it's probably your strongest when it comes to outreach. I'll deal with Yelp in successive posts, I hope this has been helpful.

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