Unlike Yelp and Foursquare, most restaurants ignore other popular social media that relate directly with restaurants. When devising online promotions, they don’t include them in their online marketing plans.  As social media like Foodspotting, epicurious or AllRecipes receive less mainstream media attention, they slip under a restaurant’s radar, even though many of the restaurant’s customers and potential customers may use them and find them enjoyable or even addicting. For restaurants, ignoring these social media are foolish since they are dedicated to food and have the potential to get a much bigger return on investment.

The most glaring example is Foodspotting, a website where diners take pictures of a dish (on their phone) and post them for others to see. Many of these pictures are quite good and show how much customers like sharing pictures of food. Besides, don’t pictures of food line your website? In fact, Foodspotting has been downloaded by a million people, mostly living in urban areas. These people are passionate about food and passionate at spreading the word.

Foodspotting sets out to show restaurants in a positive light. There is none of the grading that you find at Yelp or Citysearch. Customers are showing off the food they love and trying to present in the most appetizing and beautiful way possible.

Of course, Foodspotting is normally the playground of foodies. Foodies (although they might write in depth and sometimes critical reviews on Chowhound and Yelp) do go to restaurants more often and do have significantly more influence online as they know much more about dining options. As Foodspotting forces positive responses, you recruit/activate the foodies who love your restaurant to promote it and perhaps draw other customers into taking pictures of every dish on your menu.

Even though Foodspotting doesn’t have direct services for restaurants (they will soon let you claim your restaurant’s page), you can use the pictures provided as a promotional tool. Indeed like Foursquare, Foodspotting is free (for the time being) and seems more interest in popularizing their service. So here are just some basic ideas for promotions based on Foodspotting:

Photo Contest

Foodspotting is prime real estate to build online promotions. A good idea is just to run a contest for whatever customer contributes the best new picture on Foodspotting. Pictures are a source of pride for Foodspotting users and a sense of competition comes along with that. With a good incentive and the prospect of a challenge, even customers who haven’t used Foodspotting or used it rarely may suddenly want to participate. You will need to promote it of course, through Facebook, Twitter and your website. This also sets up the potential for being interactive, like allowing your customers to vote on the finalists. Along with some kind of gift card as a prize (maybe for top 3 finishers), you may throw in the prospect of the picture being featured on your website.

Foodspotting Gallery: The Visual Loyalty Program

Another promotion idea is that after customers take pictures of a certain number of dishes (like every panini you on your menu), they receive a freebie. Essentially, this is a repackaged loyalty program that’s a lot more fun than punch cards. Every picture for Foodspotting that a customer takes, the more that customer becomes invested in your restaurant.

Facebook Postings

You should encourage customers to post pictures of your dishes on your wall as these will likely pictures will find their way up on customer walls . Some may not be very good, but since it is of your dishes and not the customers, it may increase the curiosity of customers to come back and try a particularly good-looking dish. Also, if a customer asks for a dish suggestion online, Foodspotting pictures gives you a library of photographs to show off.

Twitter and Beyond

Twitter is becoming more and more visual with links to pictures. Surely, some type of integration with Foodspotting is inevitable, and you should promote your Foodspotting page through Twitter as well as encouraging your customers. Setting up a promotion may be possible, but Twitter is hard to track (and gives the chance of cheating).

Foodspotting offers a range of possibilities for restaurants, especially for restaurants in urban areas. Many of these restaurants would be insane not to court Foodspotting users to create excitement around their brand and customer engagement.

If anyone has any additional promotional ideas with Foodspotting, please post them.