Recently, Instagram, a mobile app, has moved online by enabling user profiles, opening a wide array of marketing possibilities for restaurants. Instagram is a popular social media app that stylizes photos taken on mobile phones and allows sharing between friends and the public. Instagram takes a normal mobile phone photograph and transforms it into the appearance of a vintage photograph, enhancing the image’s personality. Previously, users had been restricted to accessing Instagram through their phones’ mobile app, but that changed in the last few weeks. Instagram launched profiles accessible online, providing a much easier way to navigate Instagram (although it is not 100% user-friendly yet). The profile URLs are So Gourmet Marketing’s one is

Instagram was recently purchased by Facebook, and their profiles look eerily like Facebook timeline, only that you are limited to images. Like Facebook, you have a banner across the top. It appears when you reach 7 images. You do not have direct control over the banner, although it orders the photos based on the chronology of your last 7 images. Below you have a rather bland arrangement of photos. In the future, it is likely to become a more refined format.

But of most importance to restaurants, Instagram has some special characteristics that suggest it may be a new front for online restaurant marketing.

Instagram Over Pinterest, Stories Over Pretty

Instagram is about photos that tell a story. In contrast to Pinterest, which features professional quality photos, Instagram images benefit from being more “real” or candid. Yes, the ability to stylize (tints and borders) of the photos compensates for some of the shortcomings of mobile phone cameras, but rarely do Instagram photos take your breath away.  Most restaurants cannot and will not produce material good enough for Pinterest on a routine basis. The standards are just too high for anyone without expertise or practice.

Normally, a restaurant only has so many professional photographs. If a restaurant had a sizable marketing budget, then that restaurant could consider building a strong presence on Pinterest, but almost all restaurants cannot spare that kind of money. You need no budget with Instagram only a willingness to key an eye out for things that are visually interesting. So what photos do you take for Instagram?

Tell Your Restaurant Story in Photos

A photo that tells a story is not about present an object that is desirable as much as presenting an experience that is desirable (even though it may have an object in it). If you are old enough, think of Instagram like the photos we used to take with Polaroids and the fun involved in that.So it does not need to be a perfect visual composition.

What is most important is that the person who views the photo relates to it. The realism of Instagram photos draws them into wanting to be there, doing or seeing the same thing.The stylization adds to that, providing an alternative reality, a cooler reality, that your customers wants to be a part of. But it has to be coordinated with your brand. Each restaurant gives a different experience, expressed through different objects.

What To Take Photos Of

Instagram is an excellent tool for engagement, especially with online profiles. With your own Instagram account, you can give a kind of visual diary of your restaurant. Often the best way to do that taking photos for Instagram that go behind the scenes. These photos make ordinary things take on a heightened importance, like say a photo of a crate of finished wine bottles. But it can be a dish, especially if there is something special about it, like it can barely fit on the plate.  Remember that Instagram is more casual, and though supposed to visually appealing, you shouldn’t be shy in giving an accurate look into what happens everyday at your restaurant.

How To Incorporate Instagram and Create Content

A restaurateur can take photos on a daily basis and/or encourage staff members to take photos. Staff members may really enjoy taking a photograph here and there, but set a limit as people can get carried away by it. Of course, you want to set up clear guidelines and may not want your staff members to post photos without approval. Nonetheless, there are easy ways to delegate this to trusted members of your staff. Also, down the road, the photos from Instagram may serve as content on other social media and your blog (but your website should be kept exclusively filled with professional photographs). Additionally, you may want to add some personal elements that humanize you the owner while not being the center of attention.

Additional Customer Interaction

You can take it one step further and find customers who took photos in your restaurant and posted it on Instagram. Although you may have not noticed it, customers probably are taking photos in your restaurant for Instagram and sharing them with your friends. It is a perfect time to start up a conversation and build a deeper relationship with the customer. Complementing these photos is a good way to show that you appreciate his or her business and pay attention to their experiences over many different formats. Frequently, customers tag these photos and often they share them on Facebook and Twitter along with Instagram. Instagram seems to be in the process of expanding the search capabilities online, and Instagram is likely to have a sense of community like other social media.

Instagram is poised to become an influential piece of the puzzle in online restaurant marketing. With profiles, Instagram suddenly gives a restaurant the opportunity to set an identity and gives it a launch pad for increased engagement with customers. As Facebook’s take over becomes more evident, Instagram will surely deserve the attention of the marketing-savvy restaurant owner.