No matter who you are, where you’re from, or what kind of restaurant you’re running, you’ve probably had to face the facts: social media is not going away, and not only that, it’s a huge part of running a business in this century.

Maybe you felt like you could skirt the issue without addressing it, or post something on Facebook once or twice a year to keep minimal attention on your account. But at some point, you’re ready to acknowledge that that isn’t going to work for you. People share bad experiences much more often than they share good experiences, and if you’re at least online and available, you can be there to alleviate some of the issues when people are sharing a bad experience they had.

But even more than that, you can actively use social media to help increase your business, brand awareness, brand loyalty, and customer base. Of course, there are the obvious ways of doing so; making amazing food and serving it to your customers with a winning experience will always get you a positive image on social media, but there are other things you can do above and beyond that to increase your presence even more.

This week, we’ll focus on Instagram, which is a subset of Facebook dedicated to pictures. Take care to remember you want your posts to be share-worthy and interesting. Posting nonsense for the sake of getting something up is not going to help you in the long run.

Note: we recommend using a business Instagram account, rather than your personal Instagram account. Creating a business account is very simple; simply create a new Instagram account, go to settings, click “Switch to Professional Account,” answer a few brief relevant questions about your business (like industry and contact), and you’re set.

Showcase what makes your restaurant famous.

You need something that makes your restaurant unique. Whether it’s a vibe, a wall with historical pictures, a statue, a competition, or a person, get the word out. Take pictures of your customers with your claim to fame, and post them on Instagram (be sure to tag everyone involved, including your business, with their permission!). As the popularity of your posts increases, so will the trickle of people coming to see what all the hubbub is about. In fact, they’ll come take their own photos, and spread the word on their own. Toss out a witty caption and you’re off to the races. When your physical location – or some part of it – is share-worthy, it’s much easier to draw people in.

Feature a dish or special.

Food can be so very appealing. The right picture can trigger memories of smells and emotions. It can make you salivate. Taking a picture of a specific dish on your menu can make people hungry and put you in their minds at the same time. It can make people think, “Hey, I want to eat that!” More importantly, they may want to share or comment on it, and if you can get people involved, once again, your post will be good to go. Even better, an Instagram board full of delicious photos can make even those who have never been to your restaurant want to try a dish.

Post for special events or hours of operation.

Changing your menu for the holidays? Hosting a local singing group? Whatever you’re doing, let people know. Many local communities are full of fun activities that are not well-attended simply because people don’t know they’re happening. Give enough warning that your customers can make plans and be at your restaurant to enjoy the fun.

Closing early for a family emergency? Did the power go out in your building and you need to close? These are also things you should be posting. Keeping customers informed will always be appreciated. In fact, that kind of thing could keep them anticipating when you’ll reopen! Either way, at least they won’t be disappointed if they drive all the way out to your location only to find that you’re closed. That can leave a bad taste in someone’s mouth.

Offer appropriate humor.

A pun – even a groan-worthy dad joke – can make people smile and remind them that your business is run by actual human beings with actual emotions. Good captions are gold, and combining the perfect funny caption with a delicious meal will make your post memorable. The more memorable it is, the more likely people are to share it. Eliciting positive emotions in your Instagram posts will make people think of your business fondly.

Use hashtags.

Hashtags let people easily find you, your posts, and similar likes. You can get your food and restaurant firmly associated with a group or idea using hashtags. #food has been used nearly 400 million times, for example. It’s one of the most popular hashtags that exist on Instagram.

Of course, you don’t want to dump every possible hashtag onto every post. It is tempting to drop all of the most popular hashtags on your post to reach the greatest number of people, but beware – you also run the risk of your post getting lost and never seen in all the other posts using the same hashtags. Instead, use discretion, thinking about what might get you the kind of attention you’re looking for. Consider something slightly more specific, like #vegantacos or #cheesypizza or anything that will get your food grouped into a relevant conglomerate where interested people can find your posts quickly. If you’re wondering how to find appropriate hashtags, use Instagram explore to see what hashtags are trending and how many posts use specific hashtags.

Instagram recommends 3-5 hashtags per post, but we currently recommend using more than that in order to increase reach and engagement on your post.

Conclusion

Instagram is viewed by millions of people, people who go out to eat, order in, and share with their friends and family. It’s convenient, easy, and very helpful. It’s also quick; snap a photo with your phone, post, and you’re done! And, since food is photogenic and can incite scent memory, you’ll definitely want to take advantage of this social media option!

Don’t forget: If you’re feeling busy and understaffed (who isn’t?), Reachify can help take care of phone automations so you have plenty of time to focus on your social media accounts! Find out more here.