“Flash, bang, wallop, what a picture, what a picture, what a photograph!” They might be words to a famous song (any Tommy Steele fans out there), but they’re also what a lot of diners now remember most about a meal out. A picture of a particular dish or bottle of wine shared on Instagram can also do wonders for a restaurant’s profile, word of mouth and long-term success. But how do you connect with the Instagram generation?
Mike Hardman, marketing manager of wholesale catering equipment retailer, Alliance Online, explains how to serve drinks and connect with the Instagram generation.
For those in the food and drink industry, millennials can be an elusive bunch. More health conscious and price-sensitive than their parents, they’ll often happily skip the booze when they’re out for a meal. They’ve also grown up in the age of trebles and Jägerbombs, making them no strangers to binging when they do indulge.
On top of all this, they’re the first generation of digital natives. You’ll rarely find a millennial without a smartphone in their pocket. This relationship with tech shapes the way the generation interacts with the world — not least though their use of social media. The challenge for restaurateurs and bar owners is how do you make your drinks offer ‘Instagrammable’.
That said considering the amount of traffic and noise there is on social media it’s a wonder anything stands out at all. Each day Facebook users are said to update their statuses 55 million times (Kissmetrics), Instagram users share 95 million photos and videos (Hootsuite), and 500 million tweets are posted (internetlivestats.com). Social media is omnipresent in an increasing number of people’s lives. And you don’t need to be under 35 to join in.
But with those numbers rising year-on-year and new platforms cropping up faster than you can say “Periscope”, it’s safe to say social media is here to stay.
Instagram means good business
The reason marketers, brands, retailers and, yes, the premium on-trade needs to understand how this new generation behaves is because it is good for business.
According to Goldman Sach’s recent survey of millennial’s buying behaviours “millennials are turning to their online networks when making purchasing decisions”. That means if a customer shares one flattering photo of your perfectly presented drinks on Instagram, it can tempt dozens of their friends and followers along to see what all the fuss is about.
Millennials are more interested in spending their hard-earned cash on “creating, sharing and capturing memories earned through experiences” than on accumulating possessions, according to recent research by Eventbrite. In short, a newsfeed full of selfies from exotic locations, videos from concerts, and photos from restaurants and bars is the new status symbol for millennials.
Serving drinks to the social media generation
As a restaurateur or bar owner, this is all great news for you. If you can create a memorable experience through your drinks menu, you’ll reap the rewards: a loyal legion of social media influencers promoting your business for you.
So, how do you serve drinks for the social media generation? First, you clearly need to keep on top of the latest drinking trends and hip and happening drinks on the back bar. This will keep you ahead of the curve so you’ve always got the latest “it” drink on the shelves. If the right person comes along and shares your selection of spirits on social media, you might well find yourself the new place to be with the Instagram crowd.
You also need to provide a great product. Perhaps more than any generation before them, millennials love trying new flavours and exotic taste combinations. If you can quench the thirst for contemporary twists on classic cocktails, international craft beers, and New World wines, you’ll quickly build up a fantastic reputation among millennials – and their social media feeds.
All about the experience
Always aim to wow your customers with an unforgettable experience. Come up with unique cocktail recipes and interesting ways to serve them, particularly the type of glassware you use. Be it in a plant pot, milk bottle or straightforward classic cocktail glass you have to do things just right to get noticed. But if you do then a customer sharing a photo of one of your head-turning cocktails on Instagram can be worth more than a thousand words of traditional advertising.
How to use your own Instagram feed
Relying on your customers to share snaps on Instagram is only one part of the equation: for the best results, you need to be savvy with your own social media pages too. Here’s just a sample of bars that are doing a great job in promoting what they do through Instagram at the moment.
The right hashtags
You might have a great image and a clever social media post, but it won’t be seen by anyone unless you tag the right people or use the best hashtags to spread it across the internet as far and wide as possible. You can keep on top of trending hashtags to capitalise on current events by using Display Purposes to find relevant hashtags for each post. To keep your posts looking clean, include your hashtags as a separate comment, which you should start with five full-stops on their own lines (which will force Instagram to collapse the comment while you still benefit from the SEO value).
What images work best on Instagram
You don’t have to be a professional photographer to take pictures that get tonnes of interaction on Instagram. Simply follow Curalate’s tips for taking images that drive engagement on Instagram. It has analysed over 8 million Instagram posts to find the most effective ones.
Key points to remember are:
- take light images with a single dominant colour and lots of texture – they will get 24% more hits than dark images.
- remember the background. You can take a close up of a glass or a bottle but ensure you have some background to the image as that will attract 29% more likes.
- what colours are the most dominant are also important. Images that have a dominance of blue in them will apparently perform 24% better than ones that are dominated by red.
- try and stick to one colour in your image as it will attract 17% more engagements than ones that have a multitude of colours in them.
- think about texture as well, so an image that shows depth and detail is going to 79% more interesting than just a flat wine label.
- selfies. Yes, they do work on Instagram but don’t just recreate your passport photo, pulling a funny face will actually get you 1,112% more interactions than just a straight smile. Sad but true.
If there’s a budding photographer on your team with a DSLR camera, make sure to take advantage of this. If not, don’t worry — smartphone cameras are so good these days you can take images with your iPhone that can pass for professional if you add a few filters.
Use Instagram as part of direct mail
Other research from Curalate finds that if you include Instagram images as part of your own website than that will help drive up your traffic as much as four times. So rather than just take straight product shots of bottles of wine and spirits, use posts from Instagram where possible of the same bottles as it shows how many other people have engaged with them. Similarly you can get seven times more traction in an email mail out if you use Instagram posts instead of normal photos.
Link to Pinterest
If you have a number of Instagram posts then why not create your own Pinterest page putting them all together. They can be a great way to show the kind of business you are in one easy page of images.
So who is doing a good job on Instagram? Here are three bars worth checking out for how they are using Instagram to really showcase what they do, but to also help create a buzz and excitement on social media about their brands.
Revolution Bars’ Instagram page is one of the best around. They do a great job of showcasing their wide range of creative cocktails with images that pique their followers’ interest and whet their appetites. Of course, given they’re one of the UK’s biggest chains, they have the budget to hire professional photographers to take top-quality images of their drinks, like the one above. But a few hours of a photographer’s time can create enough pictures to keep your social feeds updated for months, so it’s something you should consider doing if you’ve committed to taking your Instagram feed to the next level.
Another thing you can learn from Revolution Bars is how to use a call to action. In the post above, they ask users to “Hit the link in the bio to see which headlines acts pair up with our hero cocktails!”. Adding a call to action like this to every post will help convert your social media traffic into web traffic, and ultimately into paying customers.
The Botanist’s Instagram page is another great example of a bar that knows how to get the most out of social media. Make sure to take a leaf out of their book and share behind the scenes images. The Botanist is one of the businesses picked out by social media experts, AdEspresso, in its pick of the seven most effective types of images that perform well on social media.
The Alchemist has become one of the most influential style and cocktail bars in London. But it also works hard to spread what it does on social media without the budget of the likes of Revolution or The Botanist. Their images aren’t quite as high-quality as the other two brands we’ve looked at, but they more than make up for it in their mastery of Instagram SEO. As you can see from the above post, they capitalised on Manchester and Leeds’s graduation days with a timely post targeted with plenty of relevant hashtags.
The most important thing to do is just to get going and experiment. See what works best for you and which sort of images get the best responses and which hashtags did you use to generate them. After all it’s not a million miles away from Tommy Steele and the old fair ground photographers. They knew their audience. Do you?
- You can follow The Buyer on Instagram at our own feed at @TheBuyer11 where you can see our daily feed of wine bottles and labels that have caught our attention and which also feature here on The Buyer at the bottom of our home page in our “Instataste” section.