marketing strategy

Get the Picture - An Epicure's Guide to Instagram

Instagram Like an Epicure

Whether you love it, hate it, are thoroughly confused by it, or have never even heard of it…trust us, you need to be on Instagram.

Restaurant Marketing on Instagram

With new social media platforms appearing every month, there can be a strong temptation to ignore the new arrivals and focus on the networks you already understand. Unfortunately, if Instagram is not currently in your roster, we are here to tell you it should be. Fortunately, we are also here to ease the transition. As Instagram newbies ourselves, Epicure has been swotting up on Instagram best practice – as well as figuring out what works for us – and this week we will be sharing our new-found wisdom.

The human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text. Moreover, we remember 80% of what we see but only 20% of what we read. These two facts combined show very clearly why Instagram is a marketing tool brands cannot afford to ignore. That and the fact that Instagram has half a billion users every month, of course.

The secret to its popularity lies in its simplicity – all you need is a good eye and a set of opposable thumbs – and a good eye is not to be underestimated. Steve Jobs understood one key idea when it came to making computers something people wanted in their homes: people like things to look good. Instagram is where people come to work out – and judge – the visual identity of a business and decide whether they like the look of your business.

Restaurant Marketing on Instagram

Of course, it is a little more complicated than whether or not you post beautiful pictures. Anyone who has just got to grips with Instagram no doubt threw up their hands in despair at the recent introduction of Instagram Stories. A direct threat to rival app Snapchat, the new feature (which allows users to post videos and photos which disappear after 24 hours) marks a new step in digital marketing, one which is less stylised, if not less visual. What Snapchat did, which Instagram had previously been lacking, was allow people a peek behind the scenes, into the lives of the people they followed, in a more raw and authentic way. Whereas in Instagram you create a visual archive, Snapchat merely offers a brief glimpse - think snap-shots rather than photoshoots. Now with Instagram introducing Stories… you can do both!

The key to doing both bits well is to act like a real person. Young people have become better than ever at ignoring traditional ads…so stop trying to sell to them, and simply engage with them! Use Stories to allow your audience a glimpse of the funny, silly, unedited side of your business and, if you don’t have one… perhaps you’re doing it wrong!

Top Instagram Tips

1. Do your research 

Before you start posting, get to know the app a little. Find accounts similar to yours and see what they are doing. Take a look at some of your target audience and get a feel for what they like.

 2. Hashtags

Here is where all that research you did will come in handy! Find out which hashtags are popular for your industry (a good app which can help you is TagsForLikes) and use them. There are pros and cons to using very popular hashtags – on the one hand it gets you in front of thousands of people, on the other your content risks drowning amongst all the other posts out there using that tag. Best thing to do is use a combination of both – use some less popular, more specific tags, and some more popular and generic ones. And never use tags which have nothing to do with your post. Big no-no. Also consider coming up with a hashtag for your brand and making the most of trending hashtags like #ThrowbackThursday.

3. Collaborate

In the words of Vanilla Ice – Stop, Collaborate and Listen. Actually, that’s pretty sound advice for social media as a whole. Find out who people are listening to –  brand influencers like bloggers and popular accounts – and collaborate with them! Let them take over your account for a day or initiate some sort of shared project. Equally important – collaborate with your audience! Comment on their pictures to start a conversation and re-share great posts, turning your customers into brand ambassadors.

4. Think visually 

Instagram is all about the way things look, so have an aesthetic idea in mind before you start. High quality pictures are a MUST. Also, it is worthwhile having a distinctive visual style – picking a specific filter can help with this, as can including other aspects of your branding into images, through logos or colour schemes.

5. Have Fun 

The most important thing of all! Social media may not come naturally to you, but it is designed to be something people enjoy – if you are doing it out of duty, then you’re not really getting into the true spirit of it!

 

A few of our favourite accounts

1.       A Pair of Dirty Pigs @apairofdirtypigs – Great pictures of food – not super-stylised – a mix of restaurant pictures and food they cook at home. Restaurant food pics come with short review of dish plus price point and mark out of 10. Great concept, easy to get on board with.

Epicure Digital Marketing's Favourite Instagram Accounts

2.       Sauce Communications @saucecomms – A lesson in how to do Instagram marketing…for a marketing agency! Account is all about letting their clients’ work shine. Beautiful pictures, posted regularly.

Epicure Digital Marketing's Favourite Instagram Accounts

3.       Eat About @eatabout – Excellent use of their logo in the top corner of every picture. Great mix of pictures – finished dishes, dishes in progress, chefs, chefs’ homes, and raw ingredients. Every aspect of the business represented visually.

Epicure Digital Marketing's Favourite Instagram Accounts

4.       Londoner on the Go @londoneronthego – Quite simply… just beautiful pictures of food! As well as sweeping pictures of London. High quality but all with the same personal style, as if taken on a phone – feels intimate and authentic.

Epicure Digital Marketing's Favourite Instagram Accounts

And while we've got your attention - why not head over to our Instagram account and say hi!

Constructing Identity Through Social Media Engagement

Nourish Your Reader's Identity - Get a New Customer

Cultural studies’ criticism of social media – and all media forms – is based on the assumption that what we read, watch and listen to has a profound influence on our understanding of the world and ourselves as individuals. Of particular importance for marketers – in the restaurant sector or otherwise – is the fact that Britain is a capitalist society in which spending money and consuming are among the more significant ways we unconsciously seek to develop our own identities.

Consequently, the role of the restaurant marketer is clear – to provide one’s audience with the content through which individuals can identify, affirm and evolve their identities and, eventually, book a table.

Coffee Lovers adore Kipferl

As straightforward as the marketer’s brief has become, using social media to create meaningful, identity-influencing engagement is far less simple.

A mainstream view maintained by cultural theorists is that meaning is created in the text, or in our case, the social media content. On face value this is an extremely reasonable assumption, given that any decent content will have a message and, provided it is written in a language understood by the reader, this message would likely be understood.

This textualist approach says that we are socialised through the media and are therefore passive – but conscious – victims to its message.

Consuming Identity Changing Media

To put this in perspective, if a formidable food critic like Jay Rayner were to tweet a positive review for a new restaurant, a texualist would argue that any conscious engagement with this content would result in the reader viewing the restaurant in question as an attractive place to dine. This reader may even book a table and begin a word-of-mouth campaign that continues Rayner’s praise.

While I do not have the readership figures, it is clear that someone like Rayner wields a lot of power over his audience and that when he – or another restaurant critics – speaks (or tweets), a portion of readers will listen and oblige in one form or another. If this were not at least partially true, traditional restaurant PR would have very little to offer.

And yet, it is clear that many of us can read Rayner’s tweets and have no problem reading them critically – either disagreeing (even if we have no business doing so!) or simply by resisting a message’s logical conclusion of visiting the restaurant for a meal. Therefore, it is not wholly plausible that we are passive, non-critical victims to any media message with which we engage.

Evolving Identities

The other side of cultural theory suggests that content is not where meaning is created – instead, it is in the recipient of that content – the reader.

This ethnographic approach argues that the words that combine to make one of Rayner’s tweets would offer their reader little – if any – identity-influencing meaning. Instead, it is the reader who superimposes a meaning onto the text, or social media content.

Semiotics and Marketing

Based on this theory, the reader produces meaning with the text by being the kind of person who pursues interest in restaurant reviews on Twitter. The reader may even identify with Rayner’s no-nonsense, quirky approach to restaurant criticism, or even aspire to become like the man himself.

Perhaps controversially, the ethnographic approach would argue that the reader does not have to ever do anything but intend to engage with Rayner’s criticism for impactful meaning to be produced. That’s right, the reason the tweets cannot produce meaning is because either the reader never actually reads Rayner’s social media content and/or because any reading is done in such a disinterested fashion that the content’s meaning cannot be properly absorbed.

The conclusion of this general theory is that merely by identifying as the kind of person who likes and listens to Jay Rayner allows one to project an idealised identity as a foodie and savant of the London restaurant scene.

How to construct an "Outdoors-y" identity. Show the world you getting back to Nature with your iPhone.

How to construct an "Outdoors-y" identity. Show the world you getting back to Nature with your iPhone.

This is a compelling theory that definitely helps to explain how we use social media content to consolidate our own identities, and yet, it has a serious flaw – this approach completely fails to account for our subconscious minds or deep-seated ideological configurations that the media – including a Rayner tweet – can tap into to impact the identity of consumers.

To understand properly how to create quality social media marketing content that helps one’s audience establish and develop individual identities, we require a prism that accepts that the text does transmit meaning to its reader, though perhaps not always consciously and not always the intended message. Equally, we need to account for what is it about content that allows us to make a bold statement about our identity without engaging with it critically or even at all.

Idealised identities on social media

The theory that we will use to make sense of this – which informs much of the work we do at Epicure Digital Marketing – is called semiotics. Through semiotics, we will see how social media marketing makes use of a range of cultural objects that act as words in a greater language. Not only do we speak this language fluently, we can make a great deal of sense from it without even thinking.

Epicure Digital Marketing’s analysis of semiotics, identity and social media marketing… Coming soon!

Food Reviews - What's the Point?

Professional Restaurant Critics, Bloggers or Review Sites?

With thousands of restaurants in London alone, choosing where to eat can be a daunting task. When all else fails, you can always turn to food critics – but are they the people to listen to?

When it comes to engaging with culture, I don’t always seem to get it quite right. Many is the time a film has been panned by the critics, only for me to love it upon watching, and more than once have I gone to highly-acclaimed restaurant to leave disappointed. My belief is that only an extremely silly person would believe that there is such a thing as an absolute right or wrong opinion when it comes to consuming things – be it films or food. So what are the critics there for?

London Restaurant Marketing

The Guardian food writer Jay Rayner believes it is less about the restaurant and more about the review itself – “Some people do use [food reviews] as a guide, but the vast majority read them for vicarious pleasure or displeasure”. I am one of those people. I love nothing more than curling up with the Sunday papers and reading about the fanciest or most fashionable restaurant that week. But food reviewers do much more than that, they give you a way to understand the food and teach you a language you can use to describe it. The critics can tell you why the food is good, what it is about each ingredient which adds something to the dish as a whole. Last week I mentioned that egg added richness to a pizza – a truth I always knew, but hadn’t previously been able to explain. Critics shape what we already think into more coherent, eloquent sentences.

Food blogger

Critics also have access to new restaurants long before us mere mortals do, and are exposed to food trends and sure-fire successes far earlier on. If you want to understand where food culture is heading, they are the people to follow. If you disagree with one food critic, that is one thing, but if ten highly-respected reviewers agree on a restaurant, it should give you a good idea of its worth. We asked Joanne Gould, the blogger behind Jo Eats London whether she thought food critics were a good gastronomic barometer, “Yes and no. If there is widespread panning or applause then yes, but you will always get people disagreeing. Plus, it is kind of more fun to go make up your own mind”.

Food blogger

This is where food bloggers come in. These are the halfway point between your Gran and Giles Coren – people who know about food and actively engage with it, but who do not write for a national magazine. They are – for the most part - yet to achieve the semi-celebrity achieved by the critic. Successful food bloggers often start out like anyone else– looking for good places and tasty things to eat – and they form a knowledgeable food community. Blogger Her Favourite Food says she finds most of her new restaurants through other food bloggers, “you build up a relationship with them through following them for a while, so in time you realise you agree with and trust”.  Herein lies the rub however – although they may not have achieved the same levels of fame as the critics, bloggers still wield a considerable amount of influence in the restaurant world. If you are a successful blogger with a good following, restaurants may seek you out, offering you free meals in exchange for good publicity and compromising the review’s reliability.

London Chef

And so we come to the trickiest reviews of all – Trip Advisor. A restaurant’s best friend or worst nightmare, Trip Advisor has taken a great deal of heat in recent years for not doing enough to prevent fraudulent reviews, spawning the twitter campaign #noreceiptnoreview. The platform is set up so that anyone can say anything they like about the business and reviews will only be taken down if it is very clear that guidelines have been violated (the reviewer is abusive in their post, or never actually went to the restaurant, for example).

Trip Advisor

So what use, if any, does Trip Advisor have for potential customers? It can be a perfect window into customer service. I don’t mean by reading that Mabel30954893 gave the service 1 star (Mabel30954893 could have had a bad day, perhaps she got caught in the rain or got a flat tyre and took it out on the waiter), but by reading how the management responds. If they respond rudely (or not at all), and you can see that they do so in other reviews, that is a fairly good measure of how much they value their customers.

London Restaurant Marketing

So, what can we take from all of this? Essentially that Trip Advisor should give you an idea of customer service, food bloggers are helpful insofar as you find one you relate to and trust, and critics are there to entertain, to give you the tools to talk about and understand food, and – at times – to capture and translate the zeitgeist. As Rayner put it, “mine is a writing job not an eating job. Either you like what I write and find it authoritative or you don't. Simple as that.”

What is SEO and Why Do You Need it?

Epicure Digital Marketing Breaks SEO Down

If you run your own business, chances are you are approached on a daily basis by people who have a tool, product, or service that you “desperately” need. One of these is probably SEO. There can be a certain anxiety for business owners when it comes to services like this – you are proud of your business and you want it to succeed, but you are no website expert, and you are not even sure you know what SEO is. Do you really need it? Or is someone simply trying to sell you something?

To help, this week we are demystifying SEO.

Epicure explains SEO

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and, very basically, means ensuring that your website is high up on a search. Any search engine – let’s say Google – will look through all websites and work out which fit specific search terms. The more relevant a website is to a search, the higher up on the list it will be. Search engines tend to be clever and know how to examine a website’s copy, images, location etc. to determine how relevant it truly is to the search. This is why a Google search for “adorable baby kittens” will turn up pictures of adorable baby kittens, and not a second hand tyre shop trying to attract more visitors.

Epicure's SEO Kittens

Optimising your website for search engines will mean your website is more likely to be seen - this will attract more visitors, and these visitors can be turned into customers.

SEO – Then and Now

In the past, the way to show that your business was, for example, an Italian restaurant in East London, was to fill your website with the keywords that would be used by the people looking for businesses like yours. This could mean repeating the words “Italian”, “Restaurant” and “London” several times on each page. This also applied to the structure of your page, so instead of labelling your menu page “Menu”, you might label it “Italian Restaurant Menu”.

SEO Improves Restaurant Marketing

Thankfully things have moved on since those days – and the Google bots have gotten smarter than ever – so smart, indeed, that they can essentially mimic human reading patterns. This means that instead of looking for 18 instances of the word “Italian”, they will instead be scanning for content which genuinely relates to Italian food.

They will also be looking for content which is updated and changed regularly, to make sure that your website is still live. Every time new content is added, Google’s bots have to come back and “crawl” your page again, giving additional weight to your website.

SEO Improves Restaurant Marketing

Do I really need SEO?

The short answer is yes. Google is the world’s largest marketplace, and to miss out on an opportunity to rank well would be a mistake. However, this does not mean you should jump on board with the first SEO “specialist” who gets in touch – optimal SEO work can be both simpler and wider-reaching than that. Dan Zarrella, the author of The Science of Marketing began his career as an SEO specialist and is keen to point out that SEO is constantly shifting and changing. In actual fact, “you probably don’t need more SEO help. Most businesses would benefit much more from increasing content quantity and quality.”  

Search Engine Optimisation with Epicure Digital Marketing

How to improve your SEO in 5 easy steps

1. Optimise your copy

This does not mean throwing in keywords left, right, and centre - but it will never hurt to use them. Do you cook authentic Italian food? Then mention it! But back up this assertion with pictures of said food and further elaborations, and always make sure your copy is well-written and clear. If it hard for a human to read (too small, flashing, white writing on light background, full of misspellings and incorrect grammar) then it will be hard for Google to read.

2.  Fool-proof your architecture

This is where an SEO specialist comes in. Find out what keywords apply to you (they may not always be exactly as you would expect) and use them not only in your copy, but in each webpage’s meta data, such as title tags, headers, and meta descriptions.

3. Crosslink

Essentially this means including links to other pages on your website. For example, having a link to your Menu page in the main body of your homepage. The more links you have directing people to important pages, the better their visibility.

4. Get Blogging.

Remember we mentioned updating content? Having a blog on your website is the best and easiest way to have relevant, well-written, frequently-changing content on your site, without having to re-write your copy every couple of months.

5. Backlink 

A blog will also provide quality content to share with people over social media. This is where back-linking comes in. The more inbound links to your website, from whatever source, the higher it will rank. Simple!

Google

SEO algorithms are consistently changing – in 2010 alone, Google made over 500 changes to their algorithm - that’s over one a day! Because of this, SEO can seem like a risky investment, intangible and uncertain, but if you commit to filling your website with relevant, interesting, well-written content – with just the right amount of guidance – it will make all the difference.

 

Still have some unanswered SEO questions? Get in touch and we would be happy to answer them!