Instagram’s main purpose seems to be showcasing pictures of our meals. I know one of my first pictures was of a scrumptious berry torte my boss brought into work. Before all of the social media options, Juan Sanchez Cotan’s painting Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber was probably the only food-related art or picture you could identify.
And it’s not just food—everything about a person’s life is now on display on social media. Menulog, in their article, “How Social Media Is Changing The Way We Eat,” commented on the all-encompassing presence social media has in our life.
“The popularity of social media networks like Facebook and Twitter continues to skyrocket, and so does the concept that everything we do—everyone we meet, every party we attend, every movie we see—needs to be uploaded and shared with our Internet friends. Mobile technology has made it incredibly easy to document every moment of our lives, and the looming invasion of wearable technology will only make it easier.”
A 2013 survey from news.com.au found that 54 percent of 18-24 year olds have taken a picture of their food while eating out—39 percent go on to post it online. Food has always been a core part of socialization in all parts of the world, and dining out in its first incarnation was a way for people to show they could afford meals prepared outside of the home. It serves a similar purpose on social media—Menulog and a strategist at a consulting company cite it as a currency that can be traded online for social status.
“Social capital is an enormous component of people sharing their meals over social media,” says Matthew Cox, lead strategist at Dialogue Consulting, a company specialising in social and digital media strategy. “The goal is to strike up envy in other people and make them think, ‘Wow, this person had a cool experience.’ It’s about being seen to be a person who has exciting experiences.”
The Marketing Perspective
So what does this mean for your restaurant? Encouraging the use of social media in your establishment could bring great publicity to your eatery. Other people may want to be a part of the “exciting experiences” in which your guests participate and share.
If your food is a feast for the eye as well as the palette, social media is the perfect place for your guests to share (at no cost to you, I might add) their meals. Word of mouth is a valuable tool for any business, especially a local restaurant.
For food bloggers like Thang Ngo, the author behind the popular Australian food blog Noodlies, finding trendy places and sharing their food before anyone else is his passion. But he too believes that there is a competitive aspect to finding the next big thing, and that it is, in part, linked to social status.
Encouraging your diners to share their meal experiences for some sort of incentive—for example, if they check in on Facebook they get a free appetizer, or if they share a picture of their meal tagged with your restaurant’s name they get 10 percent off of their bill—is a great way to drive business and do a relatively low-cost marketing campaign.
But be careful: encouraging the use of social media in and around your restaurant and brand could also encourage negative press. Make sure you have a plan in place to deal with this backlash if it occurs. Manage this by having an employee or two check social media throughout the day, answering to any complaints with a heartfelt apology and the offer to make whatever was wrong right.
Social media can have a place in your restaurant, and with it’s overwhelming presence in the world, it probably should. Prepare and research before you institute it, and reap the rewards from people sharing pictures of your delicious food.
Menulog is the largest online takeaway website in Australia. Their website makes organising a takeaway lunch or dinner simple with thousands of restaurants online to order delivery from. See their full blog post here.