In the culinary world, the power of Instagram is increasing at a rapid rate. Diners are now more than ever scrolling feeds and double tapping to decide what delicious dishes and Insta-worthy atmospheres are worthy of their money. With over 300 million daily users to date, Instagram boasts brand engagement that is 10 times higher than Facebook, 54 times higher than Pinterest and 84 times higher than Twitter. When it comes to public relations for restaurants, organizing an Instagram event is one of the most effective ways to generate buzz and grow the business. Our LHG team of food-lovers have mastered the simple steps to hosting a successful culinary Instagram event and because sharing is caring, we have decided to reveal our winning recipe with you all:
When planning a culinary Instagram event, a catchy, creative theme is always the first step to ensuring guests will want to attend. It’s not enough to just invite a group in to try a sampling of the restaurant’s cocktails or cuisine. With dozens of invitations sitting in their inbox every week, the top social media influencers must feel the event is interesting, unique and fun to prompt accepting- an experience they couldn’t get if they were to book a reservation themselves. Newness is key to grabbing their attention so work with the restaurant to determine if there are any new cocktails, dishes, happy hour specials or renovations worthy of celebrating. If your restaurant errs more on the side of tradition than trendy and newness isn’t an ingredient in their pantry, get creative and research a food holiday that may pair well with a menu offering (TheNibble.com), invite another local chef or mixologist to guest chef/bartend for the evening or capitalize on a current food trend (#TacoTuesday, #ThirstyThursday, #WineDownWednesday), etc.
Depending on your restaurant’s budget, determine how many people would make the most sense to host. Research the top Instagram influencers who feature culinary-related posts and develop a guest list. Invite more than your target goal taking into consideration not everyone will be able to attend. When looking at Instagram influencers, it’s especially important to not only look at the number of followers, but the engagement of the handle as well. In a society where notoriety through social media can equate to an income, there are now services and smartphones apps available that enable influencers to purchase fake followers, resulting in an inaccurate portrayal of the number of profiles that are actively engaging with their account. If unsure as to a person’s authenticity on Instagram, a full proof way to assess their true reach is to use the formula (Engagement Rate= Likes + Comments/ # of Followers). If their engagement rate is 2% or under, steer clear. As for everyone else over 2%, study their photos and comments to gauge if their Instagram audience is likely the same audience to enjoy your Instagram event!
Prior to your Instagram event, be sure and inform all attendees of what to expect to enjoy at the restaurant and what is expected of them in return. Instagram events are organized to be a win-win for both the restaurants and those hosted, providing them with a memorable experience in exchange for their promotion. Don’t be afraid to use a version of the phrase “would love to host you in exchange for social media coverage” as to ensure both parties are on the same page. Be sure and highlight the event’s start and end time, what exactly will be offered (dish/drink description names) and the group size so the influencers can best prepare.
Regardless of the theme, make sure the plates and drinks that are put out for the event are “Insta-worthy,” utilizing décor and ingredients that promote eye-catching color and texture. Since light is so important to photography, if hosting your event during the day try to seat the guests at a table or location of the restaurant near large windows with access to natural sunlight. In many cases it makes sense to have the restaurant stage a separate table with the dishes and drinks you want to promote in an area of natural light- as to make it as easy as possible on the grammers to snap the shot the restaurant is looking for.
Establish a clever and eye-catching hashtag for the event that best encompasses the theme and include on your invitation. Encourage all influencers to use the hashtag in their posts. This will provide not only increased engagement, but an easy way to track all coverage to send to the restaurant in a follow-up event recap. When choosing a hashtag, keep it as short as possible while keeping it relevant, and be sure and research beforehand to make sure it isn’t already generating impressions on Instagram. If you see the possibility of hosting ongoing Instagram events with your client, try and pick a hashtag that will work for all events going forward as well. LHG recently hosted an Instagram event with a few of our restaurant clients using the hashtag “#LiberateYourPalate”- which all influencers used through their cocktail crawl!
An important but easily overlooked aspect of Instagram events is clarifying with the restaurant how the wait staff will be compensated. In many cases the restaurant may offer to cover the costs of food/beverages but it’s up to the influencers to tip the servers for their time. In that case, be sure this is relayed along with the initial invitation to avoid any awkwardness at the conclusion of the event.
Follow up on the Fun:
Following your Instragram event, be sure and follow up with an email or call to let your guests know how much you appreciated them taking the time to attend. Wait a few days to share results with your client including total number of likes, comments and followers that resulted from the event, as some influencers capture images with a professional camera and post at a later date.