Instagram is one of the hottest social networks and the place to be for visually interesting places like restaurants. But, you need to use the platform correctly to get the sort of traction you need to succeed.

1. Thou shalt post quality images and videos.

At a point in time where nearly everyone is walking around with a digital imaging device in their pockets, you simply cannot compete unless you have attractive, well composed images. When you do food posts, make sure that the lighting is great. Read up on quality image composition to learn about what makes a crowd image look exciting and enticing. By consistently creating beautiful images that show your place off to the best advantage, you can gain followers with digital marketing and lure them into your restaurant for a meal.

2. Thou shalt check thy analytics.

If you aren’t watching your results, you could be wasting all of the effort you are putting into your Instagram promotions. Use tools like IconoSquare and Instagram Analyzer to see who follows your post, what times of day people are most likely to interact and what sorts of posts get the best reactions out of your fans. By learning what works and what doesn’t, you can concentrate your efforts on getting a better reaction out of every image you share.

3. Thou shalt use a mix of photos and video.

Instagram allows you to post video in (at this writing) three to sixty second chunks. Include short shots of plating, knife skills and video tours of your restaurant to really show what your place is all about. The mix of photos and videos breaks up your content and makes it more interesting, which can cause people to linger on your Instagram stream longer. This is a strategy that our very own online advertising agency in Jacksonville uses for clients.

4. Thou shalt post on the right days and at the right times.

Instagram is a high action, highly ephemeral platform. Post at a time when your audience is not looking at the app and you can miss them entirely. You should also focus on making posts when they are likely to have the best impact. Think gorgeous image of a sizzling steak posted right before dinner time; if your followers can practically smell what you are showing them, you are more likely to win hungry impulse visitors.

5. Thou shalt interact with your followers.

Take time on a regular basis to look at what your most popular followers post. Look for posts about local events from your neighborhood or images of famous local landmarks. Star great images and leave comments. Answer questions when you can. When you are responsive and engaged, it makes your brand more personable and makes more people want to follow you.

hashtags for restaurant marketing6. Thou shalt create and use relevant hashtags.

A number of restaurants have had great success creating hashtags for their brand that customers can use to post images when they visit. Brent’s Deli in Los Angeles got their visitors to create a completely user-created picture menu under the hashtag #BrentsMenu. Include your hashtag in your menus and post it on your board to get your visitors involved.

7. Thou shalt post regularly.

If you have a neglected Instagram account, even your followers will probably forget you are there. Hubspot recently reported that most brands only post an average of 1.5 times per day. Brands that posted once an hour throughout the day saw a far greater level of engagement with their posts. If you are not able to post regularly, use a scheduling app like Hootsuite to divvy out preloaded posts throughout the day while you are working on other things.

8. Thou shalt not buy followers.

When you see people advertising instant followings for only a few dollars, it can be tempting to give in. While this may make your place look more busy for awhile, however, those followers are likely to get banned. In most cases, they are fake accounts or accounts that belong to people far away who will never visit your place.

Like most social media promotion for restaurants, you won’t get a huge and engaged following overnight. By keeping the Dos and Don’ts in mind whenever you interact on Instagram, you can gradually build a strong and highly visible presence.