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5 Tips to Maximize Instagram’s Potential for Your Restaurant

January, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Diners salivating over a delicious dish from the kitchen often whip out their smartphones before their forks ever touch the plate. The phenomenon of documenting food on social media, often nicknamed food porn, has reached a frenzy. Scientific evidence demonstrates food porn’s prowess, as these images generate hunger and lead us to consume additional calories. While some restaurateurs bemoan simpler days when customers simply ate the food, others are finding food porn can serve as a business boon.

As the old expression goes, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” If you’re interested in making a big splash for your restaurant on Instagram, use the following 5 tips to drive this marketing strategy forward.

1. Encourage Patrons with Giveaways

For some restaurant owners, too many Instagram snaps isn’t the problem. Instead, they’re struggling to gain any traction online. If you find yourself in a similar boat, consider using free food or giveaways to get your customers snapping. Many restaurants will pick winners at random from entries hashtagged with the name of the eatery.

2. Build Your Own Profile

Asking customers to share their food shots is one way to increase your exposure, but don’t leave your social media strategy up to your diners. Instead, build your own profile and interact with your customers online. Comment on photos they’ve shared, create a following by sharing interesting content, and promote your Instagram on your marketing materials to grow your following.

3. Think Beyond Food

Food photography has an undeniable impact in restaurant marketing, but your business is about more than the food alone. Instagram can be used to take your followers on a journey. From documenting what takes place in the kitchen to showcasing new products or services, there are plenty of intuitive ways to keep the attention of your followers without resorting to the same tired pictures of your favorite dishes.

4. Use Hashtags to Expand Your Reach

Using hashtags is a simple way for followers in your digital community to find relevant content. Don’t be afraid to join the conversation by using popular hashtags like #TBT (Throwback Thursday). If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, consider responding to current events on your Instagram feed.

Oreo won marketing accolades during the Superbowl 2013 by tweeting out an image of its signature product, along with the caption, “You can still dunk in the dark.” (The image was in response to the blackout that caused the game to be paused for several minutes). Consider taking a similar approach, but be sure not to spam with irrelevant hashtags that could hurt your digital reputation. Instead, link the event to your food in creative ways.

5. Share Your Photos Outside of Instagram

Instagram is a great destination for starting the conversation with food photography, but don’t limit yourself to interactions on this social network. Instagram is most popular with 18-29 year old consumers, and women use the platform more than men. Connect with other segments of the market by linking your Instagram photos with additional social accounts. It takes next to no effort and it automatically boosts your clout, ensuring your photos are seen by the largest audience possible.

5 Keys for Evoking Positive Emotions Through Visual Design

November, 2015 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Generating positive emotions related to your brand is paramount to the success of your business. Not only should your site’s visual design effectively reflect your brand identity, but it should stimulate the right response in your visitor. While there is no scientific formula you can utilize to connect with your users, the following keys offer a simple checklist for ensuring your visual design makes the right impact.

1. Think About Your Color Palette

Researchers have spent years studying how humans respond to color stimuli. You’re likely already familiar with some of these principles. For example, most consumers associate yellow with happiness and optimism, while green evokes thoughts of health and peace. As you focus on branding, spend some time getting familiar with how users perceive various colors to ensure your branding is on point.

2. Pay Close Attention to Page Layout

Web design has long been focused on utility, but user experience extends far beyond simply functionality. If you can merge personality and emotion with a usable site, you’ll harness the true power of the web to boost your bottom line. Focus on building pages that are easy to navigate, with large buttons and headlines, all without neglecting positive imagery and appealing visual themes.

3. Tell a Story with Your Site Copy

It isn’t uncommon for designers to think of copy in secondary terms, the text that merely complements the design. Of course, marketers understand that language is one of the most important elements of a cohesive marketing message. Copy is also one of the most versatile components of a modern website. Most brand settle on a static logo and page design that only changes very rarely, while copy can be edited frequently. Use this key to your advantage to change your narrative as your brand evolves.

4. Choose the Right Photos and Images

Images are another overlooked factor on many websites. When choosing photos for your site, it’s almost always preferable to steer clear of stock photography, which reads fake and inauthentic. Think carefully about what images will strengthen the message of your marketing language. Focus on the real deal: photos of your staff members, products, and storefront, offices, or dining room.

5. Communicate Value Above All Else

Creating the visual appearance of your site gives you the perfect opportunity to spend some time tailoring the profile of your target customer. Look at your site objectively and ask, “What is my buyer seeking?”

Think of successful brands that have trailblazed with their marketing initiatives. Apple uses visual aesthetics to demonstrate their products’ superior value to the traditional home PC, and Whole Foods plasters health logos and farm imagery on its ads to connect with health-conscious consumers.

Consider A/B testing if possible, or simply have some brutally honest friends and colleagues take a look at what you’ve created. Ask reviewers to describe the site in two or three words. If you’re on the right path, you should hear adjectives that clearly describe what your brand is all about.

How Daily Deal Sites Devalue Your Brand Long Term

October, 2015 · By Deborah Fiorentino

n mid-September 2015, Groupon announced it would be cutting 1,100 jobs and shuttering its operations in many countries around the world. It marks a devastating turn for the leader in daily deal sites, a company that was once the fastest-growing business in the world. Where did it all go wrong?

Unfortunately, for small businesses and large chains alike, daily deal sites cause more problems than they solve. Touted as an inexpensive way to land new customers and increase revenue, many business owners have found daily deals generate nothing but headaches. And yet, some businesses are still tempted to purchase advertising space on these sites. Before you make this faux pas, consider the four problems daily deals create:

1. Daily Deals Attract the Wrong Buyers

Pulling in a new customer with a great sale makes logical sense, right? Unfortunately, daily most deals shoppers are simply bargain hunters. You’re not reaching members of your target audience—you’re giving away products and services on the cheap to people who likely won’t come back.

2. Traffic Issues Cause Lasting Repercussions

If you flood the market with an unbeatable deal for your business, you could see your traffic increase exponentially. Sadly, very few small businesses are ready to deal with the challenges that accompany a short term traffic boost. If your service or product suffers as you scramble to serve a massive number of new customers, unsatisfied buyers will flood the web with poor reviews and negative feedback.

3. You’re Selling Yourself Short

In marketing, perception is everything. By setting your prices, you’re teaching buyers what your product is worth. When your $45 entree becomes $15 on a daily deals site, you’re rewriting customer value perceptions. Why should that customer ever want to spend three times as much on the same service he received at a discounted rate?

4. You’re Not Maximizing Your Marketing Dollar

When you purchase a daily deal ad, you’re selling discounted vouchers to customers through a third party. If you’d offered the same sale yourself, you would have the buyer’s personal information, which you could use for marketing initiatives down the road. Instead, you’ve simply purchased a customer’s business as a one-off opportunity.

Even worse, you likely won’t see the money from that sale for some time. For example, Groupon lays out a complicated payment structure for its merchants. You won’t receive the entirety of the money until two months after the sale, by which time you’ll likely have seen the customers come and go. If you operate on a tight budget, this could cause serious cash flow issues.

The clever idea behind sites like Groupon caused the daily deal to explode in popularity a few years ago. As the economy has recovered, and buyers have started spending again, however, the novelty has worn off. Buyers aren’t near as interested in daily deals, and the vendors hawking them aren’t turning a profit. Don’t fall prey to the mistakes of others—instead, use tried and true marketing efforts to grow your bottom line.