480247093ft

A picture is worth a thousand words – especially if you’re sharing them online. Upon logging into nearly any social media platform, you’re sure to be met with enticing, beautiful food pictures, and some may be taken at your restaurant. With about half of consumers using Facebook to search for restaurants and one third of consumers ages 18-54 following restaurant chains on social media, it can be tough to break through food picture overload. For example, in an 18-day period at the end of 2012, The Cheesecake Factory alone saw 4,899 Instagram photos tagged at their restaurant locations. A smart social media strategy that capitalizes on the popularity of image-sharing can help you engage customers and bring more through the door of your establishment.

Here are three tips to leverage visual social media channels for your restaurant.

Get the customer’s perspective. Customers commonly share their dining experiences through photos. Pictures of a restaurant’s quirky décor, sunny happy hour patio, delicately plated dessert or even an untidy restroom are all fair game. By encouraging guests to use a custom hashtag, restaurants can monitor who is talking about their business and respond to comments or questions as needed. They might find some of their biggest fans and reward them for spreading the word. Or, it may present an opportunity to address a poor experience. Give diners a behind-the-scenes look. When snapping photos for your restaurant’s social media channels, it’s easy to fuss over making things look perfect and focus on the final dish. But some of the most successful businesses using image-sharing apps like Instagram give diners a window into a day-in-the-life at the restaurant. They don’t neglect mouth-watering meal photos, but they also show scenes like picking out the fresh produce at the farmer’s market or chefs getting creative in the kitchen. Restaurants can express their personality and build trust by showing their talented staff, clean and professional work conditions and quality ingredients. Check out Sweet Green and Stumptown Coffee for inspiration. Balance promotions. It’s more of an art than a science – using promotions like contests and deals on visual social media platforms, that is. Balancing the abundant use of compelling imagery and rich stories with the occasional reminder about a dinner special or other marketing initiative is a best practice. To keep customers coming back for more, consider scheduling promotions on consistent days of the week. Waffle Love, a gourmet food truck based in Utah, does a great job sprinkling news and promotions into their Facebook and Instagram photos.

Overall, visual social media platforms provide great opportunities for restaurants and hospitality brands to share engaging content and interact with customers.

We invite you to explore Tork’s #ImpressToWin contest on Instagram now through Dec. 1, 2014. You could win $5,000 and have your image featured in a Tork ad, including a mention of your restaurant. Every entry will also generate a $5 donation to help fight hunger in North America. Click here for terms and conditions.