June 16, 2015

Foodies for the win! How to optimize engagement on Instagram

by Renegade01

Food infiltrates our thoughts countless times a day. Where are we going for dinner tonight? Wow, that burrito looks good; I wonder where he got it from.

With its hashtag and geotag features, Instagram delivers a multitude of opportunities for restaurants, cafés and sweet shops to become more than just destinations – it allows them to establish and promote their brand from the palm of their hand.

Following its advent in 2010, the platform has since reached 300 million active users and 70 million photos posted per day  – and many of these photos are food-related. With hashtags such as #food and #instafood populating the captions of 178.6 million and 56 million photos, respectively, Instagram is an essential domain for fostering engagement with all things edible.


Photo courtesy of AdWeek

Food-related accounts are not only fun to follow, but they also provide a necessary service in guiding others on what and where to eat. From this exposure, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, cafés and little coffee shops are attracting visitors from all over the world. One such account is Baked by Melissa, which has gathered 135K followers by promoting its miniature cupcakes in various places throughout New York City and by keeping up with holidays, movie premieres, sporting events and more. The burgeoning cupcake bakery drives engagement by encouraging customers to post photos of their favorite “Baked by Melissa” moments to be featured on their website.


Screenshot of Baked by Melissa’s Instagram account. 

One thing is for sure: these food accounts are doing something right. If Sprinkles Cupcakes can rack up 280k followers, then so can your brand. Of course, these cupcake shops are famous for a reason – they exhibit smart, simple marketing strategies and share-worthy content.

For example, Sprinkles invites customers to like their page on Facebook or follow them on Twitter to learn the secret word of the day, which can be whispered at each Sprinkles location to earn a “buy one, get one free” deal. I think “free cupcake,” Sprinkles thinks “free followers.” Therefore, it’s a win-win.


Screenshot of Sprinkles Cupcakes’ Instagram account.

While free cupcakes are fabulous, here are three takeaways from these sweet shops’ social strategies that may be helpful for any brand:

1.) Track the trends. With hashtags such as #NationalDonutDay generating 18k posts online within an hour, it’s crucial to put out content that aligns with social media’s most buzzed-about events, holidays and news, all the while connecting back to your own brand.

2.) Encourage engagement with questions, calls to action and contests. Users are more likely to engage with content with which they feel a personal connection, for example, if a photo caption prompts me to comment with the team I want to win the NBA Championship, chances are, I will (Warriors, obviously).

3.) Show some love. Engagement is a two-way street. To keep your followers hungry for more, it wouldn’t hurt to throw them a favorite, retweet or a quick comment to let them know that their opinion matters.