Instagram: Making Your Food Look As Good As It Tastes Since 2010
Now that it’s 2014, let’s agree that people posting pictures of what they ate for dinner is so last year. While consumers may feel that the mouthwatering Juicy Lucy inspired by their favorite Pinterest pin is something their followers care about, the focus is shifting toward more company-driven content. We've entered the age of stellar brand photos on Instagram.
Why Instagram, you ask?
Recent research by the GlobalWebIndex named Instagram the fastest growing social media site in the world. Its active user base has increased by 23 percent in the last six months. According to Pew research, close to half (43%) of cellphone owners aged 18-29 are using Instagram. While it still ranks behind social sites like Facebook, YouTube, Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn in terms of popularity, its adoption by Millennials is staggering. If you’re targeting Millennials and you represent a consumer brand, Instagram should be on your social media short list.
The automotive, fast food, beverage and apparel industries are the most represented on Instagram, according to Millward-Brown’s 2013 BrandZ index. Though, if you were to ask us which industries are using the photo-sharing app well, we'd say food, beverage and restaurant. As an agency that's helped promote food products from Gold'n Plump chicken to Guy Fieri's line of barbecue sauces and salsas, we were curious to uncover and share the best of the best (according to us) Instagram accounts from the food industry.
Mi casa es su casa. Actually, Taco Bell’s tagline could be: My Instagram is your Instagram. If you follow Taco Bell on Instagram, it’s likely you have done a double take once or twice. At first glance you may have attributed Taco Bell’s casually creative and real-life Insta's to a friend who really loves his or her Crunch Wrap Supreme. Yes, Taco Bell takes the "Is this an advertisement?" out of its pictures and shares with its fans restaurant scenes and taco profiles that are all too often overlooked when dining at a Taco Bell for dinner. It’s also #1 on the Nitrogram 50 list of the most popular food brands on Instagram with 430 posts and 261,150 followers.
What we like about Taco Bell on Instagram
- It’s Real-Time Real. Taco Bell knows who its customer is and what they enjoy doing in their spare time. That's why the quick service fast food chain posts at the rate of 3-4 times a week. Taco Bell Instagram photos show the brand's human side, giving followers a deeper glimpse into the life of its Millennial-aged, Taco Bell-eating consumers.
- Hashtags. Like Twitter and even Facebook, Instagram’s search function is based off of topics formalized and made searchable by hashtags. Above, for example, Taco Bell incites its followers to use hashtags by showing which ones to use: #TacoBell #CantinaBowl #CantinaBell. Speaking of hashtags, DiGiorno Pizza on another social medium, Twitter, cleverly used hashtags in its mouthy Twitter game during the Super Bowl.
In terms of followers, Red Mango ranks #2 on the list of top food brands on Instagram, just after the Food Network. Its 363,500 followers have been greeted by more than 2,000 Instagram posts. Though it also serves smoothies, this franchise is one of many frozen yogurt franchises sprouting up in the U.S. What sets Red Mango apart is its creative use of Instagram, which has helped it rise above its competitors on social media.
What we like about Red Mango on Instagram
- Focus on You. Red Mango doesn't limit its reach to just brand-generated content, it welcomes frozen yogurt lovers' own photos with open arms by frequently running Instagram photo contests and interacting with customers' photos.
- Instagram Integration. With its "Freeze Frame" page, RedMangoUSA.com devotes an entire section to user-generated content. The brand curates Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pics from customers and posts them there. Notice how the brand listed photo-friendly Instagram first? Red Mango also features the hashtag of #RedMango on its Facebook page, thus syndicating customer posts instead of its own corporate account.
- Personality. Speaking of the corporate account, did you notice the friendly face of Founder Dan Kim prominently displayed in the main photo? A former photographer, Kim is no stranger to stunning images. He brings a decidedly unique point of view as president of the company and stays close to the brand by displaying his personality on its Facebook and Instagram pages. Though Twitter has been separated from Kim's persona into a @RedMango account, the @DanKimRedMango Twitter account still boasts seven-times as many followers (438K vs. the 64k of the main corporate account). It's no secret that a human image and POV lends itself to social media.
Full disclosure… we may be a little biased as we’re located across the street from this foodie playground specializing in Nordic cuisine. Still, The Bachelor Farmer team sure knows how to whip up an Instagram hit, in addition to culinary masterpieces (have you tried the Swedish Meatballs?). With 105 posts and 1,315 followers, a relatively smaller presence than others mentioned in this post, TBF has particularly good imagery. From Instagram photos of steamed Brussels sprouts to a meat cleaver with a menu, The Bachelor Farmer knows how to take a shot that’s both elegant and simple. Wouldn't you say that this turnip is easy on the eyes?
What we like about The Bachelor Farmer on Instagram
Exclusive Sneak Peeks with a Side of Mystery. The Bachelor Farmer takes its followers behind-the-scenes while still leaving elements of wonder and intrigue. Are you curious to know what homemade pheasant sausage looks like? Don’t miss it. Happen to be looking for a hot spot to celebrate your next birthday party? TBF has a space for you. But, this trendy Swedish spot doesn't give away all its secrets. The Bachelor Farmer does a great job of keeping you guessing. Exhibit A: The restaurant even introduces upcoming events on Instagram.
The Human Element. In addition to these welcoming elements of simplicity, surprise and sneak peeks, our next-door neighbor earns brownie points (or, better yet, Krumkake points) for peppering in shots of its employees. Want to know how the team preps for dinner? They show you:
Ben & Jerry's was one of the first food brands on Instagram and that boldness to experiment on the social channel has helped it rise to the top. Seven months ago, when Instagram introduced video to give users another way to share their stories, a few brands rose to the top – Ben & Jerry’s was one. Ever wonder where Ben & Jerry’s ice cream comes from? Thanks to an Instagram video, below, now you know. Videos that show the brand’s often invisible and underrated part of business, its production process, have helped strengthen the Ben & Jerry’s community by making consumers feel as though they’re the brand’s new BFF.
What we like about Ben & Jerry's on Instagram
- Initiating Instagram Innovation. The big ice cream brand is no stranger to being one of the firsts. For example, in Instagram's first wave of sponsored mobile ads in late 2013, Ben & Jerry’s took part. The ice cream brand used the post, at right, as its sponsored Instagram post. Ben & Jerry's was able to reach 9.8 million Instagram users aged 18-34 in the US and reported a 17 percent increase in awareness for its Anchorman 2 Scotchy Scotch Scotch ice cream (Editor's Note: See MaccaPR's "Five Classy Social Media Lessons From Anchorman 2's Ron Burgundy").
- Cool Videos. Instagram video posts lend themselves really well to the food industry, especially as the farm to fork movement grows and consumers become increasingly aware of how, where and with what ingredients their food is made. Instagram makes sharing short videos of 15 seconds (or less with optional filter) a piece of cake. Since Facebook owns Instagram, if your restaurant or product has a Facebook page, Instagram videos can integrate automatically onto your brand’s Facebook timeline.
But, restaurants and ice cream brands aren't the only food companies that can find success leveraging Instagram. Long story short, if you create food, have a presence online and know how to use a smartphone camera, we ask one important question – why don’t you have an Instagram account yet?
Christina Milanowski is vice president and social media director at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.
Topics: Social Media Marketing