Since Instagram took off last year it has proven to be a powerful and invaluably flexible tool for restaurants. Combining the rapidly spreading fascination with amateur food photography with the all-pervasive world of social sharing it has become the go-to app for meal documentation. And, make no mistake, a small but dedicated group of your diners simply cannot eat until they've memorialized and broadcast the event.
This presents a brilliant opportunity for promoting your restaurant through the publication of photos of menu items. It also offers a very effective means for your diners to share pictures of their meal with their connections that is simpler, more direct and much more effective than other platforms. The newly added Instagram Video is a complete game changer. Video content is the acknowledged gold standard in the realm of social media, and Instagram has just provided the perfect format.
Vine is fun and can certainly be addictively engaging, but at six seconds it really doesn't provide enough time to form a coherent narrative. While nine more seconds may not seem like a world of difference, it does offer just enough time to display the construction of a featured dish, describe a special wine or display the construction of a new cocktail. When combined with even a remedial editing application it can create a compelling and virally powerful message. Instagram has also recently offered the option of uploading existing videos, which opens up a whole new world of possibilities. You can add any existing video to your Instagram account, pick the segment you want to display and then post it. Or you can edit your own 15-second masterpiece and share it with the world.
Subjects. We all know that food photographs are the most compelling content on restaurant social media platforms. Statistics show that they get commented on, shared and talked about exponentially more than any other type of social post. Instagram video takes that one step farther. If a picture of a perfectly cooked aged sirloin is inspiring, think about the response to a short video depicting the sizzling meat on the grill being expertly plated with freshly roasted rosemary potatoes. You can take your patrons on a quick tour from purveyor to palate. And a simple tip while videoing in the kitchen: Because random noises are inevitable (even the odd expletive) when shooting in the kitchen, it’s simpler to keep your thumb over the microphone than have your cinematic efforts spoiled by an unexpected crash.
Editing. While a number of excellent video editing software packages are available, few of them are really scalable for this format and are pretty much overkill when it comes to perfecting your quarter- minute video opus. The app itself only provides you with the ability to edit back consecutive segments. I’ve found the most practical editor is iMovie, which works seamlessly on the iPhone and iPad. It can edit video, create dynamic montages from still photos with the ever-popular “Ken Burns” effect and add narration or soundtrack. Android offers a comparable app called WeVideo. The only tricky part is the fact that it shoots in a 16:9 movie aspect instead of square. This means you have to adapt the finished project on Instagram to a “pan and scan” cropping, but this is relatively easy to work around. Instagram did recently purchase Luma, so expect to see a native editing application in the not-too-distant future.
Endgame. There is really no limit to the uses of Instagram video in a restaurant environment. You can simply use it to show a dish being plated or a dessert being constructed.
Or you can also use it to post an intro to your restaurant that can be shared virally, or even by QR code.
I’ve also had great success using it in conjunction with wine programs to provide a quick intro to special wines that patrons can access before coming to the restaurant, or even while waiting for a table.
The point is that this is a simple, accessible social platform that provides you with the ultimate tool to leverage the power of viral video with social media’s most dynamic new channel. And, like all of these innovations, this is not a bus you can catch later if you miss it–it’s a wave you want ride from the start.