How to Reach Your Audience on Instagram: Tips From Top Food Influencers

By Brandee Sanders, Foodable Contributor

If you’ve spent even a few minutes on Instagram lately, chances are you’ve seen a hashtagged #food or #foodie photo. Or maybe it was that hashtagged #eeeeeats shot of a meal curated to perfection, well lit and art directed within an inch of its #artofplating life. That’s no accident, and you’re not imagining things — those pics are skyrocketing in frequency, and with them, Instagram is artfully poising itself to become the new face of food and drink influence online. A rising force in the space where tech meets what’s on your plate tonight, Instagram has scaled at incredible speeds, acquiring user mass and competitors along the way. "It's obvious Instagram is the real Foodspotting," MomentFeed CEO Rob Reed told Business Insider back in 2013. Given that 2014 statistics now show Instagram at over 300 million monthly active users (up from 200 million in March 2014) and rising rapidly, Reed was right on the mark. Flashing forecasting through 2016, Instagram has the ability to become a tool of not only the selfie-stick hipster crowd, but the entire restaurant and food community at large. 

Credit: Instagram @stumptowncoffee

Credit: Instagram @stumptowncoffee

All the Cool Kids Are Doing It

From busboys to Iron Chefs, everyone’s aiming for a piece of the social media pie. But what are the top accounts that users look to, and just what are those accounts doing to get that click? Today we’ll look at a diverse mix of larger, well-known brands, as well as personal accounts, to get a snapshot of what’s happening when it comes to the live heartbeat of the food scene on Instagram. 

Starting with an established brand racking in over 131K followers, Stumptown Coffee is one to cast an eye to if you want to see how the cool kids play. Running their feed on approachable, laid-back cool, Stumptown Coffee aces in as a top contender for most loved java inspired fanbase. When asked what they do to determine what goes online and what gets tossed, as well as how to direct efforts, Creative Director Andy Morris told FanBridge that Stumptown’s Instagram …has stayed away from a discount marketing approach, associated with a lot of social media strategies. It’s simply not our voice.” Stumptown instead aims for authentic and real-time interactions, from cool location shots (like a Kayak POV shot this past Labor Day), to music- and food-inspired curation and genuine moments littered with French Bulls and Vintage Airstream trailers living the Americana dream. They layer their approach to their audience and ensure it’s not a hyper sales-based pitch, but rather interaction rich with real-time engagement.  

Credit: Instagram @buvettenyc

Credit: Instagram @buvettenyc

Quail Eggs and Sazerac = Clicks for ILoveBuvette

Next on the list is the well-known Manhattan and romantic Paris hotspot, Buvette. Slating themselves as a venue that “honors a history of craft and design where each detail evokes a sense of story, place and delight,” they bring the café experience to life on Instagram with ease. With deep toned palettes, their feed’s curation ranges from artfully arranged quail eggs on vintage china, to brunch settings and oyster platings that have them racking hundreds of likes within minutes of posting. Even their Chef, Jody Williams, boasts a colorful collection of images that allow her to reach out to fans — old and new — who have an interest in being seen, and also #foodporn. With Instagram, the café has the ability to share day-of lunch specials, new arrivals, or even a live “from the bar” event photo. In fact, for many restaurant owners and food industry influencers, Instagram has become a secondary channel aside from traditional email lists and online marketing via Facebook/Twitter to reach their audience and engage them on a much more personal level. 

Credit: Instagram

Credit: Instagram

What Makes a “Good Shot?”

Slapping your lunch special of the day down on a random plate and snapping a blurry, rushed photo may have cut it a few years ago, but Instagram users who are aiming for the foodie focused buying markets have stepped up their game in a BIG way. From enlisting the help of full-time art directors to even retaining full-time social media and curation experts who know the value of a stylized and branded shot, everyone who’s anyone in food and drink is bringing their A game to IG. Ranking in at over 96K followers on Instagram, independent food-based photographers like Los Angeles blogger and cookbook author Adrianna Adarme, have mastered the art of combining food and plating in a way many try to emulate. When asked why the same people seem so popular with their feeds, we got feedback from NYC-based food and product photographer Walter Clark. “Lighting and curation is key,” says Clark. “Knowing how you want the series to look on IG, as well as listening to the voice of the client, is important and allows you to really grow your audience organically through dynamic, vibrant imagery. Everyone is different, some want rustic, some want modern, it’s all about the direction.” Using “natural light and low key settings” is a great way to start. Also, making sure you’re original in your tone and authentic to your brand and business is important to not lose sight of. “Don’t go crazy with a million hashtags, or blur tools on every single pic, focus on what you want the post to do for the business, and the rest follows naturally,” he says.

The Cook Stays in the Game

Instagram users who are aiming for the heights of leadership in food need only to Google search “Best Chefs on Instagram” and sit back for a mouthwatering result of top-notch food experts sharing their love of cooking and the industry at large. Notable accounts worth looking at are the likes of Chef Jean-Georges, the incredibly talented Chef April Bloomfield and the MadFoodCo. Influencer Rene Redzepi. Even a few minutes into their feeds, and it’s easy to see why they’re on point. Bright, highly clickable and engaging content that draws you in, makes you hungry and invites you to get to know them on a personal level, all of which adds to the tailored, branded presence of their work. Taking stock of what’s a unique selling point for your business and leaning into that ethos is vital in growing your Instagram following. 

Future of the Digi #Foodie

So what is the future of the digitally savvy #Foodie? And what’s the plan of action for people trying to reach and convert them to fans? Well, if Instagram has anything to say about it, we’re looking at an immersive, potentially personalized and highly interactive visual outlet for businesses in both the food, drink and thought leadership worlds. Instagram is giving people and businesses a way to brand themselves and approach current and future customers in a whole new deliciously #food driven light. Hashtag: #thefuturelooksfantastic!