You’ve heard the old adage “you eat with your eyes first.” It’s true — eating is an experience that engages all of your senses. Eating with your eyes is particularly relevant in our pandemic-induced ultra-digital world. If you’re anything like me, you’re seeing potential snacks, meals, treats, and drinks long before you taste, smell, or touch them. Why? Because they’re posted on Instagram, of course.
When you see a photo of food, you don’t have that other sensory information to rely on. You can’t hear the still-sizzling crunch of someone biting into a piece of fried chicken. You don’t smell the coffee brewing from down the hall. You’re not able to taste the raspberry coulis drizzled over your dessert. Until someone invents a way to pull real food from a picture on a screen, you’re stuck leaning on good, old fashioned eyesight.
Think About Color
If we eat with our eyes first, color is one of the key parts of creating a visually pleasing post. If your food is monochromatic (like a loaf of bread, for instance), consider using props like a colorful kitchen towel or a cutting board to add interest to the photo.
Look at a color wheel to understand contrasting colors — the ones that are opposite from each other on the wheel — and use those in your photos to add visual interest. Pops of color on otherwise muted backgrounds are also popular on Instagram.
Great natural lighting can really help you capture colors, but don’t be afraid to use a subtle filter or to increase contrast, saturation, or vibrancy in a photo editor.
Clean Up Your Background
You’ve cooked the most picturesque lasagna ever, complete with bubbling cheese and a homemade red sauce. Hot out of the oven, you’re ready to snap a picture to make your followers drool… and pre-order their pasta bakes for next weekend. You get a few photo options, upload your favorite to Instagram, and wrap up the pasta.
A few minutes later, you get a text from your friend that says something like “Uhhh…was your last post sponsored by Pepto? Because there’s a bright pink bottle in the back of your pic.”
As you harness your inner photographer, don’t forget to clean up. Part of the challenge of cooking from your home kitchen is, naturally, that you’re working from home. Things like junk mail on the counter happen… but your customers don’t need to see that.
Learn Photography Basics
Don’t worry — this doesn’t involve buying a fancy camera. Your phone’s camera is as good as gold, and with a few easy pointers, you can take your photos from blah to amazing. As you take photos of your products, keep these tips in mind:
- Hold Steady: Rest your elbows on a table or use a tripod to hold steady while you take a photo. Blurry photos don’t do your products justice!
- Pay Attention to Lighting: If it’s midnight and there’s no natural light to be found, consider waiting until the morning to photograph your food. If that’s not an option, consider using another phone’s flashlight to illuminate the product. You can even diffuse the light through a lightweight white napkin.
- Rule of Thirds: A perfectly centered, overhead shot is great, but things can get stale if you only shoot from one angle. Try positioning products in different corners of your shot, a la the rule of thirds.
Pay Attention to Insights
If you have an Instagram business or creator profile, Insights should be your best friend. To access your Instagram Insights, you must have a business profile.
Once you’re in the app, tap the three lines in the upper right corner, then tap Insights. From there, you’ll see all of the metrics about the content you post, the actions people take on your account, and who your audience is.
Within Insights, check out the “content you shared” tab. That’s where you’ll see how many likes posts receive, how many impressions they get, reach, saves, sends, and more. You can review the performance of both your in-feed posts and your stories from the content tab. Under the “your audience” section, you can see when your audience is most active, how many visits your profile has received, the age and gender breakdown of your audience, and geographic locations.
Content insights are especially helpful for food entrepreneurs because they can help you understand what your audience is most interested in or excited about. Insights can help you notice trends about specific products, like that a certain food item always generates a higher number of shares.
Write an Interesting Bio
When it comes to creating the best possible bio for your business on Instagram, there are a few components that matter:
- Your Name: This might seem like a no-brainer, but make sure that your Instagram name contains your business name like “Salsa Queen, Scratch-Made Salsas”, or a searchable keyword like “Kansas City BBQ in Los Angeles.”
- What You Do: Whether you format your bio as a paragraph or a list, explain to customers who you are and what you do. This can be as simple as “Bagel delivery and pop up in Indianapolis,” or you can be more detailed. Is your bread made with locally-milled whole grains? Call that out in your bio! This is the time to differentiate yourself from other food businesses. Share what makes your business unique. Right away, new visitors will know exactly what you sell and if your products fit their needs.
- Your Profile Link: You only get one link on Instagram, so use it wisely! For many food entrepreneurs who operate on Instagram, your bio link might sit empty. If you’re (By the way, we’re building a tool to help you manage your food business all in one place — eliminating floods of DMs and the need to keep track of random Venmo payments. Apply to join our Beta program!)
- Contact Information: Provide a way for your customers to get in touch with you. With Instagram business accounts, you can include an email, phone number, and address. You don’t need to include all of them, but it’s generally a good idea to include at least one contact option. Alternatively, you can add a call-to-action within your bio, like “DM to order.”
- Creativity: Want your customers to share their orders on social media? Include a branded hashtag (like #DavesChicagoBBQ) in your bio so that it’s easy to find. Emojis and line breaks also create an eye-catching bio.
Set a Posting Schedule
There’s nothing worse than finding a local food business on social media and then seeing that their last post was three months ago. Are they still operating? Are they taking orders? Do I need to contact them through another channel?
These are the questions your (potential) customers will ask if you don’t post consistently. If you only sell on the weekends, consider posting the Thursday or Friday before to give your followers a heads up on what you’ll be offering. If you have the capacity to post daily, do it! Businesses should try to post at least once a week to keep customers engaged.
Reply to your Instagram account’s comments and direct messages as soon as you can. Customers appreciate quick responses, and they could mean more orders for you. Customers may want to know about ingredients, allergens, pickup times, or myriad other things. Only you know your business, so be responsive!
On a similar note, interact with customers who share their experiences with your cottage food business on social media. If someone tags you in a photo of their food, thank them for sharing. If they mention you in an Instagram Story, re-share their story to your own. Social media allows you to connect directly with customers. Don’t let that opportunity to go waste.
Are you building your food business on Instagram? We’re on a mission to help chefs, cooks, bakers, and food entrepreneurs build and grow their businesses, while simplifying their back office operations.