It’s no secret food and dining create a sensory experience that’s highly visual, making it a natural fit for Instagram. The platform allows brands to directly engage with their desired audience through creative content and inspiring moments.

Creating an Instagrammable dining experience and developing thumb-stopping content is more important than ever in the lead up to the busy summer period, as users increasingly determine where they go for date night, buy their morning coffee or eat Sunday brunch according to what’s appearing in their feed.

On average, users under the age of 25 now spend more than 32 minutes a day on Instagram and check the platform up to 11 times, providing businesses with a highly engaged channel to connect directly with digital natives.

In September, 180 million Instagrammers globally used the platform to visit a website, get directions, call, email or direct messaged a business to learn about their offering. Additionally, 80 per cent of all users follow a business.

Locally, 75 percent of Australians are inspired enough to take action, whether visiting a business’s website, searching for more information, shopping through the platform or telling a friend.

As the hospitality industry increasingly operates in today’s visual economy, it’s imperative businesses capitalise on the Instagram tools and resources available to them in the lead up to summer.

With nine million active Australian users now on the platform, there are more ways than ever to engage and inspire new and existing audiences. Here’s a summary of some the latest business tools and features:

1) Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories is the platform’s ephemeral content tool, meaning content lasts just 24 hours. For brands, it enables them to create quick and digestible content, capturing everyday moments such as behind the scenes from the kitchen, to plating up. A nice way to ensure content remains fresh is to use the various tools available in Stories, such as Zoom-erang, hands-free and rewind.

As of July 2017, 50 percent of brands on Instagram produced an Instagram Story. Further to this, one in five organic stories resulted in a direct message. For the hospitality industry, this is a clear opportunity due to the rise of the digital diners — foodies that specifically attend a restaurant due to social media clout.

2) Ads in Stories

As part of Instagram’s suite of business tools, ads in Stories can help brands reach a specific targeted audience at scale and measure the results. Using ads in Stories can help businesses connect with their desired consumer directly on their mobile while they are on the go.

Instagram has announced a number of tools to assist brands in creating interesting content in Stories, one example is the Canvas integration. This update allows businesses to use Canvas in Instagram Stories and share multiple assets in one post. For the hospitality industry, this is of particular note, as restaurants can highlight key features, such as a new menu, through the use of Canvas. Recently, a cropping tool was launched, along with the ability to save organic stories assets to make building 9:16 vertical creative for ads in Instagram Stories easier.

3) Creative content tools

Instagram’s creative content tools are designed to enable brands to express the personality of your business. By having fun and showing your unique perspective, it can help you to build brand loyalty and create genuine connections with your audience.

With ongoing feature updates, businesses can engage their community through filters, coloured text, stickers or hashtagging with emojis, which can make for a playful post. Boomerang can help bring your brand’s personality to life in a short five-second video. Whatever tool you choose to represent your business, make sure the features align with your brand and are consistent to build a solid brand identity.

4) Poll feature in Instagram Stories

In response to user demand, the Instagram poll feature was recently announced. Here, the interactive smart sticker allows users to create customisable two-option polls in organic Stories. This means brands can ask a question to their followers and see results as they vote.

Polls are a quick and easy way to engage your audience, gaining their honest feedback in real-time. Whether it be gauging interest in specials or perhaps what cocktail to add to the menu, this new tool can keep your community interested in updates from the business, while increasing your client base.

Additionally, with trusted relationships already built with your audience, this can be a fun and creative feature to help make informed business decisions.

5) Carousel

Carousel allows users to share even more photos and videos in one ad or post on Instagram. With this update, Carousel means the community can now show from two to 10 pieces of content without disrupting the flow of their profile or feed. Dynamic ordering will show the highest-performing pieces of content first.

Have a new venue and one post doesn’t convey the location adequately, or perhaps you’ve redesigned your menu? For both of these options, Carousel is perfect.

Whether you’re a small business, or large consumer venue, Instagram is regularly releasing new products and announcing updates to assist businesses of all sizes reach their target audience, so keep an eye out to ensure your company is on top of the latest trends and tools!

Paul Webster is the regional product marketing manager at Instagram APAC.

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