Get the picture: promoting your pub with Instagram

By Claire Churchard, Georgina Townshend and Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

Perfect pictures are not crucial for pub success on Instagram
Perfect pictures are not crucial for pub success on Instagram

Related tags: People, Social media, Want

Humans are visual beings, making Instagram an ideal place to showcase your pub. Experts and operators reveal how they get over the line first in a photo finish.

If you’re not a natural photographer, using Instagram to promote your pub might seem a bit daunting. But as everyone and their dog now seems to have a smartphone, imagery has become a valuable currency and the social-media platform that shows it off best is Instagram.

The Morning Advertiser​ (MA​) interviews expert Theresa Santos, account director at social media consultancy Immediate Future, to find out how pubs can make it work for them.

Why is Instagram the social-media channel for businesses to have above other platforms?

It’s a such visual platform. When you’re looking at it versus Twitter or Facebook there’s a lot of text on those platforms. With Instagram, it’s all about the image.

That gives businesses the chance to showcase something visually. It’s a lot easier get a message or feeling across in an image than in words.

Humans are quite visual in the way they interact and that is why Instagram is so important, because we like looking at pretty pictures.

We’ll follow an account, for something like the pub trade, that will make us feel hungry or want to go out.

Instagram has a high penetration, with a user base, according to e-marketer, that is about a quarter of the UK population.

Why should pubs have an Instagram account?

Santos says, on Instagram, people can go and search for you and look at your images and get a feel for the atmosphere of the pub, see what it looks like and the people that come. It’s almost like a review in itself.

If you’re a pub that does food or that has a nice atmosphere, Instagram is the perfect place to showcase that. In terms of food, it’s a foodie’s paradise. Everybody posts pictures of their dinners on there. There is research that says people follow pubs because it helps them pick where to go and what food to have when they get there.

There are no official figures on whether it drives trade but if you’re an operator trying to attract the 18 to 30 age group to your venue then it’s the platform for you, because that is the group that uses it the most.

What if you’re not a good photographer?

If you look at lots of pubs’ Instagram pages, half of them will have images that are clearly taken by the landlord or someone that works there. They are not professional photos and they don’t need to be. What people like about venues on this platform is that the photos look real. If it’s a really stylised shot no one is going to think ‘that’s what I’m going to get when I go into the pub’.

I was looking at a pub’s photos recently and it had done a photoshoot of new menu and the food, and it was so stylised while the table was scattered with petals. But people will probably look at it and say ‘my food is not going to look like that when I get there, so what’s the point?’ Whereas if you’re showcasing how it really looks, that’s fine, it’s authentic, and showing people what they’ll get when they get there. Phones these days have such good cameras that you can’t go too wrong. If you want to use the filters, as long as you don’t pick one that makes your food look bright red or really dark, you’ll be fine. You’ll find your own style.

How important are instagrammable food, drink and experiences?

The thing that draws people into a pub is the atmosphere, says Santos. Half of that is the staff and half is the other people that go there. So if you’re showcasing that atmosphere and the kind of people who visit or pictures of happy staff, that will draw more people in than an instagrammable cocktail.

That doesn’t mean you can’t have a really instagrammable cocktail, but what will happen is people will take pictures of that and share them, and then people will talk about it and the pub’s atmosphere as well and how great the service was and that will draw people in.

How vital are hashtags?

They are important but one of the most crucial things to do as a venue is to advertise your account. Have something in your pub that says ‘follow us on Instagram’ or prep your staff to say ‘tag us on Instagram’ if they see someone taking photos of food.

You can follow hashtags now as well without following an account. For example, people will see something that somebody they follow has posted and it has a hashtag, then they’ll click on that hashtag and go and look at those other posts. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they will follow any of those people. The post might get more engagement, but not necessarily more followers.

Should you respond to people that post images of your pub?

Engagement with people is important, Santos explains. When you set up an account, make sure you have a location so people can tag their photos at your location. Once you do that, if people are posting at that location, just engaging with them and saying ‘this is a great photo’ or ‘great to see you, hope you come back’, creates that relationship with someone. It makes you feel like part of a community that, ultimately, is what a pub should be.

What should you do with user-generated content?

If you have people posting pics and tagging your pub in it, it’s fine to use them. If there’s a day when you don’t have anything and don’t know what to post but yesterday someone posted a great picture of your roast, it’s fine to use it as long as you credit them. Put ‘photo taken by’ and @ their username. 

The basics

- Downloaded the Instagram app, tap sign up, then enter your email address and tap next or tap log in with Facebook to sign up with your Facebook account.

- You can set up a free business profile. This is worth doing because it allows you to add business information such as opening hours, a business address or a phone number. To find it, go to settings and scroll down to ‘switch to business account’. Now you are ready to start posting content and following other platform users. It’s worth watching the video guide on setting up a business profile​.

- There’s no shame in googling ‘How to Instagram’ for more helpful tips.


Turn photos into gold

Kieran Corbitt, social media and community manager at the Alchemist, ​explains: “Instagram is a really big part in both boosting footfall and supporting our business.

“Some 40% of Millennials chose a travel spot based on its instagrammability – I don’t think its any different with food and drink. I think that’s why your Instagram is such a big account. You can create great content that shows off your brand. People will then engage with that and, in turn, engage with your venue.

“In March last year, we posted a photo of one of our cocktails – named the Screwball – on a Thursday. That weekend, our Screwball sales were up by 200%. We had loads of people tagging their friends saying ‘we need to go here tomorrow’ or ‘let’s order this’.

“I aim to post about five or six times a week and then I create social media plans a month in advance to make sure there’s a clear plan in place to include any campaigns we have throughout the year.

“Social media is so reactive, it’s about the moment, so I have to switch and change content because it’s important to be flexible.”

Find them at thealchemistuk



New world order

Beth Killalea, general manager at the World’s End, London Road, Brighton, says: “We post about three times a day and we post at scheduled times that we feel get the most people online and provide us with the most feedback.

“We like to post a mix of the beers that we do – we’ve got a big focus on cask beers – and of food and of people. Showing our customers having a nice time gives that interactivity within the pub. We also like to try and post about what else is going on within London Road and focus on the community side of things as well.

“Stuff that is people-related always goes down well. Our beer ones also go quite well because you build up quite a big following with different breweries and different craft beer, and they often respond well to our ‘beers of the week’ or ‘new in’.

“People often use Instagram to link to our website or to link to our email or other booking formats. The way that people message me directly is often, for example, breweries saying ‘would you be up for stocking some of our beer?’ or the likes of ‘can we drop you in some samples?’.”

Find them at worldsend_btn​   

Heavenly customers do the work

Nick Livingstone, owner operator of The 7 Saints, Prestwick, and winner of Best use of Social Media in the 2017 Star Awards (Star Pubs & Bars), explains: “We use Instagram for everything we use social media for, including recruitment, as Instagram has the right demographic.

“Instagram is self-driving. We don’t need to focus as much time on it as other platforms as it is so content-driven by customers. It is the platform they use most. You see a lot of hashtags of photos taken by customers.

“We have very different posts during the week to the weekend. In the week, it is food images and, at the weekend, it’s drinks, because people are out to have a good time. We get a spike at the weekend from customers taking photos of their cocktails.

“We don’t take photos of all our cocktails, we just take photos of headline cocktails or quirky designs.

When it comes to taking a photo, he says: “Close-ups work best. Think of how you frame your shot. With drinks we often show them at the front of the bar in the centre of the shot with our signature neon 7 sign in the background.”

“We display our Wi-Fi passwords on a lightbox as memorable catchphrases with interchangeable figures. Pictures of these changing phrases and passwords go viral as people find them endearing.

Find them at 7saintsprestwick



Environment friendly

Claire Alexander, licensee at the Ebrington Arms, Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, says: “Essentially, people want to see aspirational pictures, they want to see where they are sleeping, and they want to see pictures of the food.

“However, the posts that do best for me are the pictures of the buildings because we have two iconic buildings, and it’s all about the Cotswolds escape, to visually show what a weekend is like in the Cotswolds, the sort of things you’d do, the walking, the weather.

“I’ve just done a course in social media and I certainly didn’t think that eight months ago I would be getting bookings off the back of Instagram – but I am. A year ago that was unheard of for us. I think people like to get a vibe for a place, which you don’t always get from a website, and they like to interact with the business and check it is the sort of place they want to go to.

“I am very happy to say that TripAdvisor is totally blown out of the water now – null and void – and the only people that use it now intend to be ‘nasty pasties’.

Find them at theebringtonarms

Related topics: Marketing

Related news

Show more