Merlin Verrier, the Culinary Director at Next Door, recognizes why chefs use Instagram, but also has a pet peeve: “The only issue I ever have is when people post sloppy pics of their own food… it leaves the door open for being critiqued”.
Pam Proto of Proto’s Pizza and Mark Gordon of The Sink echo these thoughts, insisting that it is a good medium for chefs, but only when the photos properly represent the food.
Gordon Ramsey, celebrity chef and several time TV host, seems to be more reluctant. While he has a very active Instagram feed himself, what annoys him most is when chefs become too serious about their account, and not open to others, like clients, making their own accounts of these meals.
“ People travel all over the world to go to these foodie meccas and they’re so excited, so chefs should take it as a compliment more than anything.”
In that sense. Ramsey perhaps is taking an unusually moderate approach, (unusual at least in respective to his image as a fiery persona): Instagram is important, and can truly help propel a chef’s business, he seems to insist, but it’s equally important that it is an open environment, like social media is meant to be.
Or, in summarizing all of these perspectives: Instagram is something that chefs should look into, but only if they understand how to present professional content, and also how to be understanding of its format as a social media platform.
How Instagram is Changing the Food Industry
It’s a well known fact that social media is one of the most common forms of communication, both in the United States and abroad. But what might be less obvious is how quickly social media has changed communication for both personal and professional purposes.
In 2008, slightly under a quarter of Americans used some form of social media. Less than ten years later, that number has jumped to over eighty percent.
And while Facebook remains a prominent and leading platform, Instagram, as of last year, was used by almost a third of social media users. As of April, Instagram had 700 million users, a one million user increase from last last December. According to Forbes, it is currently the second most popular social media platform, behind Facebook.
Of course, it’s not all about numbers. A big consideration is what each form of social media offers. Instagram is a platform where users can easily upload high quality photos, perfect for showcasing meals and dishes in a professional but interactive way.
A recent study found that Instagram, alongside Facebook, was the best for interacting with others-something that is very important when trying to market and engage clients.
Forbes lists a number of reasons for this, among them: the ability to access and publish on mobile devices; ability to control for Spam but reach publicly, like Twitter; simplicity of use and format; and, most of all, features and setup that focuses on visual connections.
How to Begin
Even for the most skeptical chefs, Instagram is relatively easy to learn to use and takes little investment initially. A complete guide is available to getting starting on Tech Adviser. Here are the main steps to starting and using an account:
1-Download the App and Create an Account: Links are available on the homepage and easy to use. Users can opt to sign in with an existing Facebook account, or provide a phone number or email. Your selected username will be visible, like a Twitter handle, to followers. There are other options, such as adding a profile with a name and picture. This is a good idea, so clients can look up your other professional pages.
2-Follow or Share: You can search for connections, photos, or topics using the search engine bar. Once you get going, you may want to follow topics or themes related to your area of expertise, but you also don’t want to promote your competition. Until you get your profile set up, don’t worry as much about this.
3-Adding and Sharing Photos: In the center of the navigation bar at the top of your screen, you have two options: select from Library, where you can upload files from another device, or select the option to capture Video or Photos via Instagram. In general, you’ll want to start with uploading your own photos because they are likely to look more professional and are simpler to post. Adding videos, however, as you continue, may be a generative way to attract more followers and help them get a sense of who you are.
4-Editor: Although you certainly can alter images on other platforms (if you have photoshop for instance, this is highly recommended), Instagram does have some editing tools. This is recommended for touch ups, rather than major photo edits. Filters allow you to zoom in or out, alter hues and color, and add special effects. It’s fairly simple to use, but not a substitute for other editing services.
5-Share: Before you share, make sure you add captions, as well as hashtags, for users can search for your content. Comments, likes, and stars will appear on your dashboard as others respond to your content.
Getting Followers and Establishing a Brand
Personal and Private chefs have a good deal to gain when using Instagram, because it’s a great way to attract younger clientele in a innovative way and also establish a more personalized stamp on you and your services.
To that mind, you’ll want to make sure you have a clear vision and focus for your Instagram before you begin, and be committed to using it on a fairly regular basis. The more active you are, the more invested you will seem.
-post daily, explore popular hashtags, encourage others to tag friends when they comment on your posts, embed both video and professional photography, and make user of filters.
And for chefs who might think Instagram just isn’t for them? Australian Chef Mitch Orr has some words of wisdom:
“[Instagram is] no longer just a cute thing people do to share nice pictures, it’s a real way to drive people to business. It’s game-changing, the immediacy and effectiveness has blown me away. You’re no longer begging someone else to write about your product, you’re the one driving sales.”