InstagramFoodI have said it before and I’ll say it again: I love Instagram. I may be biased because I am a photographer and enjoy connecting with others that have the same interests. I use the network to share my own work and learn from others. Most recently, I started an account to post about my experience with the Whole30 lifestyle. I wanted to find people that would encourage me and give me lots of pointers. What I found was a vast community of people at the ready to encourage and pour out their hearts. It’s really been mind blowing; I don’t know most of these people in person, yet I feel incredibly close to them.

When you’re looking to lose weight, you are more than likely focusing a lot of your time and energy into the food you eat. And I was! I decided to also utilize Instagram as a means of tracking what I had eaten. So, I started posting photographs of my meals and then I started adding hashtags. Before I knew it, I had more followers than I was following! My most popular posts are always my salads. People love a beautiful looking salad.

I started to compare my two Instagram accounts and was amazed at how much more popular my Whole30 account was versus just my personal account. My theory: By George! Everyone should be posting about food! The reality: it’s not that simple.

What is it about these food posts that drive so much traction? That question led me down a deep, dark existential tunnel: Does my non-food photography suck? If I share my life on IG, does my life suck? My friends hate me. I am all alone in the world. Yikes.

Before you tell me that Instagram food photos are a cliché (of course they are), it doesn’t hinder their popularity at all and users are snapping those shutters like crazy; a whopping 72 percent of food photos are of main meals versus snacks. What’s more, 23 percent of users photograph their food for a photoblog or as a food diary, 22 percent document their own culinary adventures and 16 percent photograph their plates on special occasions. On top of all that, 32 percent of social media users text or socialize on a device during meals.

This is obviously a huge opportunity for those in any type of food related industry. It doesn’t have to be the restaurants that get to have all the fun; trainers and dieticians can use Instagram to reach millions of users who could benefit from their services. Not in the food business? It doesn’t matter! People love to see images of food. While it might not be industry specific, it will get people to your account. Need a little exposure for your accounting firm’s Instagram account? Take a photo of a lunch meeting. Your tech company wants to gain new followers? Snap a photo of lunch at your desk!

Before you get started, here are some things to consider before posting your gustatory adventures on Instagram.

Not All Photos are Created Equal
I will admit it: I am a food photo snob. If an image is posted that is too dark, too bright, has a weird filter, or has crazy coloring that makes the food look gross, I am not going to like that photo and I may even unfollow the use. Granted, the average person may not notice these issues as much, but they will appreciate a great photo more. You don’t have to be a photographer to recognize good looking food photos. It’s as simple as using natural lighting and a change of perspective to capture your nibbles. Consider your scene and lighting before you snap away.

The Hashtag is Your Best Friend
You may have read advice before telling you to limit your hashtags to one or two out of fear of looking spam-y. That is not the case on Instagram. According to TrackMaven, the golden number is 11. That’s a lot of hashtags, but they found the average interaction on a post with 11 hashtags to receive 77.66 interactions for an account with less than 1,000 followers. Spend some time to research hashtags that are related to food or fitness. One hint: use #food in your posts.

Insider Tips
I follow a lot of big food and fitness blogs and I love it when they give out some of their pro tips. Whether it’s a secret ingredient that they use often or a quick way to get a cardio workout in, sharing pro tips that are actionable for the follower ultimately gives them a sense of connection to the brand.

Follow, Comment, Like
You’ve heard it before, but the it’s always the truth: to gain traction on social media you have to be social. Don’t just post, dust your hands and log out. You’re job isn’t done. It’s important to seek out likeminded brands and connect with them and it’s also imperitive that you connect with your followers on some meaningful level. Comment on their images, comment back if they mention you, share the photos that they tagged you in, and follow them back. It’s your followers that make your brand on social media, so be kind to them and show them the love they show you.

Instagram is a superior platform for connecting with every type of foodie or fitness buff you can imagine. By using the right hashtags and genuinely connecting with others, your brand will rise to the top in no time.