“Food is art,” declared Kunal Kapur (@chefkunal), chef, TV anchor, food blogger from Gurugram. “And a science,” interjected Archana Doshi (@archanaskitchen). They were speaking at the Food at Instagram meet, where the company released India’s top food hashtags, and also put about 30-odd people in touch with some of the country’s biggest food-account owners.
What Kunal and Archana said was a reflection of the platform itself: photos and videos do need to look pretty, but they’ve also got to reflect the particular tool you’re using. The medium is the message indeed. Here’s a take-down of what works and how to maximise it, food-wise, one surface at a time.
“Always choose video over a picture,” said Saket Jha Saurabh, who heads entertainment partnerships at Facebook, India. Time spent by people watching video is up more than 66% from last year.
Whether you opt for a stylised look like Deeba Rajpal (@passionateaboutbaking), or a more informal, approachable style like @foodtalkindia or @foodie, keep it consistent. “Own a style and focus on a certain idea,” says Saket (like @delish that does a number of videos in a how-to format). “Randomness doesn’t pay, and your followers come to you for a reason,” he says. Within food, try content sub-brands (like pastry chef Pooja Dhingra, @poojadhingra who does a #nosugarcoat chitchat with chefs).
Deeba says she looks at Indian audiences first, so she’ll post her darker, moodier images at night, when people are more open to some darkness, and brighter images in the morning. While some phone cameras, like her Google Pixel 3 XL give high picture quality, for a phone that doesn’t perform as well, Snapseed has a blur tool that helps get background out of focus. Instagram too has tools that crop out what’s unnecessary.
India’s top food hashtags
Stories and highlights
Considering 400 million accounts use Instagram stories daily (out of a billion active ones), something’s got to be working. The point is to be spontaneous and take your fans (or super-fans, who engage with everything you do) on a journey, so your shot doesn’t need to have perfect composition. Say you go pub-hopping or want to put out how your dinner table went from empty to full to empty (after people finished the food), this is a great way to do it. Action, funny captions on stills, gifs, mentions (of other accounts), questions, polls, giveaways, all work. You could also put a bunch under a single theme, in the highlights, so people can revisit them. Deeba uses the carousel feature for a ‘the-making-of’ type shoot.
They’re perfect to discover content and get discovered. Archana, who invests time with her team on crafting them, says the most important aspect of hashtags is relevance to content. “So if it’s a breakfast dish, we will call it that (#BreakfastRecipe), rather than saying #foodporn, which it isn’t,” she says. If you want to create a niche, then add one to a story, and say you’ll be doing this, say weekly, so that others join the movement. Consciously keep your vision and the users’ needs in mind, and the rest (followers, likes, reposts) will follow.
To maximise your chances of appearing in this section, use all the tools to cover all bases: video, pictures, stories, live. “200m people go on explore, and my intent levels are high when I’m here. It means I have free time to do a walk-around,” says Saket. The tabs at the top categorise content, so make sure you hashtag well.
Take people to places they otherwise wouldn’t have access to, like a launch, for maximum engagement. “Even if there are five people watching, you’re getting their full attention. It’s a chalk-and-cheese comparison, if you compare live and a video you’ve posted,” says Saket. See the live feature for the intimacy and engagement it gives you. Collaborate with a fellow blogger to maximise both your followers.
Archana says going live builds trust, because the user can see you. “Nothing is fabricated; you are yourself.” You could go live impromptu, when say, you’re at a vegetable market. And in a longer session (that goes over 20 minutes), show a variety of shorter ideas. Whatever you do, always be responsible, says Archana. So if you’re going bar-hopping, ensure you don’t drink and drive, and definitely don’t post that live.
(For more tips about Instagram, turn to page 7)