Sure, you and everyone you can think of, from your best friend in middle school to food-obsessed celebrities (ahem, Chrissy Teigen), uses social media daily to showcase, or show off, what they’re cooking, eating and drooling over. But just because tweeting and gramming our food is second nature by now, that doesn't mean we're doing it right. If you don't want to risk boring everyone to death—or worse, grossing them out—it’s important to keep a few rules of thumb in mind before you hit the "post" button, looking for those double-taps of love. Whether you're posting your meals online as just a fun social experiment or a way to connect with friends, family members (and many, many strangers), do yourself and your followers a favor and keep certain etiquette rules in mind.
Jeremy Jacobowitz, the president and founder of Brunch Boys—an Instagram account with 313,000 followers and growing—spends his life finding, tasting and photographing the best brunch dishes around the country. Over the past two years, he’s learned how to not only gain a following, but how not to lose it, too. Here, he shares his best advice for what to do, and what to avoid.
Ever had a friend who goes on vacation and posts a photo every hour or so? Were you impressed, or just annoyed? Jacobowitz says that just like a heavy-handed pour of hollandaise sauce can ruin your Eggs Benedict, sharing too often can irk your followers. “If you share too much, people will feel like you're flooding their feed. Instagram also may think you're spamming, and its algorithm will work against you,” he explains. His suggestion? Never posting more than four times a day—which is how often he shares—and even that sometimes, he says "is a bit too much."
Don’t Make Fake Frankenstein Food
Ever see a post of a dish that seems unreal? Jacobowitz says there’s a chance it might be. “I’ve seen people stuff their fries into a cheeseburger because they think it looks better, but if that’s not how it's served, then you shouldn't be showing it off that way,” he says. Not only does this give your followers unrealistic expectations if they want to try the restaurant themselves, but it’s disrespectful to the chef who created the menu item. If you’re served a messy plate though? Jacobowitz says tidying up a little is okay, as long as it doesn’t transform the overall composition. “I will always try to style my dishes if I think they need a little fine tuning but I would never create dishes that don't exist,” he notes.
Don't Abuse Hashtags
Ask anyone who has planned a wedding in recent years, and they’ll tell you how sacred their personal hashtag is. Used as a record-keeping strategy for content and images, hashtags do more than just help you build a following; they’re a way to specialize and get super-specific about what you’re posting. That’s why Jacobowitz suggests being mindful of what you’re adding as a hashtag. Yes, hashtags help you attract more followers, but they could also make people desert you if you’re being dishonest with your tagging, he says.
Don't Forget to Tag People And Give Credit
When you finally get those impossible reservations at a trendy restaurant in your town, consider how many people are to thank for your dining experience. Not only the person who came along the journey with you to be your plus 1, but the chef who is the culinary mastermind behind the decadence and of course, everyone who works at the restaurant to keep it running smoothly. Jacobowitz says tagging people is not only a good way to get more likes, but it’s polite and humble to mention where the food or menu item is actually coming from. In the best case scenario, you might even get a repost from someone else.
Don’t Post Horrible Food Photos
If you’re squinting your eyes and applying all of the filter magic you can to your post and it’s still not looking appetizing to you, chances are it’s not going to be attractive to anyone else, either. Jacobowitz says that before he goes to a restaurant, he always checks out the hashtag and account to find photos that other people have posted. And he says that 90 percent of the images he usually sees don’t look edible. “It hurts to see just how bad food looks when I know it tastes a million times better,” he says. In addition to not being the most tantalizing post your followers will see, it can also be bad for the restaurant's business if people take your image as gospel, instead of blaming poor lighting or photography.
Don't Forget to Write Something
“The point of posting food photos should only be about sharing this amazing experience with the world,” Jacobwitz says. While truly great images of food, dishes and recipes can stand on their own, adding a few lines about the flavors, the spices, the presentation and the mood will go a long way in attracting new followers and helping tell the delicious visual stories you want to share with the world.
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