Around nine million Australians actively use Instagram per month. It is one of the most popular social media apps, currently beating Facebook in the local app store leader board.
There’s a whole demographic of consumers that have several touch points with Instagram throughout the day, for several reasons, and more and more lately consumers are using the platform to engage with venues, products and brands. It’s happening through the accounts of the business themselves, but also from the general public sharing their experiences with each other.
At the recent Drinks Innovation Summit, Instagrammability was identified as a factor that is increasingly driving consumer behaviour in the drinks world. People want to drink pretty things in pretty places and then post pretty pictures.
Claire Stevens, director of Crunchy Social, said bars can capitalise on this consumer desire through posting on Instagram themselves, and encouraging customers to as well.
“Instagram is a highly visual platform so here is where venues can shine if they put effort into the branding, interior design and menu,” Stevens said. “Clear and consistent images of drinks, location and people help to add to the luxury aesthetic and can make people want to share posts with their friends and organise a time to visit.”
Having the Instagram factor and becoming what Stevens calls a “bucket list worthy” venue drives online interest that can translate into a popular reality.
One bar that knows the potential of this is Brisbane’s Tinsel Bar, from creative craft genius Rachel Burke. Lining the walls and roof of the space are fringes of glittering metallic multi-coloured tinsel, with a matching menu that is just as fun.
It’s been widely called Brisbane’s most Instagrammable bar, which was something Burke set out to do in the first place. Her previous work was predominantly in wearable art and installations using tinsel (including creating shimmery jackets for the likes of Kesha), with the idea for a bar striking her as another way to use the material.
“I just got thinking as to how cool it would be for people to have a chance to party in tinsel splendour all night long!” Burke said.
“Then, the more I thought about it, the more I realised that in Brisbane there aren’t many ‘Instagrammable venues’ and so I thought it would be cool to create one… I knew that by making the bar visually striking, really giving it that WOW factor, we would immediately give the bar a presence on the scene.”
For Sydney’s Verandah Bar, the Instagram factor was also a focus when designing the space after a redevelopment and revamp. Hanging greenery creates a lush rainforest vibe, while a cheeky neon ‘naughty corner’ sign complements the monkey motif mascot hidden around the venue.
General Manager of Verandah Bar, David Thompson, described why considering social media was important to them.
“Instagram was definitely in the forefront of the mind,” Thompson said. “Being 2019, gone are the days when you go and hand out flyers on the street and hope people come in. Social media and Instagram specifically for business has shown that you really need to target the demographic that does live on the phone and does get a lot of information from social media.”
By acknowledging that a huge chunk of the bar-going scene is on Instagram first thing in the morning and last thing at night, Tinsel Bar and Verandah Bar tap into a target market that is constantly searching for the most aesthetic, premium and designer experiences.
While their physical looks, feels and vibes may be different, what they have in common is that they impress customers enough that they want to share their experiences organically. Appreciating social media may have brought the occasional #couscousforcomment freeloader, but it’s also brought a whole community of (paying) consumers that provide significant value.
Thompson said they encourage people to take pictures when their order comes out, as it adds to the venue’s online personality.
He said that consumers: “want to be able to check in and show that they’re having a great time through social media… it’s important that our product reflects that in that moment they’re trying to capture.”
Stevens said that keeping an eye on when people share these things to their own social media is a great opportunity for bars to continue to attract new customers. It also lets you connect and develop relationships for repeat customers.
“Re-post (and give credit to) people who have taken photos at your venue and tagged your location or hashtag,” Stevens said. “This provides social proof that previous visitors have had a good time at your venue and can show your audience people they may find relatable.”
But simply having something pretty that people want to post online is not enough for the Instagram factor to successfully and positively impact business. As with most challenges of owning a bar, it just fits into the wider puzzle of creating the optimal customer experience.
As Tinsel Bar’s Burke said: “Whilst the space being ‘Instagrammable’ is important, we also know it’s not the only component of having a great venue, and hope by offering great food and service we are giving our customers the complete experience on their night out.”
Thompson said at Verandah Bar, maintaining the finer details through social media highlights the rest of the experience they offer in person at the bar.
“It’s definitely helped, with people coming in all the time and saying hey I saw this, I saw that, where can I get this, what’s this cocktail. It drives a lot of business, having that aspect,” he said.