Forget food porn. The latest Instagram trend is rooted in an old w

By Matthew Philp, Ethan Pancer and Jenna Jacobson

Over the past decade, the Instagrammable food trend has emerged, with restaurants changing menus to prioritize visual uniqueness, often at the expense of taste.

In a competitive social media landscape where users are inundated with content, the question for restaurateurs was how to stand out and generate audience engagement in the form of likes, comments and shares.

Assuming that creating unique food items will help businesses stand out and get more engagement on social media, the Instagrammable food trend has spawned new items like unicorn lattes and poop bars.

But does this strategy really work? Do unique, distinctive and atypical foods get the most engagement? Or are people more concerned with normal, familiar and typical-looking foods?

What people think Instagrammable food is

As social media platforms use ranking algorithms to prioritize and drive content, figuring out which foods get more engagement on social media will help restaurants and food content creators determine how to better increase the reach of their online content.

Conventional social media wisdom suggests that people engage in social media content they consider entertaining, with “entertaining” being synonymous with unique, distinctive, and atypical.

In a food context, it has been assumed that entertaining food means that look more unique, distinctive and atypical.

This assumption has led to an industry trend where restaurants have given up on taste rather than visual aesthetics, such as bright and unusual colors, to drive engagement on visual social media platforms, such as Instagram.

There are many different examples of this over-the-top food trend on Instagram, from the Bagel Store in Brooklyn, New York, to Fugo Desserts, the Enchanted Poutinerie, and Glory Hole Donuts in Toronto.

What Instagrammable food really is

Our recent research, published in the Journal of Business Research, examines which foods are really the most Instagrammable—in other words, which ones get the most likes, comments, and shares.

Our research examined more than 10,000 images of food on Instagram from more than 850 top restaurants (according to Eater.com), using Google Vision, a machine learning algorithm that extracts insights from images.

[Screenshot: Peter Bravo de los Rio/Unsplash/Google]We found that when Google Vision was more confident that an image contained real food — an indication of how normal and typical the food actually is — the more social media engagement it got.

A follow-up experiment suggests that positive affect, the degree to which we feel good, helps explain this relationship.

While social media forecasters suggest that unique foods are a trend, this logic contradicts some principles of evolutionary psychology. Humans have evolved to quickly visually recognize food, not only for what is edible, but also for what is high in calories.

Since finding and eating edible food was critical to survival when humans were hunter-gatherers, we can be determined to feel intrinsically good just seeing food that we know we can eat.

Food Marketing on Social Media

How is this relevant to social media? The average user spends more than two hours a day on social media platforms, exposing themselves to hundreds of different posts in a single scrolling session.

As the content is processed quickly, the brain can instinctively feel more positive towards images that are more easily recognized as food. These positive feelings can then be turned into behaviors directed at the post, increasing the chances of the post receiving likes, comments, or shares.

Because people feel better when they see food that is easily recognizable as food, normal looking food gets more likes. On the other hand, unique foods often lead to lower social media engagement because they are harder to recognize and classify as foods.


This post Forget food porn. The latest Instagram trend is rooted in an old w was original published at “https://www.fastcompany.com/90760758/forget-food-porn-the-latest-instagram-trend-is-rooted-in-an-ancient-way-of-life?partner=rss&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=rss+fastcompany&utm_content=rss”

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