Marketing the food industry, from massive franchise chains to Mom and Pop businesses, can be a tricky thing. Like many other markets, brand-produced advertisements and marketing can be a bit of a turn-off…we are all aware that you believe your burgers or energy bars are the best in town. And in the current climate of Yelp, Trip Advisor, and Amazon reviews, everyone’s a professional food critic, like it or not. Competition is as stiff as ever, and the margin of error is slim. So how can you stand out in the crowd, get your potential customers to trust that they’ll purchase quality eats, and keep your integrity and sense of humor intact? You should consider going the influencer marketing route…and here’s why.
Here’s the thing: we all gotta eat. Not only that, but we derive an enormous amount of pleasure from the ritual. Celebratory dinner with family and friends, Happy Hour with work buddies, or a quiet energy bar at the summit of a mountain…the act of going to a store or restaurant and carefully selecting your next meal borders on the sacred for many of us. It’s social, and we love to share our experience with others. Sound familiar? It mirrors our obsession with social media and being connected. Our feeds are filled with, well, food; from an Instagram shot of your morning smoothie to a YouTube clip of your late night munchies, we see it everywhere. So, it follows that a true influencer, who has thousands of loyal and trusted followers, would be someone you’d want representing your brand. Whether it’s a true reviewer or just a funny, interesting personality, a well-done post with clever hashtags can bring a lot of eyes on your goods.
A Feast for the Eyes
Looking at beautiful food is almost as pleasurable as eating it. From an elegant Michelin-starred amuse bouche, the sloppiest mega-burger ever, or the time-lapsed video of your recipe coming to life, images of meals are a constant; at the time this post is being written, there are almost 280 million #food entries on Instagram. It’s widely known that content with images is far more absorbed and shared than plain text alone. Many enterprises will hire professional photographers, and that’s great (if you can afford them) for your website. But tapping into the wide world of social media food images has endless possibilities, and, with a little encouragement, you can get a virtual army posting your brand on every social channel. Having a popular influencer start the trend in their local restaurant is a great way to kickstart a trend, especially if there’s a signature dish you’re looking to promote. If they challenge their audience to drop in and post their pictures as well, the range and breadth of those posts will spread far and wide. Also, timely use of geofilters can bring throngs of followers to the spot that will best feature your brand…think idyllic picnic spots, fun run finish lines, or farmer’s markets to promote your products.
For example, the above geofilter was used 346 times in a weekend in a college town, and that led to over 22,000 views and shares. That’s a lot of brand exposure for a simple geofilter.
How It’s Made
The big appeal regarding influencer marketing is always the storytelling. These professional writers earn their living explaining the details, ups and downs, and humor of their subjects. And you probably won’t find more entertaining and enlightening stories anywhere else like you will in a restaurant or a production facility. It’s a place where people of all different backgrounds and personalities all ply their craft under busy, high-pressure conditions daily. Telling their story is a great way to humanize your place and staff, and to let the readers know why your spot is as special as you know it is, as shown here. Don’t only invite your influencers to eat a meal or meet the founder; bring them back behind the grill to make an appetizer with the chef or down to the factory floor to mix up ingredients. The organic content that results, both in word and image, will not only make that first post great, but is content you can use in multiple ways for a long time to come.
That Pairs Nicely
As with all other influencer marketing campaigns, finding the right fit between influencer and brand is absolutely essential. If you have a high-end fine dining establishment, you’ll want to ask someone with experience and a history of fine dining reviews to try your fare. In contrast, if you’re offering the city’s hottest wings or a “bet you can’t finish it” mega-steak, look for a content creator with humor and a lowbrow sensibility that would appreciate an off-color joke from the server. Be absolutely clear on what sort of exposure you want, and have a conversation to make sure you’re both on the same page. Check out this interview about how working with a student who truly loved the restaurant was a win, even with a limited social reach. This establishment has also taken storytelling a step further by having fun and creative influencers take over their official Instagram account during their time there, lending authenticity and a fresh perspective to your channel. Looking back through various popular feeds and case studies to get a feel for great ideas and themes is a must, and conversations with your potential influencers can go a long way.
The Final Course
If all this sounds appetizing, here’s a menu of next steps to choose from (see what I did there?):
- First, take stock of the assets you have in place: the décor, the staff and their personalities, the story of how you started, and, of course, the food. Do you also source from local farmers/ranchers/brewers? If you do, their stories contribute to yours also.
- A talented influencer can showcase these people with interviews and images to show all their readers how special what you do really is. Locating this type of influencer can be tricky, so consider talking to an experienced agency for help.
- Engage your customers to follow your social channels, and ask for their input on everything…sometimes, the perfect influencer will come straight to you. Keep an eye on what’s happening in your neighborhood and industry on social media, and take note of what’s working.
- Last, make it fun. Your food is a reason for celebration, conversation, and the simple human act of enjoying a meal. Everyone should share that with you.
Does your brand fall in the food industry? Let us know if you have any questions or comments about working with influencers!