15 Tips for Working with Food Bloggers and Influencers
“92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from others, even people they don’t know, over branded content. 70 percent say that online reviews are their second-most-trusted source, and 47 percent of U.S. readers consult blogs to keep tabs on trends and ideas.” (source)
Given the way that most people make purchase decisions, it’s clearly important to get people talking about your restaurant. To start, you can incentivize and leverage customer feedback. But in order to maximize the word-of-mouth network effect, it may be time to engage higher-order consumers / advertising partners: namely, food bloggers and influencers.
Working with influencers has been shown to deliver an ROI 11 times higher than traditional digital marketing (source). Not only do influencers work through word of mouth – spreading the news of your delicious menu throughout their networks – but they also create content that you can reuse throughout your other marketing campaigns.
Here are a few tips on how to make the most of influencer marketing for your restaurant:
Choosing the Right Influencers
How to Find Good Brand Partners
1. Go local. Whether your brand is regional or nationwide, scan social media for influencers in strategic geographic locations. Social media may be accessible from anywhere, but at the end of the day, you’re looking to drive foot traffic. It’s more effective to engage 5 local foodies than 1 celebrity with a huge national following.
2. Find high engagement rates. In your search for the right influencer, it’s not just follower counts that matter. Look for an average engagement rate – it’s an indicator of how influential a person really is. One influencer may have 50k followers but only 1% of those followers like or comment on their posts, while another has 10k followers and 5% average engagement. The first will probably charge more, but if you go with the second, you’ll be getting the same number of actual engagements without paying for the bloat of uninterested followers.
3. Make sure your aesthetic meshes well with the influencer’s. Is your restaurant brand based on healthiness? Steer clear of influencers who post only about decadent meals. The more closely your brand aligns with the influencer’s, the more convincing their endorsement or recommendation will be to their followers.
4. Check out their voice. You’re going to want their posts about your brand to be as authentic as possible. That means you’ve got to be comfortable with their voice. You can give influencers messaging guidelines, but it’s best that your influencer write all captions or reviews themselves. Their followers trust their voice, so you’ll have to, too.
How to Co-Create
5. Host a tasting event. Invite multiple influencers and food bloggers to a free menu tasting event, no strings attached. They may post about it (for free), they’ll have an opportunity to network with each other, and you may find a few worth pursuing for longer term project work.
6. Organize a contest. It’s an easy way to drum up interest. Give your influencer a few gift cards or tickets to a special event to raffle off to their followers. Your influencer will get the word out, you’ll get more followers, and your influencer’s followers will find value. Giveaways make everyone happy.
7. Collaborate on promotions. Rolling out a new happy hour? Introducing a new chef? Launching a new seasonal menu? These moments all trigger big opportunities for influencer marketing. Make these promotions part of multi-post campaigns, so that the influencer can tell a compelling story about your brand.
Maximizing the Value
How to Reuse & Recycle Assets
8. Repost key influencer posts. Don’t let good social content go to waste – and make sure your Instagram game is strong. Experiment with different post times. Repost your influencer the same day, a few days later, or throw in a #tbt depending on the content. Experiment with timing on evergreen posts to see what works best for you and your audience.
9. Repurpose photography. Gorgeous photography deserves to be seen. Incorporate it into your website, on your digital menu boards, and on the splash screens of your self order kiosks.
10. Pull out and reuse quotes. Highlight them on your website and in your social profiles. Create graphics with reviews and incorporate them into social or email campaigns.
Making it Last
How to Manage the Relationship
11. Make note of their working relationship style. So you’ve found someone whose work you like – someone who also likes your brand and food. Tailor the working relationship to fit their style and your goals. Have a group of influencers who do well with structure and details? Draw up a project plan or even a contract. These kinds of influencers are great as you set an editorial calendar and plan promotions. Have another set of influencers who do great work but are not as responsive to deadlines? Keep the the relationship loose and the invitations coming. As in any working relationship, it’s best to create an environment that plays to your influencers’ strengths.
12. Set clear expectations. Open communication with your influencer is crucial. The expectations you express are the only ones likely to be met. Make sure you have all agreed upon obligations in writing.
13. Project manage. The skills it takes to be a social media star don’t necessarily overlap with the skills it takes to execute a 6-month social media campaign. Check ins, helpful reminders, and motivational speeches are always a good idea.
14. Give useful feedback. Delivering both praise and constructive criticism are vital for long-term projects and relationships. Make sure to do both.
15. Keep doors open. Let your influencers know about future opportunities and include them in the process as those opportunities take shape. This will make your shared work feel more meaningful and make it all the more likely that you and your influencer will work together for the long haul.