Oozing egg dishes, over the top milkshakes, and rainbow everything — Instagrammers love to share pictures of what they’re eating with their followers.
Instagram accounts that focus exclusively on food can amass hundreds of thousands of followers and receive thousands of likes on each post. Just take a look at accounts like @FoodBabyNY and @New_Fork_City and you’ll see how popular food pictures are on the social media app.
It’s no surprise that influencers, or accounts that have thousands of followers, are now partnering with chefs and restaurants to share pictures of their dining experiences with their hungry followers. Restaurants are even inviting groups of influencers in for a meal in the hopes that they’ll share a picture of a dish with their hungry followers. These partnerships can be beneficial to both the restaurant and the influencer when done right. Here are a few things to think about before partnering with an influencer.
How can you insert yourself into the existing conversation?
“Facebook is a gathering of friends, Twitter is a cocktail party, and Instagram is a billboard,” says Chris Coombs, chef-owner of Boston Urban Hospitality Group, which runs four restaurants in Boston. Coombs has opened a second location of Boston Chops, his modern steakhouse concept, and the dining room was designed to be “social media-friendly.” There’s an “Instagrammers table” with lighting under the tables and overhead to assist social media savvy diners with getting the perfect picture of their meal, as well as meat-centric props for diners to pose with. “This is just part of the evolution of how diners eat now,” Coombs says. He says that when he works dinner shifts in the kitchen and looks out into the dining room, he’ll often see guests using their phone to get a picture of their meal before they eat it. “ It’d be irresponsible of me to ignore the fact that our guests love to use social media to share our dishes,” he explains. Adding social media friendly touches to his dining room allows him to insert his restaurant into an existing conversation.
Work with influencers who are already fans of your restaurant.
At Social High Rise, a social media consulting firm that works exclusively with restaurants, influencers have to already be fans of the brand to be considered for a partnership. “For us, an influencer is someone who is already preaching the gospel of our clients,” says Mark Sorenson, CEO of the California-based company. “When they speak, they create conversations and people speak back.”
Do your research on your influencer before you agree to partner with them.
Before inviting an influencer into your restaurant, it’s important to do your homework on how they interact with their followers and how engaged they are, Coombs and Sorenson both say. “Just because someone has thirty thousand followers doesn’t mean that they’re engaging them or that they’re local,” Coombs adds. Instagram, in particular, is full of so-called influencers that have paid a third party company for likes or followers. It’s better to find an influencer with followers that comment and share posts. “Don’t be fooled by faux Instagram accounts. If it seems like bots with fake names are most of the followers on an account, they probably are.”
Look to local influencers.
Being local is also a key to making sure your pictures end up in the right place. Sorenson and his team work with restaurants to find influencers in their area that they can collaborate with instead of someone who may have a large following but be in another part of the country. “We want to partner with local influencers that are familiar with the brand so we can build a relationship with them,” Sorenson says. Praise for your business from someone who is local and has a local following will have more of an impact than an advertisement. “It’s way more persuasive if a normal person is sharing pictures from your restaurant,” Sorenson adds.
Remember you’re building a partnership, not a business deal.
“Ultimately it’s a partnership,” Coombs says. “We need content — and they need content to keep their followers engaged.” Building relationships is the whole point. Influencers are just fans of your brand that you can work with to help spread the word about your restaurant. “It’s less about business and more about ways to share my art,” Coombs says. For him, being able to reach a wider audience through social media is why he likes working with influencers. “Someone in the Philippines could like my photo and leave a comment. That’s really exciting to me.”
Photo credit: Matt Bruck.