With so many options to choose from when dining out, how do consumers decide where to spend their hard-earned dollars? As social media marketing has moved into the mainstream, more consumers are relying on the opinions of a group of highly influential social media users -known as “influencers” – when they make decisions about where to eat, drink, and shop. Think of it as “word of mouth” marketing for the digital age.
Social media influencers are individuals with large followings on platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook. Influencers use their authority or knowledge of particular niches, along with the relationships they have built with their followers, to influence the purchasing decisions of others. They come in all shapes and stripes, including celebrities, bloggers, photographers and hobbyists. Thanks to their ability to influence the purchasing decisions of their followers, influencers will frequently partner with companies on social media marketing campaigns.
Worldwide, companies are spending more on influential user marketing now than ever before. Although the average share of budgets is only about 10%, marketers are increasing their spending on influencer marketing as the tactic grows in popularity. In some areas, such as New Jersey and New York, the practice is even more important than in other parts of the country. That’s in part because people in our area tend to be big spenders.
Having a positive relationship with influencers can make or break a restaurant. A social media star can drive thousands of fans into a restaurant just by posting a single photo, or by tagging the business in a photo.
Sometimes this happens organically, like when an influencer just happens to love a business and decides to post about it on his or her social media channels. More often, posts about companies are the result of paid promotions or partnerships between influencers and restaurants.
As the role that influencers play in restaurant marketing grows, restaurant owners are paying closer attention to the industry’s biggest stars. They’re also taking note that the influential user space is becoming saturated, and because of that, companies are having to think more creatively about how they work with influencers to maximize engagement.
Restaurants, for example, are more likely to work with local influencers than international stars. Local influencers tend to have more followers in the surrounding area, and that adds up to more foot traffic for restaurants and bars. To partner with a “mid-level” influencer, with 10,000 to 100,000 followers across social media channels, restaurants can expect to pay between $250 and $400 per blog post, with social sharing on Instagram, Twitter and
Although the bulk of influential user marketing takes place on Instagram and Snapchat, it’s important to have outside content that the influencer can link to. Articles that are written by the influencer and published on his or her own blog will continue to show up in Google search results long after the campaign has ended, providing long-term value for the restaurant.
Micro-influencers, including social media users with local followings, can sometimes be paid in the form of gift cards or free meals. Restaurants can also encourage influencers to visit by hosting VIP events exclusively for social media stars and by giving selected influencers a sneak peek at new items on the menu. However, these tactics work best when collaborating with influencers with more modest followings, usually under 10,000 followers. Industry research has shown that influential users with larger followings prefer being compensated monetarily.
6 Ways to Engage Influencers in Restaurant Marketing
Now that you understand more about this exciting new advertising opportunity, let’s talk about the right way to engage influencers and some creative ways to promote your business through influencer marketing.
1. Reach out to local influencers and invite them to try a comped meal at your restaurant. This type of outreach sets the stage for long-term collaborations between your restaurant and local influencers. Depending on the size of their following and how far they have to travel, you may need to offer monetary compensation. Never ask for a “positive” review in exchange for a free meal. Any influencer with ethics is going to be turned off by such a request.
2. Hire a social media influencer to write a blog post about your restaurant. These types of collaborations work best when they are used to promote specific events like a new seasonal menu or new cocktail program.
3. Partner on a contest or giveaway. For example, the influencer could create an Instagram post instructing followers to “follow” your restaurant on the platform for the chance to win a $100 gift card.
4. Host a VIP event with local influencers and encourage attendees to post about your business across their social channels. Make sure you deliver a true VIP experience. The more pampered your guests feel, the more social sharing they will be inspired to deliver.
5. Engage an influencer on an ongoing basis. Repeat posting about your business will garner more traction than a one-off post. Think about a monthly blog post or social media feature where the influencer spotlights new menu items or cocktails, events etc. Expect to pay for this type of ongoing engagement and expect reports on reach and engagement monthly.
6. Look for influencers in your restaurant’s niche. Do you serve great fries? Are you known for your awesome burgers or steak? There are influential users out there that strictly focus their social media channels on specific food items, and they have very loyal followers. Hire them to come review your burger, pizza, cocktail etc.