The fact that 71% of consumers are likely to buy products or services based on social media referrals – combined with food being one of the most popular categories on Instagram – provides a perfect opportunity for restaurateurs to capitalize on our love of posting about (and interacting with) food and drink. With the growth of online food culture, social media is an important tool to promote your restaurant.
Although there are millions of potential diners to connect with on social media, your restaurant needs a strategy to attract the right people. This is where social media influencers come in. Influencers have risen in popularity over the past few years. They are people who have achieved fame in their chosen niche. Influencers have built loyal followings (usually, more than 10,000) by posting photos and writing engaging posts that encourage audiences to believe in their authenticity.
The power of influencers hasn’t escaped savvy companies that have turned to influencer marketing to grow their business. The advantage of using influencers is that they already have an army of loyal fans who trust their recommendations. As influencers are viewed as reliable sources of information, one positive word from them about your restaurant could make a real difference to your business.
Influencer marketing is an evolution of word-of-mouth marketing. The most trusted recommendations come from friends. Influencers have secured a position of trust in relation to their followers. So much is the power of social media influencers that they are regarded as more powerful than celebrities. It will come as a relief that you don’t need to fork out six-figure sums to celebrities for a one-time mention of your restaurant. You can reap similar benefits of celebrity endorsements by using social media influencers. The power of influencers is recognized by different age groups with 70% of teenagers saying that they have more confidence in what influencers think over traditional celebrities.
With the evidence in favor of using social media influencers to promote your restaurant, it pays to create a strategy to take advantage of influencer marketing. You should strongly think about including influencer marketing into your restaurant’s promotional mix if you’re looking to:
- Build credibility
- Attract new customers
- Grow your audience
- Book more tables
With 84% of marketers planning to use influencers in their campaigns, don’t get left behind by failing to utilize the people that can influence your potential customers’ attention.
You’ll need to have a clear plan and be proactive when undertaking influencer marketing.
Here are some tips to help you find and nurture the right influencer relationships to promote your restaurant.
1. Polish up your social presence.
Influencers have perfected the art of making things look good online. It stands to reason that they’ll want to partner up with restaurants that have a solid social media presence. Influencers care about the following they’ve worked hard to build and are careful about who they introduce their audience to. One way to make a great first impression when contacting influencers is to ensure that your social media accounts are the best they can be. This doesn’t mean that you need to have thousands of followers, but you should be seen to care about the people who already engage with your restaurant.
Here are some simple tips to show off your restaurant in its best social light:
- Fill out all of your social media profiles with information like opening hours and contact information.
- Increase the number of engagement posts and decrease promotional posts. Research shows that too many promotional posts are off-putting to consumers.
2. Choose the right influencers.
The number of influencers is growing by the day. It’s important that you carry out due diligence to find out which influencers will get the right results for your restaurant.
Factors to consider when choosing a social media influencer to promote your restaurant include:
- Engagement levels – If an influencer has a high number of followers, but is only getting a small amount of engagement, this should raise a red flag. Unfortunately, some people will buy fake followers to gain influencer status. Look for an influencer who gets a high number of likes, comments, and shares because this shows that their audience is actively interacting with them and their content.
- Type of content – You’ll want to choose an influencer who posts quality content in relation to food. This will ensure that their audience is the type you want to attract. An easy way to find social media influencers to promote your restaurant is to do a search for ‘food bloggers.’
- Social media platform – Resist the temptation to choose an influencer because they’re on all social platforms. It’s advisable to select an influencer based on the most appropriate platform for your business. The visual nature of Instagram makes it ideal for getting influencers to post delicious pictures of your food.
- Location matters – An influencer with millions of followers, but based in a different town or country, won’t be as effective as a local influencer with a smaller following. Social media influencers portray themselves as being authentic and trying out food from local restaurants is as real as it gets. It’ll be more difficult to believe that the influencer is being honest if they live in one place but are showing off food from somewhere else (unless they’re on vacation).
3. Contact influencers.
After you’ve identified the social media influencers who’ll be a good fit to promote your restaurant, it’s time to make contact. You should already be following the influencers of interest on social media and have analyzed their networks. Instead of sifting through millions of hashtags and accounts, you can use software, like Sprout Social or Hootsuite, to find hashtags that are relevant to your restaurant.
Avoid jumping straight in and asking the influencer to promote your restaurant. You should interact with them by making useful comments and sharing posts that your audience would be interested in. Treat influencers with care as this could be a potentially valuable relationship with your restaurant. You want to get influencers on your side, so they’ll be enthusiastic ambassadors of your restaurant. The better the rapport you build with your influencer, the higher the chance that your restaurant will benefit from the relationship.
When you’ve followed and engaged with the influencer for a given period, send them a direct message explaining what you’re offering. The first thing you can do is offer them a free meal at your restaurant for a truthful social media review. Depending on how powerful the influencer is, they may expect financial compensation as well as a free meal. As influencers will be used to making these types of deals, they’ll be forthcoming about what’s expected on both sides. Make sure that any terms and conditions work for your restaurant.
If the influencer requires payment and you’re not sure whether you want to commit to the amount they’re asking for, why not meet with them for a quick coffee? This meeting will help you both get to know each other while you provide more information about your restaurant. You’ll be able to get a feel for whether the influencer will be a good fit for your restaurant and your potential diners.
Where the initial meeting has taken place and the influencer has agreed to a free meal in exchange for a social media post, do your best to treat the influencer the same as your other diners. Influencers want an authentic experience. They’re experienced enough to smell if someone is trying to suck up to them or give them special treatment. Singling out your influencer for better service can backfire as they may mention this in their post resulting in damage to your restaurant’s brand.
If the influencers you have contacted want more than a free meal for themselves and a ’plus one,’ you might want to consider hiring an agency. Using an agency will take the hard work and time out of finding influencers yourself. Agencies have a network of influencers to match to your restaurant and location. Using an agency can be more costly than approaching influencers directly, but this option may bring peace of mind because it’s more likely that your influencers will have a proven track record.
Given that influencer marketing is predicted to grow from a $5-$10 billion market, the stakes are high for both businesses and social media influencers. More and more influencers are choosing to be represented by agencies that can secure the best deals. The Federal Trade Commission requires influencers to disclose whether they are receiving pay for their posts.
4. Build on the relationship.
When you’re satisfied with a social media influencer’s initial posts and the results, you should work hard to keep the relationship strong by doing the following:
- Offer your influencers’ followers a discount – Saving money will always give people the extra push to try out your restaurant. Entice your influencers’ followers by giving a discount when they mention they found your restaurant via their social media. If you don’t want to give money off, you can offer free food or drink, like a glass of house wine, coffee or dessert.
- Include your influencers in your branding – Involve your influencers in new marketing campaigns. Ask their opinions about different aspects of your brand. You could get them involved in things like naming a new dish. This level of interaction will keep the influencer enthusiastic about your restaurant and this will translate to their posts.
- Host an event – Expand your relationship with your influencer beyond the traditional dining experience. You can host an event to show a different side of your restaurant. Holding an event for a charity that both you and your influencer supports is a good idea. You can also offer your restaurant to host meet up parties for your influencer and their followers.
- Give ambassador status – Take the relationship with your influencer to the next level if your restaurant is benefitting from the partnership. Why not ask your influencer if they’ll be an ambassador for your restaurant? You’ll need to negotiate exactly what this will look like for your restaurant. The terms could include an agreement for the influencer to mention and promote your restaurant at opportune times and be on hand to get involved in events. In exchange, you can offer free meals or pay them a monthly fee.
Choosing the right social media influencers to promote your restaurant should be an important part of your marketing strategy. Influencers have worked hard to build their following and will want to protect their reputation and livelihood by only recommending restaurants they genuinely enjoy eating at. If you’ve secured an influencer to attend your restaurant, the responsibility is on you to give them the best experience possible without showing disparity. You want the influencer to be so excited about your food and service that they would share the experience even if they were getting nothing in return.
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