Influencer Marketing for Restaurants

If you’re a restaurant owner, manager, or marketer, you’ve undoubtedly developed or thought about developing a social media plan. For those just getting into this popular marketing strategy, the number of choices and the process for developing an effective approach can be overwhelming. How do you increase followers? And how do you get those followers through your doors? One very effective strategy is to work with an influencer.

What is a Social Media Influencer?

A social media influencer is someone with a large base of followers, and these followers trust and listen to the influencer’s suggestions. These influencers may be known around the globe or simply local “experts” in their field. One thing is definite: You’ll want to ensure that the influencers you choose are ones that you are comfortable with and trust to represent your brand. Let’s take a look at how to find the ones that are right for your restaurant.

Finding and Choosing an Influencer

First, you’ll want to choose your social media platform. For those in the restaurant industry, Facebook was the choice for social networks and is still the preferred platform for many, particularly baby boomers. Instagram, however, is gaining ground. The answer lies in the type of restaurant that you are promoting and your target market.

Simplified: If your restaurant appeals to the younger crowd, Instagram may be your choice. If your chef and mixologist deliver Instagram-worthy meals and beverages, then this platform is definitely a good option. Look up hashtags on Instagram and, if you find local influencers, be sure to invite them in for a complimentary meal.

Fun Fact: Did you know that Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion in 2012? Back then, it was a little photo app that employed just 13 people. Today, the app is estimated to be worth over $100 billion.

Once you have your initial platform in mind, you can look for influencers that use that particular portal. Look for local foodies that have accounts in the chosen platform. A few big-time examples of these include @tasteofdallas in Dallas, TX and @chasingthetaste in Chicago.

Influencer Platforms

Like all things in the social media world, influencers also have their own platforms. Restaurants looking for influencers can check out sites such as Tapinfluence and Upfluence, to name a few.

And what about your current loyal clientele? You never know the social media outreach an already brand-loyal customer may have. Create clever visuals at your restaurant that let your guests know your social media accounts and a hashtag for people to tag. This may come in the form of a poster, table tents, and even coasters.

Some restaurants even go so far as to offer a drink or appetizer voucher for those that post a review or photo. Others have monthly contests with everyone that posts, tweets, or snaps entered into a drawing and the winner receiving dinner on-the-house or a gift card for a specified amount.

Keep in mind that influencers are not always food based. You can contact a large number of your local market through local entertainers, public speakers, and other people that have a strong local influence. You never know what possibilities may exist until you reach out to your community, create connections, and see where they lead. You’ll find that some influencers will work together with you in trade while others will want monetary compensation. Determine your budget for this type of marketing before reaching out to those with a loyal following.

When considering different influencers, look for those with a minimum of 10,000 followers and ones that align with your type of food.

Regulations and Guidelines

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has endorsement guidelines that reflect the basic truth-in-advertising principle. This states that endorsements must be honest and that, if they are paid for, this must be stated in the post. For instance, influencers must disclose a “sponsored” post above the “more” link in Instagram posts.

If you’re considering tapping into this lucrative social media marketing model known as influencer marketing, do it now. One of the keys is partnering with local and national food influencers before others in your area take the plunge.


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