In our previous two posts of this Instagram blog series, we discussed the importance of Instagram in the restaurant industry and what you can do to prep your restaurant for food photography that’s shareable on the platform. We learned that making small adjustments in the interiors of your restaurant and adding visually appealing twists to your dishes makes your customers want to share their experience on their social media channels, and encourages their friends and followers to visit your business. While reaching your customers’ followers is a great way to establish “word-of-mouth” marketing in smaller groups, there is a good chance you are also looking to reach a bigger audience through Instagram.
A personal recommendation that reaches a big audience via Instagram? In comes the “influencer partnership.”
In part one of this series, we talked about the rise of influencers, or photographers and bloggers on Instagram who influence over 1,000 people (micro-influencers are those with 1,000 to 100,000 followers). These users typically share products, food, experiences, and more that they personally recommend or use. While some of these recommendations come from genuine, unsponsored use (ie. “Check out my new watch from […]! You can buy it here.”), others come from businesses who pay these influencers to recommend their product or brand.
In other words, as a brand, you can reach out to these influencers and set up an arrangement where they will visit your restaurant and post about it in exchange for a previously agreed-upon price.
Fortunately, forming an influencer partnership is not nearly as complicated as partnering with a traditional advertising or marketing firm. You will first want to decide what your overall goal for the partnership is (e.g., to get more followers, to bring more customers into your business, etc.). Then, to find a partner, you will want to follow these steps:
- compile a list of potential influencers,
- ask the right questions to narrow the list down to the best option,
- establish an agreement and the post content, and
- monitor the post when it’s up.
You can use Instagram to find out who the biggest food bloggers are in your area. There are a few ways in which this can be done:
- Peruse your existing customer base for Instagram influencers that already love your brand. Some CRM solutions, like LevelUp’s, have data enrichment toolsthat use a guest’s email address to supplement their individual profile with deeper insights and demographic information — like occupation, hobbies, and most importantly for this process, social network size and influence.
- Use the search function on Instagram to find popular food hashtags in your area. Try typing your city name followed by words such as “foodies” or “eats” (ie. #BostonFoodies) to see what comes up. From there, investigate the images in the “Top” section and review the accounts that posted them. Jot down the users you find with high followers (average 20K-200K), as well as those with decent engagement on their pictures. Here is a mathematical article on measuring engagement, but you can also use your best judgement and review the comments and likes a certain user is getting from their audience per post.
- Review the accounts of other restaurants in your area by searching for them on Instagram, and see who they’ve partnered with in the past.
- Do a quick Google search for “food bloggers in [your area].”
Once you’ve come up with a list of 5-10 influencers, you’re ready to reach out to them using their preferred method of contact. A lot of influencers will have their email in the Instagram bio or on their website.What questions do I ask potential influencers to find my best option?
There are several key questions to ask potential influencers, and the strength of their fit depends on your budget and partnership goals. Some things you will want to ask are:
- What are your pricing packages for partnerships? (Note: A lot of influencers are willing to negotiate depending on what you are offering their followers. Be sure to ask about being highlighted in their Instagram Stories, too!)
- (If you’re looking for more followers on your social media) What type of growth have you seen?
- (If you’re looking for more customers to visit your restaurant) Have the brands you’ve worked with seen an increase in foot traffic?
- Do you have partnership examples to share?