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You probably met your first social influencer in grade school.
He was one of the popular kids, perhaps a class officer or athletic star. One day, he wore a pair of sparkling new shoes to class. You wanted to be cool, too. So you bought the same shoes, as did many others. Then it spread to other schools and nearby communities. It wasn’t long before everyone was wearing the shoes.
This is the social epidemic described by Malcom Gladwell in The Tipping Point, and it’s at the heart of the latest trend of marketing through popular social influencers.
Those are all examples of influential people plugging a brand—successful influencer outreach programs that recognize the power of piggybacking on a person’s popularity. Odds are, none of them plugged the products out of kindness; they were likely paid or received a gift or favor.
For restaurants, marketing through influencer outreach can be an extremely effective tactic. According to a recent study, 74% of consumers use social media for purchasing decisions.* If someone you respect says they enjoyed a meal at a local eatery, you’ll be inclined to sample the restaurant, as well. This tactic isn’t dissimilar to product placement in movies.
We know you have a lot of questions about influencer outreach. Here, we’ll answer them.
Many influencers operate well-followed blogs and social media accounts. Like Kardashian and Bieber, some are famous celebrities. But there are many more influencers who aren’t as well known but have substantial loyal audiences.
There are a number of online platforms and influencer networks that can help you locate and obtain an influencer for any budget. Here’s a sampling:
Sometimes, regional up-and-coming influencers are worth seeking out. They are sometimes known as micro-influencers, and their voices can be powerful. You can often identify them by monitoring social media. See who’s already talking about you or your restaurant competitors on their blogs or social accounts. Researching appropriate hashtags can also help locate local influencers who already may be advocates and who have a growing number of followers.
Some well-known influencers receive large sums for mentioning or endorsing a business. It’s been reported that it costs more than $250,000 to have Kim Kardashian mention a business in a single Instagram post. What—your restaurant can’t afford that?
Local restaurant influencers may also come with a price tag, but smaller. You may be able to court them with gift certificates to your restaurant. Or invite them and their friends to join you for a meal. Give them a special restaurant swag bag—mugs and other items with your logo on them have a good chance of showing up in their photos.
You also can reward influencers by mentioning them on your own website and social media, thanking them and providing links to their accounts. That will build their audience, which is what influencers desire.
No. Anyone who mentions your restaurant, paid or not, will be seen as a brand ambassador. Consider the kind of image you want to portray and your customer profile. If you want to attract a young, hip crowd, search for an influencer within that demographic. Similarly, if you operate a fine-dining establishment, you might need a more mature person to associate with your brand.
Yes. Most consumers understand that when a blogger or celebrity mentions a business that there’s some kind of quid pro quo going on. More and more, you will usually find wording to indicate that there were favors for the plug. It’s not uncommon for influencers to state that they were compensated or received gifts for mentioning a restaurant.
Recently, The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reportedly issued explicit warmings to 45 celebrities (including Sofie Vergara, Lindsay Lohan and Jennifer Lopez) who mentioned a brand but failed to reveal any accompanying payment. The FTC wrote letters to the offenders, warning that “if there is a material connection between the endorser and the marketer of a product—in other words, a connection that might affect the weight or credibility that consumers give the endorsement—that connection should be clearly and conspicuously disclosed.” The FTC defines material connections as “a business or family relationship, monetary payment, or the prevision of free products to the endorser.”
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