How can Instagram influencers help restaurants?

All sorts of businesses promote themselves on Instagram these days, but the social media platform has had a huge impact on the restaurant industry in particular.

There are a number of ways restaurants can use Instagram, but in this post we’re focusing on influencer marketing. Influencers are people with accounts that have a sizeable number of followers who use their influence to push the brands they partner with by posting sponsored content. There’s plenty of evidence to show that we are more willing to trust the recommendation of a stranger over a direct advertisement.

Food is an extremely popular topic among Instagram’s 600 million active users. Instagram is the top visual social network and lots of us use it for inspiration on what to eat and where. This is why many cafés, coffee shops and restaurants seek to raise awareness of their brand by working directly with social influencers. Some restaurants offer free food to social influencers, while others will pay for sponsored posts. Their recommendation can build your reputation and credibility, amplify your message, grow your network, and even impact actual sales.

It can be tricky to measure your return on investment, but that shouldn’t put you off. Working with micro-influencers helped nationwide chain All Bar One increase brunch sales by 28% across their 50 restaurants and bars. Their targeted campaign involved 10 influencers with a combined Instagram following of around 200,000.

But you don’t need to operate on a huge scale to have a relatively big impact for your business. What you do need is to be careful when choosing who to work with. The power of micro-influencers in particular is that they have a great deal of authority in their niche, with a loyal community of followers who trust their word.

Small and mighty

Micro-influencers may not have as many followers as influencers or celebrities, but they are often highly engaged with their audience – they care about the following they’ve worked hard to build and are careful about the brands they choose to partner with. Working with a local micro-influencer is more likely to benefit your restaurant or café than someone with a larger but more remote following.

The perfect pairing

Ideally, you should reach out to someone who consistently shares high quality, relevant content. That means relevant to you, so if you have a steakhouse you might not necessarily want to work with a micro-influencer who focuses on vegan food (unless you’re increasing your plant-based options) and if you specialise in calorific cakes, a health food influencer probably won’t have the most useful reach.

Get engaged

Someone whose posts generate a high level of engagement in the form of likes, comments and responses is perfect. This means that their audience actually look at and care about the content they’re sharing. Checking out the type of engagement they get will also help you avoid fake influencers who have paid for their seemingly-impressive number of followers.

Stories = opportunities

The launch of Instagram Stories in August 2016 changed the game slightly when it comes to influencer marketing. Many influencers will want to curate a perfectly edited and beautiful feed, but Stories allows space for more realistic, authentic and off-the-cuff content that can help make a recommendation feel truly genuine. Stories also gives influencers the opportunity to gather feedback with polls that could feed into future decision-making around your brand or offering.

In short, reach out to relevant influencers to increase awareness of your restaurant, but take care who you choose to work with to create the biggest impact.