Social Media Influencers Present New Marketing Opportunities
Kim Ly Curry
A couple of years ago, the name Kim Ly Curry might not ring a dinner bell for many Twin Cities restaurateurs. But now the Instagram foodie sensation is a presence at every table in town. And because a good number of people like interesting food pictures and Instagram is an international platform, her restuarant "reviews" are seen by followers all over the internet.
The petite social-media phenom has more than 34,000 followers on Instagram, where she posts particularly pretty photos of food—photos often referred to as “food porn.”
“I love beautiful food,” she says, before reconsidering. “It doesn’t (even) have to be beautiful, I just love food.” To that point, she has 20,000 photos on her phone, and it’s not unusual to take 550 pictures a day. “I go through and see what catches my eye,” she says.
When Curry first started posting pictures taken from her iPhone 7 on Instagram, it was on her own dime, but as her followers grew, restaurants have started paying her to visit them. The payment is in a variety of forms: free food for her and her daughter and husband, gift cards and/or a generous check. Restaurants or PR companies call her daily. It’s at a point now where she could make a living, but being practical and respectful, she doesn't want to quit her day job as a medical technician who monitors heart rhythms. Plus, you never know how long a phenom will be a phenom.
The reason Instagram works so well as a platform for both Curry and restaurants, says Alexis Walsko, founder of Lola Red PR in Minneapolis, is because “Many of them (influencers) have personal passions for the space and have traveled the world to feed their passions which gives them an outsider’s view and perspective on what is happening locally."
In Curry’s favor, says Keegan Shoutz, also with Lola Red, is that she’s perceived as a “normal person” that's not pushy or demanding—and her imagery is unique.
“Instagram is all about the photos,” he points out, adding that the aesthetics of a page of multiple pictures has to be compelling. Viewers on Instagram want to multi-task by scrolling through pictures while doing other things, without the need to read copy, unless you want to find out more.
Before restaurant companies jump on the influencer bandwagon, Shoutz warns that it needs to be right for their brand. “Influencers want to do their own photos, they want creative control,” Shoutz says. Most likely, they’re not going to want to repost your photos on their page. And for franchisors, giving up control isn't always easy.
Most influencers don’t operate off a rate card, he says. They look for a brand they like and that resonates with them, and then are willing to negotiate. Payment can run around $500 or more for people with a following of 10,000-plus, he adds. Gift cards for future visits or give-aways for them to post for their followers to win are also forms of payment.
Not all their posts are paid, Shoutz says, since in order to keep their integrity they need to do some unpaid posts on their individual finds, as well as paid ones. Thus the 20,000 photos on Curry’s phone.
Because Facebook owns Instagram, it’s possible to track the stats on influencers’s posts, from number of views to times of day they’re being viewed, etc, in order to time promotions tied to the pictures.
Influencers are the new version of “word of mouth” marketing. According to Twitter’s own research, 49 percent of consumers seek purchase guidance from influencers, and 20 percent were spurred into action after reading a tweet. MedizKix has found that brands spend $1billion on influencers on Instagram.
There are several free tools for monitoring conversations relevant to your industry such as Hootsuite, but for independent restaurateurs, to influence influencers you may just want to start making pretty food.