31 May Are We Witnessing the Rise of the Nano-influencer?
While the popularity of influencer marketing as an authentic way to advertise products is well-documented, after all a review from a real person is likely to hold more credibility among an audience; rightfully, restaurants are looking at influencer ‘relationships’ with increased scrutiny.
Are they in actual fact generating a worthwhile return on investment? Are they genuinely perceived as credible by customers?
Influencers are certainly not going anywhere in 2020, but the rise of fake influencers and the decreased emphasis on ‘likes’ as an engagement metric, is a surefire signal that influencers and bloggers will increasingly need to be able to back up their price tag, or demonstrate their worth with data.
When it comes to restaurant marketing, we know that an integrated approach should be adopted. And while a website, social media accounts and perhaps the odd email marketing campaign will get you so far, as with any industry, word of mouth will always be the key. Whether deemed as a positive or negative, online reviews from recent customers via TripAdvisor, Google and Facebook will increase awareness of your restaurant and develop customer’s perceptions. However, a growing trend is the increased connection with nano-influencers (1,000-10,000 followers). The concept being- smaller audiences are more meaningful and engaged, versus influencer accounts which to all intents and purposes, exist to chase likes and obtain ‘freebies’.
As a restaurant, if you are looking to go down this path, developing a strategy is vital.
Establish your objectives-
- What are you hoping to achieve from the exercise?
- What is your budget?
- What are your expectations of the bloggers/influencers that you invite?
- How will you monitor their social engagement levels and gauge their contributions against your overall marketing goals? – and most importantly
- What level of return on investment are you expecting to see from this?
Will that lavish launch really produce the return it supposedly should bring with all those people attending?
As obvious as it may appear, if you’re opening a restaurant or launching a new menu, there is little point inviting an individual whose Instagram feed is full of them looking wistfully into the distance, while modelling the latest in summer fashion trends. Their audience is less likely to be interested and engage in their posts, or at least not for the reason you’re expecting. If your dishes are likely to play second fiddle to their ‘selfies’, maybe it’s time to think again. We unfortunately live in world where a minority of influencers are keen to take any freebie offered to them in exchange for that one off post- it’s therefore important to do your research and plan.
Will adopting a ‘catch-all approach’ with a focus on the quantity of reviews, rather than on the quality of them, work for you as a restaurant? Will it help you to meet your marketing objective?
Or is it far better to use that budget to secure a few great reviews from niche knowledgeable bloggers, media and nano-influencers, who are trusted and respected by your target audience…
The Issue of Trust
Yet, we are starting to see consumers becoming more savvy in their perception of these types of reviews, ultimately for one fundamental reason- trust (or…lack of).
In September 2018, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) along with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published guidance, in order to bring together all of the advisory information influencers needed to ensure that they were keeping to the rules of advertising and the relevant provisions from consumer protection legislation. In essence, transparency became essential and the guidelines ensure that consumers are able to clearly identify in a post, if influencers have been paid, incentivised, or in any way rewarded to endorse or review something- including complimentary meals.
Of course from a consumer perspective, this raises one obvious question; once identified as an ad or a gifted post, would you trust a review from someone who had received a meal from a restaurant for free in exchange for a blog post, or that of an unbiased customer who had paid in full for their meal?
Many types of influencers are no longer trusted by consumers. Influencers with significant follower numbers are are not only expensive for businesses, but they no longer have the impact that they used to because they are seen as lacking sincerity for a brand- choosing instead to opt for any freebie going. In fact, it’s been seen that consumers will trust the recommendations of friends and family over endorsements as they are more likely to be honest.
In comparison, influencers with smaller follower numbers, tend to have better relationships with their followers, which means they benefit from a higher level of trust. From a restaurant marketing perspective, this can lead to increased engagement at a lower cost, as well as increased trust in a business that is subsequently more likely to lead to customer conversion and reservations. However, providing a genuine dining experience is paramount to retain trust. Many restaurant bloggers have faced consumer criticism that following their recommendation, a visit by a paying customer appeared to differ from the initial review and their expectations weren’t met.
And this is all before, we even enter the realms of buying fake followers…
Spot the Faker
We can safely say that as restaurateurs you will have, at some point, been approached by individuals over email or DM with their media packs brandishing their stats, requesting a collaborative complimentary meal in exchange for social media posts. It frequently happens, and it is down to individual businesses to decide how to react. A proportion are genuine, and influencers will have worked hard to achieve that level of engagement and numbers of followers. Others will have purchased their followers through alternative means, and should be avoided at all costs.
But how do you spot an account that has purchased followers, likes or comments?
It’s cheap to purchase fake followers, and over the years studies have shown how easy it is to do this. Unfortunately, there is no foolproof way or reliable tool to currently identify fake followers or engagement, and it can be time-consuming- hence we would suggest getting a marketing professional involved. As a business, there are some warning signs to look out for though:
- Follower to Following Ratio – influencers that have a large following base in comparison to the amount of people they’re following. With the exception of celebrities, this could indicate that they have purchased followers or enjoy indulging in the all too common tactic of follow-unfollow. This involves following a large number of users, waiting for them to follow back, and then subsequently unfollowing them.
- Content to Follower Ratio – the number of posts on an influencer’s Instagram profile should logically relate to the number of followers they have. For example, more posts should equal more followers. It takes years to build a sizeable and authentic following. An individual with very few posts and a high follower count is almost certainly fraudulent as users are unlikely to have seen or followed accounts with a small amount of content.
- Engagement Rates – an engagement rate that’s either unusually high or low in relation to an influencer’s total followers may indicate that they have bought fake engagement (likes or comments). A further giveaway- post engagement that is too consistent, authentic influencers will tend to vary their engagement.
- Review who likes their Posts – evaluate who likes the influencers post; look for private accounts, accounts without a profile photo, accounts that follow thousands of users but maintain only a few followers, accounts with a low number of posts, and check when the individual liking last posted themselves. Chances are, if there are an abundance of these accounts liking the post, the influencer is purchasing fake likes.
- Comments – if you’re looking to see whether an influencer’s comments have been bought, examine comments individually for impersonal or generic statements, as well as repeated comments or a larger percentage of comments in a foreign language.
- And track them – there are rare exceptions, but authentic accounts typically grow at a steady and relatively consistent rate. You can monitor an account’s follower growth either manually, or by using tools such as Social Blade – look for large spikes in follower growth over a period of time, or a specific follower gain, for example adding 50 followers a day. Also check for rapid fluctuations in accounts they are following, boosting your follower statistics through these follow-unfollow means are, on the whole, considered unethical.
Choose your Influencer Carefully
With this in mind, should using an influencer/blogger still be an option when it comes to developing a marketing strategy for your restaurant?
Our advice, rather than dealing with individuals who approach you, unless they are particularly well known – work with the individuals you would like to partner with. Approach and work with those that can add value to your marketing, that have an understanding of your dishes, your chef, your vision…your business. Take a look at their posts – are they authentic? Take a look at their engagement, does their audience value their opinion?
With the continued rise of social media, it is now easier than ever to gain many followers and become a self-proclaimed ‘influencer’, but if someone isn’t influencing or engaging their audience, they aren’t an influencer. Businesses need to be careful about who they partner with and how they manage their campaigns. This valuable form of marketing can still provide a good return on investment and allow you to reach new audiences, but only if you choose the right person with the right messaging for your brand.