The What, Why and How of Influencer Marketing

Friday 16th February

By Katie Nelson

Katie Nelson is an influencer strategist and consultant who runs Dishy Media, a resource for brands and influencers in the food industry. Katie previously worked for Jamie Oliver running global partnerships with clients such as Hellmann’s, Renault and Hotpoint for Jamie’s YouTube channel Food Tube. Katie launched Dishy to lend her expertise and experience to brands, agencies and marketers looking to work with food creators. They help with talent recommendations, creative direction and manage collaborations for a new generation of food talent.

What is going on with Influencer Marketing these days? Just when you think you’ve got it nailed you’re faced with a new terminology, a new type of influencer (the celebrity, the YouTuber, the Instagrammer, the Micro-Influencer) or presented with a new way to find them (the influencer agency, the talent agent, the influencer matching platform).

Not to mention the confusion around how to measure campaigns (engagement, reach, sales, clicks). For a practice so vast and spindly, it’s on track to be an industry worth $10 billion in 2020 – so is probably worth staying on top of!

Here I’ll attempt to break the Influencer Marketing industry down – in the hopes of simplifying something that can be a positive, effective and exciting marketing tool for any size or type of brand.

Influencer marketing food blog 2

What’s all the fuss about?

The old adage in advertising is that brands are built on what people are saying about you, not what you say about yourself. Nowhere is this truer than on social media. One ill-timed tweet or clumsy piece of content can get a lot of attention fast. Suddenly your brand goes viral – just not in the way you had initially hoped for!

Working with influencers (the Most Valuable Players of social media) is like an invitation for a brand to enter an existing conversation. It’s like going to the party with all the cool kids, and if you watch and listen closely you might get your own invite to the next party.

Where is it all heading? Product placement on platforms like Instagram is omnipresent these days. This could be a direct result of the transparency – and growing consumer savviness – of the influencer marketing industry. Knowing that someone they follow is making money from posting content (and even how much money can be made) has encouraged everyone and their dog to aspire to be an influencer.

A word of warning

As the race to reach the minimum threshold of followers to join an influencer platform intensifies, issue can arise in regards to brand safety and the potential for follower fraud. How do you ensure the content surrounding your branded post is complementary, and not unsavoury? How can you be sure the followers on each account are real – and you’re not paying to be “liked” by bots?

influencer food marketing blog

With rates dropping for the smaller “micro-influencers” it’s more affordable for brands to enter the space. However, organic reach on social channels is becoming harder to achieve. So paying an influencer for content alone and leaving distribution up to the gods is not effective anymore.

The ever changing algorithms on some of the more popular influencer platforms can have an adverse effect on influencer marketing campaigns. An Instagram post is fleeting, Facebook video views are deceiving and a one-off video on YouTube can be dismissed by the audience. Benchmarks are near impossible with results different every time you activate a campaign.

Whilst an effective way to crowdsource content, I’d question the “influence” of some of these campaigns to cut through the noise in order to launch a product, change an audience’s perception of a brand or shift sales.

My advice for any brand wanting to get in the space is keep it simple – identify the right influencer(s), plan early and plan long term.

Finding the right influencer

If we go look to the early days of influencer marketing, influencers flourished on social media because they had talent, an authentic voice and experiences to share. A good influencer can come in all shapes and sizes and create all sorts of content. Think beyond Zoella and consider anyone with a social footprint, who communicates regularly with an audience in authentic and credible ways or one who starts trends and create cultural movements.

You might not find them on Instagram or even online. Celebrities are classic influencers, Reddit contributors who are the most upvoted (and find their ideas on Buzzfeed the next day) or even vendors starting street food trends meet this criteria.

These are the people who you want to work with to create content and campaigns that stand out and win awards.

To identify the right influencer for you, find a genuine fan of your brand and the right fit for your message. Do they share your values? Do they use or like your brand or product? Does their audience fit with your target demo?

There are many examples of brands partnering with influencers “of the moment” with no consideration of that influencers audience or interest in the brand. As a result, content loses the authenticity that influencer marketing is known for. The audience feels it too – and that can have negative repercussions for both the influencer and the brand as online audiences are not shy with their comments!

Check out the influencers past content for insight into their habits and hobbies. What other brands have they worked with? Ask them about why they want to work with you. They’re people too and working with them is a relationship, you want to make sure you get along.

Identifying a true brand fan and collaborating on a project can lead to more than a sponsored post – influencers can develop new product lines, cookbooks or merchandise for the brand and use their audience to help shift sales.

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Planning early and long-term

Influencer partnerships should be an integral part of a marketing plan – not a brief to deliver ‘earned media’. It can sit alongside traditional media & advertising campaigns and even become part of them. Great campaigns have used influencer content within paid digital media ads, outdoor billboards, print advertorials and even TV ads.

On the flip side, I’ve worked on many campaigns where influencer marketing is thrown in as a last minute exercise with leftover budget. The result is that the content created doesn’t make sense with the other marketing activations. The exercise is then dismissed because it “didn’t make sense”. By all means test influencer marketing before assigning 12 months budget – but understand the limitations of a short burst of activity not aligned with the rest of your marketing plans.

Long term planning refers to creating deeper, more meaningful connections with influencers. Collaboration is key here – with the influencer, your creative team and your advertising partners. Involve the talent in the creative process, use their audience insights and understanding to help inform your message. As well as being able to reach your audience effectively, influencers still are your audience.

The best influencer-brand relationships are a true collaboration between the influencer and brand. Both parties should feel comfortable (influencer with the product, brand with the choice of influencer), understand each other (influencer understands the brand’s message and mission, the brand understands the influencer’s process and audience) and benefit from the partnership (for the influencer both financially and with the opportunity to create even better content, and for the brand, a creative director, focus group, new product developer and biggest social media cheerleader).

Here are a small selection of foodie influencers who are absolutely rocking it right now with their approach to content, their “influence” and working with brands:


French Guy cooking

Alex understands content, data and platforms like a boss and knows his audience inside out. He partners with brands beyond sponsored posts and content – he’ll often act as an advisor to internal creative and product teams, hosting workshops on engaging digital food content and audience behaviour. Photo from Alex’s instagram.


The Xandwich

Literally an account about sandwiches. You don’t realise how much you love a sandwich until you start following along with these witty, honest and in-depth reviews, drool-worthy images and the unique sandwich rating system. His partnerships feel natural because they’re what you would expect to see in a sandwich. He already uses every brand he works with, and in most cases is a huge brand fan. Photo from the.xandwich instagram.


Mob Kitchen

Feed Your Mob For Under a Tenner is the motto of this “real food” Facebook cooking channel, designed for students and those on a budget to eat well for less. It’s fun content with a great soundtrack, and the recipes don’t taste bad either! Mob Kitchen will always give brands an indication of expected views for the content on their page, and also the option to keep a copy of the recipe video for usage on the brand’s own page. Knowing potential results upfront is incredibly reassuring for brands entering this space for the first time. Photo from the Mob Kitchen instagram.


Cutlery Chronicles

Leyla is a travel and food Instagrammer with a business mindset. Her content and Instagram layout is incredibly creative, and she is obviously keen to not just be another product placement account. She approaches her partnerships with brands with the mind of a creative producer, recommending optimal brand placement (if at all) for what she knows will make an Instagram scroller stop and spend longer engaging with her content. Photo from Leyla’s instagram.

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Want to learn more about the opportunities influencer marketing and social commerce have to elevate your brand? We'll be covering this and so much more in our May YFood Insight & Innovation Day. Check back soon for more details.

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