Food influencers, social media changing how restaurants market businesses

Global Business

No meal seems complete these days without a picture of the plate posted on social media. Instagram and other apps have spawned an entire industry that’s changing the way restaurants market themselves. It’s even created a new job title: “food influencer.” It’s been a game changer this is, for food outlets and photographers alike.

CGTN’s Liling Tan has more.

Food, food pictures, food puns — for Stephanie Perez, this is the recipe for success.

She’s gone from food blogger to food influencer, building on the popularity of her Instagram page YeahFoodBeer, where a single post to her 48,000 followers can translate into customers for restaurants.

That influence translates into a modest income for Stephanie, who gets paid for hosting events at restaurants and from sponsorship deals, accounting for about 20 percent of her monthly income.

“I probably can’t pay my rent completely with what I make off Instagram, but I can definitely buy a nice purse once a month,” said Perez

Tempting people with pictures of food isn’t a new marketing concept. What’s new is that social media allows people and businesses to do it at a lower cost.

“You can say it is less expensive than advertising, but to do it well, it’s not going to come cheap either. But it gives you an opportunity to connect with your customers in a way that cannot be done with advertising,” Iris Mohr, Chair of Marketing at St. John’s University said.

In Brooklyn, the OddFellows ice cream company boasts a passport program that takes your stomach around the world. In October Asia was on the itinerary, with Jackfruit, Coconut Sticky Rice, and Matcha flavors on the menu. And of course they get the word out on social media.

“It’s immediate, the reach that you get,” OddFellows owner Mohan Kumar said. “As soon as I post a photo on Instagram, I’m reaching 30-, 40,000 people right away and hopefully they’re sharing with their friends. It’s a free, and immediate form of marketing and getting your product out there.”

“As a restaurant, you’re seeing what customers are saying about you. You’re also noticing what dishes they like most. That also gives you input for how to revise your menu, how to better cater to your customers,” Mohr said.

But she adds, there is a downside. It’s time-consuming, it needs to be updated frequently, and if customer expectations are not met, negative reviews can be very costly.