KEY POINTS:
* Social media has generated a new level of influencers for foodservice
* Before you can identify and map your influencers, you must understand what an influencer is in marketing terms
* Monitoring social media will enable you to see what influencers are saying about your business, your competitors, or your product and service generally
* There are a range of online tools to assist in this process

THE MARKETING TERM “influencers” has been around for a long time, but with the rise of social media it’s taken on a new significance and become more widely known among the general community.
The reason for this is not only that social media has generated a new level of influencers for many business sectors, including that of foodservice, but that analytical tools have been created by software developers which are designed to help you identify who they are.
The aim of these tools is to enable you to identify your business’ influencers and “map” their areas of influence so you can target your marketing accordingly. But before you can do that, you need to understand what an influencer is in marketing terms.
Simply put, influencers are those individuals and/or organisations who are in a position to build your brand out there in the virtual marketplace by virtual word of mouth (which in social media terms translates to posts, feeds, blogs and imagery). They have the ability to encourage your potential customers to utilise your foodservice business, restaurant, takeaway operation etc. The reason they have this influence is because they have built up trusted reputations among their social media followers as reliable sources of information.
As a foodservice operator running a pizza/pasta restaurant, café, pub, club, takeaway or catering operation serving Italian style cuisine, your key influencers will likely include food bloggers, critics, newspaper restaurant reviewers and media personalities (radio, TV and online — including, these days, Youtube!) relevant to your local business area.
The rise of food blogging, in particular, has impacted consumer decision-making when it comes to choosing places to dine out or order takeaway from. How many of us, when looking for a restaurant in our local area, will now do a google search whose results include blogger reviews accompanied by attractive food shots?
While the starred reviews on third-party online reservation or order platforms such as Zomato, Dimmi, Yelp, Time Out, the Good Food Guide and many others also play an important role in encouraging potential customers to try your establishment, the fact that their sites are built around such a business model sets them apart from those social media influencers, such as food bloggers, who are perceived as impartial and independent.
It’s this perceived impartiality that gives such influencers the influence over your core demographic of potential customers. So how do you identify and ‘map’ them?
As mentioned there are now a range of software packages available to help with this. But at the basic level, you start by monitoring your social media to see what local influencers are saying about either your business, or your competitors’ businesses, or your product and service more generally (in our case, pizza, pasta and Italian style cuisine, or restaurants/foodservice business in your local area catering to your customer base).
When you identify potential influencers who are blogging, tweeting or otherwise advocating for Italian style cuisine to your potential customer base, you then need to engage with them and make them familiar with your business brand.
You can use simple online tools such as Google Alerts to set keywords to identify influencers writing about relevant topics, and Social Mention to find mentions of your business on different social media platforms.
There are also many tools for identifying bloggers relevant to your business — which saves you the time-consuming task of visiting each one individually. Simply google “blogger outreach tools” or check out such tools as BlogDash or Buzz Stream.
Having identified your potential influencers, you then need to encourage them to “spread the word” about your great food! Which will be the subject of our next story.
Influencer mapping marketing
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