You’re attending a birthday party with your best friend and he loudly proclaims: “This is absolutely the best cake I have ever eaten”. His enthusiasm convinces everyone to get their pastry from that particular pastry shop, which is located around the corner from him. “Generally speaking, this is no different from what an influencer does, except an influencer does it online”, explains Roger Bloem, marketer and food blogger at Cityguys. “An influencer has an above-average influence on other people’s behaviour.”
What is an influencer?
“Influencers are people that do or achieve something special out of a certain passion or expertise, and who are followed – or even imitated – by other people for this reason. An influencer is often seen as someone who influences other people’s purchasing behaviour, but this is not always the case. They can also influence your lifestyle for example, by raising awareness with regard to healthier or more sustainable food.”
Influencers are everywhere
“The first step in influencing is frequently made through an online channel of your own, like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook or a blog. People often become influencers only gradually – and usually unintentionally at first: people get followers, who allow themselves to be influenced, whether consciously or unconsciously. Of course, there are exceptions, but nobody starts out expecting to get thousands or even millions of followers. Influencership generally emerges out of a personal passion or expertise in a specific field of interest, like technology, healthy nutrition, cars or cosmetics.
“In combination with an original or appealing way of storytelling, unknown teenagers operating from their attic bedrooms can grow into international stars in no time at all. An influencer can be someone who goes on a quest for the very best mince pies at Christmas, tests numerous pastry shops and writes about this. If he subsequently gets followers who buy these pies from a specific pastry shop based on his advice, he will, generally speaking, be an influencer.
“A prime example is the American chef Christiana Tosi of New York’s Milk Bar. In an episode of Netflix’ Chef’s Table she makes a dessert called ‘Cereal Milk pannacotta’. While preparing it, she talks in such a delightful and inspirational manner that chefs all over the world have picked up on her recipe. A few weeks after the episode was broadcast, I noticed that a shop here in Amsterdam was actually selling her dessert. It can happen as quickly as that!”
What is influencer marketing?
“Influencer marketing is the deployment of influencers as a communication medium. What is so interesting about it is that you, as a company, cannot exercise any control over the outcome. You can, for example, send an influencer your latest product and hope that it appeals to him, and that he will post something positive about it. The influencer will then talk about your product on his own channel, in his own words and images. If things go right, it is a fantastic marketing opportunity.”
Paid or non-paid
“When influences are unpaid, their motivation and opinion will stem purely from the influencer himself. Influencers often use #nospon to make it clear to their followers that they are not being paid for their post. If you can turn people into fans of a certain brand, they will not embrace your product for money, but out of enthusiasm. As a commercial enterprise, you can benefit from this on many levels.
“However, influencers are often paid, or they enter into a paid relationship with brands that they are enthusiastic about. When the connection is credible, sincere and authentic, there is no reason to have a negative opinion of such a relationship. Still, it becomes tricky when influencers stop doing this out of sincere interest for or love of a brand or product but purely for the money. This is something that followers and consumers, in our transparent times, infallibly see right through. As a commercial enterprise, it is vital that you select your influencers with the utmost care, particularly if payment is involved.”
Influencer marketing: yes or no?
“Numerous companies are already engaged in influencer marketing without being fully aware of this. Every restaurant, for example, has a waiter or chef who likes to post photographs and videos of the restaurant on his or her Instagram channel. They may not have the reach of a professional influencer, but this is nevertheless the basic principle of influencer marketing.
“Influencer marketing could be part of every company’s marketing mix. Around Christmas time, the Albert Heijn supermarket chain invited a number of foodies to partake of their complete range of Christmas products. These foodies were so enthusiastic that they shared countless photographs and stories on their online channels.”
Of course, influencer marketing is not compulsory. There are plenty of commercial enterprises that don’t need this to be successful. However, it can be a profitable and relatively inexpensive way to bring your product to the attention of the general public. Every traditional bakery or pastry shop has a “hero product”. If you enhance this with some strong storytelling and make sure that you communicate this to your customers, they will pick up on it and tell everyone they know about it. This way, you can reach a vast number of people in no time at all.”
The future of influencing
“I expect more and more influencers to start taking over the role of a PR agency in promoting restaurants, shops and brands. They will then become the ambassador of the brand, as it were, and seek like-minded influencers to promote this together.”
You might also be interested in our tips and tricks to benefit from the Instagrammable food trend or our interview with trendwatcher Hans Steenbergen about Generation Z: the generation that has never been offline.