You may or may not know but as well as writing about food for a living, I do it for fun too. My blog Eat with Ellen has been going for quite some time and even got itself an award last year. I don’t really make any money from it, and that’s fine by me given that it’s a hobby, but the fact that my pastime is so similar to my ‘day job’ means that inevitably the two sometimes overlap. That’s fine by me – the more I get to write about, talk about, read about and be around food the better, as far as I’m concerned.
And so in March I found myself invited to Northern Ireland by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and Food NI, an organisation which promotes Northern Ireland Food and Drink, to meet with hospitality industry representatives from hoteliers to food and drink producers to talk about bloggers, influencers, and how best to try to work with them. Held at the visitor centre at The Gobbins in Islandmagee, I joined Robert from popular Northern Ireland bloggers ‘Down the Hatch’ to share a few tips and tricks on what businesses might be able to do to use influencers to get the word out there.
Whatever our view about ‘influencers’ and what they do, there’s no denying that they can help businesses and brands spread the word and ultimately make money. Look at Fyre Festival…. (okay, maybe that’s not the best example, but you get the gist). From bloggers to Insta-personalities, these people are as valuable to brands as traditional media and advertising are. However, for a small business who has never worked with people whose sphere of influence lies in the ever-changing world of social media, sometimes hard to know where to start.
As well as covering what bloggers and influencers do and how they work with businesses, I shared a few of my own tips that could help.
:: Know who you’re talking to and who THEY’RE talking to – if you approach an influencer, make sure they’re the right fit for you and your business or product. You may think someone has a great profile and bucketloads of followers, but are they talking to the people you’re trying to reach in a way you feel comfortable with. If your product or service is quality, artisan and high end, do you really want it sitting alongside others that are the complete opposite? Maybe not.
:: Don’t get obsessed with numbers – there are influencers out there with millions of followers. Of course it would be great if they endorsed your product, but the chances are quite slim. But influencers with smaller followings can be just as valuable. It’s not necessarily about the numbers, but the engagement, so keep that in mind.
:: Build relationships – I firmly believe this applies to pretty much everything in business (and life). In my work as a journalist and PR consultant I am constantly building relationship.
With that comes trust, and that in turn benefits everybody involved. Rather than decide to approach a bunch of influencers you’ve never spoken to before, you might want to build up some kind of rapport whether that’s in real life or in the online world. On top of this, if you do start working with people, don’t just make it a transaction or a one-off project – if you’re happy with things, look at how you can make sure it’s a lasting, long-term relationship.
:: Tell your story – whether it’s via your own website or blog, to the media, via social media, or to influencers, years as a journalist have taught me that it’s all about your story. Don’t be afraid to tell it, and as much as it makes you cringe, keep telling it. It is what will help you.
:: Be authentic – journalists, bloggers, customers, investors. For the most part, they’re all pretty switched on and they’ll notice the minute you cross the line into nonsense or disingenuous tripe. So don’t do that. Stay true to what you do, why you do it, and what your story is. This is what will make you stand head and shoulders above your rivals.