They say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so just imagine the stories brands can tell on social media. That was the basis of our thinking when we built one of our own social influencer platforms in 2017. As marketers we wanted a social platform to tell the stories of some of the best food and drink producers in our state of Virginia to an audience that really wanted to know about them. We started researching heavily but came up short in finding a social presence where all of this converged–and so Virginia Foodie was born.
Creating our Social Media Presence: From Storytelling & Relationship Building to Establishing Influence
Food can easily evoke emotion, memory, and connections, while simultaneously building community, so the transition to telling this story digitally was, to be honest, the easy part. Even though we really wanted this platform to exist, this social presence was not just for ourselves but for others who have the same values and interest in food that we do. So we took our marketing expertise to the foodies, built a community, and inevitably made a virtual foodie hangout based on local sourcing and ethical food sourcing practices.
The power of influence can be mighty, and there is a sense of ethical responsibility that we take as professionals in persuasive mass communications we must consider. We wanted to genuinely and authentically connect to the makers, growers, supporters, and contributors all working toward the goal of sustainable and ethical food and drink sourcing. In turn, the content we create or curate has the ability to bring together people for a common good. This approach aligns with the desire of consumers to discover brands that they can honestly connect with. Answering this market desire to connect with brands in a genuine and authentic way, is what VA Foodie has strived to attain through its social strategy.
Being authentic as possible will allow you to move your ideal customer to action with your influencer efforts. The buzzword of this current generation is authenticity. Authenticity attained by brand management standards is made up of these three factors: being consistent, continuous and individual in behavior. Sounds easy, but the value of having a clear brand identity and mission will be key to building this brand strategy.
People ask us often how we did it. Even though our original goal was not to become an influencer, our account grew to be one of the top foodie influencers in Virginia (source). As smart marketers we defined our mission and story, analyzed, adjusted, responded and rode the wave. Contrary to belief about some social influencers, it was not an overnight success. We did not wake up one day with a social explosion. It has been a steady build of REAL and engaged followers.
Our philosophy of social media growth is to be patient and be human - after all, it is essentially just people talking to people. So that's what we do: We listen, we pay attention, we advise, we talk and express ourselves in a consistent manner and we engage in the conversation – just like any good friend would. We are still on the "micro" measurement side of social influencers, but the insights and genuine relationships we hold are highly valuable. We have built really smart influencer marketing campaigns from our audience insight.
The Value of Influence and How You Measure It
When considering making influencer marketing as part of your future digital strategy efforts, keep in mind influence is much more than a one-off score. This is about reaching people not just because they’re connected but because they have a role within an online community. It's an opportunity for marketers to learn more about social landscapes and the people who affect their markets. Brands cannot think episodically about influence or influencers - this is about on-going engagement and community building. Currently, the ability for brands to do that across all channels is growing in scale and allows for an incredible opportunity for brand awareness and growth.
As we have learned from our venture into influencer marketing, the struggle can be REAL for influencers from an ROI perspective. The impact can at times be incremental in improving soft metrics like awareness and engagement while struggling to directly impact hard metrics like conversions and sales. Evaluation from a long-scale approach and treating influencer marketing as part of a larger marketing initiative will give you a holistic view of successes and failures.
Influencer marketing has the incredible potential to place you on a personal stage in front of your ideal audience and aligning yourself with the people they love most. Tapping into one really big fan who aligns with your brand mission perfectly is worth a hundred slightly disconnected followers and a mountain of useless likes.
As a brand's target audience continues to spread out over various forms of media, it becomes increasingly difficult to reach them, and the right influencer can take you right to that desired audience.