A brief guide to boosting the reach of your RDS through your city’s biggest social media stars.

Influencers are ever present in modern society. They’re all over social media, they’re at fabulous A-list events, and they’re in the news. Some people love them, some people can’t stand them, some are more or less indifferent.

But there’s no denying that influencers are powerful. People perceive influencers as their peers, someone they can relate to. Over time, that turns into trust—which affects people’s purchasing decisions. Many people trust influencers over brands and choose products and services based on what influencers recommend. (That’s why they’re called influencers!)

Because influencers are so powerful, brands, including restaurant delivery services (RDS), are willing to pay top dollar to partner with them. TikTok star Charli D’Amelio charges nearly $200,000 for one Instagram post. Needless to say, that’s not accessible for most small brands. And it wouldn’t make sense for your local or regional RDS.

So how does a smaller RDS leverage the power of influencers?

You go local.

Why local influencers are better for your RDS.

There’s no formal definition for a local influencer, but in general, a local influencer:

  • Has under 10,000 followers.
  • Almost exclusively posts content related to where they live. They may focus on a certain region, city, or even a single neighborhood.

Partnering with a local influencer can be a fantastic marketing strategy for your RDS, for several reasons:

  • Their audience is your audience. If your RDS only serves a certain region or city, partnering with a massive influencer with a global reach is inefficient. 99.9% of their audience is outside your delivery range. On the other hand, a local influencer in your city is connected to the exact people you want. You can trust that the majority of their audience has the potential to become a customer.
  • They’re more affordable. A partnership with a local influencer can be very financially accessible for your RDS. That’s because local influencers charge far less for sponsored posts and context than their massive counterparts. A single Instagram post might be $100—or less!
  • They get better engagement. Studies show that local influencers with smaller audiences get higher rates of engagement. They’re more likely to get likes and comments on their posts, which boosts the post’s prominence in the algorithm. In other words, their audience is really paying attention to them. If you partner with them, they’ll pay attention to you, too.

How to find local influencers in your area.

So how do you go about finding the right local influencer to partner with your RDS? There are a few strategies to consider.

Start by checking:

  • Your own Instagram followers.
  • Your restaurant clients’ Instagram followers (and who they’re following).

Look for accounts with verified check marks or professional photos. Verified accounts are more likely to be influencers, rather than casual users.

You can also use hashtags to find influencers who are active in your area. Variations on #localbuffalo and #chicagofoodbloggers are a great place to start. You can also check hashtags of your city’s airport acronym or nickname, such as #CLE for Cleveland and #MKE for Milwaukee.

Lastly, there are databases and marketplaces you can search to find local influencers, such as Modash or Influencity. These services may charge a fee or take a cut of any deal, so do your research and consider your budget.

Once you’ve found a few local influencers, you might want to observe them for a while before approaching them about a partnership. Look at all their posts, watch their stories, and leave the occasional comment. It’s important to see if you like the “feel” or “vibe” of their brand. Are they friendly and relatable? Or do they post complaints more than they share the good stuff? Not every influencer will be the right fit for you! So don’t be afraid to take your time and get to know your options before you commit.

How to partner with a local influencer.

Once you’ve identified a few influencers you’d like to work with, reach out! Most of these people are very accustomed to talking with brands via DM, though some will want to switch to email. Ask them about their rates and any special deals they might offer. For example, you might be able to get a better deal on a package of three Instagram stories, an Instagram post, and a TikTok.

Some influencers will be open to different types of deals, as well, such as trades or freebies. For example, you might:

  • Deliver a meal for free in exchange for an Instagram story about it.
  • Give them $200 worth of ordering “credit” in exchange for a package that usually costs $200.

Before any money exchanges hands, however, you should be crystal clear about your goals for the partnership. Your influencer needs to understand their role and responsibilities, and they need to understand what message they should be sending about your RDS. Of course, part of what people value about influencer marketing is honesty, and you should be prepared for them to tell the truth! But be clear about what you want to achieve with this partnership and what your RDS has to offer.

You might also give the influencer a few content ideas, such as:

  • A post about their go-to order from your RDS.
  • A video or series of posts in which they host an event featuring food from your RDS. “Throw a party with me” videos can be very popular.
  • A post about why they prefer your RDS over one of the big, third-party restaurant delivery platforms.

Most influencers will have lots of great ideas on their own, but you can jumpstart their creativity with a few suggestions.

Start small.

If you connect with an influencer you like, it can be tempting to go all in on a big, long-term partnership. But there’s no harm in starting small. Invest in a smaller package up front and pay attention to the ROI. Ask the influencer if they’ll share metrics on your sponsored posts, such as the number of likes, comments, and views. Better yet, offer a specific discount code for their campaign, so you can track exactly how many orders it brought in. If you get a lot of new customers, you can consider working together more. If the campaign doesn’t get much traction, you can decide to move on.

Has your RDS ever worked with a local influencer? Tell us in the comments!

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