What Is An Influencer?
I get a lot of questions from friends and co-workers about how I’m able eat out all the time. Then I explain that I’m approached my different restaurants to come try their food and drinks and post about it on social media. I’m usually met with puzzled looks or an, “OMG, I hate you!” However, it took a long time of building up followers and interacting with food accounts around New York and the world to become what marketers consider a “micro-influencer”. Since it’s relatively new, marketers have different ideas of what a micro-influencer is. Typically, it’s someone who has between 5,000 and 25,000 followers on a social media platform, usually on Instagram.
The first time I was invited to a restaurant they sent me a direct message through my Instagram account @findyourhappyplate. It was an awesome burger joint called @67Burger near my apartment in Brooklyn. My first thought was, Wow! Free burgers, this is awesome! This started happening around the 15,000 followers mark. I showed up to the restaurant and felt like a VIP as we ordered milkshakes, the buffalo tenders below and a few burgers. Once I posted my photo of a fully loaded burger with curly fries and hashtags like #nycrestaurants, #nyceats and #newforkcity, I started getting more direct messages from local restaurants to come try their food in exchange for a post. Then came the influencer events…
Someone must have seen a hashtag or a food picture they liked on my account. I suddenly got an e-mail from a freelance marketing manager named Lizz aka @type2creative and @hungryhippie to come to a Mexican food tasting at Tortaria in Manhattan. When I arrived at the restaurant there were at least a dozen other food bloggers and Instagrammers standing over tacos and colorful Margheritas snapping shots. From there I met other influential foodies in New York with even bigger accounts than my own. Once I started networking and making connections with other influencers I kept getting invited to more events.
Around the same time that I started being invited to restaurants to eat and take photos I also started getting e-mails about products. Different travel and food companies would approach me to post on social media or write a blog post about their items. If I think the product fits in well with my brand I often except and send over a copy of my media kit.
The first time a tourism board asked me for my media kit I didn’t know what it was. When I realized I need one, I quickly scrambled to find a template on Canvas or Etsy to create my own. Essentially it’s a document where you store all your brand’s info and metrics for companies to evaluate whether you’d be a good fit to represent their product. For more information on what’s typically included in a media kit, click here. Another question I often get asked is how much do you charge for this? I use Social Bluebook to give me a rough estimate and go with what I feel comfortable charging. As you get more followers and become more influential that rates increase.
One downside is that since I’ve started doing this I’ve also packed on a few pounds. I hear other influencers talking about this too. Luckily, my office has a gym that I can work out in so I’ve also made it a priority to take a class three to four times a week. That often means I show up to restaurants with my gym bag but a girls gotta stay fit.
The other question I’m asked most often if what do you do if the food is bad? To be honest, I haven’t eaten many bad meals during my experience. Maybe only four out of fifty have been a negative or not-so good time. In that rare case, I just don’t post a picture or blog about my experience. I’m not looking to damage any restaurants reputation. But I’m also looking to keep quality over quantity and steer my followers in the right foodie direction.
Occasionally there will be an influencer event with overly pushy people. I won’t name any names but some will throw an elbow or steal the food before you’re done taking your picture. Even worse, the restaurant doesn’t give out enough food and you leave hungry.
It’s been about six months since I started helping small restaurants to grow their business and taking lots of food pornography. It went from one restaurant or event every month to three or four a week. The experience has given me tons of great content, new followers and a place to talk about photography and food with like-minded foodies. It’s like a mini-reunion when you show up to a new spot and you see familiar faces. Plus, you have someone who won’t judge you when you ask them to hold a slice of pizza for you while you take an awesome picture. Overall, it’s a great way to meet new people, grow my own brand and even save some money on groceries every month.
For some more high-end restaurant recommendations in New York City check out my post here: 8 Chic Must-Eat Restaurants In New York City
What are some of your favorite food-themed Instagram accounts that you follow?
Trips & Tips
I’m always the go-to person my friends ask when they want to take someone out for a must-eat meal in