The Smarter Way for Food Brands to Find Influencers

Posted by
Cyndy Willis-Chun on 11/28/18 12:45 PM

Posting pictures of your lunch on social media is so commonplace it’s literally a punchline. But with the rise of influencers, social has a lot more to offer food and beverage companies than just a peek at consumers’ plates.

Finding the right influencer to rep your brand isn’t just about follower count, though. By focusing on an influencer’s audience, you’ll get more bang for your buck—and more authentic outreach.



The conventional approach to influencer marketing is to find people who are already talking about your brand, rank them based on follower count, and send out a contract.

But as we’ve said before, when it comes to influencers volume does not equal value. An influencer may have a huge following, but if they don’t engage with your target demographic, they can’t provide meaningful results beyond reach.

A better way to discover the right influencers for your brand is to start with your audience—and theirs. Once you identify the demographic and psychographic profile of your target audience, you can look for influencers who speak to that audience. Simple, right?


If you’re doing it all by hand, not so much.
Check out our Influencer Analytics tool to see how you can more easily identify, validate, and measure influencers.

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Brand example: Panera

Let’s use fast casual juggernaut Panera as an example. They’ve long embraced so-called “stroller moms” (women with young children) as their core audience. Our data confirms that family is top of mind for these consumers, with family and parenting topics arising 2.6x more often for Panera consumers than for food and beverage consumers generally.

Let’s take a look at who really makes up Panera’s audience:

Panera's current audience skews younger and more diverse than the average.

Panera’s audience skews younger and more diverse than the average food and beverage audience.


Sure, Panera could go for a celebrity who fits this profile: a young woman with kids, an eye on health and fitness…and a massive social following, of course. But Beyonce’s a busy lady, so she’s probably out of the running.

Instead, let’s look for a smaller-scale influencer who speaks to the audience we want to capture. We did some analysis and found the perfect candidate: @withpeanutbutterontop. A food blogger who creates healthy recipes, she has over half a million Instagram followers, many of whom fall into Panera’s target demographic.


Finding the right influencer means finding one that speaks to your target audience.

@withpeanutbutterontop’s audience mirrors that of Panera.


Just as important, though, @withpeanutbutterontop’s audience is fairly active, responding positively to posts featuring fresh and vibrant meals reminiscent of the ones on Panera’s menu. Seems like a natural fit to us. 


Product example: Snack Bars

Looking beyond specific brands, the same principles apply when identifying influencers for products: analyze the audience, decide who to target, and find influencers with audiences that match.

Let’s use snack bars as an example. Far from the not-quite-candy-bars of our youth, consumers today are looking for healthier alternatives. In fact, diet-related topics account for a significant portion of snack bars’ conversational volume:


Snack bar consumers want healthy options that fit their diets.

Snack bar consumers want healthy options that fit their diets.


While ‘vegan’ topics come up in 37% of snack bar conversations, volume tells only part of the tale. In contrast, ‘gluten-free’ conversations aren’t as common, but index higher. That means gluten-free topics are more unique to snack bars, with over than 12 times the mentions of the average food and beverage topic.

Knowing that diet-related topics are central to snack bar consumers, we combined an interest in vegan and gluten-free topics with the product’s demographic profile to identify an influencer who shares those concerns and speaks with the target audience.

Enter @therealfoodrds. With 95,000 authentic followers, they’re definitely a microinfluencer. But their followers are in the 80th percentile for activity and the 67th percentile for commenting, making for a highly engaged community.

 Here's an influencer that's perfect for health-conscious snack bars.

@therealfoodrds is singing snack bar consumers’ tune.


But @therealfoodrds’ audience isn’t just active—it’s hungry for info on vegan and gluten-free eating. That puts them squarely in the market a healthy snack bar brand and makes @therealfoodrds a viable influencer for this product.


The takeaway

While follower count and brand fit are tried-and-true criteria, they’re by no means the only or best way to evaluate influencers. Instead, it’s important to look at influencers’ audiences—their demographic makeup, their interests, and their level of engagement—to ensure that your message falls on the right ears…or into the right Instagram feeds.


Interested in elevating your influencer efforts? Request a custom demo to see the full power of our Influencer Analytics platform.

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Topics: social analytics, social data, food, influencer, influencer marketing

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