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You keep hearing that you should connect with you influencers, but who exactly are these influencers, and (more importantly) how do you find them?

More and more restaurants and businesses are focusing on influence marketing, meaning that they seek out individuals rather than larger target markets. This can be time consuming to do while running your business, but it is worth the effort to make these connections. Industry influencers have a huge reach, and can help elevate awareness about your business and be your brand advocates while you’re spending your valuable time running your business. Taking the time to establish a relationship can work for you for years to come.

When finding your influencers, start by doing Google searches, and see who is coming out on top. Research more than one category. For example, if you’re a fine dining restaurant specializing in using locally sourced ingredients, look for food bloggers who focus on fine dining, and ones who focus on sourcing locally. Also, consider finding bloggers who focus on your city or your neighborhood. Keep an open mind, you may want some people specific to the food industry, but a style blogger that posts a lot about where she’s eating in your neighborhood, may also be a worthwhile connection.

Also, chat with your regulars, these may be some of your influencers. Try and find out more about the people who already love your restaurant. Do they write for a local magazine, have a blog, have a big social media reach?

Follow hashtags in social media, and see who is talking about the topics that pertain to your business. What are the top hashtags for your type of cuisine, restaurants, and neighborhood? Don’t forget to also be using them so that influencers can find you.

When you have a list of influencers, do some research on them and consider these qualities:

woman typing on laptopRelevance

Is this person relevant to your industry, business or community? Look at the content they’re creating and sharing, and determine if you fit in with what they’re doing. They may visit your restaurant often, and have a lot of followers, but if they’re only talking about politics, they might not be the best fit for you.

Reach

Some things to look for when trying to figure out what their reach is: How many followers do they have on various social media platforms? How do they rank in Google searches? Do their blog posts get a lot of comments? Are people sharing their content through Facebook?

Research

Look at the types of conversations and interactions they’re having online and be sure they fit with your brand and values. They may be a food blogger with a lot of followers, but if they’re mean-spirited or rude, then that might not reflect your brand.

After you’ve determined people you think are a good match for your business, start interacting with them. Consider making a Twitter list of these people, so you can easily see what they’re saying. Respond to tweets, comment on their blog posts, share their content. Keep it social and natural, and work on establishing a relationship that you can maintain. Include them if you can when you’re putting out new content, to encourage them to share. Your relationship should grow organically, and if it’s a good match than these influencers will be on their way to advocating and advertising for you.

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Kristin lives on the West Side of Providence with her wine blogger husband. When she's not co-hosting their monthly wine tastings, she's planning her next travel adventure and daydreaming about Spanish jamón. She can often be found pouring over travel guides at her favorite neighborhood spot, Nick's on Broadway.