How to Maximize Influencers for Food and Beverage Brands

How to Maximize Influencers for Food and Beverage Brands

Influencer marketing has become a main ingredient in any food brand’s recipe for success. No surprise, then, that the quest to match up with the right influencers is mission critical.

Influencer marketing is increasingly favored as a relatable and trustworthy form of peer-to-peer marketing for consumers with a high degree of social media engagement. A report from Morning Consult underscores this growing sense of trust among younger demographics. The percentage of Gen Zers and millennials who trust social media influencers has jumped from 51% in 2019 to 61% in 2023. Fifty-six percent of young Americans have purchased a product after seeing a post from an influencer they follow.

The feeding frenzy has become so pervasive, that influencer marketing is now a $21.1 billion industry and projected to reach $24 billion by end of year, according to The State of Influencer Marketing 2024: Benchmark Report from Influencer Marketing Hub. 

During the first half of 2023 alone, over 437,000 creators posted about food and beverage brands more than 1.2 million times, driving nearly 75.5 billion impressions, 3 billion engagements and a whopping $4.8 billion in earned media value, reported CreatorIQ.

This year, more than 85% of brands, marketing agencies, and other relevant professionals surveyed plan to create an influencer marketing budget, and nearly 60% who already have one intend to boost it, according to Influencer Marketing Hub. Content output continues to rise, with over 78% having stepped it up over the last two years.

“We have absolutely pivoted our conversation from ‘what’s the TV ad’ to ‘what’s the content strategy?’” said Nick Chavez, chief marketing officer for KFC. “We’ve seen that Gen Z uses TikTok as their primary search engine over Google at times, which is remarkable. How it’s informing our strategy is we’ve invested in building our capabilities in our social media management, social content production, and influencer relationships.”

Smart Move: Amplifying Influencer Marketing with Artificial Intelligence

The explosive growth of AI and machine learning expands the horizons of influencer marketing. With AI and machine learning at their disposal, brands can streamline the process of identifying the most effective influencers and locate and distribute optimal campaign content for target audiences.

An ever-expanding array of platforms, including Grin, Upfluence and, has become a go-to toolbox for boosting influencer marketing campaigns based on social media analytics. Sixty-three percent of brand marketing professionals plan to use AI or machine learning this year to identify influencers or create campaigns.

Partnering with an AI-savvy influencer can be the difference between an underwhelming campaign and one with unprecedented reach and results. Learning platform Creator Now reports that about 60% find it useful for accelerating output and 40% as a tool to produce better-quality content. 

Is Bigger Better? Size Matters in Influencer Marketing

At first blush, it may seem like the bigger the following, the better the reach and the greater the results. But The State of the Influence Report found a strong preference for smaller influencers—and it’s getting stronger.

Forty-four percent of brands chose nano-influencers (1K-10K followers) as their most likely partners (up from 39% compared with last year), while only 17.4% opted for macro-influencers (100K-1M) and 12.9% for mega/celebrity influencers.

“This possibly reflects the reality of a small to medium-sized business,” states the report. “You simply can’t afford the fees charged by macro- and mega-influencers. In addition, there are far fewer of these more popular influencers, limiting the number of brands they can work with.”

That said, the far higher engagement rates of nano- and micro-influencers compared with their more famous counterparts may offer greater value for brands targeting a specific audience.

Micro to the Max: Getting Big Results from Smaller Influencers

“Micro-influencers (10K-100K) are good to add into your influencer strategy because while they have smaller followers, they generally have very engaged audiences, and social users are increasingly seeking these more intimate communities,” said Hays Formella, social media director for The Food Group

Micro and mid-tier influencers who come across as authentic, like peers rather than marketers, are particularly appealing. Consumers may be more receptive to relatable influencers who advocate for a brand than to impersonal brands promoting their own agenda.

For the launch of its meatless gyro, fast-casual restaurant brand The Halal Guys partnered with over 80 niche influencers on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube to reach consumers with an appetite for just such a product in 26 global markets. Micro-influencers also delivered major results for HelloFresh in the U.K., where they promoted the meal kit brand’s #refreshwithhellofresh campaign to drive awareness of its easy-to-make recipes.

The Food Group also feeds business for its clients with strategic influencer partnerships. “To promote the Crumbl Shortbread featuring TWIX cookie during the holiday season, we partnered with seven TikTok influencers with a total following of 10+ million,” said Meghan Flynn, TFG’s director of public relations. “The creators posted videos where they ordered the specialty cookie for certain people in their lives to get off their ‘naughty list.’ The campaign resulted in over 1 million views with an average engagement of 15%—far exceeding the TikTok benchmark of 5.38%.”

@kay_bay_bay_bay Order this limited time Carmel Shortbread ft. TWIX cookie in store or on the app & get FREE delivery with DoorDash🍪🚗 Gift it to the right person & you might just make it on their nice list this year🎄@TWIX @Crumbl Cookies #offthenaughtylist #crumblcookies #ad ♬ original sound - Kaylee Brice

TFG research found that micro-influencers work well with Instagram as they have more engaged followers, while mega-influencers drive the most engagement on TikTok.

Bear in mind that different social channels resonate with different target demographics. Looking to reach young female consumers? An influencer with a dedicated following on TikTok may be your best bet. Nearly a quarter of the social channel’s audience consists of females 18-24, whereas Instagram users tend to be older (46% are 25-34 years old) and more balanced by gender within that age range (52% female and 48% male).

Getting It Right: 6 Takeaways to Help You Make an Informed Decision

Given the rising importance of influencer marketing and the dizzying blur of content creators, getting a handle on identifying content creators who will yield the greatest ROI can seem like a daunting task. But with the above insights and guidelines, finding the right influencers for your brand doesn’t have to be a needle-in-the-haystack search.

To ensure success, keep the following must-dos in mind.

  1. Establish campaign goals and requirements. Define what you are trying to achieve and who you are trying to reach before searching for an influencer who can help you achieve it. 
  2. Examine the audience: Make sure the influencer’s audience is your target demographic. Determine whether they fit your target market and have an affinity for your brand. The influencer should be the bridge to an engaged and enthusiastic audience for your product or service. 
  3. Check for authentic content: Partner with an influencer who reflects your brand on a personal level and makes it relatable. An authentic voice is a persuasive one. Evaluate influencer content for other brands to ensure the voice is natural and engaging. 
  4. Review engagement rates: A good engagement rate—the percentage of people who choose to interact with your content—is between 1% and 5%. A highly engaged audience shares an influencer’s content, comments on their posts and makes purchases based on their recommendations. 
  5. Match the message with the messenger: Your influencer should be passionate about what you offer. Ideally, the right influencer not only promotes your brand but also personifies it. At a minimum, your influencer should be a fan with a genuine appreciation for your product or service.
  6. Maintain authenticity: “Let creators create in their own voice and style so the content is authentic and relevant to their followers,” advised Flynn. “Agree on content mandatories and key messages that should be delivered. Then, ask the creator to send over their written concept before filming for how they would bring the concept to life.”

For more insights into influencer marketing, be sure to check out our post What Food Brands Need to Know About TikTok. Crave customized influencer marketing solutions to feed your business? Contact us anytime

Topics: Marketing & Communications, Social Media, TikTok


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