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How Restaurants Can Leverage Social Media Influencers

By Holly Edwards | 4 min read

You may think of Instagram as the app you find yourself (and, likely, your staff) scrolling multiple times a day during breaks. But are you leveraging this app for marketing success?

Statistics show that engagement with brands on Instagram is 10 times higher than Facebook, 54 times higher than Pinterest, and 84 times higher than Twitter.

The latest Instagram trend catching fire with restaurants across the country? Partnering with social media influencers to increase brand awareness. An influencer is someone who has a sizeable number of followers and online clout, usually in a particular industry. We wanted to get a closer look at this trend and why it’s become so popular.

We chatted with Nichole Wolf, owner of @atladventurer, an Instagram account that focuses on the best places to eat and drink in Atlanta, Georgia. We discussed how she became a social media influencer and grew her account to close to 47,000 followers.


How did you get into influencer marketing?

It was totally an accident. I started a blog because I love to write, but I never thought it would turn into a real “influence” to people in Atlanta. I love to eat and tell people what to do, so it came naturally. I always thought Instagram was silly, but once I got into it and started seeing how much of an influence it really does have, I sucked it up and now it’s the biggest part of my business.

What is your favorite part about being an Instagram influencer?

People actually care what I have to say. They trust me and my opinion. It’s a pretty cool feeling to build that kind of presence in less than three years.

How do your partnerships with restaurants come about?

About 80% of the time, they come from relationships with PR agencies. They’ve gotten to know my content, and they invite me to events a few times a week (either private tastings or group events with other influencers). Most tend to be local [restaurants], but sometimes a chain’s PR firm will reach out with a local opportunity in Atlanta. The other 20% of restaurants will reach out to me on their own, either through email or a DM on Instagram. Those tend to be smaller restaurants who can’t afford to use an agency but still want to work with local influencers.

What kind of feedback do you get from these businesses in response to your restaurant partnerships?

A lot more restaurants have been asking for metrics on my posts, like how many people they reach, how many comments and shares resulted, etc. It just shows them, and especially older people or those who don’t use social media, some quantifiable value. Just today, a restaurant reached out to me and told me how many people came in the door after I did a promotion for one of their new locations. So restaurants are definitely paying attention to see the impact.

What criteria do you use to determine whether or not you should work with a brand?

Authenticity is key. My brand is specific to Atlanta, so any brand or restaurant I work with has to have a local presence. I want my followers to be able to fully interact with what I post about, so staying local is key. I have started to do more paid partnerships, but I always disclose that they’re an #ad, and try my best to give my true opinion but still highlight the brand in a positive way. I also like anything fun, funky, unique…my followers get excited when they learn about something they’ve never seen before, and that creates some pretty cool engagement.

What do you think about the concept of influencer marketing?

Honestly, it’s kind of weird. Thousands of people see my content every day, and most of them have never met me before. A lot of times they forget that I’m a real person and that I don’t have a team of people working on this — it’s just me. I will say, it’s hard to keep up with it sometimes. I have a full-time job, and do this “on the side” — but it’s 100% a second full-time job. When new restaurants are opening, or events are going on during the day, I can struggle to keep up. But I haven’t built the brand by making excuses. I often push myself too hard and do too much, but I think it’s paid off.

What advice would you give to other influencers in this industry?

Keep it real. People notice if you don’t, and don’t take you seriously — especially other influencers. Most of us work super hard and, for most, this isn’t our full-time job, so if we see someone else in our circle take shortcuts, like buying followers, we get pretty frustrated. It’s a pretty tight-knit network, especially in a city like Atlanta, so word travels fast. Handle yourself with tact and make friends, and you’ll be a lot better off. Also, always be respectful and humble. It’s a huge privilege to walk into a restaurant and get a comped meal or get paid just to post on Instagram, so don’t take it for granted.


Want to learn more about this trend? Check out our social media influencer guide here — you can read more interviews with both restaurants who work with influencers as well as the influencers themselves (including @brunchboys and @cy_eats)!


Now that you know about social influencers, see how Gather can take your private events to the next level — request a live tour today!

Holly Edwards
Content Marketing Specialist

Holly Edwards is Gather's Content Marketing Specialist. She crafts blog posts, social media content and thought leadership pieces that help restaurants and other venues streamline their planning process and host successful events.

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