The traditional ads and marketing strategies of yesterday aren’t likely to sway today’s consumers. Younger buyers now want to see something relatable — not celebrities touting products in TV commercials. That’s where influencer marketing comes in. Influencers are people, and when consumers interact with them on social media, they view them more like their peers and less like out-of-touch celebrities who only care about selling something.

Influencer marketing utilizes social media platforms where consumers spend their time — upwards of one hour and 15 minutes a day. Being social creatures, people are always seeking approval from their peer groups — whether online or in real life. That’s mainly why consumers trust recommendations from peers over brands. And because the people they follow on social channels are often seen as members of their online communities, they hold influence.

In fact, more than 70% of Millennials and Gen Zers follow influencers online. Men lean more toward gamers (62%) and sports or fitness figures (41%). Women, on the other hand, tend to follow beauty experts (59%) and fashionistas (49%). Something both genders can agree on? Influencers who regularly post food-related content are their third-most preferred option.

Instagram feeds from three different travel / food / fitness influencers.

How Can You Use Influencers to Market Your Food Brand?

Food brands have an excellent opportunity to reach younger audiences through influencers. The first step in using influencers for food marketing is a simple one: observation.

When choosing an influencer, you must first pinpoint whether a specific person will be the right choice for your brand. You should be able to imagine your product in that person’s social feed. If you think it would look out of place, you’re probably right. Choose your influencer based on his or her image, voice, and values — all of which should align with your brand.

Blue Diamond Almond Breeze did just this when it partnered with macro-influencer Jeanine, who runs food blog Love and Lemons. In an effort to grow awareness for one of its products, the brand asked Jeanine to create a healthy, seasonal recipe using its almond-cashew milk blend as one of the main ingredients. She did but in an untraditional way: an almond-ginger dressing to top a rainbow noodle bowl. The post outperformed the average Love and Lemon post by 1,000 likes among her audience of 257,000.

Besides alignment, using influencers for food marketing has a lot to do with authenticity. Influencers who are willing to showcase real life are much more relatable to consumers — think quick videos or pictures, unedited and unfiltered. Content like this reflects reality and will likely drive higher engagement and lead to a more loyal, trusting fan base. These are the sorts of people you want to promote your brand.

One caveat: Looks can be deceiving. Dig beyond the surface to ensure you’re partnering with a legitimate influencer. Sometimes, an “influencer” has a large following yet poor engagement rates. This is a sign his or her following is mostly fake. You may also find “influencers” who are following more people than are following them. This is often a follow-for-follow tactic, which may mean the account holds no real influence in the social space.

Once you’ve chosen your influencers, focus on the data you’ll collect during your campaigns. Specific metrics, such as reach and engagement, will be vital as you move forward in shaping future campaigns. If you measure outcomes and evolve to address the data, you’ll see greater ROI. But if you’re not measuring, you’ll never know what works and what doesn’t.

Just as a good cook always starts with the right ingredients and measures with care, you’ll want to do the same when choosing a food influencer. Start with authentic influencers, measure your results, and then evolve to fit your tastes (and brand objectives). This will put you in an excellent position to influence your target customer.