Food and beverage brands have a tremendous opportunity to leverage influencer marketing strategies and get in front of younger buyers. About three-quarters of Gen Zers and Millennials follow influencers on social media, and food content is wildly popular on social channels. The trick is choosing the right influencers on the right platforms to reach the right audience for your brand.

One of the biggest misconceptions with influencer marketing today is that only big names have a big impact. Brands often think they need a social media star or a celebrity with a huge following to influence purchasing behaviors. Yes, if you’re looking to increase brand awareness among a broad group of people, celebrities can be useful to your campaign. But influencers with smaller followings can also be immensely valuable, especially when it comes to reaching younger buyers.

Many brands could benefit more from reaching niche audiences through smaller influencers with stronger connections to their followers. The idea of reaching into these specific communities of people coming together over shared interests is known as community PR, and it’s an excellent way for food and beverage brands to get in front of customers.

But there are influencers between the small, community-centric ones and the huge celebrity ones. And different brands and campaigns will need different kinds of influencers based on a number of factors. Let’s take a look at the levels of influencers and where each can be most useful:

Celebrity: 1M+ followers

You can think of a celebrity influencer as an awareness amplifier. These influencers are pricey, but for brands looking to attract earned media attention and get their names in front of a broad but enthusiastic audience, it can be worth it.

Macro: 100K to 1M followers

Macro-influencers are your digital thought leaders. These also come at a higher price point but are great for brand ambassadors. They offer a fairly wide reach — similar to that of celebrities — while still allowing you to target specific consumer subsets.

Micro: 10K to 100K followers

Micro-influencers are social community leaders. These are the smaller influencers you’ll want to use for community PR campaigns. They have a moderate reach, but their followers tend to be more loyal and view them as niche experts, which gives weight to their recommendations.

Nano: 1K to 10K followers

Nano-influencers are the grassroots activators of the influencer market. These are people who might not be internet famous but still have significant influence over small community groups — whether online or in real life. Though they have a smaller reach, nano-influencers are often more engaged with their followers and offer even greater targeting capabilities.

Hyper: 100 to 1K followers

Hyper-influencers are your boots-on-the-ground representatives. These influencers are more of your average, everyday people who’ve developed a small yet ardent following on a specific social media channel or within a specific community. Chances are, the hyper-influencer has a real-life relationship with each follower.

How Influencers Fit Into Community PR Campaigns

As we touched on before, influencers with smaller followings can actually be more beneficial depending on the goals of your campaign. Consider that smaller influencers can generate up to 60% higher engagement rates than larger ones. If you want an audience to be involved in conversations around your product, micro-, nano-, or even hyper-influencers could be the way to go.

These influencers deliver a blend of relatability, authenticity, and specific knowledge. They’ve likely built their influence by sharing personal experiences on shared interests with their followers. This naturally makes them more relatable. It also makes their social shares, interactions, and opinions feel more genuine, which translates to greater trust from consumers.

Besides, influencers with smaller followings are much more affordable than celebrities or social media stars. Why spend the money on a high-profile influencer when you can enlist the help of someone who can provide just the right reach? When developing a community PR marketing campaign, it makes more sense to go with a micro-, nano-, or hyper-influencer. The right person will already know your target market.

Influencer Criteria: How to Choose Your Influencer

When deciding which influencer marketing strategy is right for your brand, you must consider more than just the size of an influencer’s following. Here are a few essentials to evaluate when making your selection:

Quality

Quality is the most obvious yet elusive of traits, as it’s becoming easier for influencers to fake both followers and engagement. If you notice any of the following abnormalities, it’s a good rule of thumb to stay away:

  • Very little content with a large following
  • Very little content with high engagements
  • Poor quality content with a large following
  • Poor quality content with high engagements
  • A level of engagement that’s out of sync with the number of followers
  • Fewer followers than the number of people following
  • Followers with stock photos, no profile photos, or strange usernames

Relevance

If you’ve taken the time to understand your target audience, a quick review of an influencer’s feed can tell you whether he or she fits with your brand voice, image, etc. You want to choose someone who you can easily imagine using your product or service. A local fashion vlogger, for example, probably isn’t the best fit for your organic ice cream. The post would just look out of place and scream paid endorsement, which defeats the purpose of influencer marketing.

Authenticity

When influencers are seen as reliable, credible sources of information, people come to them for advice. Followers don’t question whether something is true. They take them at their word, implicitly trusting their tips, opinions, and endorsements.

Be it in values, voice, or validity, the goal here is to avoid mismatched partnerships. You’re relying on this person to uphold the reputation of your brand, so leaving things to chance is not an option. That’s why at Mitchell, we take vetting to another level. We use consumer data, real-time audience insights, and AI-powered analytics to ensure our clients are able to identify the right influencer to reach the correct audience at the right time.

Choosing the Right Influencer Marketing Channel

Leveraging influencers to spread your message is the foundation of any influencer marketing strategy, but content alone won’t ensure you’re reaching the right audience. You also need to make sure the content is shared in the right place. Here are several of the top influencer marketing channels to focus on:

Instagram

Instagram is an excellent place to start because it’s such a visual medium. Images capture peoples’ attention more than text alone — which is likely why 79% of brands feel this channel is an essential component of a successful influencer marketing campaign. When your brand relies on images to sell goods (think fashion, beauty, home decor, etc.), it becomes even more important. 

Facebook

Some may view Facebook as too outdated to reach younger consumers, but 46% of brands still include it in their influencer marketing strategies. With the opportunity to leverage both visuals and text to get your message out and the ability to target very specific groups, it still holds potential.

YouTube

YouTube is an almost entirely visual medium. It’s also become the home of many influencers with the rise of YouTubers. Thirty-six percent of brands use this channel as part of their influencer marketing strategy — which means there are fewer competitors in the space. If you can find a YouTube influencer whose platform is relevant to your product, this could be a great opportunity for your brand.

TikTok

TikTok has exploded in popularity since its 2016 launch. Today, it reports 800 million monthly active users, many of whom (41%, to be exact) are between the ages of 16 and 24. TikTok gives brands the chance to reach the ever elusive Gen Z market, and like Instagram and YouTube, it’s a visual medium, which provides opportunities to engage an audience. It’s also seeing an increase in the number of influencers in the space — who cover a wide range of markets like sports, beauty, fashion, food, and video games.

Keep in mind that your choice of influencer marketing channels, much like your choice of influencer, will inform your campaign — or, at least, components of it. Each channel has its own attitude, after all. The campaign must fit for it to be effective.

The New Generation Gap: Millennials Versus Generation Z

Millennials and Gen Zers are similar in many ways. For instance, both of these generations grew up in the digital age, but ignoring their differences isn’t smart. Each generation has idiosyncrasies that brands can capitalize on for more targeted campaigns.

Millennial Food Trends

If you could sum up Millennial food trends in one word, it would be natural. Millennials want their food to be more natural and simpler than previous generations. They would also prefer it to be local. And as this generation moves toward becoming the largest consumer group, brands are taking notice of their tastes.

It’s all about authenticity. This generation wants to know what’s going on behind the scenes. They want to know where their food is coming from — and if it’s from a small, local manufacturer, all the better. They’re very particular and loyal when it comes to food and beverages.

Gen Z Food Trends

Gen Z food trends aren’t a far cry from those of Millennials, but they do have differences worth noting. Gen Zers also prefer more natural, simpler ingredients — with 25% of teens now focusing on their health. In fact, nearly half are choosing to forgo sugary sodas altogether, opting instead to drink sparkling water, teas, and kombucha.

Gen Z has also taken up a particular interest in plant-based foods. Reports reveal that Gen Zers eat 266% more avocados550% more plant-based milk, and 57% more tofu than Millennials.

Perhaps the biggest difference to note is that while Gen Zers do care about health, they’re especially fond of snacking and are driven by convenience. Nearly a quarter of Gen Zers prefer meals made up of snack foods or appetizers. They also make huge contributions to the food delivery industry; in 2018, Gen Zers placed 552 million foodservice delivery orders. Gen Zers want healthy food — but they want it at their convenience.

3 Best Practices for an Influencer Marketing Campaign

Once you’ve pinpointed the specific audience you want to reach, decided on the best channels through which to reach it, and pinpointed the strongest influencer candidates for your campaign, follow these steps to kick off a solid strategy that will get younger buyers interested in what you have to offer:

  1. Start with a connection. Influencer marketing strategies are fueled by connection. Before you reach out to influencers to ask whether they’d like to feature your product, establish a relationship with them. Follow them on their social channels, see who they interact with and how, and share some of their posts. Once you’ve established a connection, approach them about the opportunity to feature your product.
  2. Release creative control. Once you’ve got influencers on board, let them take the creative reins in making content around your product. When brands have too heavy of a hand in this area, the messaging can appear disingenuous. Let influencers do what they do best to engage with their audience in their own way.
  3. Keep track of your successes and failures. Like any marketing initiative, it can take time to arrive at the right message on the right channel to resonate with the right audience. Don’t scrap your influencer marketing strategy if you don’t see the expected results right away. Monitor and adjust as you get familiar with the space.

Influencers of all sizes across any number of channels can lend your brand the authenticity and credibility it needs to make an impact on Millennials and Gen Z. The trick is choosing the right influencer and executing the campaign with a strategy that fosters connection and creativity. Leverage the right influencers in the right ways, and your brand will become a trusted staple among younger buyers.