Dear Socially Stephanie,
I'm getting ready to open my new restaurant and I want to make sure that the opening gets a lot of buzz. Do you have any suggestions on how I can make a big splash with the locals and get the press excited to try my food? We have four weeks.
-Hungry in Harlem
Food and social media go hand-in-hand. They love one another, and social media users will often get excited over #foodporn. What I have in mind for you is going to make a huge difference: we're going to bypass the traditional forms of advertising and go straight to the Influencers. (And we have to work fast, because I'm famished!)
Now, I know you're busy putting those final touches on the menu, getting the decor just right, and making sure your food looks good and tastes even better. Those elements happen to be the perfect pre-buzz ingredients, because they're very visual. Nailing the visual strategy is going to set you apart. I want you to snap photos of your progress. Have a new recipe you're finalizing? Take a picture of it. Instagram it and post it to Facebook. Hired a new hostess? Let's see her face. Taking pictures and sharing them on Instagram and Facebook is going to be your first "in" with the locals who love food.
Make sure you follow the basic rules of Instagram engagement. Most importantly, that means adding local hashtags. You want the right people to find you and hashtags are your way into their feeds. This is a good start, but you're going to have to get a bit more proactive. Which means that next, you'll have to find the Insta-eaters in your neighborhood. The first way to do that is to visit a restaurant in the neighborhood and share a photo on Instagram with the location geo-tagged. Now, go through the posts of those who've also tagged that location, find all the foodies who're sharing pictures of that restaurant. Follow them and engage with them. You know they're targeted and you know they live in the area. Double points there.
Now that you know your visual "food-fluencers" in Harlem, we're going to take it one step further and find the food-fluencers who write. There are some DOs and DON'Ts to blogger outreach which you will have to abide by, but the most important aspect of blogger outreach is making sure that you give them something that they want.
In your case, it could be a pre-opening taste event in which you invite the local bloggers to an exclusive sit-down meal where you can share the concept and the food with people who will write about it. Some of the more popular NYC foodie blogs are Serious Eats, Grub Street, and Eater; it might not be easy to convince them since they are pretty major, but it's worth a shot. You may have more luck hand-selecting certain members of Chowhound's Manhattan community to invite posters who have blogs you like, or who have a lot of clout on the boards. You can also invite some of those Instagrammers to join in and spread the word on their platform.
When you wow these Influencers, they're going to want to share all their inside knowledge about you with their networks, and if you play your cards right, you'll have a relationship with them for years to come. Since these people are the tastemakers and gatekeepers of the neighborhood, you want to keep on their radar. You'd be surprised at how far being nice and feeding people can go.
Well, you have four weeks: I know you can do it. Good luck and bon appetit!