Preamble: I’m not a social media specialist; I never studied public relations (or whatever that’s called nowadays) or marketing, but I do feel very much in touch with how consumers think and make purchasing decisions — mostly because I am such a consumer, and because I find human psychology fascinating, and at the end of the day, marketing is actually psychology.
I’ve been lucky to be invited to a fair share of influencer/media/blogger events over the years. You may think it’s all fun and games, but I will tell you, sometimes there is no fun or games… or good lighting, or enough food, or drinks. Sometimes, it’s just a waste of my gas and evening.
Actually, before we begin, I’m going to start off with
Best way to send invites?
Personally, I like it when people email with a link to an event page where we can RSVP and see who else is invited/going. I also like it when the instagram page then follows up with a DM a couple days before the event if I RSVP’d yes. I think this is ideal because it sends a reminder, and I will know the instagram handle for tagging. If you have a specific hashtag or @handle you want mentioned in the posts, I would also mention it in the reminder DM!
What to include in an invite?
- Event name
- Purpose of the event (is it to showcase the new seasonal menu? New restaurant opening? New cocktail launch? New branding?)
- Description of the event (what’s going to be happening? How does it work? Is it a rotation-schedule where diff influencers get different times so we’re shuffled in between times? Is everyone arriving at once and sitting down to order at once, so it’s important we get there on time? Is it a loose mingle situation where it doesn’t matter if we’re an hour late and we can just mix in the crowd? Do we get 1 free drink and a free entree, or buffet-style with 2 free drinks?). This is the one that I rarely see happen, and I wish more would state the details of what will be happening!
- LOCATION AND TIME of the event (DUH). PLEASE LIST THE ACTUAL ADDRESS. Do not assume Google Maps has your address!
- TIME EVENT ENDS – Goes with #3, it can be so hard to figure out if I’m able to go to an event if I’m on a tight timeline and there’s a huge description/reveal of each food and it’ll take an entire 2 hrs, or if it’s going to be a chill mingle spot that I can drop in and head out after 30min!!! So I appreciate it when there’s an approximate end time, or at least just a description of events so I can figure out an approximate end time on my own!
- Handles/hashtags (optional) you would like influencers to use (I would limit this to 2 total, any more and it’s like, WTF nobody can keep track so I won’t bother, plus the fewer you have, the more direct traffic you’ll have to your ig)
- Goodie bags (optional) – I don’t actually care about this, but a lot of events mention that we get goodie bags or gift cards or whatever if we go to the event, as an incentive to go I suppose, so if you are planning on having that, you could mention it. I think some ppl do care about this, but I don’t.
OK so you’ve sent out the invites. Now you’re having the event!!!! Here’s my post to the WORLD for what makes a good influencer event, from most to least important:
If you don’t have good lighting, why the FUCK are you spending money on an event? I mean, the primary goal of hosting an influencer event is to spread awareness and desire for your restaurant/event/whatever, and that’s achieved through PHOTOGRAPHS. This ain’t the 1820’s, nobody is reading the newspaper column for events. I mean, perhaps they are, but the first thing they will look at is the photo, THEN the caption, THEN the side blurb about it, if they are so inclined.
*and YES, I know some foodies have their own Amazon bright lights. But not everyone does (including me). Why not? Because I much prefer natural lighting, I think it’s super superior to artificial lighting. Yes, flash is a thing, but let’s not even go there.
So, how do you achieve this crucial requirement? Here are some suggestions:
- Host the event during the afternoon. Depending on the weather/seasons, an early or late afternoon would be ideal lighting for food photos.
- Host the event outside with shade, or inside with large windows. Contrary to popular belief, taking photos of food directly in the sunlight isn’t the best. You want the sun, but the food to be in the SHADE under the sun. Just trust me on this.
- If you can’t do the above, make sure you have bright lights. Yes, lots of foodies have their own lighting, but don’t you want photos of the place to show up too? You spent time and money on the decor, right? Let’s show it off.
Nobody wants to go to an event if it feels like WORK. I mean, I sure as hell don’t. Even people who do social media as their job would prefer for it not to feel like work! So how do you achieve this?
- Invite people who are acquaintances/friends. It’s not that hard, just look through who they tag in their stories. Yes, you may have to stalk for a while if you don’t know. I also prefer to RSVP through an online event space so we can see who is going to an event, rather than individually RSVPing and having no idea who’s going to be there.
- Allow a plus one or plus two! This way, they’re much more likely to come, and have a good time
- ALCOHOL. I think 2 free drinks is ideal. Enough to get loosen up and really have fun, plus alcoholic drinks are VERY photogenic!
3) The food
Are you shocked food isn’t the top priority? Well, if you are, good thing you’re reading this. The food is almost the least important thing. Because readers aren’t eating the food. They’re seeing it. So what’s more important are:
- The plating. It better look nice. I fucking HATE the sampler plastic plates that have 1 small piece of a dish. You think that’s gonna look nice in a post? It looks cheap af.
- The decor. Fresh flowers, doilies, little things that elevate the place. They make a photo aesthetically more pleasing, and that’s what we’re aiming for here.
- Labels. Please, for the love of good, if you have food that’s out for everyone to get themselves, label the food and the descriptions! In a pretty font with a pretty label, so it won’t look ugly if it’s in a photo. Otherwise, nbd it’ll just get taken out of the photo.
- Menu with prices. I really like this, because people often ask me how much something costs, and I have to respond “idk sorry” because we aren’t given the pricing, and irl that’s a huge factor to where people choose to eat out!
Different types of events
- The event where everyone mingles and food is on one large table, each orders drinks separately
- The event where we sit down and each order an entree and drink
- The event where we each only get bites of entrees and not enough food to fill me up which pisses me off, plus the photos are disgusting because the food is on small plastic ugly plates/cups
- The event where people come around with platters of food and we take what we wanna eat (the con of this is that they rarely come often enough and you’re hungrily waiting for them to come out with more food)
- Events that occur outside of regular hours
- Events that occur on a private area of the restaurant
- Events that occur within public view
Honestly, steps 1-3 make it for me. I don’t care about goodie bags that much, BUT if you have an AMAZING goodie bag like major gift cards or something, I think it could be worth mentioning in the invite AND really fun to receive! I think gift cards to the restaurant/place/whatever are the best because then influencers have an incentive to come back if they liked it! Some gifts I’ve liked: reuseable straws (ty Clean Juice co!), Dali luggage tag (ty Dali museum!), and the instax camera that Sparkman Wharf gave that I didn’t get 🙁 so sad. Other things that I think would be affordable & I’d like to receive as a gift: cute mug, jewelry dish, cute towel, water bottle, tapestry, bottle opener, basically stuff that’s both USEFUL and CUTE. If it doesn’t meet both those criteria, DON’T BOTHER. save that $ and give me an extra drink thx!
You know, you don’t HAVE to throw an event to promote your thing… The pros of an event is that you will get tons of influencers to post about your place at once, basically flooding followers’ so it’ll be almost impossible to not know about your place. HOWEVER, it takes planning and as a busy person, I actually prefer it when restaurants just invite me to to come in WHENEVER I WANT (or come up with a time ahead of time if that is required) and order X entrees and X drinks, or to try out whatever you wanna promote. That’s actually my ideal scenario, so I can actually get what I would order (instead of having 10 small plates of cheesy entrees that I can’t eat any of), and have a “regular” experience dining in and seeing the menu (with prices) and get a server and see how long the wait is, etc. It’s more realistic than going to an event where I have no idea how the service or menu or atmosphere is because we’re closed off from the rest of the restaurant…
Thanks for reading! I hope you found this helpful. Next up on the influencer series: HOW TO FIGURE OUT WHICH INFLUENCERS TO INVITE TO MY EVENT??!