Influencer marketing has become a contagious strategy, consuming every B2C industry and then some. Business owners love influencer marketing because of its high return on investment. While TV ads can run thousands of dollars and digital ads can run hundreds to thousands per month, an influencer campaign can cost as much as providing a free meal or product.

Influencers are individuals who have large audiences on various social media sites, and each of their posts can garner thousands of views. In terms of conversion, a study by SevenRooms and YouGov found 35 percent of survey respondents have eaten at a restaurant that they saw on social media, and 20 percent plan to eat at a restaurant that they saw on social media in the future.

Instagram is the most popular habitat of influencers and is where 79 percent of influencer campaigns take place. That’s why Instagram can be the best place to start your influencer marketing campaign. However, before you start, a campaign will work best if your restaurant is already active on Instagram.

More simply, you need to learn to walk before you can run.

How does it work?

It’s tempting to go on Instagram and reach out to those with over 100,000 followers with hopes of getting the most reach. However, these Instagram accounts may have dozens of other restaurants vying for their attention. And due to the demand, it has become standard for them to charge a fee just to come and eat at your restaurant for free.

That’s why it may be more effective to find micro-influencers. These can be Instagram accounts with as few as 1,000 followers. While relatively small, they can still bring in thousands of views per post.

This restaurant could use the help of an influencer.

How to find influencers and reach out

There are various ways to find influencers and reach out to them, including hiring a host to run a media event and using apps that connect businesses with influencers. If you want to do it yourself, you can find influencers through hashtags. Every city will have its own food-related hashtags. For example #vancouverfoodie has over 500,000 posts with new ones added each day. This is a great way to find relevant influencers in your target area.

Most influencers have an email on their profile or will use the enabled email button on Instagram. With some larger influencers, email may be a better way to reach out. But because influencers use Instagrams so heavily, they likely won’t mind an Instagram direct message either.

An alternative route is to hire a third party to host an Instagram influencer media event. For a fee that can range between $200 to over $1000, these hosts invite from their vetted list of Instagram influencers so that you can just worry about bringing out the food. They do due diligence to make sure that these influencers have not bought fake followers and that they will post after the event.

Lastly, with technology so prevalent and mobile apps constantly cutting out the middleman, startups like Node-app allow restaurants to run influencer marketing campaigns for a monthly fee. Influencers are vetted through the app, and restaurants can put out offers for influencers to come and try their food. Node also makes sure that these influencers post after the tasting.

So, if you’re looking for a thrifty way to grow your restaurant or bakery business through social media, an influencer marketing campaign may just do it for you. It’ll cost less than much of the traditional advertising methods, and get your business the exposure it needs.