App con­nects In­sta­gram in­flu­encers with restau­rants of­fer­ing free­bies

Node app al­lows trendy new food busi­nesses to gain trac­tion through so­cial me­dia stars

The Hamilton Spectator - - Business - ALEKSANDRA SA­GAN

As Jiten Grover pre­pared to open his first Dipped Donuts store­front in Toronto, he knew the power so­cial me­dia stars pos­sess to boost the pro­file of a business in the food in­dus­try.

When Grover opened the doors to the dough­nut shop ear­lier this sum­mer, a self-pro­claimed local foodie posted a photo and rave re­view af­ter try­ing the new Kens­ing­ton Mar­ket spot. A prom­i­nent local blog re­posted her snap and nearly 3,000 peo­ple pro­ceeded to like it.

It’s im­pos­si­ble to say how much sales the pub­lic­ity gen­er­ated, but Grover is con­vinced there’s a pos­i­tive cor­re­la­tion. Sev­eral peo­ple came into the eatery and said they’d seen the In­sta­gram post, he said.

“Our In­sta­gram just blew up,” Grover said. “In­flu­encers do have a big role, at least a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact, on a per­son’s business.”

In­sta­gram stars can deem an eatery trendy and send their hefty fol­low­ing through its doors sim­ply by post­ing a photo of a menu item, and the mak­ers of a new app want to mon­e­tize the in­flu­encer-restau­rant re­la­tion­ship.

Food cre­ates amaz­ing con­tent and peo­ple are driven to it, said Ar­min Faraji, co-founder of the Node app, which launched about a month ago.

The app aims to con­nect mi­croin­flu­encers with restau­rants in the prov­ince.

In­sta­gram users with a pub­lic ac­count and more than 1,500 fol­low­ers can sign up to re­deem so-called nodes, es­sen­tially free food or drinks from restau­rants in ex­change for a post.

Busi­nesses pay a $100 monthly sub­scrip­tion fee and can cre­ate as many nodes as they wish. Com­pa­nies can spec­ify how many fol­low­ers in­flu­encers should have, as well as sug­gest sev­eral hash­tags to use in the cap­tion.

About 200 in­flu­encers and some 20 busi­nesses are on the plat­form now, and about 50 are in the pipe­line, Faraji said. The team is adding a max­i­mum of five new es­tab­lish­ments to the plat­form each week.

So far, all the eater­ies are in On­tario, though the app may ex­pand across Canada in the fu­ture.

Grover de­cided to try Node to cap­i­tal­ize on the power of in­flu­encer posts to boost foot traf­fic and sales. He of­fered a half-dozen dough­nuts and, at the time of writ­ing, eight in­flu­encers had claimed and re­deemed the of­fer.

Pas­try shop Bob­bette & Belle also re­cently used the ser­vice and at least two in­flu­encers came into the shop to re­ceive their fea­ture dozen mac­arons.

It signed up for a year-long sub­scrip­tion, said Anne Cerutti, an ad­min­is­tra­tive as­sis­tant at the bak­ery, and the sys­tem is al­ready pro­vid­ing some re­lief in terms of time spent cre­at­ing so­cial me­dia con­tent for its nearly 40,000 In­sta­gram fol­low­ers.

The in­flu­encers who re­deemed the of­fer pho­tographed the colour­ful French del­i­cacy with pro­fes­sional equipment rather than just a smart­phone, she said. Bob­bette & Belle then had ac­cess to high-qual­ity im­ages it could re­post on its ac­count rather than us­ing staff time to stage shoots.

“We found that’s just pay­ing off al­ready in terms of time,” said Cerutti.

The app also makes spon­sor­ship eas­ier for those who may lack the high fol­lower counts to re­ceive pay­ment for pro­mo­tional posts.

Natalia Corre­dor and her fi­ancé co-man­age the @wooed­by­food­blog In­sta­gram ac­count.

The cou­ple has claimed two Node of­fers so far, she said, and finds the app gives them mo­ti­va­tion to keep ex­plor­ing the city’s food scene and shar­ing with their nearly 1,800 fol­low­ers.

Joshua Lowe used to reach out to restau­rants in­di­vid­u­ally on so­cial me­dia to seek out part­ner­ships for his In­sta­gram ac­count, @to.mas­ti­ca­tor, be­fore join­ing the Node plat­form.

The app al­lows him to visit these places when it works for him, he said, and saves him time he once spent try­ing to ar­range such free­bies him­self.

De­spite the ad­van­tages of stream­lin­ing the re­la­tion­ship, the busi­nesses still ex­pressed some doubts about the plat­form.

Dipped Donuts owner Grover an­tic­i­pates he’ll launch an­other Node of­fer in the fu­ture, but isn’t cer­tain whether he’ll use the app reg­u­larly or in­ter­mit­tently af­ter the trial pe­riod.

Cerutti said Bob­bette & Belle is plan­ning its sec­ond of­fer, but said if the app gets a lot of trac­tion, it may be help­ful to limit the num­ber of peo­ple who can re­deem an of­fer so the business isn’t on the hook for too many free prod­ucts.

GALIT RODAN THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Jiten Grover, owner of Dipped Donuts, knew the power so­cial me­dia stars pos­sess to boost the pro­file of a business in the food in­dus­try.

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