I just realized I’m getting old. Most people figure it out when they lose hair or experience back pain, but my red flag has been my reaction to the word “influencer.” Even typing it makes me cringe. My frustration is compounded when an “influencer” reaches out to offer a “collaboration.” That just means they want something for free, right? That might be the case in some situations, but as much as it hurts my aging brain to admit, social media collaboration can have incredible benefits.
As a pizzeria, your job is to serve your customers. As a brand, your job is to reinforce your identity. That happens through signage, decor, your website, and what you choose to post online. When someone contacts you with an offer to collaborate, you’ll need to figure out if the relationship will reinforce your brand. Do your audiences overlap too much? Is theirs likely to be interested in your message? Is their following even in your pizzeria’s service area?
Some brands are so preoccupied with their own advantage that they forget the whole concept of collaboration is that both sides benefit from the relationship. This isn’t a compromise, in which both sides have to lose ground to reach an agreement. A collaboration is an elective relationship by which both parties root for the other to succeed. I wouldn’t enter a collaboration that showed no clear benefit to the other party because they’re unlikely to do any real promotion.
Influencer collaboration is marketing, and it can be more valuable than traditional forms of advertising because it provides you with a focused and active audience. Social media incentivizes users to become their own brands. That’s why the random person who contacts you to collaborate might be worth your time. They’re a brand looking to build their audience just as you’re looking to build yours.
Maybe I cringe at the words influencer and collaboration because I’ve seen so much abuse of both, but the flubs have helped me outline some best practices for getting involved in such partnerships.
If you want to collaborate with a person or brand, come up with a direct ask or short list of ideas. It’s really annoying to receive a request with no specific plan.
When you do reach out, take a minute to research the person so you can personalize the message. This week I received a “We’ve identified you as an influencer” message (already a red flag) inviting me to try a new pizza. I noticed that the place is a few states away so I figured they’re offering to ship frozen pizzas in exchange for a post. Nope. They apparently thought I’d ignore health and safety guidelines to cross through a few states to try a pizza.
Finally, try to think of something that truly is a collaboration and not just a favor. I saw a really smart campaign in which a pizzeria created special pizzas designed by local influencers every week. They even tied a local charity, chosen by the influencer, to the purchase of every pizza. The collaboration brought a fresh audience to the pizzeria thanks to exposure from both the influencer and the charity while providing the influencer with a unique medium by which to express their creativity.
SCOTT WIENER is the founder of Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York City and SliceOutHunger.org Instagram: @scottspizzatours