A food tourism expert told our city this week that we need to create a distinctive ‘taste of place’ to stand apart from other Maritime destinations. A key part in doing this, as Culinary Tourism Alliance CEO and President Rebecca Mackenzie noted, is ensuring we understand and share the stories behind our signature dishes and our talented creators. She highlighted the role online marketing plays in ensuring restaurants are attractive to visitors and residents alike, including the need for local restaurants to partner with digital influencers (bloggers, highly-engaged Instagrammers, vloggers, etc.).
Over the past several years, there’s been a realization among businesses that having a ‘brand ambassador’ doesn’t mean courting a Kardashian, but rather finding an individual with similar values and interests who is willing to partner on cross-promotion. And yet, there remains an obvious lack in that relationship in our area, as noticed by Mackenzie.
Perhaps this will change sooner rather than later, as on the heels of Mackenzie’s report comes the arrival in Moncton of BlogJam, Atlantic Canada’s two-day digital influencer conference, happening at the end of October. Krista Montelpare is the event’s Creative Director.
“BlogJam features instructional content applicable to anyone working in the digital space, including local businesses seeking to partner with bloggers and social influencers” she explains. “In many ways, bloggers and influencers are entrepreneurs in their own right and, as such, have more similarities with local businesses than one might expect. BlogJam hopes to encourage local businesses to engage with these talented digital creatives, many of whom are eager to develop partnerships that showcase the amazing products and businesses New Brunswick has to offer.”
Montelpare explains that changing technologies are making local influencers as valuable as celebrities.
“As we shift our consumption of media, not just in the type of media but also the frequency with which we consume it, local businesses have a unique opportunity to stay ahead of the curve by harnessing audiences that influencers have already taken the time to build and nurture,” she explains. “Social influencers, including bloggers, are part of an emerging and exciting approach that trades traditional marketing systems for authentic storytelling from faces we trust. Particularly at the local level, an honest review from a neighbour or friend can be much more enticing than a passive advertisement from a faceless brand. In a way, influencer marketing is a word-of-mouth recommendation, amplified by the size and engagement of their audience.”
These reviews and recommendations must also be transparent, and those accepting work as an influencer must ensure standards are set and met; there are national guidelines and requirements established by the Competition Bureau. Influencer marketing is a multi-billion dollar industry, creating jobs and spurring economic returns for businesses. But you don’t need to be part of the blogging world to step up and start helping your local restaurants and food producers stand out on social media and the internet.
Each of us is an influencer, whether we are cultivating content as part of our career or simply sharing our pride in local goods and services. If you’ve enjoyed a good meal at a local restaurant, leave them five stars on Facebook, a few lines on TripAdvisor, and go ahead and post that photo of your dinner on Instagram, sharing all the details of what made the meal special with the world. Let’s start collectively working on defining that ‘taste of place’ Culinary Tourism Alliance’s Rebecca Mackenzie says will help galvanize Metro Moncton’s food tourism. And if you are a local business looking to harness the power of professional influencers, connect with the BlogJam team and attendees. The talent exists locally, you just need to reach out.