Just 15 years ago, if you said you wanted to be an influencer, you’d get some very confused looks. But today, becoming an influencer is an aspirational career for people all over the world.
The chance to create exciting content for viewers or readers, build relationships with brands you’re passionate about, and control your own daily activities is wildly appealing for the younger generations that have largely rejected the corporate lifestyle.
If you have dreams of living the life of a foodie influencer, here are the steps you should take to get started.
Select Your Style
Within the umbrella of “foodie influencer,” there are several unique types of creators.
Some influencers develop their own recipes and share instructions and photos online. Others promote local restaurants and take mouthwatering pictures of chef-prepared dishes. Still others combine food with travel, jet-setting across the world to find the best food in every country.
Many also choose to focus on specific niches, like vegan restaurants, local coffee shops, or weeknight recipes. Selecting a narrow niche can help you connect more intimately with your target audience. If you share gluten-free recipes, for example, you can become a go-to influencer for people with gluten intolerances.
Choose Your Medium
Once you’ve decided what type of content you’ll create, you need to decide how to share it. There’s a wide variety of platforms out there where you can build your audience.
A written blog on your own website will let you go in-depth with descriptions, explanations, and storytelling. It’s a great platform for recipes with no word limit.
On YouTube, you can make detailed “how-to” videos to demonstrate cooking techniques, or you can take your followers with you as you eat your way across your city.
A food podcast is a great way to interview cooks and chefs, dive into food science, share food pairing tips, and more.
On social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, you can post photos and videos of your recipes or meals you eat. Instagram is popular with foodie influencers, because the highly visual platform is popular with restaurants and food businesses. If you hope to do collaborations with restaurants, consider Instagram!
TikTok is another social media platform, exclusively for short-form videos. Limited to under a minute, these videos are ultra-digestible. Particularly popular with the 16-24 crowd, this may be a good platform for younger users trying to reach their own demographic.
Keep in mind — you’re not limited to one platform. In fact, a multi-platform approach is often better for reaching a larger audience. You may decide to start a cooking blog and use Facebook to build a following and promote your blog.
If you have a YouTube channel, you could cross post your videos to IGTV on Instagram. Or pull short snippets from the longer video to repurpose on Instagram or Facebook. And you can turn the transcript from your video or podcast into a blog post.
It’s okay to start with one primary platform where you’ll host most of your content, and add additional marketing channels as you progress.
Start Creating Content
As an influencer, your “value” to brands or possible collaborators is in your followers. And to grow your audience, you need to create great content.
If you’re sharing your own recipes, start documenting your process, taking pictures along the way. Write an easy-to-follow recipe so you readers can recreate it at home. (When you first start, ask a friend to try the recipe before you post to make sure you didn’t miss any steps.)
If you’re sharing your own food adventures in restaurants, practice getting the perfect photos when your food arrives. In fact, it seems our phones often eat first! Make sure you’re taking your pictures in natural light. A recent-generation smartphone will be enough to get started. As you grow, you may want to upgrade to a digital camera.
The hardest part of becoming a foodie influencer is starting. When you see accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers and videos with Hollywood-style production values, it can be very intimidating. Just remember, even Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman) who has a show on the Food Network started out as a blogger with zero readers.
No matter the platform, consistency is a major part of building an audience. Generally, you should share longer-form content like blog posts and videos at least weekly, while social media content (posts, stories, or videos) should go up daily.
As you grow your skills, the quality of your content will improve. This should always be your main focus as an influencer. Great content is the foundation of any influencer’s success.
Interact With the Industry
Part of building your audience will include getting your name out there in your niche foodie community. This could include other influencers, restaurants, food publications, food photographers, and more.
Start commenting on videos, blogs, and posts of other influencers to create connections and start creating name recognition. You can also invite them to collaborate on a YouTube video, podcast, or post. These influencer collaborations won’t be monetized, but they can help you both to increase your exposure and gain followers.
Be where the other industry folks are. A local food publication’s social media feed, for example, will attract many others in your niche.
This is one of the harder parts of being an influencer. If you’re not naturally outgoing, it can be scary to drop a message to a stranger asking them to connect. But it’s a vital part of growing your reach.
Monetize Your Platform
Time to make some money!
Once you have a robust group of followers, you can start monetizing. Your platform and niche will be major factors in how many followers you need before you can start earning. On Instagram, for example, micro-influencers of just over 1,000 followers can begin to work with brands. But on YouTube, it takes a much larger volume of viewers to make any significant money.
The most common ways of earning from your platform are influencer marketing campaigns and affiliate links.
Influencer marketing is when a brand — like a local restaurant — teams up with a local influencer to promote the restaurant on the influencer’s social media. Sometimes, these can be paid sponsorships. And sometimes, the “payment” is in free food or services.
To start influencer marketing, you can reach out to brands you like to see if they’re open to a collaboration. It may take a bit of negotiation to come to an agreement that you and the brand are happy with. For example, you may agree to do one Instagram post and three Stories promoting a restaurant in exchange for a free meal and a small fee. In general, influencers with larger audiences can command higher prices for these campaigns.
Another option is to become an affiliate. This is a way to make some passive income, but it does take work upfront to set up the affiliate agreement.
Affiliates will promote a product or service and include a unique link that the readers can click to purchase the item. For every purchase made through the affiliate link, the influencer will get a small commission.
YouTube is a bit different. Unlike the other platforms where any monetization is strictly between the influencer and the brand, YouTube actually pays video creators directly based on views. The rate is usually between $0.01 and $0.03 per view. This means a video with 1,000,000 views will bring in around $5,000 for the creator. This revenue comes from advertisers, who pay YouTube for their ads to be shown before and during videos.
YouTube creators also have the option to supplement this income with affiliate links and sponsorships on your videos.
Full-Time or Part-Time?
Most influencers will earn very little at first. But as they build their audiences and make more connections in the food community, they’ll find more opportunities to earn from collaborations and sponsorships.
Influencing often starts out part-time as a way to supplement your current income. Some are able to grow their audience and reputation to the point where they can replace their day jobs entirely.
Still, not all influencers get into the field to make money. Some just share for fun. If you’re a cook or chef, maybe a foray into the influencer world could be a fun creative outlet!
Being an influencer means you’re in charge of your own career — who you work with, what your rates are, and what you choose to promote. That kind of freedom is exciting, but it also means you shoulder all the responsibility.
The more you know about food, the more easily you’ll be able to speak with authority about recipes and dishes. A degree or diploma from culinary school can be a great way to learn more about food and cooking, and support your foodie influencer dreams!
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