Written by Alex DiSchino. Photos by @BostonBrunchGuide.
As anyone with an Instagram can tell you, there are A LOT of people posting about food. Any Joe or Jane with a camera phone can easily fancy themselves an amateur food critic slash photojournalist slash influencer and reach their friends iPhones with just a few taps of a touchscreen… but there are a surprisingly few amount of people who get any REAL traction…rising above the ranks to become elevated to the status of influencers.
So while restaurateurs everywhere are constantly being pushed to step up their game so every plate that leaves the kitchen is perfectly cooked for every diner, they are also presented with a new challenge: make sure that each plate is camera ready! After all, it’s destined to be immortalized on the internet as Instagrammers across America aim to make their followers salivate.
With that said, the Cambridge Dictionary defines an influencer as “someone who affects or changes the way that other people behave, for example through their use of social media.”
I had the pleasure of spending a behind the scenes day with local Boston food instagrammer @BostonBrunchGuide to learn a little more about she gets people off the couch and into restaurants through the magic of social media. And while the day started as an ordinary Q&A over coffee, what came next really surprised me….
First, let’s meet Danielle:
@BostonBrunchGuide has seen amazing growth – Danielle was telling me that she’s grown from a little over 3000 to almost 9000 followers in the past 12 months, earning about 15 new followers a day on average.
Q: Tell me about yourself: Where you from, what brought you to Boston and what do you do when you’re not eating brunch?
A: I’m originally from Connecticut but have lived in Boston for almost 10 years. I moved here to attend Northeastern University and ended up staying after graduation. While I wish I could survive off brunching alone, I actually work full time in finance.
Q: So when did you start @BostonBrunchGuide?
A: Fall or winter of 2014, but it wasn’t until the past year that I really became serious about it.
Q: What made you want to start a food instagram?
A: I wanted to start some sort of blog, I tried a couple other topics but when I started talking about food it stuck. Food is such a big part of my everyday, so it just came naturally.
Q: So why brunch?
A: It is hands down the best meal of the week. There are no rules. It allows chefs to be creative with menus and it’s the perfect time to catch up with friends. Who doesn’t want to go to brunch??
Q: What’s your favorite brunch item?
A: Eggs Benny. There are so many expressions. I am also a big fan of the new “table cake” trend which lets you get a bit of sweetness into the meal without committing fully.
Q: Umm…table cake?
A: Yep, like a super decadent pancake or waffle to share. For example, Lincoln Tavern in Southie serves a Fruity Pebbles Pancake. It’s not great for a full meal, but perfect to share.
Q: Awesome! Ok, now a harder question. Is there an expectation that your posts will be positive when a restaurant invites you to dine?
A: When I am invited into a restaurant, the expectation is definitely that I will post a photo of my experience– but I always note that I will only post if I truly like what I’ve tried. If I don’t like it, I won’t post it. I choose to focus on highlighting the positive experiences I’ve had. I’m not a food critic. With all the sponsored content on social media these days people don’t know what is real and that’s a big issue. If I post it, I truly liked it. If a restaurant has a problem with that, I’ll say thanks for the offer turn down the invite. Luckily, not many have.
Q: I can get behind that. Okay, a few more questions. What do you feel the most challenging aspect of starting @BostonBrunchGuide was?
A: The number one thing for me was patience. Some weeks can be really frustrating, when you’re producing content and getting less engagement than you thought you would. There are so many new instagram accounts just getting started out there that ask “How do you get invited to these events?” or “How do you get free food?” There is an oversaturation of Boston food instagrams out there — and if you’re only in it for the free food, it is going to be hard, frustrating, and you probably won’t find much success. You have to be patient and build an audience that believes in what you’re doing and saying, and you have to be honest about it. Don’t get me wrong, the perks are amazing and I truly feel so lucky to be doing this, but it isn’t why I started BBG.
Q: And now that you have that audience, I noticed you recently launched a website and a blog, what sparked the expansion?
A: Instagram is such a visual platform. I was posting a lot and getting a lot of questions that I wanted to answer. “I’m coming in town for the weekend, where should I get brunch?” was a popular one. I wanted a place where I could engage with people away from Instagram and provide more content. After all, Instagram could go away any day with the way trends in social media work.
Q: Smart move. Okay, so last question – what are your goals for this year coming off a year of really great growth?
A: I’ve really had to start thinking about this hobby a lot more like a business. The more I’m engaging directly with restaurants rather than just going in and dining myself, the more I feel that I need a real brand, logo, etc. I also really want to expand the website to have a real “Brunch Guide.”
Q: Really great. I’m sure all of your followers will be excited for that. So where are you off to after this?
A: I was actually invited to Towne for brunch along with another instagrammer (Joey from @the_roamingfoodie)…wanna tag along?
I had no idea what I was in for!
We walked into Towne Stove and Spirits at 11 am on Saturday. They had just changed the brunch menu and had invited Danielle and Joey to come dine. The chef was so excited he decided to plan a little surprise. We were escorted upstairs into a private dining room and greeted by the Chef.
NOTE: Both Joey and Danielle noted that the following events never happen, so I guess I picked a great day to tag along.
Normally, Danielle sits at a table, orders her food, takes as many pictures as possible before it gets too cold. She scarfs it down hurriedly while editing a post and finishes just in time for the next dish. Today, she ate first…then was offered the whole menu.
What I originally expected to be a quick brunch became a truly remarkable afternoon. The head chef paraded new item after new item for the two to shoot and taste. My personal favorite was the waffles.
While the passive follower might be enamored by the fact that these two influencers got to try all this food for free “just for posting some pictures,” I got a chance to the see the real reason restaurants entertain from an outsider’s perspective.
Over the 3 hour escapade, Danielle provided an invaluable resource to the restaurant – not only by taking pictures of delicious food, but also by brainstorming new marketing ideas, educating the chef and manager on their consumers, and making approximately 9000 potential Boston local new diners crave a big stack of chicken and waffles. I have to say that’s certainly not a bad deal for Towne and really reinforced why we should absolutely expect to see big things from influencer marketers and @BostonBrunchGuide in the future.