Like Anthony Bourdain said on his 2016 Hunger Tour, “I want you to want what I am eating. When I post a picture of my food, I want you to be jealous and I want you to wish you were eating the same thing.” But Bourdain isn’t the only badass making people salivate with every photo swipe. The food industry is changing and if you want to get real about it, you must make room at the table for those who know how to entice your inner cravings.
With a combined audience of 47,000 followers, Angelica Martinez, Jessica Dao and Cristina Martinez are taking a seat at the chef’s table and turning their social media platforms into powerful branding machines. Carrying the heavy weight title of Influencer – a newly sprung term describing the persuasive skills of an Instagrammer – these three women are taking the local food scene by storm and leaving their tag at every turn.
“I guess you can say, I’m eating my way to the top,” says Angelica Martinez, known to her followers as @PharmDfoodie. The top, being her Instagram brand, is quickly growing and has become one of the most well-known names in the local food market. The rapidly changing food hub of Worcester, prompted a new outlet for food lovers and critics, alike, and there’s no way around it. Martinez, a graduate student at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Science and a lover of her mom’s panela and cheese jalapeño tamales, understands her position as an Influencer and knows that the industry leans on the those who can make people salivate. “We help support someone’s small business and when we support small business, we support big dreams,” she says. Martinez, among millions of other Influencers and social media users, is all about bringing back some honesty to the food game and helping the average business owner.
“Food is about community. It is about caring and sharing ideas, stories and culture. It is something I implement into my brand when I post,” says Martinez. “Food brings people together. My “go-to” food experience is going with a group of friends to share tapas, hot pot, Korean BBQ and any other food style that brings shared food.” With community and sharing as the pivotal point of the @PharmDfoodie brand, Martinez knows that a good story about a restaurant goes a long way. “My social media audience reacts depending on the content. If I post something like coffee or a salad, I will get a “YAY” in the comment box but if I post a burger, cheesy pizza or a noodle pull, people go crazy,” she says. People want the money shot. It’s that simple. The Instagram audience wants the exclusivity that lacks on every restaurant website.
“Menu tastings and blogger events are the best way to enjoy a meal. Going out with other foodies is really an experience,” says Christina Martinez, also known as @Worcester_Eats. “We take our time before we actually eat with photos and we spend more time talking about what we like about a dish.” The Holy Grail of food critiques, the New York Times, rules the term “make or break” with their honest and raw impression of new restaurants, often setting the stage for customers to indulge or avoid said restaurants. Their words weigh so heavily on potential food goers, that most reviews do not include photos. Now with the takeover of social media platforms like Instagram, Influencers can carry the same significance and back it by the phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” (Or likes, for that matter). “People love to see pictures of good food, especially when it is a new dish. The reactions are always good,” says Martinez. Millennials are at the top of the chain for Influencer audiences and Martinez provides a direct outlet for restaurants to connect with the untamable millennial population. Black Tap Burgers in New York’s Soho is a prime example of the feeding frenzy caused by Influencers. After a wave of Instagram posts about their Crazy Shakes – over-the-top milkshakes adorned with all kinds of sweetness – Black Top Burgers was featured on Buzzfeed and on ABC’s The Chew. Award winning local chefs like Chef Candace Murphy of Figs & Pigs, have opened their doors to Influencers with menu and beer tasting events as well as social media takeovers, often giving influencers free tastings of a new dish in return for a slot on their Instagram food grid.
“Being a foodie means taking a lot of photos before eating so it helps when you can be a foodie with those that understand what you do,” says Jessica Anh Dao, the creator of @ImDatingFood. “Foodies understand each other and we help each other when we need a hand model and understand the patience it takes to grab the right shot.” While many join this food blogging business to enjoy the adventures of culinary cuisine, others do it for the love of photography. “I am in love with photography,” says Dao. “It made me look at food in a different way. I realized that it was not just a cure for my hunger but also, an art. I don’t want to just show something I ate, but I want to capture all the ingredients in that dish and make it look good because its art.” Her art has soared her Instagram influence to a mass following of 32.1K, leaving followers with an appreciation of her photo quality. “I was able to turn my art into a brand and the quality of every photo has people falling in love with my account.”
Influencers deeply impact today’s culture, whether it be food, fashion or travel, and it must be considered in the marketing efforts of emerging new businesses. While The New York Times will always be the crème de la crème of food reviews, social media Influencers are nudging their way into the spotlight of credibility. As @PharmDfoodie says, “The camera eats first.”