https://www.merricktowle.com/#blog

In this age of digital content marketing, we’re being advertised to constantly while online. As consumers become more savvy in noticing the influx of Facebook and Google Ads, brands are increasingly becoming more “human” in the way they connect with their audience. Enter the Instagram influencer. Instagrammers are building huge organic audiences by curating fresh content specific to your hobby. Whether you’re a foodie, fashion lover, bargain hunter, interior design DIYer, movie buff, dog obsessed- there’s an Instagrammer with thousands of followers and great content waiting for you. Brands are taking advantage of the organic audiences created by these content kings and queens and finding ways to work with them to champion their brand.

We talked to Amy Langrehr of Charm City Cook, who has an Instagram audience of almost 12,000 people and specializes in eating and drinking at the many restaurants in the Baltimore-metro area. Something that started out as a side hobby has become a full-on gig, complete with partnerships with restaurants, hotels and more that she helps promote to her trusted audience. If I could describe her feed in one word, it would be “warm”. Amy invites her audience into her kitchen, out to eat with her and often takes you behind the scenes, providing everything you need to recreate her fantastic dining experiences around Baltimore.

We asked Amy a few questions about her industry and here’s what she had to say about growing her channel, making a name for herself and staying true to her roots. There’s also a few tips and tricks in there for the burgeoning influencer looking to grow their online presence and relationships. Check it out!

1. How would you describe your personal brand?

Real, normal, relatable. I cook. I eat Taco Bell sometimes.

2. When did you realize that your hobbies of food and photography could become a career?

I honestly just fell in love with food and cooking. A few years ago, I didn’t like my full-time job very much and thought, what the hell? After going out to eat and drink a lot, I realized that I knew a ton of people in the industry, so I jumped and just figured it out as I went along. However, I don’t actually recommend doing it that way! Save up some money and try to have a really flexible job that’ll allow you to duck out to a business lunch or media event every once in awhile. But, honestly, quitting my job felt pretty darn good at the time. I’m still glad I did that.

 

 

3. There are local/regional food bloggers all over the Internet, but somehow you’ve managed to cut through the noise and make a real name for yourself in the Baltimore community, with over 11,000 followers on Instagram. What do you think sets you apart?

I’m sometimes told that my voice is authentic. I try to only post about people whose work I actually like. Also, since my Insta is about food in Baltimore, I try not to make it too focused on me – that would be boring to me. I’d much rather share stories of the people doing the heavy lifting.

4. How did you grow your channel?

Slowly, organically. When I have time or it’s really important, I try to tell a story – of the dish, of a farm, of a chef’s inspiration. In our world of scroll, scroll, scroll, I love when someone stops to read something and leaves a comment. Oh, and hashtags! They really work. I always feel bad when I post a vegan dish and use #vegan and get a few new vegan followers…then, a few days later, I post a huge ribeye steak. Sorry, guys. I eat everything. Also, Instagram stories are trackable GOLD. Use them.

 

5. What’s been the most exciting event/moment you’ve experienced since becoming a food blogger?

I think the first time I got a paid writing gig, that felt really good. Earning a living as a food writer is not easy – and even though food writing is not my main job – I love when I can write and get paid. So much time goes into it.

 

6. What strategic advice do you have for up and coming Instagram influencers?

I think if you’re scrolling through photos on your phone trying to find something to post, don’t post. You’re overthinking it. I wouldn’t say that there’s a hard and fast rule on the number of posts – if more feels right and you’re getting real engaged feedback, maybe post a little more. If your engagement lessens, slow it down. Whatever your sweet spot number turns out to be, be consistent. Balanced content is just as important as creating your voice and vibe. I also try to just take photos and collect content while I’m out (for example, at dinner) and then post it later when I can focus. While I’m out, I want to be in that moment and enjoy the food, drinks, people I’m with, not think about what I’m going to post or how I’m going to caption it.

 

7. As video becomes more ubiquitous year after year, do you make a point of incorporating that into your feed/using Instagram stories? Why?

Yes, I’m starting to post more video content. People pay attention to videos. Attention spans are becoming shorter every day. In a regular IG post, you can see how many people view it…and in stories, you can see who viewed it – pretty cool.  Personally, I like viewing Instagram stories more than regular posts. It feels more fun and interactive. I’m still not sure what I think about the effectiveness of Boomerangs, but they’re certainly engaging when done in the right way.

8. Do you predict any shift in influencer marketing in the coming future?

Paid posts are becoming much more mainstream now. I’m getting lots of inquiries for those. Some Instagrammers in major cities make their living posting sponsored content. The only way I’d do that is if I was going to post about them anyway. Legally, you have to be really careful with those posts and make sure you use the appropriate hashtags (#ad #sponsored, etc.) and also keep your core audience in mind. You don’t want to lose followers just to make money. Again, balance is the key. And don’t post something you don’t actually believe in.

 

 

As brand and influencer partnerships continue to become ever-present in 2018, Amy’s thoughts on careful paid post selection hit home on the brand side as well. Partner with an influencer whose tone, photography, and disposition match well with your brand. Most importantly, be sure it’s an influencer that fits with your audience demographic. Champion your brand by being open and honest in your brand partnership. Pitch ideas, take notes and come up with clear, concise goals. Most importantly, trust the influencer you’ve chosen to make the magic happen. If you’ve done the careful task of selecting the right influencer, they will bring the campaign to life. And to any Baltimore brands out there, be sure to check out Amy’s incredible channel, @charmcitycook on Instagram. She rocks!