Consumers are smart, live streaming makes TV ads irrelevant, and ad blockers are only increasing. How do you reach your customers? The answer: influencer marketing, which helps make meaningful connections, build trust, and secure loyalty, and more. To learn more about what it takes to nail influencer marketing, catch up on this VB Live event with execs from TGI Fridays, Yummly and more.

Access for free on demand right here. 

Millennials and Gen Zers are media-savvy, advertising-suspicious, and generally the only kind of direct brand content they’re willing to follow is hilariously weird Twitter accounts.

But there’s the key — consumers are looking for authentic, quirky voices that feel relatable. They want to feel like they can be real friends with the people they follow. And that’s where the brand opportunity happens. One out of every three millennials and Gen Zers, that coveted 18-to-34 age bracket, trust what an influencer says about a brand far more than what a brand says about itself.

VB Live brought together a round table of hard-core influencer marketers, masters, and advocates for a round table discussion on the tremendous power of influencer marketing, how to navigate the potential pitfalls, and how to get it right.

“For the structure of our influencer marketing, we’re simply making authenticity a priority for anything we do in the space,” says Amanda Brown, senior manager of digital marketing at TGI Fridays. “Not every influencer we work with is incredibly popular. In some instances we’ve embraced some micro influencers. We’re seeing relationships bloom in their community just off of one interaction.”

She offers the example of the vegan rapper on Instagram who was upset with the restaurant’s new vegetarian burger launch — the burger came with cheese, when he wanted it fully vegan, and made a video expressing his disappointment.

“We sprung into action,” Brown says. “About 10 p.m. on a Tuesday night I personally got on the phone with him, and explained customization options.”

She resolved those concerns, got the location of his nearest Fridays, and offered to buy him a burger on them. Little did they know that later that night, he wouldn’t just show up alone. He showed up with 20-plus people to celebrate the launch of the vegan burger.

“It made for great content,” she says. “You could feel the excitement. You could feel the authentic love for the brand, especially since we went out of our way to make sure that his experience was a good one after he’d expressed such disappointment. From beginning to end, authenticity is everything that you look for.”

That authenticity is almost built in, in the food space, because food is such a central and emotional part of people’s lives, as entertainment, as connection, as sustenance, and as love.

“When you talk about food and recipes, people are often driven by influencers, whether it’s someone they know, family or friends, or celebrity chefs, or even just someone that might not be famous, but has the same taste profile or allergy restrictions or gravitates toward the same food as they do,” says Taimoor Dar, Head of Community at Yummly, the recipe recommendation site. “We’re always teaming up with celebrity chefs or specific bloggers that are very niche, targeted toward specific audiences we want to go after.”

They deal with about 30,000 influencers on an ongoing basis, Dar says, since the food space is so large, but generally work with a handful at a time, both externally on social platforms like Instagram and Facebook, and internally on their own website.

Their influencer stable ranges from famous chefs all the way down to part-time stay-at-home bloggers who might have 100,000 followers on Instagram or a blog site, as well as a Yummly profile.

“It’s really a wide variety for us,” she adds, “mostly because people have such a wide variety of food preferences, tastes, and goals when it comes to eating.”

At TGI Fridays, their influencer strategy used to focus entirely on relationships with big paid influencers, says Brown. “As we continue to experiment and learn with influencer marketing, we’re identifying what works best for us in the paid versus unpaid realm of influencer activation.”

They regularly engage with influencers around their largest campaign windows, activating them for opportunities as they arise and for content to leverage during a particular push, but they maintain personal relationships and continue behind the scenes conversations with influencers throughout the year.

“We don’t want influencer relationships to be self-serving,” Brown explains. “We often partner up with influencers and partners and other companies to help support their initiatives when it makes sense. “We like to look at it as more of a friend-to-friend relationship.”

When it comes to results, whenever the company works with influencers, they’ve seen an increase in positive sentiment, Brown says, especially if the influencer already has an affinity for their brand, and that affinity that extends to their audience.

“As a consequence, there’s fan growth,” she says. “They want to engage with our brand on an ongoing basis since they already know there’s a connection and a mutual interest.”

“Our influencers are our biggest advocates,” says Mae Karwowski, founder and CEO of influencer marketing company Obviously. “We have more than 400,000 influencers globally on the Obviously platform. We’re always having them evangelize, talk about us.”

They also practice what they preach, ensuring that they’re building strong two-way relationships with these influencers. They host happy hours at their offices across the world, and Karwowski stays active on social media, always liking and commenting and messaging influencers they work with frequently, and have implemented a loyalty program as well. Called the Corgi program, it rewards their influencers with personalized analytics and consultations, and the more collaborations influencers do, the more feedback Obviously offers in terms of surveys, emails, and event invitations.

“We’re all in on building our own relationships with influencers,” she says.

For every company, it’s about identifying the right influencers for the right brand, which is critical in nailing the authenticity part of the influencer marketing strategy, they all agree.

To learn more about how to identify the influencers that will make a difference for your brand, how to manage multiple influencer campaigns, and how to drive real-world results from your strategy, catch up on this VB Live event!

Don’t miss out!

Access for free on demand right here.

Attend this webinar and learn:

  • How influencers and customers drive brand reputation and how they differ.
  • The relationship between PR tactics and community voice
  • Real-world tactics used by brands to overcome PR nightmares
  • How to create an influencer marketing plan that retains authenticity and believability
  • How real brands think about influencers + consumers as a strategy to strengthen their bottom line


  • Mae Karwowski, Founder and CEO, Obviously
  • Amanda Brown, Senior Manager Digital Marketing, TGI Fridays
  • Taimoor Dar, Head of Community, Yummly
  • Stewart Rogers, Analyst-at-Large, VentureBeat
  • Rachael Brownell, Moderator, VentureBeat

Sponsored by Obviously