Growing a Franchise with Influencer Marketing on Instagram

In early 2022 we were tasked with the goal of getting influencers to bring awareness to a new franchise coming to South Tampa. The first Tampa Crumbl Cookies location is set to open sometime in the late spring or early summer of 2022 and the franchisee wanted to get as much exposure as possible before the doors opened. So, what did we do? More importantly, how did we do?

Influencer marketing is the new billboard. Instead of paying $500 to $3000 for a billboard on the side of the road, many businesses recognize that people are on their smartphones all the time so they can actually get much better results by having an influencer post to their Instagram or TikTok. Here is how it works.

Understanding the South Tampa Market

The first thing we had to do is get a complete understanding of the South Tampa market and the physical location of the Crumbl Cookies store. The physical location is 1902-A South Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, Florida 33629. This is just outside the front door of Plant High School and down the road from a Sprouts Farmers Market and a Publix Super Market. South Tampa is comprised of a number of private high schools and Plant High School is the largest public school.

We learned that many parents work their magic to get their children into a high school in South Tampa. With Crumbl Cookies being a hit on TikTok and Instagram with high school and college students, this was the perfect fit.

Crumbl Cookies Instagram Policy

Crumbl Cookies does not allow individual stores or franchisees to create a Crumbl Cookies Instagram account. This means there is no Crumbl Cookies South Tampa specific Instagram. Even though this is the case, Crumbl Cookies encourages franchisees to use their personal Instagram account to push exposure to their new store with updates on the construction and events that are being held at the store.

South Tampa Instagram Influencers

With a client like a Crumbl Cookies store it is important to start the search with local Tampa Food Instagram accounts and influencers. After that, we branched out into media outlets, newspapers, magazines, real estate agents and local high school students. More on the high school students later. Below are some of the Instagram accounts we messaged to introduce the new store opening in the coming months:

For the most part, we received very positive feedback and our response rate was close to 50%. Some simply congratulated us on the store opening while others wanted to know how they could collab/partner and if we could get them some cookies. A few of the news outlets and online magazines wanted to publish articles. One of the better published articles was “New Crumbl Cookies location will open in South Tampa“.

In terms of Instagram engagement and growth in likes and mentions, it was a very slow start. While many influencers were interested in the store and had the desire to come get some cookies, the store would not open for several months. We did have the Tampa Food Mom post on her story that South Tampa was getting a Crumbl Cookies store.

The most successful early Instagram exposure was through the Creative Loafing Tampa Instagram. They posted a grid post featuring the story published on the website. It received over 500 likes and over 30 comments. Many of the comments were Instagram users “at-ing” their friends to let them know there was a new Crumbl Cookies store coming to the South Tampa area. We reached out to all those that commented and let them know that we appreciated their support and were excited to see them at the new location when we opened.

Plant High School Instagram Influencers

Due to the fact that almost all high school students are underage, we are not going to disclose the Plant High School students we contacted. We will explain our process and success rate.

With anything related to Internet Marketing, or social media, it is often extremely slow to start. This was true with our search for Plant High School influencers. Initially, we searched for the location of Plant High School on Instagram and found just one or two posts from football games. This allowed us to find groups of friends that were tagged in photos. This was the starting point and we eventually found enough Plant High School students to get some response.

On February 14th, 2022 we contacted 20 Plant High School students including cheerleaders, athletes and soccer players. This was not an immediate success as we received no responses for the first full week. After the first week, two (2) Plant High School students responded that they would be interested in being ambassadors for the brand. Interestingly, on March 4th, 2022 another Plant High School student responded from the February 14th blast.

On March 5th, 2022 we reached out to another 20 Plant High School students and received three (3) responses within a week. Overall, we sent 40 direct messages and received a total of six (6) responses. At this point, we are not looking for more than a handful of influencers so we were very pleased with this response rate. Out of the six (6) that responded, all six (6) said they were interested in being brand ambassadors.

What we learned is that high school students are much less responsive to DMs than media outlets, food blogs and other businesses. This makes sense as they are using Instagram as a social tool with their friends and not a way to generate business and brand exposure. There are a few Plant High School students that are doing a great job with a “Finsta” that is for food but these are few and far between.

The high school students were getting much more engagement than media outlets, food blogs and other businesses. If they had 1500 followers, they were receiving between 600-800 likes per photo. Some of the high school students were averaging over 100 comments per post. This type of engagement is incredible. We reached out to a few food bloggers and brands that had 10,000 Instagram followers but were receiving less than 250 likes and around 15 comments per post.

While we know not all engagement is equal, we do know that getting a few high school students to wear Crumbl Cookies sweatshirts, socks or long sleeved shirts on their story or in any Instagram post would be extremely valuable. This doesn’t factor in the word of mouth marketing that will go through the local high school when students are seen wearing Crumbl Cookies apparel.

Opportunities Moving Forward

We are very pleased that the Crumbl Cookies South Tampa location was mentioned in a major Tampa news outlet and already has a handful of Instagram influencers that are going to be brand ambassadors within the first month. The goal is to get published in one news article a month and add a new Instagram influencer every two weeks. As the campaign starts to gain steam we predict that Plant High School students and local Tampa influencers will reach out to us instead of vice versa.

It is a bit of a challenge for Instagram users to find us as we can only use the personal Instagram account of the franchise owners. That said, we feel this is still an opportunity we cannot pass up.

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