NEW YORK — People are hungry for captivating images when they're browsing online for somewhere to eat. Restaurant websites, Yelp, OpenTable and the like are go-to hubs for food inspiration, but much of the visual content on those platforms comes from the restaurants themselves. Often, beautiful photos draw in customers who are later disappointed with sub-par dishes.
To sidestep this issue and serve up more candid visuals from real diners, delivery startup Grubhub leans into user-generated content (UGC) on Instagram with the goal of making consumers crave a treat and order, VP of Brand Marketing and Creative Jessica Burns explained on a panel at Advertising Week. This year, the platform has also started to experiment with gaming platform Twitch, in part because of how it differs from Instagram and rounds out Grubhub's influencer strategy.
"The best way to describe Instagram in the Grubhub world is 'our digital mood board of food porn,'" she said.
Much of the company's UGC on Instagram comes from influencers and foodies, who appeal to Grubhub because they deliver more trustworthy restaurant reviews than traditional advertising. However, the image-sharing app isn't always the best platform within Grubhub's influencer equation, as it's sticky but static, according to Burns.
"You have channels that are very static but scalable, like the LinkedIns and Twitters of the world, and then you have channels that are very dynamic — I would say risky — and they're really hard to work on and develop work for … Instagram sits in between," she said.
Instagram is the most popular platform for influencer marketing, though engagement is on the decline. More than 500 million people — half the platform's monthly user base — check the site daily, which could spur impulse orders from food delivery platforms like Grubhub.
While brands tend to use influencers on Instagram to authentically tell stories that connect with a loyal audience, mostly static content, lack of sound and distracted viewing makes doing so quite challenging despite the platform's massive user base, The Outloud Group's Chief Growth Officer Bradley Hoos said on the panel.
Video killed the Instagram star
Grubhub used these insights to transition some of its influencer dollars to video in the past year as it looks to explore marketing channels that deliver higher engagement and break through the clutter that's mounting on Instagram.
"If a picture is worth 1,000 words, a video is worth 1.8 million," Burns said.
Twitch is a key platform Grubhub has experimented with in 2019, she said, highlighting the shared demographic of millennial men — a notoriously fickle cohort. The Amazon-owned gaming site sees around 15 million daily active users, 81.5% of which are male, according to MediaKix. It captures an ultra-engaged audience compared to other channels, with streamers spending an average of 95 minutes per session.
"When I think about gaming, I think it's like the new 'Netflix and chill' for us. Grubhub and gaming go hand in hand," Burns said.
Despite the channel's captive audience that aligns with Grubhub's target customer, Twitch's homepage is chaotic with movement and measurement is nebulous, she explained. Grubhub's approach to influencer marketing on Twitch is grounded in experimentation to test what tactics work best on the nascent platform. Previous trials by the food delivery service include brand integrations with creators, where Grubhub tracked session traffic after those integrations to measure cost-per-response and optimize over time. That strategy has gleaned useful insights into which creators are most effective for a partnership, the appropriate number and timing of Grubhub mentions and identifying specific games to focus on.
Twitch possesses both challenges and opportunities unique from other influencer-centric channels, according to Burns, who emphasized the need for constant experimentation.
"You have to provide some loose guidelines for these streamer integrations, but you can't handcuff them, either," she said. "You have to say a little prayer and let them do their thing."