By Kaitlyn Giovinazzo
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Chris Franzoni wanted a change of pace from his day job as an attorney for the Maryland State Labor Relations Board.
So, he created a social media account that showcases local restaurants.
Three years later, Franzoni’s Instagram page, Eat More Baltimore, has more than 32,000 followers and 1,500 posts that highlight some of the fare area residents can expect at a wide range of restaurants in the region.
Users who access the Instagram page will see an array of vibrant photographs that include a diverse range of different foods. Each post contains the tagged location for the restaurant along with it’s associated Instagram account.
Franzoni said his Instagram account is not meant to make extra money or create a side-business but rather to express his love for food while giving followers a way to explore new places to eat.
“I’m sitting at my desk all day doing labor laws,” Franzoni said. “While it’s a great profession, it doesn’t really give me that creative outlet.”
Franzoni said the inspiration behind the account was not just because of his love for food, but because he felt Baltimore was not getting enough positive attention amid the city’s crime reputation.
“A lot of these places weren’t getting the attention they deserved,” Franzoni said. “I wanted to put a positive spin on everything and highlight these positives so that people aren’t afraid to go to these places and can actually appreciate them.”
Franzoni may be on to something.
Marketing company Illumen Media, reports that over 85 percent of consumers search for local businesses online. Of that, over 1 billion restaurant visits are by people who were influenced by online marketing.
According to Kissmetrics, Instagram is the No. 1 social media app for engagement with restaurant brands. Instagram marketing is key for restaurants because approximately 93 percent of consumers find that their purchasing decisions are influenced by visual appearance, Kissmetrics says.
“When I think social media for restaurants, I think Instagram,” said Michael Nasello, CEO of marketing-based company Combustion Group. “Thirty percent of photos you see are about food so that’s why I try to equate to it. We’ve done some websites for restaurants that have really helped with their marketing.”
Nasello said his team looks at social media from an analytical level, including demographic information, geographic information, times of day people are on certain social media, when the best time to post a certain picture would be, and what could spark a conversation.
“A lot of restaurants will have their name on the plate,” Nasello said. “I’ve seen a steakhouse with a little skewer in the steak with the name of the restaurant and that’s specifically for people taking photos so if they don’t tag the food, at least the restaurant gets their brand out there that way.”
Even the simplest comment from a friend can help promote various restaurants.
“It always carries more weight if your friend posts how much she loves Chipotle,” Nasello said. “That carries so much more weight for you to go and try Chipotle than Chipotle saying, ‘Hey, your friends love Chipotle.’ It’s not a spokesperson of the company, it’s someone who actually enjoys the food – and people are much more inclined to trust that opinion.”
Sarah Parker-Hughes, a Towson University communications professor who specializes in social media strategy, said sites like Instagram have become particularly important for marketing.
“Social media is so different from other traditional marketing,” Parker-Hughes said. “It’s not corporate speak, it’s the brand-generated content.”
Parker-Hughes said no industry is exempt from needing social media for business tactics.
“Regardless of the industry, you really have to understand it,” Parker-Hughes said. “Your brand, your community and your persona – It’s not all about selling. It’s about creating a brand community around shared interests and values, and providing unique and interesting content beyond selling your products and services.”
With over 1,500 posts (95 percent being original photos) and 32,000-plus followers, Franzoni has created quite an imprint on the Baltimore area since launching the page back in 2015. He now receives dozens of messages daily that will ask for his ‘foodie’ attention.
“I have had a lot of restaurants, marketing companies and magazines come back to me and say, ‘Hey after you posted that, a lot of people came and ordered in.’ Or, ‘Sales have spiked!’” Franzoni said. “I’m definitely seeing results. More and more people will tag me in photos and say, ‘I tried this place because of you. Thanks for the recommendation!’”
Franzoni said he refuses to accept payment for promoting content he does not agree with. If he does get paid, he said he will disclose all proper information on his page.
Franzoni said since launching the Instagram account, his career path has seen new and exciting opportunities he never thought would come about.
“Don’t underestimate the power of social media,” Franzoni said. “I formed a partnership with a local marketing company, so when they have social media clients that need help, the marketing company sends them to me for me to handle their social media account. I wouldn’t have had that if I didn’t start the Eat More account.It kind of opened the door for something I never knew I was capable of doing.”