The Day – Southeast Connecticut Under the Influence of Social Media

When the owner of local restaurant Tai Au opened her new Mystic location last summer, she knew she wanted to hire a social media influencer to help promote the business. She had seen the tactic being used on Instagram and, with a new restaurant, now was the perfect time to give it a try.

The premise was simple: Jean Michael Coronado, a handsome slimming coach and up-and-coming local influencer with 8,700 Instagram followers under the username @jmichael1106, would post a photo promoting the restaurant, Samurai Noodle Bar & Grill.

Dressed in skinny jeans and a “Lilo & Stitch” t-shirt, Coronado playfully posed in front of the restaurant’s red facade with noodles hanging from his mouth. Below the photo, he wrote in all caps: “GIVEAWAY TIME!”

“I’ve teamed up with @samurainoodlemystic… so you can enjoy the hottest ramen noodle restaurant in town,” he continued, before outlining the rules: follow Samurai’s Instagram page and like the post to win.

It was a quick and easy marketing win for Au: With over 1,650 likes and over 100 comments, Samurai’s Instagram page instantly attracted hundreds of new followers.

Against the backdrop of southeast Connecticut, Au is just one of many local business owners — and a local town — working with social media influencers to help promote themselves on Instagram, a nationwide trend that’s is beginning to gain momentum throughout the region.

Au, who hired Coronado six months after Samurai opened, said for more than a decade she had relied heavily on radio advertising to promote her other restaurants, such as Mystic’s Pink Basil and Niantic’s. SpiceClub.

But now she says she’s been saving about $5,000 a month after canceling those endorsement deals — a sudden unnecessary expense, given her growing popularity on social media.

With 450 followers on her Samurai Instagram page, Au said that instead of mass radio commercials, she can directly message her clientele, informing them of the restaurant’s meals and specialties, as well as happy hours and parties. upcoming theme.

Social media marketing is “the way of the future,” Au said, “and thanks to that, business has been more stable.”

For companies looking for a new way to market themselves, social media marketers “are a very progressive and forward-thinking idea to consider,” said Nicole Daversa, chief marketing officer at Daversa Partners, a company technology headhunting with a branch in Waterford.

An Instagram user with a large following can instantly expose a business, location, clothing brand or product to thousands of people at once, Daversa said. Pay the right influencer, and a business can tap into a specific demographic interested in makeup, food, or fitness.

For many local businesses, this desired demographic largely boils down to millennials and Gen Z, who are hard to reach through traditional forms of advertising like print and radio.

But that’s where people like Coronado come in.

A 28-year-old former model from Spain and Peru, Coronado moved to Whaling City in 2011 to attend Connecticut College and is one of the few up-and-coming paid influencers living in the area.

Others here include Samer Delgado, @fitnessblazt on Instagram, who has nearly 59,000 followers after appearing on the TV show “American Ninja Warrior” in 2017, and Pedro Lopez, @dro.lopez on Instagram, a new influencer of androgynous fashion that begins. However, apart from Delgado and Lopez, Coronado is focused on promoting local businesses as well as big brands.

From his eclectic client list, Coronado was paid $200 to $500 per post to promote Vineyard Vines on his page, as well as the dating app Scruff. Locally it has partnered with Mystic Aquarium and Island Pursuit in Mystic and Spark Makerspace in New London. Soon he will sign a three-month contract with Norwich’s Community Development Corporation to promote the city, its restaurants and festivals through dozens of publications.

As a director and weight loss coach for the Incredible Weight Loss Center in New London, Coronado first earned an Instagram after promoting fitness and health. But he also dreamed of launching his own fashion brand.

Formally introducing himself as Jean Michael, Coronado registered his influencing activity with the City of New London last March.

Along with its eye-catching, colorful, and often silly Instagram posts promoting “living life to the fullest” and “having fun,” Coronado also holds the keys to what valuable demographic companies seek to achieve. Of his supporters, Coronado said the majority were young people between the ages of 18 and 25 living in the area.

Not just kids glued to phones

Mystic Aquarium’s social media manager, Adam Cilley, who recently worked with Coronado on an Instagram post promoting National Penguin Awareness Day, keeps a close eye on these types of social media trends.

Cilley said that while the aquarium has many mothers in their late 20s and early 30s, the aquarium has also recently “tried to broaden our demographics further,” considering social media influencers like l one of many options to do so.

As an example, Cilley said the aquarium invited Amy Bruni of TLC’s “Kindred Spirit” to take over the aquarium’s Instagram account, which has more than 21,000 followers, for a day last fall.

“I wouldn’t say Coronado is popular in our niche, but it is in the Southeast Connecticut niche,” Cilley said. “So we looked at his content and the kind of following he has, and we liked what we saw.”

The post, which features Coronado holding a stethoscope to a penguin, garnered more than 1,500 likes and earned the aquarium a “slightly above average” number of new followers for that day, Cilley said.

“Influencers have been something that has been on our minds for a while now. It’s a national trend and it’s something we’re going to continue to look at in 2019,” Cilley said.

According to recent data from Nielsen, an American information, data and measurement company, influencer marketing is “more effective than traditional advertising” and continues to grow.

Nielsen cited two contributing factors to this trend: 1) influencer marketing “really” engages individuals and 2) individuals are more likely to trust what is endorsed by an influencer, rather than an advertisement. typical that is presented to them while browsing the Internet.

“And it’s not just kids who are glued to their phones anymore,” Daversa said, explaining the breadth of demographics that can be reached by influencers. “All generations, from Gen X to Gen Z, are now on social media and Instagram.

Instagram, more than other social media platforms, works especially well for influencers, Daversa said. Apart from its visual appeal, the platform is ideal for promoting experiences to be enjoyed rather than money to be spent.

“When you get an influencer who can highlight a really cool interactive experience in an area, obviously that will drive traffic to that page or area,” Daversa said. “And that’s why I imagine Coronado is so attractive to these local businesses. He is fun and promotes this idea for them.

“Turn it up and make it fun”

Jill Fritzsche, vice president of Norwich’s Community Development Corporation, a quasi-public economic development group working for the city, sticks to that. Among the many aims of the society, the NCDC is responsible for promoting Norwich city center and developing incoming businesses, while attracting future generations to support businesses in the city.

“It’s an important part of our larger plan, and that’s where Jean Michael will come in,” Fritzsche said, explaining that Norwich “is an international city and a fun, safe place to hang out.”

“We want people to know that we exist too, that they can come and have a good time here,” Fritzsche said.

She said the NCDC will sign Coronado to a three-month contract in the coming weeks to promote the city. Whether it’s a restaurant, festival or going out for a drink in the evening, Coronado will post about various establishments or events that define Norwich, Fritzsche said.

“He’s going to be able to directly reach that Generation Z demographic that we’re looking to bring to the city,” Fritzsche continued. “And he will showcase Norwich through his messages, through his eyes and through the eyes of his generation.”

Fritzsche could not disclose the amount paid to Coronado, but the funding will come from the NCDC and not the city of Norwich, she said. There will also be a possibility to extend Coronado’s contract, if the first three months go well.

Besides Coronado’s obvious local and young audience, Fritzsche believes that Coronado will also easily attract interest from non-subscribers, or those just browsing social media, especially young people visiting nearby casinos, through various tags and hashtags.

“We need to introduce the fun factor to Norwich. You’re not going to bring young people or millennials into a community if they don’t think a place is fun,” Fritzsche said. “It’s about creating fun and that’s what influencers do. They take normal experiences and turn up the volume and make it fun.

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