APEXer Ashley Villarroel recently chatted with Danielle Finestone, founder and creator-in-chief of Toronto-based food Instagram account @TOFoodies discuss the influencer industry and share her top picks for Instagram accounts to follow!
1. What first attracted you to the industry?
“First, food. I have always been obsessed with food, scouring menus and restaurant reviews way before I could choose where to go myself. But food and music and media have been a constant, all intertwined in my professional dreams. I was a theatre major at an arts high school and applied to many, many, (nine!) different post-secondary programs not knowing what to do. But eventually, I got in tune with myself and went straight for the jugular when I went to Ryerson University’s RTA program where I then interned at MTV, Sony Music and the Marilyn Denis Show. A different kind of theatre, but I kept those central interests close and got into freelance writing, where I LOVED seeing the events side. By the time I graduated, Instagram was invented (literally) and the landscape had drastically changed from what it was when I entered a four-year program. My thoughts of being MuchMusic VJ or MTV Host started changing towards the more tangible opportunity of being a content creator, where viewership was and is democratized on social media. But first, I spent time freelancing and working at a major label where I learned so much more about the entertainment industry and marketing. Then, I started ToFoodies and fully took the plunge.”
2. What are some ways that you’ve grown your following and how have you kept them engaged?
“ToFoodies has grown organically over 5+ years but funnily enough, I think the best way to grow your online following is to do IRL (In Real Life) collaborations as a brand, as a person, as a media company. If I am meeting and supporting the food community around me, I like to think that the love comes back. And that same sentiment can be taken for the digital side as well. There will always be more that I can do to pump out content that would engage the ToFoodies audience in new ways, like build a newsletter and a podcast, and these are things that I am currently working on. But in the day to day, it can be as simple as getting back to DM’s faster and writing back my true answers when someone takes the time to comment. This is not done with a specific schedule or checklist, but I take into account how I would want to be interacted with and try to do the same. Be human.”
3. How will advancements in technology affect your work?
“Since Creators use platforms to share our content, as these platforms grow and change, so does the rulebook. It feels weekly, sometimes. I appreciate technology of course, but feel like a good brand today lives beyond the digital world. ToFoodies has already been through the hard part, which is connecting with people and getting to know the core message, the DNA. Once you have that down, it can be translated in so many ways, fluid with how technology grows. So, I feel very fortunate to have been doing this for 5+ years, thanks to how well the company has adapted and the trust that has been built. Also, thankful to have developed the offline opportunities that I have by continuing to offer additional services to content creation like brand consultation, hosting and curation, should social media disappear tomorrow without a kiss goodbye.
Outside of ToFoodies, I think we will keep seeing major players acquire different apps and sectors. Which in turn, will make everything more integrated and even easier to purchase.”
4. Who are some of your favourite individuals to follow?
5. Do you think it’s important to align yourself with organizations that represent you and your values? Why or why not?
“100%. It is extremely important. Whether or not you have a large platform, there is a lot of opportunity to say something via the choices we make. It’s about having a voice, recognizing the power, being grateful for that power and using it for good. At ToFoodies, the goal is to create a space of substance and inspiration, with something for everyone. You’ll go on our pages and hopefully find something nostalgic and then unfamiliar, no matter where you are from. Showing that diversity is important. Every day is a collaboration. It all matters. So does integrating charities into our content by showing off all the good that they do and getting people aware or better yet, involved. In the past year, ToFoodies has hosted events and created content that touches on everything from food waste, equality, homelessness, safe work environments, and beyond. We care about how, where and what we shine a light on. This is just one of the ways to show you what ToFoodies is are made of, by who we support with time, energy and seriously delicious food.”
Ashley Villarroel is a Senior Consultant at APEX PR.
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