Stand Out On Social Without A Monster Marketing Budget

Food blogger and owner of Chew Crew Media, Issac Martin, believes the perfect recipe for restaurant success to be equal parts sauce and social.

Burger Point’s large corner-spot location in Wentworth Point, a stone’s throw from Sydney’s Olympic Park, is indicative of the city’s obsession with bombastic cheese-spilling burgers. It’s also the meeting point for a food-related sit down with the moustachioed, mullet-sporting social media guru Issac Martin – a man who has built a reputation for sniffing out brilliant brioche ‘n’ beef in recent years.

Born in Queensland and trained as a pastry chef in Melbourne, he now calls Sydney’s sunny shores home. Having slowly built a career on the sweeter side of the culinary coin, it was a mixture of luck and opportunity that led Martin to forgo his vocation of chocolate and sweets and instead embark on a career in the Wild West of food blogging and social media marketing.

“It was 2012 and Instagram had just been bought by Facebook and they were pumping dollars into it. The restaurants that I would visit for my own personal enjoyment seemed to be doing their own marketing. I knew PR companies charged a lot and we’re not viable long-term options for many small businesses.”

“Anyone can spend 10 grand on a marketing…
It’s about building something that lasts.”

Seeing the sharp growth of his own account, posting food from restaurants he loved, Martin saw an opportunity to help businesses to develop their own brands on social media. He has amassed an enviable following; 217,000 on Instagram25,000 on Tik Tok and 9,500 on Facebook. Recognising that chefs and restaurateurs often lacked the knowledge or time required to ‘hack the platforms’ and generate growth and drive sales and awareness, he devised a simple recipe for venues to develop better social branding. And it didn’t necessarily require a mega marketing budget to do so.

Martin’s first client was Burger Point, at the time, a business with just one store finding it hard to break through the noise. “Good products and a good brand get the best long-term results,” quips Martin. “Burger Point had a great product, they just needed to build the brand. Anyone can spend 10 grand on a marketing campaign but six months later, it’s gone. For me, it’s about building something that lasts.”

Martin cites hugely popular burger brands like Mary’s BurgersUmeZe Pickle and Bondi Tony’s as examples of marques done well. He believes these businesses to have the distinct look, taste and visual attitude required to set them apart from the larger ‘grey’ area of the market, believing an easy win for any food business is to think more profoundly around how they and their customer might present their products online.

“It’s no good doing amazing food if, when someone sees that food, they’ve got no idea it’s yours.” Martin cites the recent lockdown as a pivotal moment where businesses often failed to make the best use of their takeaway packaging. “If I am getting a brown bag with a brown box, it could be the world’s best-looking burger but when I share that photo online, there’s nothing unique about it and no way someone can tell where it is from. It’s a wasted opportunity.”

He explains that simple things like stickers, logo-clad grease-proof paper, and packaging that features clear branding help to create a digital presence online. Another element often overlooked, he continues, is originality and innovation, explaining that burger joints rely on the same three or four menu items to drive revenue and sales, but offer little in the way of interest or individuality.

“What makes someone want to travel from the Eastern Suburbs to Western Sydney or pay $3-8 extra instead of getting McDonald’s?” he asks. “I think a lot of places fall flat because they fail to create and adapt. Relying on what has previously worked, or carbon copying others. It is a sure-fire way to lose on social.”

Martin says it was a mix of luck and innovation that saw Burger Point earn its first major win on social media and drive awareness of the brand. While playing around with a pot of liquid cheese often sold with their ‘loaded fries’, Martin became frustrated with the photos he was taking. “I just dipped the whole burger straight into the cheese, out of annoyance really. I didn’t really think anything of it when I posted it.”

That flippant post would later be seen and shared by hip hop megastar Ludicrous in the US, a man with some 13 million+ followers. Other names and outlets followed, including a variety of street culture magazines and food blogs which drove a large amount of awareness for the Burger Point brand, giving it a much-needed leg up the social media ladder. “People travelled for that liquid cheese. It’s now a large part of the creative identity too.”

Another problem chefs and restaurateurs often come up against is consistency. “Customers need to see something at least six times for it to become a memory,” says Martin. “Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself… when I got into food blogging seven years ago, people would say ‘burgers are a trend. They’ll die.’ Now Neil Perry has a burger place. You can do fine dining as well as bargain-basement burgers.”

“If you think the brand is good, just keep putting it out there,
eventually, someone else will recognise it.”

It’s a sentiment that rings true. When Sydney’s shiny new business district opened its doors to the suited workers of the CBD in 2016, six of the city’s biggest burgers brands were invited to a cook-off to drum up press. The event titled ‘Burger Kings’ saw celeb chefs Neil Perry, Belle’s Morgan McGlone, Kerby Craig from Ume Burgers, Jake Smyth from Mary’s, Somer Sivrioglu from Anason, and Monty Koludrovic from Icebergs fight it out for the crown (of sorts), to add some cool to a distinctly corporate corner of Sydney.

Martin recognises that social media is fickle and that platforms like Facebook and Instagram now demand cash investment to achieve the organic reach it once did. But even without the marketing budget of huge brands, Martin says businesses can invest into social if they spend that time and money on building something worth marketing.

“If you believe in something, it won’t necessarily just work overnight. So that same thing may take 10 years to be an overnight success. There’s an element of grinding and confidence in what you’re doing. Don’t keep changing it. If you think the brand is good, just keep putting it out there and eventually, someone else will recognise it.”

Isaac Martin’s top tips for better social media marketing

  • Build a brand that is bigger than the menu.
  • Find a face to front the business (Chef/Owner).
  • Be innovative and original.
  • Think visually. What’s driving eyeballs?
  • Be consistent and think long term growth.
  • Care about your brand. Others will too.