You’re at a restaurant. Maybe it’s with your significant other, or with a group of friends. As plates of tomato and herb drenched lasagna and pasta arrive, the first step isn’t to dig in — it’s to get the perfect picture for social media.
What was once a stereotype ascribed to the millennial generation, snapping a pre-meal photo for our friends to salivate over through their screens has turned certain individuals into influencers. Influencers have established credibility in certain industries — particularly food and beverage — and reach a large audience. For many businesses, using influencers has become as core to a digital marketing strategy as good content or search engine optimization.
Armin Faraji is helping businesses tap into the world of social media influencers. His startup Node App is an influencer marketplace that allows brands to offer products and services in exchange for influencer-created content. Node App works with food and beverage businesses such as Oliver & Bonacini, Cacao 70, and Pinkberry to take advantage of the growing usage of social media in consumer buying decisions.
“We started Node because influencers are a new form of word-of-mouth marketing—it’s just happening through the web,” said Armin. “Node App allows businesses to offer people an ice cream cone for word-of-mouth marketing, but instead of telling 10 of your friends, you’re telling your 2,000 followers.”
Armin graduated from Ryerson University in 2016. There, he studied Commerce and specialized in Retail Management. His education inspired him to become an entrepreneur in an unusual way.
“In my last year of university, they brought in a lot of people in the corporate field to show us who we could be in five to 10 years,” recalled Armin. “I realized that I didn’t want to be like these kinds of people.”
But simply jumping into your own business right out of university isn’t that easy. So Armin took on various roles helping companies build their online presence.
Whether it was working as a product analyst for a large corporation or helping a smaller start-up establish its e-commerce store, Armin started to notice a trend. He encountered a lot of agencies trying to sell their services to his employers and realized that he could leverage his own resources to create an even better agency. This was how Growth.Group formed.
Growth.Group eventually grew to house over 35 clients, ranging from small businesses to national brands. For some entrepreneurs, this was the moment to grow their business further and bring in larger clients. But not Armin.
Through his agency, he saw an opportunity to leverage user-generated content on social media.
“I dabbled with the use of user-generated content as an agency,” said Armin. “But at some point, I no longer wanted to operate as an agency and wanted to monetize the influencer market as a whole.”
That’s how Node App was born.
The transition from Growth.Group to Node App was slow. It took a year just to get Node App up and running. Armin worked with his co-founder, McKenzie Derival, to interview potential customers and users and to research the influencer space. Eventually, they decided to hone in on the food and beverage industry due to the immediate need by restaurants to get the most return on investment from their influencer marketing strategies.
As Node App dominates the food and beverage influencer market, Armin’s sights are still set on expanding beyond restaurants.
“We knew that we wanted to expand into other verticals in the future, so we found a name that was versatile,” said Armin. “Node is an area of interest or hotspot. The idea is that every offer or campaign is a ‘node’”
Node’s accomplishments — between the number of active influencers and the big food and beverage names using the service — are plentiful. But for Armin, his most memorable moment was still the when they launched.
“When we launched, we didn’t have a free trial,” recalled Armin. “The fact that people were willing to work with a new startup and pay to use Node App made me feel accomplished.”
However, the most satisfying part about Node App for Armin is the clients he works with. To this startup, clients such as Osmows, the Marriot, and Burgers and Fries Forever are more than just a dollar sign. Armin sees these businesses and their owners as advisors to the app who constantly provide feedback. Working with these savvy business owners provides Armin with the motivation to continue his mission in simplifying the influencer marketplace.
Another big influence and motivator for the Node App founder is his mom.
“My mom is my biggest role model,” said Armin. “She works 12 hours a day, sleep five to six hours each night, and still manages to have a great social life while nurturing my brother and me.”
Not only does Armin look up to his mom’s work ethic, but he also appreciates all her support and trust. This includes her co-signing his first business loan when he was 19. This loan allowed Armin to run Origin-Ill, which hosted rap concerts, including one featuring the rap group WuTang Clan. Armin’s event was their first-ever appearance in Toronto.
For the Node App founder, entrepreneurship is something he wants to pursue until he dies. Although he admits that he does keep an open mind. “I won’t say I’ll never take a corporate job, but it has to be an offer I can’t refuse.”