While many are quick to ridicule millennials who insist on taking the perfect shot of their meals before polishing it off, it is them who have the last laugh as many have managed to turn this into something bigger than a mere pre-prandial act. Prior to the advent of social media, food blogging is nothing compared to as it is today and presently there are many food bloggers-turned influencers making enough ‘bread’ to even dedicate themselves to it as a full-time profession.
Anyone can start a food blog but taking it to greater heights and unlocking opportunities through the ability to shape opinions is what makes a food influencer. This doesn’t necessarily have to include mindlessly racking up your follower count. There is a place for even micro influencers who have created for themselves a small but responsive community to engage with. The question however leads to how to build such a community in the first place. With social media becoming an indispensable part of our lives, it may seem easy to do this but at the same time there are now thousands vying for the attention of their target groups and hence breaking into food influencing requires more strategy than just being able to merely whip up a meal or review restaurants online.
Granted, many foodies do start it off as a hobby or as a break from the monotony of their existing jobs and may not have a strategy to start with. However, their passion for food and hunger for success leads them to be consistent with their efforts of sharing their love for food which eventually pays off. Many realize that they have created a community over time wherein their followers are hooked on their every word. It may seem like an overnight success to the crowd, but many of them have unknowingly developed strategies under the guise of a hobby.
Shivesh Bhatia who presently has many accolades to his name, started blogging on Instagram about his baking endeavors while pursuing his political science degree. It is evident that he put a lot of effort amidst the rush of college life as he encountered a steady growth over the years-so much so that he was able to shift to being a full-time blogger soon after graduating. However, by scratching the surface we see that he gave a personal touch to his blog which set off the growth. It was refreshing to see a male baker break into the field which gave him a unique perspective. This was especially true in India, wherein there exists firstly, deeply rooted gender roles as well as notions of a successful career which do not generally go beyond being an engineer or a doctor. He was just a normal college student who enjoyed baking and sharing recipes and he unknowingly managed to break certain stereotypes doing what he loved.
Hence in order to first set off the trajectory for growth while starting out as a food blogger, it is important to identify a certain unique perspective to provide for your content. Food influencing can be branched into cooking or food reviewing. According to what best suits you, you can further branch into a more specific field in both. If you choose to test recipes or restaurants or maybe even both, you can further think of whether you want to branch into healthy foods, desserts, fine dining or everything in between... the list goes on. There is a lot of flexibility in choosing what best suits you as a food blogger and it enables you to specialize in delivering a certain type of content as well. You can then go on to think of a unique angle to drive traffic to your content. For example, Julie Powell has one of the most successful stories in food blogging at a time before Instagram even existed. She undertook a challenge to finish over 500 recipes from Julia Child’s famous cookbook in a year. This distinctive journey quickly became popular and her story has even hit the screens and was a hit in the box office.
It is important to thus have a creative outlook as it is a constantly changing environment in which you should be able to adapt to fast. Influencers need to keep track of the different algorithms in each platform they choose and identify the unique ways of delivering content. This is where we come to the next important decision while starting out and that is choosing the platform for your content. With the countless available platforms, it may be hard to navigate what best suits you. Thus, it is important to research each platform and its reach. For instance, Instagram has more younger users while Facebook has more older users. Doing research in the platforms available is key. Websites like https://sproutsocial.com/ can provide a lot of insights on the reach of each of the platforms and accordingly you can make your decision to choose the platform that best suits your goals as a blogger as well as the target audience you are trying to reach.
Facebook has the most potential for audience growth, however as mentioned before choosing a platform isn't exactly a cookie cutter approach. Social media users are increasingly engaging in shorter forms of content and hence the layout of Instagram profiles and reels could help bring in more traffic currently.
While starting out, it may be tempting to put in content across as many platforms as you can. However, the age-old idiom of too many cooks spoiling the broth applies here. It is better to first create content for a platform and grow it and then branch out to others. This is exactly what Shivesh Bhatia did. He first focused on developing content in Instagram and then when that grew, he created his blog ‘Bake with Shivesh’ and then he finally went on to start a YouTube channel. The advantage of initially focusing on one platform enables success in other platforms at a later stage of growth. For instance, even on platforms like Pinterest where many tend to look for recipes, you can easily link pins to your other social media sites as well and consequently channeling more users to your primary account.
After having done appropriate research and making your decision on the above, then comes the actual content creation. This may be the most awaited part of blogging for all the foodies out there waiting to get started, but it is important to remember that the way the content is presented is equally important as well. Having many other skills such as photography, writing, food styling would definitely enable better engagement to your content. Certain brands may also keep an eye out for influencers that may be able to manage their social media accounts as well. Thus, food influencing can also open up avenues for more income in unexpected ways. It would thus do well to expand your expertise in these areas as well.
It is also important to figure out strategies to drive followers to your account. This depends on the platform you have chosen. Reem Rashid who runs her food blog on Instagram mentions how the use of certain key hashtags enabled her to get better reach on her page. What is even more heartening to hear is that she found a community of Instagram food bloggers and small business’ who all supported her in her journey. When starting out, it is good to always network as in most fields and find support. Reem has now branched her food blog to start taking orders and even started her own line of artisan dates called ladatte. Thus, food influencing opens up to countless other avenues such as book deals, food styling and many more. It becomes all the more important to identify strategies available in each platform to get better reach.
While the above steps will definitely help you get started, it is most important to stay consistent. This may sound like clichéd advice but it is what separates the successful influencers to the ones who don’t tend to make it. Creating a community online involves a lot of work and often disappointment when the content you painstakingly created doesn't get the reach you expect. However, pushing through the silence and continuing to be consistent will definitely pay off. You will notice how followers slowly start engaging with you and this may be in the form of likes, comments and if you’re lucky a certain number of reposts as well. If even one follower comes to you and expresses how your content has helped them make the perfect chocolate cake or find the perfect item on the menu, you are on the right track. It is important to engage with them as well and be responsive.
So, what are you waiting for? Find your place in this unconventional area regardless of whether you’re working a 9-5 job or a stay-at-home parent or even if you’re a bored college student. If food is your passion, you’re definitely in the right place no matter what you may be doing currently. So, get out and review restaurants and test recipes and create content you enjoy and you will soon realize you can have your cake and eat it too.