7 Ways to Become a Successful Food Blogger
When I started my restaurant review blog three years ago, being a food blogger or even the word 'influencer' was unheard of. I dived into a world of beauty and fashion bloggers aspiring to become a food critic online or in newspapers. I still do.
Fast forward three years and London is full of people who post about food, mostly on Instagram rather than written blogs; and companies love to get them involved by inviting them to events or sending them samples to post about. Who wouldn't want to get involved, right?
I've created 7 tips on how to establish yourself as a food blogger and take your passion for food blogging (or blogging overall!) to the next level. Want to be invited to events, work with brands and create better engagement in your posts, well then get comfortable, because you're about to find out how!
1. Think about WHY you want to be a food blogger and what makes you DIFFERENT.
It can be a real challenge for fellow blog readers, as well as brands looking to work with influencers, to find content that inspires them. And that's because, well, it now all looks the same. Everyone posts about where they ate, how fantastic they thought it was *insert a photo of a juicy burger dripping with oil here*. So what makes YOU different?
In a crowd of 100 people, you really want people to be able to remember three people off the top of their head and you need to be one of them. You've got to stand out from the rest - so think about a theme, branding or style that makes you unique. A great example of this is Symmetry Breakfast. If you don't know them, you must have been living under a rock, but I'll forgive you, because like a lot of trends, they've been absolved by the next best thing when their fame peaked in 2016. Here's an example of their work:
Thursday: Chocolate drenched buttermilk waffles 🍫🍫🍫with sesame, toasted coconut, pistachio, mango, raspberries and lemon balm, a cup of Cloud Tea ⛅️from Meghalaya, India and some carrot juice 🥕 --------------------------------------- In just over a months time we are heading to Florence 🇮🇹 for a week! Mark's going for work and I'm tagging along like the good househusband that I am 💁🏻♂️💁🏻♂️#symmetrybreakfast Any amazing new recommendations for Tuscany let us know! Baci baci! 😘😘
One man cooks his boyfriend identical breakfast, every morning. It also happens to look beautiful. It also happens to be every single morning - which takes us onto my next point...
I can't tell you how many times I've changed my branding, my website name, my Instagram account, my logo - the list goes on. I get restless with the same look but ultimately this works against my objective. With all the information we have, we need to offer people consistency. There are several key reasons for this: one, is that it disrupts branding, which leads to audience confusion. A great anecdote for this is, taking a piece of paper with sticky gloopy glue and laying it down to permanently stick, but you realised it wasn't in place so you kept trying to pull off the paper after it's already sticking. Malcolm Gladwell in his book 'The Tipping Point' uses the term 'sticky' to describe the element that hooks people in and makes them remember you or your business. Make sure once you've found your 'stickiness', that you 'stick' with it. Get it?
The second reason to be consistent is that people get used to things and if you keep changing things up, they'll get frustrated. Positive affiliation and maintaining this is essential for attracting returning followers and customers. Remember when we were kids and the person you fancied popped up on MSN as online. They had the same iconic MSN name and it gave you butterflies. Well, we still work that way now with profile pictures and logos. Give it at least 6 months to a year before you change things up - let people know who you are and grow your audience with the same branding.
Another example of this is Olivia Purvis who has a blog called whatoliviadid.com. Her branding has always been fun, relaxed photos of herself - but what I remember instantly (and unconsciously look for when I'm searching through my feed) is her logo of her in pink clothes. It's Olivia's iconic look and also happens to be (not by complete coincidence) the entire colour of her website. See photo below as a typical photograph that sums up Liv's branding.
3. The 3 P's - Personality, Politeness and PATIENCE.
I don't read many blogs, because I haven't found many that I like or many whose authors I like perhaps. I do like Olivia Purvis though, and that's because I feel like I actually like her as a person! I'm sure this stickiness doesn't have to work for everyone - sometimes people follow others because they look great in yoga pants regardless of if they're a bitch or not - but the reason most people become famous is because people would 'want to be their friend IRL (in real life). Can I see myself being BFFS with Zoella? Honestly not really - she's a lovely girl who's only a year older than me, but from her youtube vlogs we don't seem to share similar interests. When I watch Olivia Purvis or Estée Lalonde, I enjoy watching their personality, their style and would definitely love to be their friend IRL. That's because they're personable, friendly, original and make people feel like they're having a conversation with them one on one.
The next P is for politeness. If you've ever taken a trip to Twitterville - you might come back bruised, shocked and disheartened by the world. When I use it for work, I sometimes feel like I need a layer of armour before running into the Twitter trenches. People on the internet voice their opinions to no end - and the most successful bloggers out there sway from cursing about how terrible their day was.
They do complain though (as we're human and fans love to see their sensitive sides) but they always maintain a level of wit or grace about it and the same applies to when responding to trolls! Just when you thought high school was bad enough - Twitter arrived and made everything public. If you're in the public eye, politeness is key when communicating with other users or brands - no one wants to be associated with someone crass or nasty, unless they are themselves! I saw someone relatively well-known in the food blogging sphere, make a petty comment about a well-known business doing some humanitarian work - and someone pulled them out on it. Brands won't want to work with you if you're the type of person who regularly slags people off.
The last P is for patience. I don't think anyone likes this word or understands what it means anymore - but my goodness it is so important if you want to establish yourself and not be an overnight success. Another girl who's been on my radar recently is Kate Ovens. Yeah, I definitely have a bit of a girl crush on her. Her 'stickiness' is that she's a personable, down-to-earth, beautiful girl who is passionate about fitness and football and films some serious food challenges. Kate doesn't take herself seriously - everyone wants to be her friend (and girlfriend/wife too!). Kate now films food challenges with the LADBible, a huge media giant on Facebook for 'Lads' and her following has escalated massively in the last 8 months due to a snowballing effect of consistent hard work.
What you don't realise though is that Kate had been filming food challenges for ages before this happened where she even got to meet and compete for Alan Richman from 'Man V Food' at an NFL event. The best way to describe it is like wanting to have a rainforest straight away but you have to start by planting one seed and helping it to grow!
4. Now that you've got the idea and the drive, how will you speak to the world?
After you've decided what makes you different, you need to pick a Medium to paint your canvas, in the most creative and efficient way. Have you got an Instagram account but you've always wanted to write a blog? Maybe you're a connector and have lots of family and friends on Facebook. Another food and travel blogger 'Binny's Kitchen' uses her personal Facebook account as part of her blog, and she's killing two birds with one stone really. She doesn't have to ask people to follow her Facebook page, all her family and friends love to keep up to date with her posts without an official page (making it more personable) and she drives more traffic to her website.
Although Instagram is almost like a mini pinterest blog itself now, Facebook is still hugely responsible for the traffic leading to blogs. Almost 45% off all my traffic comes through Facebook, only 22% is Instagram and luckily the most is direct which means people remember the name of my blog (hooray! remember stickiness people!). If you want to write a blog, there are three websites I'd recommend: Wix, Squarespace and Wordpress. You have to be willing to spend some money on a website that looks professional and again be consistent with your work.
Despite what people think, you don't need to be on every social media channel that exists. The trick is to find what your 'bullseye' channel is; the one that brings in the most engagement and traffic to your blog. So really, from my analytics, I shouldn't be using Instagram and focusing on sharing posts on Facebook more! I've seen some accounts where they have far more Twitter followers than Instagram followers and maybe that's because their voice resonates much louder in the Twittersphere. And equally, I've seen the same thing with thousands and thousands of Instagram followers - and then they have 200 Facebook page followers. The bottom line is, don't make things harder for yourself - work out where your voice resonates best and focus your efforts on that space.
5. You're going to have to hustle.
It would be great if every amazing opportunity started like this: Make a website. Tell people you're a food blogger. Email requests start coming in for paid work. It's a highly beneficial deal on your side, and you take the offer. But even the most famous bloggers/vloggers have to hustle (or they have an agent who does it for them). And when I use the word hustle, I mean search for the work and bag the deal yourself. Still not sure what I'm talking about?
Every time you see any kind of associated work with an influencer and a brand, there has been some kind of communication between them and that usually begins with the influencer contacting the brand asking them to 'collaborate'. Depending on what your goal is, whether it's increasing brand awareness by a large brand sharing your work, getting money in your bank account, increasing your portfolio of brands you work regardless of any money involved or simply reviewing a restaurant in exchange for free food, this will all have been somewhat agreed beforehand. To get to the end result though, one side will have had to 'hustle' to get it. That is an introductory email sent out with the proposition stating they'd love to work together for xyz and why they'd be great to work with. This leads me on to number 6.
6. If you're going to hustle, you've got to be savvy about it.
Any kind of collaboration has to benefit both parties. This point can be applied to PR people or those who work in marketing/ business development and are looking to work with influencers as well. Asking people to do things for free is not cool and for us influencers, pitching for free things without a decent return of investment for the company you're getting in touch with is unlikely to land you anything. It's up to the company to decide whether they want to fund whatever you're asking for if they think it's worth it in the long run. It's exactly like working as a salesperson - I even have a book called 'Secrets of Great Salespeople (50 Ways to sell Business to Business)' by Jeremy Raymond - the reality is harsh but the end result is worth it!
7. Seven factors that will bag you the end goal
So you've made it to the end. Now it's time to find out the seven secrets to getting brands to work with you!
- Who is your audience and why would they be interested in this brand? Tell the company who your reader segment is and why they follow you - make sure this company fits into this synergy. I wouldn't ask to work with a shoe brand when my readers like to know where to find gluten-free restaurants or Hotels with great skyline views in London...
- Make things easier for them. Be clear with what it is you're asking for. There's a lot of things you won't know unless you've been in the person's shoes. For example, now working in Marketing and PR for a Restaurant Group, I now know doing reviews on a weekend is the worst time to ask as it's their busiest time. The same goes for Hotels; they are more likely to be able to book you during non-peak times.
- Give them your statistics. Briefly outline how many page-views your website (if you have one, gets) if it's just an Instagram account tell them how many followers you have, why your followers enjoy reading your posts, ie. they love to discover the latest trends, breakfasts, vegan food in London, Melbourne, etc and why you think they'd want to know about the brand.
- People who work in Marketing, as it will be a Marketing or Press contact you're looking for to communicate to, will want results to deliver to their client. Think like them and mention a timeline of the work. For example, 'my posts are written within 2-3 days or I'm doing a round-up of the best places for sushi in London this month and still have a few slots available.' The results they also want is something heftier than just being featured on an Instagram story. If you've got hundreds of thousands of followers though, one Instagram post would be enough coverage. The best thing to do is to scale it up and try and pitch to them an offer that benefits both sides.
- Write it up, then draft it again and edit and only send it when you're really happy with how it reads. Don't get caught up in the excitement too much that you send it out and assume they'll say yes straight away. Have someone else proofread your message if you need to; but the overall tone should be polite, friendly and concise clearly outlining why you're getting in touch with them.
- Expect a no or no response and you'll never be disappointed. When I was doing my food blog full-time when I came out of University, I would send out 25 emails in a day, maybe 6 would say no, 2 would say yes (but to a lesser proposition like a meal in the Hotel restaurant instead of a one night's stay feature) and the rest would never reply. It's a bit like job hunting. You need to send out hundreds of emails tailored to each company. Did I mention, this wouldn't be easy?
- Bringing me to my last point: don't be disheartened by the rejections or the no-responses. I've been doing my blog for three years and have worked with some fantastic brands and still receive rejections from small companies (even when they state we always collaborate with brands and ask people to get in touch with them on their website!) The main thing is: it's never personal and you just have to keep knocking on other internet doors until someone says yes - and I promise you, they will do!
So get out there and start writing! hope this mini-guide has been helpful! If there are any other topics you'd love me to talk about, just get in touch on email or social media and let me know :) Ultimately, blogging should be something you enjoy and do because you have a real passion for it. Feel free to share this post or tweet me at @fabfoodieblog or on Instagram at @thefabulousfoodieblog.