Dear Socially Stephanie,
I run a small artisanal catering company in Fresno. Besides our catering business we also sell packaged goods.
I come from the restaurant industry and have some contacts. I also know that food works extremely well on social media, but since our business is fairly new, I am having trouble getting it off the ground. I share our business information on my personal Facebook page, but other than that I'm lost.
How can I get my company in front of more people? While we are located in Fresno, we ship around the country.
Foodie in Fresno
Dear Foodie in Fresno,
Congratulations on your venture. I'm a huge fan of eating -- just ask any of my friends or my husband, for that matter. Honestly, nothing excites me more than a homemade creation of delectable goodness! Your market is out there.
Now, for the bad news. You've already committed a sin in the social media world. It's the personal page vs. fan page debate, and it's a hot one. Using your personal page to grow your following is limited: there is a friend cap, for one, and for another thing, how will your new fans tag you in posts if they aren't your "friend"? The first thing you want to do is get off your personal page and migrate to an official fan page, then invite everyone you know. Your real friends and family will be the first to support you in your attempt to gather a following. Leverage them. Secondly, I assume your company has a name that's different from your own name. You want to start branding your company and this is the first place to do it. Go ahead -- run over to Facebook and create your fan page!
Okay, good. I'm happy you did that. The next thing I want you to work on is your online distribution. Luckily for you, there are a ton of different sites out there that cater to artisanal and homemade goods. Check out sites like GoodEggs.com, which is based in the Bay Area; joyus.com, which allows you to submit video content along with your product for review; and Meylah.com, an Etsy-like platform for homemade items.
All of these sites have built-in communities, so by getting in touch with them, getting them to love you and, lastly, getting them to feature you, you'll be taking important steps to establish your brand.
In the meantime, work on building your Instagram presence. Food is killer on Instagram, because people love to look at photos of food. In fact, there are over 37 million photos tagged with the #food hashtag on Instagram! Since you're already creating awesome dishes, sides, and pre-packaged goods, you have something to show. Use the new video feature to enrapture your audience and make them want to buy your products. Chef Roblé of Bravo fame does this very well. He has successfully built his Instagram following to close to 100,000 fans. He posts a lot of pictures of food which gives him a very targeted audience.
Don't you just want to eat that up? I do. And so will your followers when you start creating mouth-watering videos. Oh, and yeah, you can now embed pictures and videos from Instagram. If that isn't another reason to jump on the Insta-train, I don't know what is.
While you're in the social media game, start branding yourself on Pinterest. Entertaining and Food are two huge categories over there, so you should find a lot of success. Since you are a content creator (hello, you create food for a living!) you can pin your own images and edit them to link to your site from the backend of your Pinterest account. One thing that will be very important to help brand yourself on Pinterest is creating keyword-friendly board names. Things like "food" and "beverages" won't cut it. Create boards that are more original and that people will search for online. Board names like "DIY Party Ideas" or "Summer BBQ Appetizers" are going to bring your brand more value and more search traffic.
Lastly, create a blog. This will be particularly important for your search engine traffic but also as a way for people to share your content. Shareable content is everything in social media. The more people who share your content, the further your exposure and reach will travel. Share tips for hosting the ultimate dinner party, a recipe of your fan favorite dish, and ideas for presentation. By doing so you are not only adding value but you are showcasing your expertise.
Good luck, and happy cooking!
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Illustration by Jesse Wells