Selected Posts
Stella ParksBest New Pastry Chef
Neapolitan OreosWhy Weight
total eclipse of the tartTotal Eclipse of the Tart
chocolate sprinklesHomemade Sprinkles
plaid tartAbout BraveTart


Saturday November 12, 2011

Slide

I’ve always considered the food blogging world something akin to Fight Club: “The first rule of Food Blogging is you do not talk about food blogging. The second rule of Food Blogging is you do not talk about food blogging. The third rule of Food Blogging: someone yells, ‘SEO’ the blog is over.”

Food bloggers blogging about food blogging seemed so painfully meta.

At any rate, I didn’t think of myself as a food blogger. I thought that food bloggers blogged about their hobby while I blogged about my life. My life just so happened to center around food.

But I had it all wrong.

No fade macarons

My life generally does center around food. I have a full time restaurant job and I spend my day developing recipes, making desserts and eating macarons. But recently my life involved a whole lot of bloggy blogging blog stuff too, so Imma have to chuck my Palahniukian philosophy out the window for a second to talk about it.

Last week, Foodbuzz flew me out to San Francisco to speak alongside Irvin Lin about the relationship between social media and food blogging, and how to get the most out of social media. I had never visited San Francisco before, so my desire to run around town eating at every bakery, ice cream shop and chocolaterie totally outweighed my fear of speaking in front of a couple of hundred people.

I had a phenomenal time and my experience at the festival made one thing patently obvious: people don’t blog about hobbies. People blog about their life. I may work in a restaurant kitchen, but the bloggers I met all have an equal passion and excitement for food, recipes and fantastic ingredients as a part of their life.

The festival made a second thing clear too: we food blogging types are a freaking geeky bunch. I have never met so many enterprising young browncoats hitchhiking around a frakking enrichment center this side of Mos Eisley.

Bringing me to my real point. Food blogging isn’t about food. It’s about community. We tell stories that, superficially, focus on what we do in our kitchens. But we share those experiences for a reason: to connect with others. How do I know so many of you are super nerds? Because we’ve connected. Through comments, emails, tweets, Facebook posts and sometimes out in the real world. We’ve talked about things that don’t relate to macaronage. You’ve asked questions that go beyond flavor pairings. We are all people, reaching out to each other. We are more than recipes. More than techniques. We all have potential to connect with each other over more than cookies.

chocolate hazelnut macarons

Some of these things I talked about at Foodbuzz, others I didn’t get to due to time constraints. Some may resonate with you, others might not suit your style. At any rate, these six points help me get the most out of twitter, your mileage may vary.

1. Let your feed feed you.

Follow people you find fascinating, who share great information. Follow people you admire, who make you laugh. Fill your twitter feed with awesome folks that make you smile and give you food for thought. If you view twitter as a boring place where narcissistic people spout yawn inducing one liners, you’ve followed the wrong people.

Don’t autofollow, guilt follow, status follow or celeb-chase. Follow people you actually like. Following out of obligation or because you feel you “should” will clog your feed with tweets you don’t care about. If you do feel a need to reciprocate and follow everyone who follows you, add them to lists so you can easily find the people you love hearing from.

Almost everyone I follow is either a professional chef, food writer, or someone involved Kentucky’s restaurant scene. I have some wildcards thrown in the mix, home bakers whose blogs I love, people I’ve met and adore, and some people who inspire me in other arenas. But I look forward to hearing from them every day. Can you say the same about your feed?

2. Stop working it.

Using twitter only to promote yourself, announce new blog posts, and beg for followers or retweets won’t endear you to anyone.

Constantly updating everyone on how many followers shy of X milestone you’ve gotten comes across as needy. When you spend your time asking for more Klout, Facebook likes, Stumbles and Pins, you really just tell your followers you only care about a +1 for yourself.

Twitter is a great way to update people on your blog, but that should only represent a small percentage of your tweets. Posting four or five times a day, every day of the week, about your new blog post gets old fast. Your followers know you have a blog; if they like it, they’ve already subscribed to your RSS feed.

I don’t mean to say you can’t or shouldn’t use twitter to announce a new blog post. I totally do and you should too. But don’t beat people over the head with it. If someone misses your latest blog post, so what? They’ll have something to catch up on when they read your next one.

3. Make conversations, not observations

Twitter has a notorious reputation as a place for people tweeting obnoxiously self indulgent drivel. Those sorts of tweets leave no room for interaction.

When you tweet, imagine talking to people at a cocktail party. Would you walk up to a group of friends, drink in hand and just proclaim, “Thinking about making Bolognese tomorrow night.” Can you hear the crickets chirping? In the real world, that same thought would turn into a conversation engaging anyone within earshot. “My in-laws are coming in for the weekend and I’m stressed over what to make for them. They’re kind of picky eaters. But they love Italian, so I was thinking about making Bolognese or something. I have no idea. What should I make?”

Obviously, with twitter you have to stay brief, but you can say a lot in 140 characters if you think it through: “Picky eater in-laws coming for dinner. Don’t know what to make. They do love pasta. I need some stress free Italian noms! Help a girl out?”

That tweet opens the door to replies about family, in-laws, having company, Italian food, stress free recipes, and ideas for entertaining. Set up your tweets up so people can return volley.

Resist the urge to treat twitter like Google when asking questions. People don’t want to do your homework for you, but they do want to share their stories. Don’t ask questions looking for facts, look for perspectives instead.

4. Share

When you run across a website you love, whether because it’s informative, funny, compelling or plain silly, share it! Not every time but, as a good rule of thumb, when you find a bookmark worthy site it stands to reason your twitter pals might find it intriguing as well. Take a second to tell people about your find; a link without a description is like a book without a title. Why bother cracking it open?

Whether you use Instagram or your phone’s native camera, share pictures of the world around you. Not so much your cup of coffee, but the things you find beautiful, funny, frustrating or confusing. The best (or worst!) part of your day so far. On Instagram, take a second to describe your photo, the generic “I just posted a photo” doesn’t entice people to click through.

5. Be yourself

If you follow me on twitter, you’ve likely heard me tweet about my huge crush on Jean-Luc Picard, my favorite Cylon, video games, my cat, and a lot of things that don’t relate to baking. I get more feedback and interaction from these tweets than all the “baking tips” and “check out my blog” type posts in the world. Don’t be afraid to talk about the things you like, even if they have nothing to do with your blog.

Rule 3 notwithstanding, sometimes being yourself means making observations. But think of those as insights rather than statements. Tweeting, “Argh! People at the grocery are so frustrating!” provokes a meh reaction. Tweeting, “I’ll never understand how 1 person can manage to occupy an entire aisle. Road blocks are for Parcheesi not the grocery.” might get someone to crack a smile, recall a part of their childhood, or just relate to the simple frustrations of daily life.

6. Introduce yourself

When you follow someone new, introduce yourself. Tell them why you enjoy their tweets, how you found them, or whatever inspired you to follow, whether a common interest or mutual friend. Just a simple hello sets you apart from lurkers, wallflowers, and spam bots and brings you closer to actually connecting, not merely following.

Many people will “meet” you for the first time by reading your bio, so make it a great introduction too. Will they get a good impression of you or could your bio pretty much describe anyone else? You may describe yourself as a “coffee lover” but so does 75% of the world. “I love to bake!” or “Cooking is my passion!” will show your enthusiasm for food, but hold true for every food blogger. Set yourself apart. Give the person reading your bio a reason to click through to check out your blog. Need help revamping your bio? Tweet me up and I’ll try to help.

macaron trio

If you’re a cynical blogger who only views social media as a set of “networking opportunities” you can only go so far. People make their way through this world, in real life and online, because of the genuine connections they make with others. Not because they shook enough hands or amassed enough “followers”.

Don’t collect people like pokémon cards. Connect with ones that have meaning to you. Follow the people you want to learn from. Engage with the people you admire. Geek out. Ask questions. Have fun. Say hello. Be yourself. Slide.

Pictured:
Strawberry chocolate macarons
Hazelnut chocolate macarons
Nut free malted pumpkin seed macarons


Fork!
posted byStellaand filed under:  Chocolate  Fruit  Gluten Free  macarons  Sideshow Photos


35 comments and counting

Nov 13, 2011 · 12:13 AM

What a great post! So much food for thought. I have a twitter account but don’t use it because I don’t think I’m witty enough! You have certainly inspired me to rethink that decision as well as how to improve my blog content. Thanks!

 · Candy · candygirlky,blogspot.com

Nov 13, 2011 ·  1:15 AM

“Don’t collect people like pokemon cards.” Got it. That’s just kinda awesome.
I recently took the plunge and did facebook, but thinking about trying twitter makes me feel like a kid at their first middle school dance. Perhaps this post will be the nudge I need.

 · Terris @ Free Eats · www.freeeatsfood.com

Nov 13, 2011 ·  4:56 AM

Macarons AND geekery? Totally speaking my language here Took away a lot of great info from you and Irvin’s presentation. One thing that has always bugged me about Twitter is serial following, loved that you gave ways to help avoid that.

 · Michelle · www.delishiono.com

Nov 13, 2011 ·  8:41 AM

One of the best posts I have read about how to make social media work for you. Bravo. Wish I could have been there but this is the next best thing. Honoured that you follow me (and my macs!)

 · Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite · www.eatlivetravelwrite.com

Nov 13, 2011 ·  9:12 AM

Great post. It makes such a difference when you only follow people you really want to hear from and find inspiring. I like the point about conversations vs observations too.

 · Emma @ Poires au Chocoat · www.poiresauchocolat.net

Nov 13, 2011 ·  9:32 AM

Such a good post, Stella. The beauty of social media, in addition to so many different platforms to choose from, is meeting wonderful people like you.
I find you reap what you sew, especially with Twitter. Treat people like you would want to be treated and you can’t go wrong.

 · Gail  · www.onetoughcookienyc.com

Nov 13, 2011 · 12:18 PM

@Candy, I hope you jump on in! Twitter’s a great place for witty one liners, but an even better place for honest connections and being yourself. Don’t be shy!

@Terris, yeah, I know the feeling. No one ever asked me to the dance (uh: see geeky tirade above, I suppose). The best place to start is with following a few people you know, then following a few people you admire. Then your twitter feed starts out as a comforting place. If you only follow celebrities and personalities, then your feed will seem a lot more intimidating and harder to interact with.

@Michelle, ahhh! I’m so glad you were there, thank you!

@Mardi, thanks lady. Yeah, I’m sitting on a goldmine of macaron photos from a Rosco-rampage a while back. Haha. So glad you enjoyed; you’re one of the first bloggers I ever followed!

@Emma, I’m glad it struck a chord with you. Thanks for dropping me a line.

@Gail, amen, sistah! You are such a twitter gem. I think we first met in an outlandish conversation about sexual innuendo that was unfolding with, well, pretty much everyone I follow. lol!

Stella

Nov 13, 2011 · 11:33 PM

I love this post — so fantastic. Some of my favorite advice from the weekend was stuff that struck a chord with me personally. Things like concerning yourself with forming relationships and not necessarily numerical success, and being genuine. I think the fact that we can share our personality along with our recipes is the core strength of food blogging, so engaging with folks on a real level is the whole point.

Anyhow, it was AWESOME meeting you, because you’re just as fun in person as I expected you to be! Again, live long and prosper

 · Julie @ Willow Bird Baking · willowbirdbaking.wordpress.com

Nov 14, 2011 ·  1:17 PM

Such an excellent post! I have no doubt your presentation was equally as eloquent and helpful. I am so happy that others feel this way about Twitter. I began on Twitter independent of my food blog, but as a writer, expat, traveler and foodie. Yes, I began to connect with more food bloggers along the way and share posts through it, but it has always been about communication and connection for me, not business.

I think that is why I continue to enjoy it so much. Each one of your points listed above are key; a perfect summary for getting the most out of it while making some friends (some you may also eventually meet in person!) and promoting yourself in a good way.

 · Lori · www.fakefoodfree.com

Nov 14, 2011 ·  3:39 PM

Wait. So which IS your favorite cylon? Because I have a total crush on Samuel Anders….

 · Irvin @ Eat the Love · www.eatthelove.com

Nov 14, 2011 ·  6:53 PM

this is a great post stella! thanks so much for taking the time to put it together & share. i’ve really enjoyed using twitter & now it’s great to have these helpful tips

 · nicole {sweet peony} · www.sweetpeonyblog.blogspot.com

Nov 15, 2011 · 12:17 AM

Such a genuine post! I think sometimes we food bloggers (at least I know I’m guilty) spend too much time reading articles about “how to use” social media, when we (meaning me) should actually just get out there and do it. This post is just more encouragement for me to get out of the kiddie pool and dive into the deep end!!

Thanks for your particular insight; it is a refreshing addition to the twitterverse conversation.

 · Nealey @ Dixie Caviar · www.dixiecaviar.com

Nov 15, 2011 · 12:58 PM

Fabulous post! Your Social Networking session was awesome, and this is a wonderful recap of what you two shared about twitter. I actually found myself repeating a lot of what you taught us to friends and family about “why social media is important.” Also, I still need to re-watch those GI Joe videos. I’m not sure that the hubby has seen them, but I remember watching them in the Freshman college dorms. Oh man, such good memories!

 · Megan · newlywife.com

Nov 15, 2011 ·  2:08 PM

what a great post. You sum up every thing about food blogging and wrap your sense of humor around it. And of course with your macaron pictures you make me hungry. Hope that you come back to SF for some more yummy food and desserts and seeing fun people. I guarantee you wouldn’t get disappointed even the second time. It was really a pleasure to meet you in person and hearing your advice on social networking. Keep on the great work on food and food blogging. You and your blog are very inspiring. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

 · Visda · shikamoo.typepad.com

Nov 16, 2011 ·  9:22 AM

Stella, nicely done! I’m so glad that you had a fun SF experience.

 · uncle c · 

Nov 16, 2011 ·  5:07 PM

seriously so informative! I have just dove into the world of twitter (ages late, i know) and I feel like I am forcing my blog on people which is not what I want at all. I am sad I missed your session at the foodbuzz event! can’t wait to try your tips

 · Caitlin · www.teaspoonsf.com

Nov 16, 2011 ·  7:34 PM

@Julie, it was so good to meet you too! I am always thrilled to meet another lady-geek.

@Lori, so happy you’re enjoying twitter. It seems like a lot of people find it a chore, which is just sad. Such a good way to connect with others!

@Irvin, Sam is totes yummy, but I’m obsessed with Boomer. It’s so rare to see a character that loaded down with issues, trauma, bad decisions and bereft of redemption. I was really proud of the writers for taking her to such a dark place and just, well, leaving her there.

@nicole, you’re so welcome, thanks for stopping by!

@Nealey, okay, stop reading about it, go jump in! Thanks for your sweet comment, I’m glad it struck a note with your.

@Megan, rewatching G I Joe videos is a must!! Such incredible bonding material for you two.

@Visda, next time I’m in SF, I’m going to take you up on your offer to get together and see the city! It was wonderful to meet you and put a face to your twitter-name.

@uncle c, thank you sir! Oh my goodness, I owe you an email; my inbox is scary right now…

@Caitlin, aw, sorry you missed us. You’ll do great on twitter if you remember it’s social media, which means, chatting, talking and socializing rather than self promotion. If people get to know you, and like you, they’ll be curious to learn more and visit your blog! Good luck!

Stella

Nov 17, 2011 ·  1:04 PM

Lol, it reminds me of that saying “be a courtesan, not a hooker. Hookers stand on street corners, courtesans sit on silk cushions.” … the implication was that it’s better to stay classy XD

 · Mimi (Gingersnaps) · damnthefreshman15.wordpress.com

Nov 19, 2011 ·  5:06 AM

Hi Stella!

Great pictures of great food always grab my attention…I’m kind of like a hobbit that way I started following you on instagram a couple of days ago, and just love your photos! They’re a great mix of the things you love, the places you go, and some randoms that made me chuckle (We shall call it…This Land.)

I totally agree that this whole thing should be about the community that we can be INVOLVED in. So many people seem to be looking to “network” without realizing that it’s the relationship that matters more than the stats.

Thanks for sharing!

 · RedHerringJeff · handmadefamily.blogspot.com

Nov 19, 2011 · 11:49 AM

@RedHerringJeff, ha! I totally forgot about Instagram. It’s funny, I didn’t even know you could follow people! Which is really ironic considering I spoke at a conference about social media. I thought it was just a fun way to distort photos for tweets. I only learned like, last week maybe, that you can follow people. It blew my mind. I still haven’t ever “logged in” to figure that stuff out; I guess if I’m following someone on twitter, I see all their instagrams anyway, so my motivation has been low. Strange which parts of social media we “get” and which ones seem “confusing.” Glad you’re enjoying, though!

Stella

Nov 20, 2011 ·  8:37 AM

Well I did come over from Tasteologie because of the maracron photos (awesome) but I stayed because of the engaging article! And now…I don’t often add people to my tweet follow but I think you are a new one!!

 · Snippets of Thyme · rileymadel.blogspot.com

Nov 20, 2011 ·  5:13 PM

@Snippets of Thyme, so glad you enjoyed the post. I was a bit nervous to talk so much about Not Food, but have really gotten a good response. Whew! Thanks for taking the time to comment. Cheers!

Stella

Nov 21, 2011 · 12:08 AM

Great post , great thoughts and those macarons!! Perfect

 · Kathygori · www.thecolorsofindiancooking.com

Nov 21, 2011 ·  9:41 AM

@Kathygori, thanks so much, I’m glad you stopped by!

Stella

Nov 21, 2011 ·  2:15 PM

Stella, I wish I could have heard you at the Foodbuzz meeting. Your speech sounded so inspiring. As for Twitter, I’ve been scared to take the plunge so appreciate all your words of wisdom. What amazing macaron photos!

 · Jill @ MadAboutMacarons · madaboutmacarons.com/archives/3429

Nov 22, 2011 ·  2:47 AM

あっはははは。おもしろい!すごいこれ。美味しそう!作ってみたい!

 · Kemi · www.nipponnin.com

Nov 22, 2011 · 12:19 PM

@Jill, lady, you need to get on twitter!! When I was in San Francisco, we stayed at a hotel near Japan town. So we went into the Kinokuniya bookstore there (a Japanese bookstore) and guess what?! They had your book! I snapped a picture of myself holding it and was going to tweet it until I remembered, oh yeah, Jill’s not on twitter. Haha, whenever I see something, the first thing I want to do is tweet it. So anyhow, join join join!!!!

@Kemi, いつか、作ってみてね。きれいにできなくても、満足な感じです。店で買うマカロンより、美味しいし。ちなみに、けみさんはtwitterを使わないでしょう? 使ったら、twitter nameを教えてね。^^

Stella

Dec 05, 2011 · 12:10 AM

You’re so down to earth and real, I love your blog so much. I remember one time reading about your honest macaron posts and then feeling like I could really trust your viewpoints. Thanks for being so cool!

 · Rebecca · www.adustingofsugar.com

Dec 05, 2011 ·  4:07 PM

@Rebecca, thank you so much, that means an awful lot. Thanks for taking the time to tell me, I’m glad you’re enjoying BraveTart!

Stella

Jan 22, 2012 · 12:36 AM

Your advice about Twitter concisely sums up why I’m not on it and don’t want to be, and, more generally, why I’ve largely stopped paying attention to food blogs unless I see a link to a particular recipe I’m interested in. In my view the differences between your example of a good tweet vs. a poor one are just not as subtle as you seem to think they are:

“Picky eater in-laws coming for dinner. Don’t know what to make. They do love pasta. I need some stress free Italian noms! Help a girl out?”

vs.

“Thinking about making Bolognese tomorrow night.”

Yeah, I get the idea of setting up a “return volley,” and it never fails to gross me out. That chirpy, transparent, please-please-talk-to-me-can’t-you-see-I’m-inviting-you-to-talk-to-me voice is unmistakable, commonplace, and it grates on me hard. It’s become standard on professional food sites and there are loads and loads of bloggers who are more than capable of aping it, and I find it equally off-putting coming from either one. It’s both smarmy and corny, like that girl in junior high whose only way of trying to make friends is to approach every stranger with a compliment. Obviously this is just my personal opinion and obviously there are tons of people who aren’t bothered by it. I’m guessing that most of them are either (1) bored out of their minds and pretty passive about seeking out content or (2) writers who are playing the same game themselves. The sites I truly enjoy returning to and have real respect for don’t fish for interaction with their readers, and as a reader I don’t care whether they get a lot of comments or followers or whatever or not. I read because I want to read something interesting or learn something, not because I want to pretend I’m at a party.

 · anonymous · 

Jan 22, 2012 ·  1:52 PM

@anonymous, I think it’s an unavoidable that some people will always treat twitter like prom. They want to be the King or Queen, to be the best looking, most popular, whatever. Those same people turn school bake sales into Iron Chef: Suburbs, book clubs into games of pseudo-intellectual oneupsmanship, and make yoga into a competitive sport. It’s not twitter, it’s human nature. Those same people are probably smarming it up on and off twitter.

But twitter can offer people a chance to connect in a way that real life simply can’t. Obviously, not everyone treats it like that, but I do. I’m in it for the connections, the conversation, the opinions and feedback.

I work in Lexington, Kentucky. There are shockingly few locally owned restaurants, almost none making their own desserts. If I lived Portland or New York, I’d have made friends in the biz and have people to call up if a question stumped me, to chat with about frustrations and breakthroughs. I’d be connected to an entire industry. Here that industry is only populated on the savory side and I am alone.

Twitter gives me invaluable connection to people in my field; a hundred professional pastry chefs, hand selected, on speed dial. If I’m having a trouble with sugar pulling, I can ask them. Struggling to laminate in the heat of summer? They’ve got some tips. Could I google it or check a book? Sure, but the replies on twitter come with nuance and perspective. Is that passive? I don’t think so. I’d take a personalized response from a James Beard award winning chef over a google result any day.

My hope in writing this post was to help people understand how twitter can be used like that, to get the answers your looking for, to make connections to people you respect, to find people who share your interests. I think a chirpy, transparent, please-please-talk-to-me-can’t-you-see-I’m-inviting-you-to-talk-to-me voice sounds pretty damned annoying too. A famous chocolate company often tweets out crap like, “It’s 3 o’clock! Which of our chocolates is your afternoon pick-me-up?” and I see lots of people parroting that style by asking questions to which the answers are pointless.

And that’s why I made up the bolognese example; to illustrate a question for which the answer mattered. My point wasn’t for people to ask BS questions just for the sake of stirring the pot, but to take advantage of what twitter has to offer. If they get on and make lame observations, they’re missing out. They could be, should be asking questions with the goal of actually absorbing the answers.

At any rate, thanks for the food for thought; I often lose sight of where people are coming from when they say they hate twitter, and I’m glad to hear an articulate description of life on that side of the equation.

Stella

Jan 26, 2012 ·  9:42 AM

I use twitter to update my blog (it automatically pings to twitter and makes a post with a small little hyperlink to the post, which is super convenient), but honesty, I worry that updating 4-5 times a day is just going to make me look like I do nothing…except update my twitter 4-5 times a day. I feel like it is really easy to tweet, for lack of a better word, badly? Yes, it is easy to tweet badly. That’s it! I just don’t want to be a bad tweeter (twitterer?). With that kind of character limit, how do you tweet and make it fun and engaging?

 · Mel · balzbakes.blogspot.com

May 19, 2012 ·  5:02 PM

ok so im a little late finding ur blog but honestly ive never found so many good recipes in one place, i have this horrible, dont know how to word it but i cant follow recipes, i always tweak them before trying them the first way, but urs i want to try to a t, they seem perfect.

 · Lillycakes1216 · 

May 20, 2012 · 12:40 AM

@Lillycakes1216, oh, I know that urge to tweak all to well! I’m so happy you like what you’ve found here so far. Thanks for stopping by!

Stella

Jan 18, 2013 ·  4:13 PM

Welp, since I’ve recently started following you on twitter and now came across this post, I guess I should take your advice and introduce myself I’m a nerdy/techy gal in the NYC area, and somehow about a month ago I just got bitten hard by the macaron bug. I’m not sure where it came from, since I’d only ever eaten one before in my life! So I’ve been ravenously researching them, and that’s how I came across your blog and tried your recipe. I’ve made them 3 times now, and while they’re still a work in progress I’m having fun with them. And I loved your posts so much I started reading your archives from the beginning, which is why I’m happening on this post now Thank you so much for all of your advice, and the helpful tweets, and the fun posts and drool-worthy pictures! I hope some day I get to Lexington so I can try one (or… as many as I can get) of your desserts

 · Lalaith23 · 



you?
 

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