There are so many food blogging conferences held all around the country, it is difficult to choose which ones to attend. Techmunch is a traveling conference that takes place in different cities around the country. Techmunch is only a day long, which is both good and bad. While it only requires a day of attendees time, the abbreviated time of sessions means the speakers don’t really delve too deep into specifics. As with most conferences, attendees can still gain valuable insights to further enhance their blogging skills. Here’s a recap of what we learned at Techmunch.
Session 1: How to Create and Leverage Your Personal Brand
Out of all the sessions, this was the least informative. While the speakers were well-respected authors, they didn’t say much other than that bloggers should write a cookbook and spoke of their various successes that came from publishing a cookbook. They did harp on the idea of having a specific niche (ie gluten free recipes, vegetarian restaurant reviews, etc) What I will say is that writing a book does give you instant credibility. If you have a good collections of recipes / reviews you already have the content for a book.
Session 2: How The Pros Review
This session proved a bit more informative, yet several of the panelists were pretty inexperienced. It was interesting to see the different perspective of Food Critic, John Kessler to a blogger. Kessler, adheres to journalistic standards which include:
- Visiting anonymously
- Waiting at least a month before reviewing
- Visit a restaurant at least twice before reviewing
- Don’t review a restaurant based on a media dinner
As bloggers, of course we aren’t on the payroll of a company to write reviews and are doing it on our own time with our own funding. We develop our unique voice and take on restaurants and share that with our readers. So, there’s no shame in reviewing from a media dinner as long as it is disclosed as such.
One interesting point Kessler did make is to recommend bloggers follow the journalistic approach to restaurant reviewing occasionally. Visit a restaurant anonymously at least two times and have a “real” experience. I agree as this keeps us bloggers a little more centered as to reviewing.
Session 3: Getting Organized: How to Create and Implement an Editorial Calendar
This session was particularly informative, probably because it was done by seasoned writer Serena Ehrlich from Business Wire. Before even beginning to talk about an editorial calendar, Serena shared that we should be constantly polling our readers to find out what information they want to read. Of course you can and should be checking your stats to see what works and what doesn’t, but simply polling and asking works too. You can ask for feedback via Facebook or use Survey Monkey to create a survey right on your blog.
I don’t know about you, but beyond opening up Excel and adding dates and topics, that’s the extent to which my editorial calendar makes it. Serena shared that this should be something with promote with other bloggers to get more leverage from our posts. For example, if you are blogging about a fall recipe, you could collaborate to promote each other’s posts for added exposure.
Next, she recommended that we not forget holidays. I’m totally bad about this. But if it is on your calendar you will be reminded to post, for example, a roundup of places that will be open on Christmas Day for dinner.
Interested in working with brands? Serena recommends that you publish your calendar for them to see. This way, it gives them a better idea of your upcoming posts and lets them know what it would be like working with you. Great tip! And bonus: your readers will have a teaser of what to look forward to.
Extra Tip: Serena recommends using the free Hubspot editorial calendar template too.
Session 4: How to Leverage Social Media
Again, the session was way too short to really delve deep into real strategies, but we were able to gain some useful tips:
1. Facebook owns Instagram, so while it has always been a no no to post to Facebook using a third party, in the case of Instagram it seems to work as these status updates seem to do better with Facebook’s algorithm. Of course, that could all change in the next Facebook algorithm update.
2. Create your own Hashtag. Sure, it is good to use common hashtags, like #FoodPorn to help gain followers. But, according to Christie Chowder, an expert on social media and branding, having your own unique hashtag (hers is #DieFatPants2) allows a searchable way for people to get a feel for you an your personality. It is also a good addition to your media kit.
3.Use Youtube. Tasha Edwards, aka @SweetestVegan has garnered 60k followers on Youtube. How has she done it? She credits having a unique niche, vegan dishes made from everyday recipes. I looked up some of her videos. She makes everything from a Horchata to Paula Deen recipes revamped in her own Vegan style.
Session 5: The Food Photo Dr. is In
Short and simple – 3 tips for better photos
1. Use a tripod if you are taking professional photos. You can even buy a small tripod that works on a table top if you are photographing at restaurants.
2. Have a helper. Someone who can move things around, hold a plate up, spritz water, whatever you need. This will make the picturing taking much easer.
3. Tell a story. Instead of just showing a finished dish, show people in the photo enjoying it OR show some of the ingredients used in a dish alongside the finished dish.
Overall, the conference seems to be ideal for those looking to start a food blog and are seeking useful information. There were some good social media strategies and tips shared along the way. Of course, networking opportunities were abundant as well.