This is one of those posts that you can just skim by, no worries. I won’t be offended. I just feel like writing a few of my thoughts on what I’ve learned, where I’ve been, and how I’ve changed over the last several months since I started this ‘blog’.
“It’s a Blog? Really?”
Let’s start first with the term ‘blog’. When I started Dish Ditty in June, I was not thinking of myself as a food blogger. I wasn’t even thinking of myself as a blogger. My main motivation was really to pick up from where I left off 10 years ago when I was working with my Mom and Dad to record our family recipes into Mastercook. I also wanted to make sure my son had a place to go for the recipes he is growing up with. I was thinking of it as a food journal, recording what I make on a regular basis.
To start with, the world has changed over the last 10 years, and Mastercook hasn’t. So, when I decided to start a quest to startup a website, I had two goals:
- Get a full and tested record of all our family recipes with pictures; and
- Create a new recipe platform for storing and recording recipes to make it easier for me and my family to contribute.
Interestingly, Mastercook announced a new release just weeks after I had initial started this project. Their new software was going to do some of what I had initially thought of doing. So I thought I’d wait and see what they came up with and see if I can use it instead of building it myself. I’m still waiting for Mastercook to pick it up and take their product to the current online world. But, in the meantime, I have slowly become a food blogger. Did I just say that?
Is it worthy?
“As a food blogger, there’s this ridiculous pressure that every recipe has to be earth shatteringly wonderful.”
How true that is. Most of it is self inflicted. I found myself not writing down certain recipes or taking pictures because they didn’t seem to be ‘worthy’ of Dish Ditty. It’s become a joke around the house, ‘Is this Dish Ditty worthy”?
I’ve come to the realization that yes, anything that anyone in my household likes and will want to eat again, will be Dish Ditty worthy. Even my mom’s Tuna on Toast recipe, which is so not ‘food blog’ worthy, is going to have a home here. I may or may not post it on the Facebook page, I’m not sure. But I have made a personal decision that I am going to continue my path of recording our family’s recipes, even if that means no one in the world except us clicks on it.
Why don’t you ‘like’ me?
That leads to another topic in food blogging, likes and clicks. I initially had a goal of just a couple hundred likes on Facebook and I’d be happy. I mean, if I can get 400 friends, they should also like my page right? Uh, not quite. I learned early on not to worry if my friends “like” my page or not. Just like I may not want to get a bunch of scrapbook ideas on my Facebook feed, others might not want to see a bunch of food.
Once I realized I don’t have to have all my friends like my page, I still had to figure out how to get myself seen. Why? I’m not quite sure. Again, this isn’t a business for me. It’s a personal journey. But I continually find myself looking to see how many Facebook ‘Likes” I have, how many Pinterest ‘Followers’ and ‘Pins’ I have, and then looking at Google Analytics to see who’s on my page and what they are looking at. In addition, I love seeing the locations of people on my site. Canada and US are the top two, but I have people from Panama, Tanzania, Romania. It’s really fun to watch.
So, now I have grown to 3500 likes on Facebook, some of that was by purchasing Facebook Ads. I find myself far beyond my initial goals, but still looking around at some of the other popular food bloggers like Barefeet In the Kitchen and the Slow Roasted Italian and think to myself “I need 100k likes”. Again, there’s no reason for it, but that drive is there.
PIN IT PIN IT PIN IT
Pinterest is a completely different beast. I didn’t pay much attention to Pinterest at first. Then all of a sudden, I’d get bursts of traffic from Pinterest. I realized that the biggest difference between Pinterest and Facebook is that with Facebook, you won’t get much clicks to your pages after the first 24 hours of a post. With Pinterest, the growth is a little different. People will browse through other peoples boards randomly and actually look at everything, then re-pin what they like then starting a new set of people to look at it. The virility of both can be high, but I found that Facebook will have more immediate impact and Pinterest will have a slower long term impact.
So now, I find myself with a couple different Pinterest boards, some of which are for my personal posts and some are other food bloggers posts I want to try. I even have a board for food tips, like how to cut a watermelon. I have found it to be a wonderful way to have a visual view of what I’ve done. Want to see what I’m doing? Follow me on Pinterest.
So why are there so many Social networks?
That’s a question I ask myself all the tieme. There’s Pinterest, Google+, Feedly, Tumblr, Delicious, Technorati, and the list goes on and on and on. At first, I figured I could start with just Facebook and then slowly add to other social networks as I went. But when once I got going, I found all these cool WordPress “Plugins” that would automatically post to these sites. So, of course I had to do that. In a way, that was good and bad.
So, I was automatically posting to Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter. I found myself flitting back and forth between those and trying to figure out how to get more people to look at my posts. It is obvious now, that auto-posts is fine for a passive world, but in this highly social connected world, the automated posts are bland and unappealing to most.
That realization helped me understand that in order to make a social network useful, I would need to be diligent and invest time in it and not rely on the automated posts. So, for that reason, I decided to bring it in and just focus on Facebook and then Pinterest since I really don’t have a whole lot of time to devote to social marketing. Will I get around to Google+? Maybe. Tumblr? Not sure. Twitter? It just doesn’t seem relevant to food posts and I really don’t have the energy to constantly be clever. So, Twitter will like just stay as an automated post situation.
Don’t steal from me!
One other thing you will find with food bloggers, no one wants their recipes taken by someone else without credit. We all work hard to plan our recipes, test them, take pictures, and post them. Unfortunately, there are many Facebook pages out there that are completely infringing on food blogger’s copyrights.
As an example, when I first started, I had approached one of the larger recipe pages on Facebook (they have over 500k likes). I asked if they would share my recipe. It happened to be one of my Mom’s recipes, which I had named in her memory, “Cherri’s Polish Sauerkraut”. The admin for that site, took the recipe, stripped out my mom’s name, reposted on his Facebook page with the full recipe and no credit or link back to my site, acting like it was their recipe!
Wow, really? That’s completely illegal, but what was I to do? I could file a copyright infringement with Facebook but I knew that would cause a backlash from that Facebook page and put me more on their radar, probably getting them to take even more recipes. So, I let it go. I really didn’t care so much that he reposted the whole recipe, that’s just rude. But to change the name so my Mom’s name is no longer in the recipe? That made me sad.
Unfortunately, at that time, I wasn’t putting a watermark on my pictures. I didn’t have the time to deal with it. Again, this is something I’m doing outside of my regular full-time job, my job as mom, and my day to day regular activities. But at that point I realized, WATERMARK everything. So, I found a wordpress plugin that does a crude job of watermarking, but it’s watermarked none the less. I never want my pictures or Mom’s recipes to be reposted again without her due credit. That leads me to my next topic…
A Photographic Journey
Photographing food seems so easy, and in a way it is. But since I started paying attention to the camera I use, the backgrounds (if possible), and the plating, the pictures have been getting better and better. I’m not quite at the level of some of the food bloggers that call themselves “Food Photographers”, but my pictures have definitely been improving. This is a clear example. The picture on the left was the 6th recipe I posted back in June. The picture on the right is a remake of that same dish just a couple of days ago in October, which is almost 4 months later. See the difference?
There are several main differences between the two pictures on how they were taken. The first is the camera used. I had purchased a brand new Nikon Coolpix P510 thinking it should be a great camera that takes great pictures. I found the pictures to be blurry, lifeless, and just not pretty. The picture on the left was taken with that. I had hoped to try to make my life easier with that camera.
Instead, I returned the Nikon and stuck with my old Cannon Rebel DSLR. The picture on the right was taken with the Cannon. I hope to move to a newer Cannon model one day, but for now the pictures are turning out better and I am enjoying the outcome.
Next difference is plating, I am trying (don’t always succeed), to pay attention to how the food looks on the plate or dish I’m using. I don’t always have time to ‘stage’ it, but I’ll tell you this, my son loves being able to eat off of the ‘plated’ dishes and will eat almost anything I serve as long as it looks like it’s from a restaurant.
Lastly, I’ve started to process my pictures through Adobe Lightroom to adjust the tones and then use a special watermark software to add specific watermarks instead of the generic watermarks through the WordPress plugin. This will be done, for now, only on the featured image for each recipe. But, I hope to soon get the old pictures converted to this new format. Here’s a great example of the before Lightroom and Watermarking and after.
Money? No Money?
I know I will not ‘get rich” with this site. I have my day job which more than pays the bills. Even so, I still hope to get to a point where I can bring in enough money to pay for some of the expenses of running this site. I’ve got some ads on the page, but they literally are paying me pennies. I plan on adding a store to sell products that I use every day and also to get on a better Ad network that will bring in a little more money than what I’m getting now.
But, because of my drive to get viewers, I have found myself taking out Facebook ads. I haven’t spent a lot, but it’s definitely not something I would do if I was hurting for money as it is an expense and I’m not getting paid to do this. But, the ads are fun as I get to see people ‘liking’ my page and figuring out what ads people will click on. I was able to create an ad that gave me 1 like for every $.02 I spent. Not bad. I had some ads early on that were as bad as $.15 per like. Again, this isn’t something I’d do if I didn’t have the money to spend.
I also learned that paying to “Boost” a Facebook post (paying to get more of my own viewers and their friends to see my posts), did next to nothing, I didn’t get any more likes (which makes sense since a boost just shows it to more people who already like your page) and I didn’t get much traffic to my site.
And my journey continues…
So, that’s it. Not sure this was interesting or blog worthy, but I felt it important to get down part of what I’ve learned these last few months. I’ll probably do a post like this every 2-3 months just to keep myself in check. So, when you see that post for Tuna on Toast, you’ll know why it’s there and remember that this isn’t always about appealing to the masses. I’m going to try to stick to my original goal of recording my family recipes and record the new made up dishes that I make whenever I look in the fridge and say “What the heck am I going to make tonight?”.