How to Establish Your Online Presence
Practical advice for culinary professionals developing a digital brand presence with a website and social media.
So you want to start a blog, Instagram or YouTube channel. In today’s online world of websites and social media, establishing an online presence is often a vital part of creating and marketing your professional persona or personal brand. The world of tech and all that comes with it can be tiring, overwhelming and confusing. However, it can also be rewarding, a way to build your professional profile, add to your skill set and even have some fun along the way.
Here’s the step-by-step process:
First and foremost, what is it you are trying to convey and why should people listen to you? Are you starting a new catering or private chef business and want to attract customers? Or are you interested in recipe development and want to use an online presence to showcase your ideas and attract followers? Don’t build an online presence without knowing your overall purpose or just because you think you have to do it. It is important to really sit down and write out a clear vision of the “W’s”: who, what, why and where.
- Who are you? Who is your ideal audience?
- What are you offering? What messages are you trying to convey?
- Why should people listen to you and engage with you?
- Where is the best place for your voice to be heard and to showcase your skills?
This is by no means an easy task, but it is vital to long-term success.
Choose Your Platform
Being on social media seems to be a necessary evil these days. With over 3 billion people on social media worldwide, it can be a critical way to help get your name and ideas out into the world. Social media can also be a great way to build a reputation and credibility and to showcase your brand and work. Bottom line, people will always head to social media channels to see what you’re putting out into the world, so you may as well be there to show them, right?
Now here’s a key point: You can’t be everywhere all the time. It’s helpful to narrow your options down to one or two online channels to start and go from there. Trying to be everywhere is likely to spread you thin and cause stress. Whereas focusing on one or two platforms helps you to focus on that audience and learn what resonates with them using analytics. The primary platforms to think about are a website or blog and social media channels. Here’s a quick overview for each.
A website, from the most basic to advanced, should contain information about you, your company or brand, and the business. What information will people need and want when they visit your site? For example, a foodservice business such as a restaurant can provide menus, hours, location and contact information.
You may use a website to publish your digital portfolio, share original recipes or document research and development. There are many services available to help create your own website, including WordPress, Wix and Squarespace. A basic website can be easy to set up. However, if you plan to have a more sophisticated site, such as one that sells goods or services, you may need to hire a web developer.
If you choose to have a website, I recommend you learn more about search engine optimization (SEO). This is essentially how search engines, such as Google, find your site and anything you publish on it. The purpose is to make it easy for search engines to find your site which, in turn, brings people, also known as traffic. There are a variety of methods you can use to improve your website and drive traffic. SEO is an ongoing process, so it is always a good idea to educate yourself on the basics right off the bat.
Not all social media platforms will be relevant to your business or goals. The main ones to consider are Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube. Here’s a quick run-down of each:
- Twitter is primarily text-based. It is generally a place to post news and tips or have interactive conversations.
- Instagram is a photo-based site but has some options for short and long videos as well as live streaming. It is most popular with people ages 18 to 35, so it is important to think about your target demographic.
- Facebook can showcase text, photos and videos as well as drive traffic to your site or other links.
- Pinterest is primarily a photo-based channel which tends to do best with beautiful pictures that link to something users need or want. Recipes do very well here, but you will need a site for everything to link to. Ultimately you’ll be driving traffic from Pinterest to your site. Pinterest has a largely female demographic, which is something to consider when determining your target audience.
- YouTube is 100% video content if you’re planning to focus on filming videos, documenting demonstrations or showcasing your personality for on-camera hosting.
Consistency and Creating Value
Once you’ve settled on where you are launching your online presence, being consistent and creating value are key. The more content you produce, the more opportunities exist for you to show up online. But don’t just throw things up without making sure they are a reflection of what you want to put out into the world. Strive to make it compelling content that spurs people to comment, share and generally engage, which is a key to promoting you, your brand or your business.
The first step is to determine a posting schedule that works for you. For example, a new recipe blog post every Friday, a live cooking demo on Facebook every Wednesday at 4 p.m., or three Instagram recipe photo posts every week.
The second part, creating value, can be a bit more tricky. Think about your audience and who you are trying to attract. Is it a beginner cook or someone who feels at home in the kitchen? Are you trying to display your beautiful baked goods to reel in a client who will purchase in bulk from you or is it a healthy meal aiming to find some private chef clients? Ultimately you want your audience to be engaged and keep coming back. The way to get there is by regularly providing posts they are interested in and keeping them engaged. Convey a consistent voice and message.
We’ve become used to immediate gratification in today’s world. However, social media followers don’t all show up at once, posts don’t always go viral, and site traffic doesn’t blow up overnight. Slow and steady wins the race and patience is indeed a virtue.
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