TECHmunch Panel: Understanding Trends to Enrich your Content

  I was delighted to be asked by Babette Pepaj of Bakespace.com to participate in this conference. Thanks to Jackie Gordon (the Diva that Ate NY) for the referral. After nearly five years of food writing, I'm happy to share what I've learned. Our panel's topic included Rachel Blumenthal (Boston Food Bloggers) and Ashley Stanley (Loving Spoonfuls Food Rescue). Hillary Davis (MarcheDimanche) was our moderator.

From left to right: Ashley Stanley, Lovin' Spoonfuls; me, Rachel Blumenthal, Boston Food Bloggers.

What's New in Food: Understanding Trends to Enrich Your Content

Our panel was asked to address food trends and I chose to focus on how to use food trends to become a valued resource for your readers. I shared tips by example (QR code stickers on my business cards and name tag holder) and my Constant Contact All Star Award newsletter signup sheet which I waved around every chance I got. I made a sort of joke about hawking the newsletter signup sheet, and teasing the audience with one copy of my handout, referring to the tips contained on it and giving people a taste of what they might learn by getting their hands on a copy.

This was a subtle or not so subtle way of demonstrating...

some key advice:

 

  • Be an early adopter of new technology - like Twitter - which really isn't that new now. I tweeted as often as I could and if you search on the #TECHmunch hashtag, you'll get a sense of the day.
  • Try QR codes - interestingly not one person scanned the QR codes on my card or my name tag holder. I explained what these codes were and the advantage for any food blogger in using them. Why miss an opportunity to get into someone's contact log? To drive someone to your website?

    Go download the free app i-nigma works well. Scan that code with your smartphone camera and bingo! I'm in your contacts, you have my Twitter handle and you know my URL. Obviously this is silly here, but it makes sense on a business conference name tag, on business cards, on products or papers you hand out.

     

  • Use a newsletter like Constant Contact - to reach more people. Constant Contact named my Leather District Gourmet Newsletter with an All Star Award. This comes from metrics like click-through rates. Read about my All Star Award criteria here. This gives you a way to demonstrate valuable reach to potential sponsors, it gives you a one-on-one tool for helping your readers follow your work, and it gives people the opportunity to spread the word about your content, effectively creating a new set of evangelists with each newsletter.
  • Use every appropriate opportunity to share what you've learned with others.
  • Don't be that schmuck at the cocktail party who only talks about himself. Don't be that guy that keeps asking everyone to help him.
  • DO be the person at the party, on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn, who says: "Let me introduce you to my friend Lyn of Boston Food Swap, she likes canning and creates fun networking events just like your Canvolution events." OR "Lovin' Spoonfuls is so passionate about stopping food waste I have to introduce Ashley to Jenni so she can learn about Jenni's food waste challenge: Four Pounds of Cheese."

what I learned:

  • People, from newbies to veterans like Rachel Blumenthal (whose Boston Food Bloggers network is 400 strong) in the Boston food blogging network are eager to share, to learn.
  • All of us can brush up on our SEO skills.
  • Some of us need to brush up on our "elevator pitch" (when you meet someone in an elevator can you tell them - in a compelling way - what your business or blog is about before they reach their floor?)
  • Finding your voice in writing is equally important as finding your "voice" in photography.
  • Newbies want the silver bullet, the secret to food gawker photography, to more hits, to sponsorship, to getting a column. Veterans know the answers lie (mostly) within.
  • Even though we're in a digital age, and need digital skills, it's all really still about telling a story.
So here is my "handout" from the conference:

What’s New in Food: Understanding Trends to Enrich Your Content

Five Food Trends to Love; Five to Shove; Five Ways to be a Trusted Resource and... Five Resources for You

Intro:

  • Sensual, Sensible Sustainability - food has to first, taste good, make sense, not come with a side of guilt.
  • Using creativity and connectivity to help followers dive into, understand issues.
  • Using technology to connect those asking questions and those providing answers; buyers and sellers; anyone with shared interests.
  • Understanding your values, to become more valuable to your readers, and create value for sponsors.

 

Five Food Trends to Love

  1. Sustainable - seafood - Greenberg, Kurlansky, etc. to FishChoice, SFW, ILoveBlueSea; sustainable food issues: e.g. Loving Rescue/ Bamco / etc.
  2. Heritage breeds & Heirloom seeds - interest in biodiversity and food that tastes good w/o poor enviro impacts
  3. Farm-to-table, CSA/CSF - strengthening our local food systems
  4. Meatless Meals/Flexitarian eating - for health, for the planet and for taste
  5. DIY + Canvolution - wisdom of the grannies, Put ‘Em Up, Meatless Meals

Five to Shove

  1. Paleo or Raw - two examples of mindless faddishness at its worst
  2. Dogma - “species-ist” (see flexitarian above);
  3. Superfood du jour - whole diet/lifestyle not one food (or fad) that will cure all ills
  4. Flat belly - sketchy science and who wants to see those ads on a food blog, anyway?
  5. Bacon makes everything better - really?

Five Ways to Become a Valuable Resource

Improve your content by knowing trends but do more than reporting. By analyzing trends and giving your unique spin on what the data means you become a trusted resource.

  • Focus on the why -- not just the what -- to provide better value and insight to your readers.

An Example:

... if someone you follow says “street food is the top new trend!”

What do you do with that info? How do you demonstrate the value of your work through addressing that trend?

Some Options:

  1. Simply announce it and hope someone finds your post or tweet when they dive into the subject. (meh, and good luck)
  2. Interview someone who wrote a book on the topic and see what they think, write the interview up for your readers and offer a copy of the book to a commenter.
  3. Investigate why street food is surging in popularity here (other countries have a LONG standing tradition of street food, it’s not a “new!” trend in Asia or South America)
  4. Street food in other countries could be interesting posts in and of themselves.
  5. Make a recipe of street food and share it.
  6. Make a recipe of street food and give it your special twist. Are you a writer from South America? Make a recipe of empanadas and share it along with a story of your abuela’s empanadas.
  7. Is your brand about sustainability? Make and share a street food item adding a sustainable twist.

Five Resources for You

  1. Eat Your Books - great new site that allows you to search all your books, your friends’ books for recipes. Invaluable for food writers with stacks and stacks of cookbooks!
  2. Powell’s bookshelf; Publishers’ & agents’ author lists, blogs. See who is writing on your favorite topics.
  3. Hartman Salt, SmartBrief - find the aggregators that are most interesting to you, relevant to your topics, and learn how to shape your content to your values. Find the news in the topics your readers care about.
  4. Chefs Collaborative, BAMCo, Slow Food, IACP, WCR - connect with the top chefs and learn about local food issues via reports, blogs, conferences.
  5. Canvolution - loads of resources, support, events in the trending upward food preservation movement - a true trend.
  6. Food Stylists' Handbook - Denise Vivaldo's excellent guide offer so much more than food styling advice!

TECHmunch Friends & Presenters to Follow

Photographers: Brian Samuels (@MyFoodThoughts); David Dadekian (@Dadekian); Jennifer Leal @Savorthethyme; Adam Salomone (@HCPDishes); Brian Knowles (@TheGringoChapin); Loring Barnes (@LoringBarnes); and of course our moderator, Hillary Davis (@MarcheDimanche) and our host: Babette Pepaj (@Bakespace.)

 

Our post munch, munch. Island Creek Oyster bar was our last stop of the day. More to love.