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How to Stand Out in the Blogosphere

Posted on 24 July 2013 by Administrator

Photo credit: OrganizedBloggers.com

I’m often asked by new bloggers, what to do when starting a new blog. There are so many blogs out there, how do you stand out? How do you make a difference and get recognized? Here are some strategies that I recommend for getting noticed in the blogosphere.

Take a different perspective
A strange thing happens to us food writers after several years of writing and some recognition. We sometimes forget we are writing for foodies and start writing for other bloggers / food writers. And sometimes we are afraid to say something opposite of what the critics are saying. There’s great power in being a newbie. No one knows you…yet, so feel free to be quite opinionated and speak candidly. Maybe that pricey steak joint that just opened up in Trendyville isn’t as fabulous as every other food writer would have readers believe. Spill the beans and let your readers know why. You’d be surprised how fast word spreads.

Reach out to Publicists
With so many writers and media out there, it is difficult for publicists to keep up with all the blogs. However, it is easy for bloggers to find out the publicists who represent restaurants within the city. Reach out to them (send an email or tweet) with a heads up on your reviews (only if it positive though). They always want to get positive exposure for their clients and you are helping with a favorable review. And they’ll circulate your review to their followers. Maybe the will invite you to their next media dinner.

Post a Guest Blog
We bloggers struggle for content on a regular basis. As a blogger, many have a full time job and this is a hobby. So, it is hard to find time, among all the other responsibilities to write. While it may sound counter intuitive to spend your time writing for someone else, if you pick a high profile blogger in your city, you could generate some good traffic to your site by a worthwhile blog post, provided they link to your blog somewhere in the post.

Volunteer
In the beginning, I couldn’t afford to go to all the food festivals I wanted to attend. And since I wansn’t well known, no one was going to give me media passes. So, I volunteered. You know what’s fun about volunteering? You get a behind the scenes peek at what really goes on. And, then you can dish about it on your blog. The other good thing about volunteering is getting to know people. It is because I schmoozed with others at events that they remembered me and invited me to judge contests. Although the payoff for this isn’t immediate, it is terrific networking and that is a big part of blog recognition. When people get to know you and like you, they naturally want to promote your stuff.

Host a Tweetup
One thing I LOVE is event planning. I have a group of foodie friends and I’m always planning outings for us. If you are blogging, chances are you on twitter and are following other foodies. Why not reach out to a restaurant you like or have a good relationship with and plan a Tweetup with them? It gives them exposure to the restaurant and your get to know those you follow in real life. When you do this, you set yourself apart from others and become more of an authority figure.


Use New Media
You’re probably on Facebook and Twitter. What about Foursquare, Instagram, Youtube and Google+? It may seem daunting in the beginning, but if you start one or two of these social media outlets, you’ll find them not as difficult  as they may at first seem. Make sure to include links to all of these on your blog. Social Media helps with your Google rank overall, because these sites are indexed just as your blog would be, so it’s terrific for inbound links.

Use the Big Guys
You know two huge hubs for foodie sites? Urbanspoon and Yelp. They get TONS of traffic. If you have a blog you can link to your posts on both of these sites. If you are not doing this, you are missing out on easy traffic. Urbanspoon provides an easy way to link to your posts. Yelp is not as obvious. Besides putting a link on your bio of yelp, a good idea is to do a partial post (maybe two paragraphs), then link to the rest on your blog.

Whether you follow all or just one of these strategies to help your blog stand out in the blogosphere, I think you’ll be happy with the boost in traffic. What other strategies do you have for boosting your blog recognition? Share them here.

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When Social Media Bites You in the Ass

Posted on 10 July 2013 by Administrator

Be careful what you put on Social Media, or it could get you into hot water. That’s a lesson we can learn from the experiences of several people who’ve gotten fired recently over things they’ve put on Social Media.

At a technology conference two men making crude jokes were overheard by a female. She took a picture of them and tweeted to her 10,000 followers. One of the guys was fired on the spot. Surprisingly, the woman was also fired after pressure from her company.

Then, there’s the story of the Bitter Barista. Matt Watson, 30, of Seattle, Wash started a website that posts all of his snarky tweets of satirical content about customers. With tweets like, “When I ask, “for here or to go?” I’m only curious what kind of cup you want…Not what your plans for the day are.” Or, “Yes, coffee is expensive. But you’re more than welcome to go to Ethiopia and get it yourself.”

Although he didn’t identify himself on the website, it only takes a little digging to be unmasked. Another coffee-related site wrote an article about the site, blowing his cover. It wasn’t his mocking of customers that did him in, however. What sealed his fate, was when he poked fun at his boss. If there is one surefire way to get fired, it is to make your supieror look bad.

One of the most unjustified firings of late resulting from social media, is the firing of an Applebee’s waitress after posting a customer receipt picture to Reddit. The server had waited on a large party where a gratuity of 18 percent was automatically added to the bill. The customer crossed out the tip and wrote in “0″ then wrote “I give God 10 percent why do you get 18″

Anyone who chooses to dine out should know that servers don’t even get paid minimum wage and depend on tips as part of their income. Shame on this “pastor” for stiffing the server. But in the end Applebees’ obligation was to keep their customer happy. And after this customer complained, the waitress was promptly fired.

Social Media doesn’t have to be a scary thing, but it does require some common sense. Be careful what you say or do in public. Assume that any picture or anything you pen is going to be seen by the world. There’s no anonymity on the web. If you want to be comical, sarcastic and snarky, then make sure you don’t out others in the process.

Many food bloggers have day jobs and work for organizations that have reputations. Don’t ever put your employer in a situation where they may have to defend your actions because of what you’ve put on social media. The momentary chuckle you will get from the post will not matter in the long run if you end up canned.

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The ReviewerCard: Now You Can Be A Card Carrying Schmuck

Posted on 07 March 2013 by Administrator

Reviewer Card Membership card

Some time ago, Yelp gave their reviewers cards that read “You’ve Been Yelped!” I guess the restaurant should feel a bit of panic at the idea, unsure if their food and service was up to snuff for the yelper. Will they get a 2 star or a 5 star review? In the meantime, Yelp gets the word out. Now there’s a new card in town: the ReviewerCard.

When I saw the Yelp cards, I thought to myself who would have the gall to leave these cards? Little did I know I just had to wait a couple years for an even more ballsy card to carry. It is called the ReviewerCard. The difference is that you whip this sucker out BEFORE your service. Basically, it tells the restaurant you are a badass reviewer and have a ton of social media profiles so they better give you top notch service…or else. Well not exactly, the threat is implied. Kind of like when you park your car in a sketchy neighborhood and someone offers to “keep an eye on it” for a five spot.

A quick perusal of the ReviewerCard site shows a lengthy questionaire for membership and a statement that everyone is accepted, according to the Reviewer Card site. The site states that the cost of the card is free, though many articles state it is $100 to get the card.

Since it’s inception, there’s been a backlash between the restaurant community and food writers. Some of the words used to describe the card are “blackmail” “unethical” and “extortion.” Though the ReviewerCard site states “Members will get to enjoy the premium service they deserve, while continuing to provide insightful, honest, and valuable reviews to other customers.”

Should it be as easy as flashing a card to get a hotel room at half off? Be put at the head of the line for a table at a popular restaurant? Freebies when dining out? What about the other paying customers that don’t enjoy those benefits aren’t they entitled to be treated well too?

As bloggers, some of us enjoy media events with fabulous food, but it comes because we are good at our craft, have an engaged audience and readership, and truly want to share our passion for food, not because we threaten to post negative reviews. I hope restaurants and other establishments see the ReviewerCard for what it is and not be bullied into giving steep discounts and freebies.

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Mystery Meet Find Dining

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Mystery Meet Find Dining Podcast: Starring You!

Posted on 28 February 2013 by Administrator

Mystery Meet was started by Boston resident, Seth Resler. Mystery Meet brings together foodies in a city to explore a restaurant together. The catch is participants don’t find out the restaurant they are going to until the day before, hence the “mystery.” To add an interesting twist to Mystery Meet, Seth also includes Find Dining podcasts.

In these Find Dining podcasts, he interviews foodies (bloggers, chefs and food critics) to find out a restaurant recommendation in their city. During the Mystery Meet Find Dining podcast, the interviewee can highlight:

  • What you love about your city
  • Why is it a culinary spot to visit
  • Some of your other favorite spots

What’s in it for you:
You get showcased on the podcast. Seth gives you the chance to tell your story and share why your started your food blog or why you have such a passion for food. Share your favorite spots and tell the world why they should be reading your blog.

Social media promotion galore! Besides the featured restaurant you will be asked about, Seth will ask you a bevy of other questions like where your favorite dessert spot is, or where or favorite cheap eats spot is, or where do you go for a romantic meal, just to name a few. When the podcast is live, he links to EACH establishment on social media channels, promoting you in the process.

No need to be nervous at all. Seth is a wonderful host, with fifteen years in the broadcasting industry, and makes it so easy to speak freely and express your thoughts. Don’t worry about fumbling…thank goodness for editing!

I was recently featured on an Atlanta Mystery Meet Find Dining podcast. I dished on the Association of Food Bloggers, the food scene in Atlanta and of course my restaurant recommendation for Atlanta. You can listen to the interview below:

Tip: Brush up for your quick fire round by listening to past podcasts. Want to be featured on Mystery Meet Find Dining podcast? Contact Seth here.

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Shades of Gray: When Ethics Aren’t Clear

Posted on 06 February 2013 by Administrator

Photo source: www.sonicseo.com

Ethics. We all have a basic understanding of them. If you are a member of the Association of Food Bloggers you’ve agreed to uphold the ethical standards set forth. What happens, though, when we are asked to circumvent ethics?

Some publicists offer payment to bloggers to post articles on their behalf without disclosing the post is sponsored. Another tactic some PR companies are using now is to raffle off fantastic prizes in return for writing an enthusiastic blog post. One we were invited to involved a dinner at a fabulous fine dining Italian restaurant for the blogger who was most creative about their post. This company made no qualms about instructing bloggers to not disclose that we were writing this to win a prize.

According to the law, bloggers must disclose when they receive something for free. There is not a requirement to disclose when we are trying to win a prize. This begs the question – how different are the two? Obviously, a less than stellar post isn’t going to win any prizes. So, is that really fair to readers?

In the end, we thanked our hosts for the wine and Italian fare, but left with no intention of ever writing a word about the event. Several weeks later, we bumped into a fellow blogger and the conversation turned to this event. He, too, had the same opinion. It seemed rather unethical to write about how amazing these particular wines were while not disclosing an ulterior motive.

As a rule of thumb, put yourself in your readers’ shoes when in doubt. How would you feel reading such a post or being encouraged to spend my money on something that a blogger you respect told you was well worth it. If they would feel mislead, then the answer is clear. Remember, you want to be fair, honest and transparent to your readers. You will lose credibility if you shill yourself out for every prize and freebee out there.

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Taco Bell Cantina Bell flopstaco bell cantina bell fail

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Taco Bell Cantina Menu: Social Media Fail

Posted on 18 July 2012 by Administrator

“You can’t believe everything you read on the internet.” That’s what a Taco Bell employee said to me when I flashed their Facebook offer on my smart phone, refusing to honor the July 4th weekend BOGOF promotion for their new Cantina Bowl.

Like many other food bloggers, I rarely ever eat fast food. Created by Chef Lorena Garcia, Taco Bell’s new Cantina menu seems to be different. The upscale menu comes with guacamole, cilantro rice and charred corn salsa and protein of your choice, and is under 600 calories. The price point makes it a poor man’s Chipotle.

Between the television commercials and consistent Facebook ads, it was nearly impossible to avoid hearing about the deal. Interested in seeing how well the Cantina Bell menu lives up to its claims, I decided to give it a try. Plus, I like to participate in social media promotions just to see how well they play out in the real world.

Trying to keep printing to a minimum, I was pleased to see that Taco Bell’s offer allows users to simply show the promo on their smart phone and still claim the offer. Nice green initiative, or so I thought. However, I was told by the cashier at Taco Bell, I would have to print the deal out (as the person in line behind me did) to use it. Her recommendation was that I go to the library (cause libraries are open at 7 pm on Saturday, right?) and print it out.

I did try to go back to their page and take a screen shot of their response but my comment had been removed from their Facebook page before I could.

After Taco Bell refused to honor the deal, I tweeted to them. No response. I then went on Facebook the next day and recounted my experience. Their response was “Not all stores participated in the promotion.” Um, if they honored it for the person in line behind me, that is still participating, no? Who is running their social media accounts? Was that the standard response to anyone who had a problem using the deal that weekend?

Besides the deplorable handling of this social media initiative from every angle possible, it was rather sad that the store manager hid in the back and made his or her subordinate tell me he or she had chosen not to accept the Facebook promotion via mobile.

I even went back and read the rules of the promotion: Basically unrestricted use throughout the entire weekend. So, Taco Bell really, really, wants everyone to try their new menu. Why then the refusal to honor a mobile deal? Why kill trees unnecessarily?

If this happened to me, I’m sure it happened to many others as well. It is always a shame when a neat concept flops because of lack of proper company communication. Clearly, marketing came up with a great promotion but failed to properly communicate it down to the store level. They certainly spent enough money on it between advertising and media events.

Even more of a shame is I really did want to like the Cantina bowl. I really did want to believe Taco Bell had come up with a good concept. Provided the food lives up to how tasty they claim it is, they had an opportunity to win me and many others over who had sworn off their food. If only they had handled any part of the social media right. Unfortunately, they botched it up pretty good. No quiero Taco Bell.

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Creating and Adding Videos to your Blog

Posted on 24 October 2011 by Administrator

Got a blog that seems to be stuck in the past? Have you been interested in adding a little something extra to your blog to set it apart from the others? Aside from a shiny, new theme, video is a terrific way to give your blog that extra umph that you have been missing.

Technology has made it easier to than ever to create videos. Smart Phones are sophisticated enough to shoot optimal video. Webcams can capture your message if you’d rather just record your critique of a restaurant. There are several inexpensive video-editing programs on the market today. In fact, if you own a Mac it comes with a simple, easy to use program called iMovie. If you have set up your blog and are capable of basic computer functions you can quickly become a master video producer with iMovie.

Camera shy? Not to worry. Use the pictures you take and add text and music to make a stunning video without ever having to get in front of the camera. Blog readers also love to see chef interviews, which is another option for those that want to remain behind the scenes. See a sample video below:

Besides making your blog look and feel more modern, adding video can also help with your search engine ranking and your organic listings. Google owns You Tube and videos are indexed very quickly. Adding video to your blog can actually help it come up higher in search engine ranking, provided you put in the description keywords users are searching. For example, list the name of the restaurant and the neighborhood and city they are located in. Ex: ABC Restaurant, Lincoln Park, Chicago. The same goes if you are posting about a recipe – include the name and the main ingredient.

Got a Facebook Fan page for your blog? Video helps with that too. Facebook no longer ranks status updates by those that are most recent. Their precise method of determining rank isn’t known, but Facebook experts say that having video on your page does help your status update to be higher. Of course, the more exposure like this, the better.

Tips for a great Video
• Keep it short – one minute and under
• Make sure the music you use is not copyright protected
• Include pictures of dishes, restaurant interior, customers and staff
• Make sure it is easy to hear and understand anyone speaking or being interviewed

If you still don’t feel comfortable editing videos yourself, try sites like Elance.com, Guru.com or Odesk.com where you can get this done very inexpensively. Don’t be scared of making videos – it is a fun way to add even more creativity to your blog. Jump in and get started and perfect your skill the more videos you create.

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3 Tips for Getting More Blog Traffic

Posted on 10 February 2011 by Administrator

Whether your blog is brand new or been around for quite a while, you can always benefit from more traffic. Here are couple traffic generating tips that have helped over the years.

1. Write Thought Provoking Content
Put a lot into your writing. As bloggers, we all know when we’ve poured our heart and soul into a post and when we’ve just “phoned it in” so to speak. Write remarkable content, and people will come to read it and share it. I find that lists do really well in generating comments. So for example, writing a list of “10 of my favorite tapas restaurants” or “16 Different Ways to Use Cilantro” are great ways to generate interest, readership, comments and sharing.

2. Market Your Blog
Even if you consider yourself to be a blogger, you must consider yourself a marketer too. Those great posts you need to write need to be read and that starts with you marketing your blog. Have a sharing mechanism in your posts, so that readers can share your content with friends. Publish your posts to Twitter when they go live. Link your blog to Facebook.

Besides Social Media, there are other ways to promote your blog. Comment on other blogs. There are no doubt blogs are more well-known than yours. Go to those and comment on posts. Having said that, there’s a right way and a wrong way to comment. The wrong way is to simply comment instructing the readers to go to your blog. The only thing you’ll succeed in doing is pissing off the blog owner and no one will bother clicking through to your site. The best way to do this is to provide some value of your own. For example, on a post about a restaurant that you’ve been to, briefly comment on your experience with the food. Below your comment where you put your name there may be a space for your blog url. If not add it below your comment in the body.

Alternatively, guest blogging is another way to generate interest in your own blog. I suggest writing to a few bloggers and asking them if they would like a guest post. Choose bloggers that have about the same level of experience as you. Very established won’t be willing to give you a chance if you are a newbie. Most will be thrilled as we bloggers are always looking for content. Right?

3. Ask people to comment
People are pulled in so many different directions, you have to be very specific about the action you want them to take. You might be surprised that by just asking them to comment on a post, the response you will get. If you are having trouble getting the ball rolling, ask one or two friends to comment. No one seems to like to be the first person to comment. Once they see some Social Proof, they will be more inclined to comment themselves.

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Scoutmob Mobile App – Coming Soon to a City near You

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Scoutmob Mobile App – Coming Soon to a City near You

Posted on 19 January 2011 by Administrator

So, Scoutmob’s tagline is “Curious Local Finds. Absurd Mobile Deals.” But we think it should be “Making coupons sexy, one deal at a time.” Scoutmob highlights cool things to do around your city. But the real cool thing, at least to a bargain hunter like me, are the 50% off deals they have. You just sign up on their site and get notified of the daily deals through their mobile app, via email or cell (they won’t spam you).

“The deals are our business, but the content is strictly stuff we find interesting, curious, weird, funny, awesomely awesome, or just straight up informative.” – Scoutmob site

The cost? Nada. Yep, that’s right. Move over Groupon and Restaurant.com, ScoutMob is absolutely free. You don’t even need to print them out if using your phone. Now, keep in the mind the deals are only good for (on average) 3 months, but hey, it cost you nothing, so what do you care?

ScoutmobScoutmob

Got an iPhone? We’re jealous. But seriously, ScoutMob has an app (available on iPhones and Droids) that will send all the deals directly to your phone without you having to sign up each day. Just pull it up and show to your server or cashier, no need to print it out either. Woohoo!!

Currently Scoutmob is only available in Atlanta, New York and San Francisco. They have plans to launch in the following cities:

  • Austin
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Dallas
  • Denver
  • Los Angeles
  • Nashville
  • Seattle
  • Springfield
  • Washington, DC

Check out their site here.

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swarm_bigschoolnight_bigFourSquaredouchebag_bigcrunked_bigbender_big

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Do You Four Square?

Posted on 28 September 2010 by Administrator

FourSquare
Four Square is the latest (or one of the latest) Social Media sites to hit the scene. Four Square is a tool which has a goal of keeping track of where you’re going and where you’re friends are going. I didn’t get Four Square at first, kinda like Twitter. I kept seeing those check-ins all over Facebook and Twitter and thought to myself “Who cares that Joe is at Starbucks??” But as someone who is fascinated by Social Media, I signed up for an account and started using Four Square. Now, I can’t relax at a venue before I check-in. Perhaps you are already in the know. But in case you aren’t, here’s a quick rundown on Four Square and why it’s great.

Whenever you go to a new place, you tell Four Square where you are. You just download the Four Square application to your cell which tracks you to find where you are and what’s near you via GPS in your phone. When you tell Four Square where you are, this is called “checking in.”

Basically, there are 3 things you need to know about Four Square to get started:

1. Points – whenever there’s points involved – I want them and lots of them! You get points for checking-in, if it’s the first time at a venue, etc, etc. Some businesses give discounts when you show your Check-in to. This could be a percentage off your bill or something of the sort.

2. Mayorship – if you “check in” the MOST at a location, you are the mayor. A crown appears beside your name. I don’t think that I need to explain the appeal any further. I am currently the mayor of the pizza joint by my house (of course I never cheat and check-in when I’m just driving by) and the hiking trail near my house. Woot. Some businesses will even reward you for mayorship (ie free drink, appetizer, insert inexpensive token here).

3. Badges – You get badges for accomplishing tasks or visiting different venues. Think of them like your Four Square Flair. This is why I said it encourages you to explore your city.

You get one for being a newbie so your page isn’t naked, but there are others.

The Swarm Badge…
swarm_big
…..When more than 50 people are checked in to the same place.

Like the Crunked badge…
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…you get that if you go 4+ stops in a night.

Or the “bender” badge…
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…which you get for going out 4/nights in a row.

Or the school night badge…
schoolnight_bigEarn this when you check-in after 3 AM but before 6 AM.

 

Of course there are some badges whose attainment remains a mystery….a la the Douchebag badge….
douchebag_big
….which probably involves checking-in to some pretty seedy destinations.

They now have badges for when you check-in to 10+ movie theatres, 20+ different pizza restaurants, 10 trips to the same gym within a 30-day period, 3 karoke trips within a month, 3 places with a photobooth. You get the picture.

Sign-up, and get your friends to sign up too. Several of the badges require check-ins with friends in order to receive them like the Player badge which you can only receive if 3 friends of the opposite sex check-in with you.

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