What does it take to succeed on social media? Some Viraltag users with serious social mojo are taking us behind-the-scenes of their daily routines. Today we meet Kellie Hemmerly, a food blogger based in the Philadelphia suburbs.
It’s one of the biggest skills any food blogger needs to master: creating unforgettable photos.
You know the kind we mean. Photos that leap out of followers’ social media feeds and entice them to click on your links. Photos that inspire readers to try your recipes and to keep coming back for more.
Kellie Hemmerly, creator of the food and lifestyle blog The Suburban Soapbox, says the perfect photo really comes down to two things. First, it has to tell a story. Take the photos for the Apple Cider Gin Fizz cocktail, a recipe that recently appeared on Kellie’s blog. She included the drink’s ingredients in the background of her photos. But as her photos tell stories, Kellie also keeps them uncluttered and clean — “light and bright and crisp.”
An eye for tantalizing photos and a knack for social media has helped Kellie make The Suburban Soapbox so successful that it’s now her full-time job. She gave us an inside look at what it takes to create and maintain a popular blog.
How It All Started
The roots of The Suburban Soapbox go back to when Kellie was working in marketing for a financial company.
“The biggest struggle with my co-workers was getting dinner on the table,” she said. “Putting a dinner on the table that their family was going to eat and enjoy — and they weren’t going to have to default to takeout.”
So Kellie started sharing her own recipes with them via email and then decided to start a blog to serve as a resource for friends and family.
As a new food blogger, Kellie didn’t emphasize social media at first. It’s hard to remember now, but as Kellie was launching The Suburban Soapbox four years ago, Pinterest — today’s go-to network for food content — was in its infancy. And there wasn’t as much food content on Facebook as there is now.
Today, Kellie says that not being active on social media slowed the early growth of The Suburban Soapbox.
“It did take a long time for my blog to grow because I wasn’t using social media as much,” she said. But all that began to change about 18 months into her blog’s life.
Growing a Social Brand
That’s when Kellie started using the social media skills she gained through her job at the financial company to start building her brand as a food blogger.
“Social media now for me is huge,” she said. “I can’t even imagine if I didn’t do the social media part — how small my blog would be.”
If you’re trying to step up your own social media presence, Kellie stresses how important it is to be consistent, both in the “voice” of your posts across platforms and in how often you share content.
“Your readers know to expect a post on a certain day at a certain time,” she said. “They become in tune with the rhythm that you have set.”
It also helps to focus on growing only one or two networks at a time, Kellie said.
“To try to focus on them all at once is a recipe for disaster,” she said.
What Works Where
One of Kellie’s newest social media ventures is taking The Suburban Soapbox to YouTube. She got inspired to do videos by paying attention to comments from her followers and her own desire to help readers succeed when they try her recipes.
“I love to read the comments, especially after someone has tried a recipe,” she said. “The thing that I’m hearing most now is that they want to see more of the process, and that’s why I decided to start doing the videos as opposed to process shots.”
Meanwhile, on Facebook, “it’s all about the tease,” she said. “What are they going to get out of this recipe? What am I going to write to grab their attention to get them to actually click on that link? You have to come up with a hook that’s going to leave them hanging and dying to know just what’s inside.”
On Facebook and Pinterest, Kellie is generous about sharing content from other food bloggers who inspire her. She’s drawn to beautiful images that fit her aesthetic and recipes that she knows her followers will like.
Like one of our previous profile subjects, Maxwell Christen, she singles out Facebook for its potential to drive business results. But when it comes to the network she enjoys the most personally, Instagram gets the nod.
“I just love going out and looking at other people’s Instagram feeds, seeing what they’ve curated and looking at their gorgeous pictures,” she said.
The Right Social Mix
Being active on so many networks means Kellie spends about four hours a day on social media. She doesn’t have to venture far to update her followers: Her social media command center is a desk that’s right in her kitchen.
Kellie uses a mix of scheduled and live posting. She starts each morning by using Viraltag to schedule her Pins for the day.
“I like to schedule my Pins throughout the day instead of blasting my followers in the morning,” she said. “So I’ll go ahead and schedule 40-50 Pins for the entire day.”
How much time does scheduling through Viraltag save her?
“Hours!” Kellie says. “I was trying to just Pin throughout the day, here and there, and I was definitely not getting anywhere doing it that way. Scheduling Pins in the morning, and I don’t have to think about it till the next day, is priceless.”
But she also likes reacting to the news and trends she discovers when she checks out what her peers are doing on social media. For example, when she was browsing her social feeds on Nov. 3, she discovered that it was National Sandwich Day. So she Tweeted out one of her own mouth-watering sandwich recipes.
Kellie’s Advice to Bloggers
Dreaming of turning your blog into a full-time gig the way that Kellie did? Here are Kellie’s tips.
- Find some blogging peers who share your goals and even a mentor makes a huge difference. As someone who works from home, Kellie appreciates the camaraderie.
- Get social. Kellie underlines a point she made earlier. “Social media is key,” she said. “If I had spent more time promoting and marketing myself through social media, I would be even further ahead than I am now.”
- Don’t compare yourselves to others. Stories about “overnight successes” in blogging can bring you down if you let them.
- Be patient. It takes more than a couple of posts to build a following. “I think that a lot of people underestimate the amount of time that goes into running a blog,” she said. “You have to devote a lot of time and love into it. It has to be a part of you.”
Learn from other Viraltag users. More from this series:
Sarah Beckham is a freelance writer and editor based in Austin, Texas.