By Stephan Schulz
Like many people, my first encounter with social media was through traditional news. Reports of major world news breaking through Twitter, or famous people posting about themselves caught my attention. Eventually, I was lured by the opportunity to showcase my work and I jumped into Twitter, then Instagram and LinkedIn.
My success with social media has been remarkable. With over 23,000 followers, friends and colleagues often ask how I do it. Initially it was through trial and error but with a few years under my chef’s hat, I’ve learned quite a bit about what does and what doesn’t work for me on social media.
First off, I’m not a technology person. Not knowing back then how simple it was to create an account, I was fortunate to have a friend help me set up my Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts.
Tip: Most social media platforms offer step-by-step guidance with account creation. But if you’re still not comfortable just ask anyone in their 20s for help. They’ve literally grown up with social media at their fingertips.
My first Tweets (Twitter posts or messages) were about everyday topics: Colleagues, places I visited, and a vast array of things and topics I was interested in. I found myself increasingly tweeting about my favorite subject: Food. My tweets were personal but they were getting noticed.
In 2015, I was sitting in a meeting with 20 local chefs and restaurant owners. Somehow, my Twitter activity came up. Some of my colleagues had silently been watching my foray into social media and they were in awe of the large number of followers I had accumulated. “What makes people follow you?” Not sure how to answer this, I guessed that my work with chefs and restaurateurs across Canada may be playing a role.
After that, I started paying closer attention to what I was doing, making note of things that worked and things that didn’t. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
Create content your followers will enjoy and share
Choose a specialty but show variety in your posts. As a chef, it’s tempting to post about your food all the time, but posting about related topics helps keep your followers interested. When they’re interested, they’ll like or share what you’ve posted on their own social media accounts, inspiring their followers to do the same.
Personally, I have had great success with topics like home chefs around the world, great dishes by other chefs, places you’ve traveled to, interesting ingredients, great dining experiences, etc.
I also have great success with recipes. A photo or video with a recipe for the entire meal or just a portion of the meal (e.g., tartar sauce for a fish recipe), can go a long way to promote your food, help followers plan for their own meals, or inspire others with ideas.
Use images as often as possible
Nothing gets attention better than pictures and video but putting some effort behind the images is what makes more people like and share them, and attract new followers.
- Limit the number of subjects in a photo. Whether you’re posting about people, ingredients or animals, the simpler the image, the more viewers can focus on what you want them to see.
- When taking pictures of a dish, show the whole thing. If you’re going to give them a taste for your dish, let them imagine all the flavors.
- You don’t have to be a food stylist but with a little bit of effort, you can create a great presentation.
- Soup photos are tricky. Use an interesting bowl and use a visually appealing topping, e.g., edible flowers, bread.
- Don’t always show plated food. Alternate with food coming out of the oven, in a pot, on slate, on a wood board, or even a wooden paddle.
- When filming video, hold the camera very still (or use a tripod). I tend to get the best results when the object itself is in motion (e.g., a pizza in the oven with visible, jumping flames behind it).
- Make sure that you (or whoever’s talking in the video) speak clearly. Holding the microphone at the same distance throughout the video makes for much clearer sound.
Be courteous, generous and genuine
Sharing or posting about another chef’s recipes, dishes, restaurants or menus can be a great way to support colleagues or pay homage to someone else’s work. But if you’re going to do this, please don’t forget to cite your sources, mention the chef by name, maybe even mention their Twitter handle. And, if you’re going to repost someone else’s photo, be sure get permission first. I get asked for permission to repost my photos all the time. I always say yes, but a little courtesy and generosity go a long way.
Finally, be genuine with your posts. Be passionate about your topic and our followers will too, keeping them coming back for more great stuff time after time.
LinkedIn – A different bowl of fruit
LinkedIn has offered me a bit of a different opportunity. Unlike Twitter and Instagram, where you’re likely reaching out to friends, colleagues, customers, foodies and other members of the public, LinkedIn is more about you and your career, and, most often, you’re reaching out to professional colleagues, service providers and business partners.
Personally, LinkedIn has given me a chance to connect with industry colleagues, let people know where and with whom I’m working, and discover where former colleagues now work.
Last December, after working as a Corporate Chef with Toppit for over 17 years, a change in corporate ownership and direction made my position obsolete. It was only a few days before Christmas but I announced my sudden availability on LinkedIn. Within a short timeframe, over 7,500 people had read my announcement, and my followers jumped from 3,800 to 4,300.
About the author:
Chef Stephan Schulz is a corporate chef living in Mississauga. His personal success with social media has caught the attention of the food and restaurant colleagues across Canada. Chef Schulz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on linkedin.com/in/stephan-schulz, on Twitter at @Chefschulz or via Instagram at @chef_schulz.