Welcome to March — the month that brings with it the promise of spring and the first harvest that will put all things fresh and green to our plates. As we awaken from a winter slumber spent in an indulgent haze of carbs, meaty cocktails, and over-the-top sweets, we invite you to embark on a spring awakening of your own — on social media. Contributor Nevin Martell spoke with top social media mavens for their tips on how to become an online dining influencer and share your food and drink adventures in a meaningful way.
A tweet that a soon-to-open, much-buzzed restaurant has just started taking online reservations. An in-depth magazine profile of a rising star chef. A gorgeous Instagram of a new dish that just went on the menu that evening at a James Beard Award-winning eatery. A thoughtful blog post on the just-launched brunch at a hot newcomer.
We’ve all liked and shared these social media posts. But who are the writers, photographers, and tastemakers behind them? By the looks of it, they have the coolest jobs in the world as they eat out, drink up, and go behind the scenes with chefs, mixologists, and restaurateurs.
Wouldn’t you like to be one of them? But how can you become a dining influencer? Whether you want to become a well-known blogger, a social media star, or a writer for food-focused publications, there are some rules you should follow, even if you only plan on doing it part-time.
To help you kick-start your career as a go-to authority in your dining scene, we rounded up keen insights from an enterprising and prolific freelance writer, a queen of the blogosphere and a certified wine-spirits expert turned writer-editor.
Freelance food writer for the Food Network, Washington City Paper, and many other publications, as well as the lead D.C. contributor for Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @btmenu and like her on Facebook.
1. Go out. A lot.
“When I was starting out, I went to every invite I got and I didn’t stand in the corner. I made sure to get to know the people. I stuck business cards in everybody’s hands.”
2. It’s all about knowing people and developing relationships.
“I might not be able to pronounce the name of the finest French wine, but I can tell you how many kids a chef has or what they like to eat after a shift. Get to know people and they’ll tell you great stories.”
3. Be different.
“If you’re going to start a blog, carve out a space that’s unique and hasn’t been done before. A lot of amateur blogs cover everything – events, reviews, round-ups – but you need to be more specific. Also, your voice is the most important thing. Be a polished version of yourself when you write.”
4. Express yourself on social media…
“It’s important to let people get to know you as a person, not just you the journalist. So I do 80 percent work posts, 20 percent personal posts. You don’t want it to come across as self-promoting all the time.”
5. …But be smart about it.
“Words that don’t carry any value are “delicious” and “#yumyumyum.” Even in 140 characters, you can pack in a lot of information, factoids, and snippets of value.”
CORI SUE MORRIS
Co-founder of the food and lifestyle blog Bitches Who Brunch, which offers formatted reviews of – you guessed it – brunches around D.C., New York, and Chicago. Follow her on Twitter @CoriSueMorris and Instagram @corsuemorris.
1. Don’t get lost in the noise.
“Don’t be so busy you don’t have time to check out what other people are doing, but don’t unconsciously copy them. If you copy someone, you’re automatically going to be second best.”
2. The picture has to tell a story.
“A person shouldn’t just be sitting there with a cup of coffee. If they’re looking off in the distance and seem engaged, you get the sense they’re having an interesting conversation with someone.”
3. Be fair.
“We work with small businesses, so we see how hard these people work. We’re bitchy and sassy, but everything we write goes through a review process to make sure we’re always being fair.”
“No man is an island. You have to be a part of the community.”
5. Be honest.
“Disclosure is a big thing. Did you get a meal for free or receive a special extra service? People should know your motivations.”
1. Educate yourself.
“From the wine side, learning about viticulture, regions, and varietals definitely helps. I earned a Diploma of Wine Studies from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust. I still learn a lot about cocktails by just sitting at the bar, drinking, and talking to bartenders.
2. A picture is worth a thousand words.
“I like taking pictures of cocktails along with their ingredients or glasses of wine with the dish I would pair with it. You should learn from it.”
3. Twitter sass and Facebook rants aren’t cool.
“Don’t be passive aggressive on social media. Be direct, like you would be with someone in person.”
4. Be humble.
“Some people have a sense of entitlement that they should get everything they want. Our business is pleasure, but it’s still work. You should be grateful that this is your reality.”
5. Don’t ruin someone else’s dining experience so you can document your own.
“Be as unobtrusive as possible when you take photos. I don’t like bringing my professional camera to a dinner, so I do most of my shooting on the phone. And I prefer to use natural light when I can so there’s not a flash going off in the middle of the bar or dining room.”
Nevin Martell is a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer and the author of several books, including Freak Show Without A Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. Find him on Twitter @nevinmartell.
Photo credit: Ed Rode (Kelly Magyarics).