the just one question project: question three.

the just one question project: question three.

Wow, so, hey…where to begin, right? I’ve been sooooo busy, guys; procrastination, general laziness, and sophisticated task-avoidance techniques really take it out of you. I’m exhausted from getting so little accomplished, really. So far this year, I’ve largely ignored the internet-verse, including all social media outlets and blog feeds. I’ve made completely unpalatable food (including a posh quick bread which looked like it had an “accident” all over my oven and a chinese dish which may or may not have made me physically ill), and written nothing, save for rambling notes on text docs and stacks of to-do lists on colorful Post-Its. Sometimes I take all the Post-Its and fashion a nest so I can have a quiet place of my own to feel entirely defeated. Ladies and gentlemen, I am killing it at January. KILLING IT.

So I’ve decided something: I’m taking the pressure off. January will not be the month I begin to rock the new year, but rather the month I really set aside to think about what I’m actually going to accomplish the rest of the year and get it all laid out in a way that’s most reasonable for my life. I broke my rule of sitting down quietly with my cookbooks this year, and it hasn’t served me well in the food department, so I’m fixing that starting today: as soon as this post is in the bag, I’m curling up with a big stack of them to get some inspiration.

I’ve managed to get a few things done in the meantime. I’ve been able to complete all the tasks in Apartment Therapy‘s annual January Cure, which I highly, highly recommend for anyone looking to do the normal freshen-up-the-house routine right now. I love it, because it’s not at all drill-sergenty, and you get to do things like buy flowers and break less fun tasks into manageable pieces rather than being overwhelmed by them and quitting. It’s nice to get a little objective help on housekeeping, because it forces you to look at what you actually need to do much differently than you would if it were just you.

I’ve also managed to compile this round’s Just One Question Project data; yay! And this one was an easy one for me, and hopefully for you (although you’d never know it by how long it took me to get the results to you) – thank you for sending your responses over what was obviously a busy holiday season. I promise now that everything has died down, we’ll get on a more regular schedule. Let’s begin.

This round’s question was about social media, and after reading your responses and remembering some of the conversations we’ve had in the past, social media seems to be a source of real apprehension. Most of us don’t feel like we know what we’re doing, but we do it anyway, and I’m proud of us for that, because doing scary things takes courage, especially when you’re doing it in front of an audience. Here’s the breakdown of what we like to use to get our words and photos and recipes out there:

the just one question project: question three.

As you can see (and I don’t think this is surprising in this group), Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are the big winners here. We’re all the most comfortable with them, and we like using them to interact with each other. Next up seem to be the two biggies of food photography submission, Foodgawker and TasteSpotting, with a surprise showing from Serious Eats (I would never have guessed that many of us use it). Less-mentioned outlets included StumbleUpon, Google+, and Instagram, which I think, for varying reasons, are new and/or perplexing to lots of people, so no surprise there. Then there were one-offs people mentioned – left off for clarity – that only garnered one vote each: Tasteologie, FoodEpix, {Yum}goggle, FoodiePortal, DessertStalkingLinkedIn, Tumblr, FoodPornDaily, and FoodBeast.

In terms of when/how we use social media, it’s almost impossible to graph. Some of us do all of it right away, some of us wait for peak times on specific outlets, some of us do it haphazardly and without any sort of regular routine. Some of us are so organized we have things auto-posting, where others have realized that the pitfalls of automated posting are just not for them and would rather do it manually. No matter what we’re doing, it takes most of us anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes for post-production.

The percentages are even more interesting when you compare them to how much traffic we generate from each outlet. Let’s take a look:

the just one question project: question three.

So this is the pie version of the bar chart above: same data, but broken down by percentage. If I were to be asked to interpret this, what I see is three different zones:

  • The Familiar/No Judgement Zone: Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter. No one is rating or rejecting your photos, there’s more of a conversation going on between individuals (except for Pinterest, but I’d argue that there’s almost a picture-by-picture conversation which goes in between people who follow each other), you have 100% control over what gets posted and what doesn’t, and it’s what almost all of us use in our personal lives to interact with friends and family. There’s lots of crossover here with these three avenues from professional to personal, so it’s a natural fit for lots of us.
  • The Beauty Pageant Zone: Food photography sites are difficult and nerve-wracking, and no matter how good our photos are, there’s always some hand-wringing and generalized apprehension when we submit to Foodgawker, Tastespotting, and Serious Eats. We just want to be included, much like in high school, and it mostly feels like waiting to find out if you’re going to get asked to the dance or not. I hate it too: although some of you really seem to enjoy my photos, let me tell you: Tastespotting and Foodgakwer think my photos are the most upsetting things they have ever seen. As far as they’re concerned, I am regularly called out for having white balance and underexposure issues, my photos are poorly laid out, and one particular comment advised me that they “would rather not see food with bites taken out of it.” Although I’ve never had a photo rejected by Serious Eats, I know it happens. I can say don’t take it personally, but we all do, don’t we? Yes.
  • The Stranger Danger Zone: StumbleUpon? Instagram? Google+? It’s safe to say we either don’t know what we’re doing on these and just feel like we’re winging along on a roller coaster, or we’ve over thought them to the point that we’re refusing to use them. Someone “stumbled” (is that right?) my Momofuku Perfect 10 Cookies and they blew up my stats: I got a crazy amount of hits from it, so immediately I went and created a StumbleUpon account and stumbled one thing and then…I froze. Because I didn’t even get it, and here I was with an account that people would see and OMG I can’t do this it will ruin me. Irrational? Certainly, but we all try to keep professional around here in a little bit of a way, and I think the idea that we could be doing something without fully understanding the ramifications sort of freaks us out. Instagram I love, but that’s because I’m so comfortable with all of you that I don’t mind sharing things on it. I loathe Google+, but this could easily be misdirected self-loathing at just not understanding what the heck it is and why I’d want to bother with it.

With that in mind, let’s look at the feedback regarding where we see the most traffic coming from. I think a majority of us would agree that much of our traffic comes from search engines: I am no different there, so let’s include that as the understood #1 source of traffic. Here’s the breakdown of what you mentioned as being your best sources of blog traffic:

the just one question project: question three.

Interesting, yes? I think so, because Pinterest, friends. How awesome and wonderful is it that the thing which takes us arguably the least amount of time is huge in terms of most of our hits? So awesome. Some of you mentioned you weren’t on Pinterest, and to those of you, I say: get on it. It’s fun. A well-organized (and routinely reorganized) Pinterest space is a wonderful resource to have, both for you personally and for your blog. In fact, if you have any questions about Pinterest, shoot them my way and I’d be happy to try to answer them; I’m no expert, but I’ve been using it awhile and I’ve learned – at least for myself – what seems to work and what doesn’t. And I can point you in the direction of some excellent people to follow; i use it for everything from food, to fashion, to home improvement inspiration, to art, and everything in between. I could spend all day on it.

Tangent! Sorry, back to it: What I also find interesting is how much we’re all trying to be on Twitter, but yet we’re not getting much kickback from it. I’m actually relieved at the findings here: Twitter is hard for me, because I don’t feel like people always care about what I think, and I don’t want to become a nuisance (thanks especially to Deb for wondering that same thing). It’s hard to find the balance on Twitter, in my opinion: how much personal versus food-related? How much sharing/re-tweeting? What if I offend someone? The list goes on. You don’t want to be a machine just regurgitating others’ post links, but you probably don’t want to start a war over politics or religion, either. Seems as though something’s not connecting, however, because none of us are seeing much traffic from it, so I wonder if we should take some of the pressure off of ourselves with this one.

I’ll always say Facebook, even with its continual aggravation regarding sponsored posts and population selection, is a solid way to get some comfortable exposure, and it’s a great way to have conversations and connect with readers; something you don’t always get in real-time when it comes to the post/reply world of blogging. For me, it’s been nice to be able to ask of-the-moment baking and cooking questions of people, which is supremely helpful in times of crisis, let me tell you; you all have saved my tuckus a few times thanks to Facebook.

And then there’s Serious Eats, TasteSpotting, and Foodgawker: seems like we get a good amount of traffic from these avenues…when and if we actually get accepted, which is not a given. I don’t know much about the quality of this traffic either, or where it comes from. I’ve never used what is predominantly a “beautiful photos only” site for recipes: maybe I should? I think of them more as art sites that can, frankly, get me some traffic. And maybe the right people see it and actually like me. Serious Eats I think of less like this, because there’s something more genuine to me about them and their approach to good food rather than pretty food. I should mention that this is maybe more in reference to the weekly Share Your Sweets slide shows (which both myself and Natalie participate in when one of us thinks to remind the other) and the Weekend Cook and Tell, which Elizabeth mentioned she utilizes. Maybe it’s just my personal experience talking, but it seems as though the Serious Eats community is way more of a “community” than the other two.

Big Takeaways:

Let’s relax with social media, and do what feels right, because although some of us are pros at faking it until we make it, none of us are experts at using social media. I daresay there’s a good many people in the world, some of them employed as social media directors, who have no idea what they’re doing either. As with everything having to do with blogging, I think it’s most important that you go with your gut and stay true to yourself and what you think is best for your own routines versus being worried about “keeping up with the Joneses” in terms of social media. And we seem to have a good group to ask questions of in this crowd: Rachael, for instance, is excellent at promoting other people’s blogs on Facebook: like truly she does it the best of anyone I know, and I have her support to thank for a good amount of my own traffic. Jennie is a constant presence on my Twitter feed, which means she’s gotta know something (because I’m notoriously losing people I follow from my feed) the rest of us don’t. Natalie and I met via Serious Eats, and although we’re sporadic in our activity levels over there, we’re both pretty good at knowing how to use their site. And the list goes on: we all seem to excel at some more than others, and that’s okay: if we were all good at the same things, it would be super boring (not to mention super competitive) over here.

And another thing: you’ll see Emma mention this in her answer below, but I’ll echo her sentiment about how sometimes  a big source of blog traffic can be completely random and unexpected, and based on nothing you yourself did aside from just having solidly good content. She mentions being featured on HuffPost Taste, among others (a few of us have had that particular honor), and that can be an invaluable source of short and long-term blog traffic. Sure, it’s going to be a mega hit day for you the day it happens, but there’s some aftershock value to that, and it exposes a whole untapped portion of the population to your work, which can (and has) led to long-term followers. You know what my biggest source of traffic is, still? This pie. Because not only did Serious Eats and Instructables feature it, but every single geektastic website in the universe picked it up, including Today.com, which was crazy. When Pi Pie Day rolled around again the next year, you know who wrote it up as   “elegantly insane”? Bon Appétit. Ever hear of them? Right. My life was complete that day, and it serves as a decent reminder of how just having standout content (even just every once in a while) can really have a lasting effect in terms of readers and traffic. You never know who is going to see your stuff, or when it will happen. Just be you. Things always go better that way.

Before I actually bust the limits of word count here, I want to throw out the next question. Here it is, and it’s not a surprising one.

It’s the new year: for many of us, that means not only personal resolutions, but  a laundry list of blog-related resolutions as well. I want to know what your top three blog-related resolutions are for 2014, and out of those, which one you consider to be most important. If you’re willing to share, talk about what steps you plan on taking to accomplish your #1 goal.

So while you ponder that one (and send me your answers, say, by January 20 or therabouts), let’s away to the responses:

Brianne, Documenting Our Dinner:

“I immediately publicize my posts on my blog’s Facebook page (but not my personal one—I feel weird bombarding my friends and colleagues news feeds with my blog), my Twitter feed, and my Google+ page. Somehow I ended up in a bunch of other food bloggers G+ circles! I don’t think I get any traffic from G+, and I only use it to post blog updates, but I do it anyway. I get very little traffic from social media in general—my audience there is pretty small. I’d like to start posting photos on Instagram of each post, and I’ve considered starting a Pinterest board of photos from each blog post. I think I’d get good traffic from pinning my posts, but I’m curious to hear other’s experience with that. When I was posting regularly, I’d also submit my photos to Tastespotting and Serious Eats. I was getting fairly decent acceptance from Tastespotting, and a lot of traffic from them, too! Serious Eats also provides a nice bump in blog traffic. But Foodgawker is some next level business. My photos aren’t at that level. I may not get a lot of traffic from most of these outlets, but if you’re trying to (I’ll say it) “build a brand,” taking an extra 10 minutes after publishing to get the word out about each post is worth it.”

Natalie, Wee Eats:

“Usually, once I post to the blog I will then also post a link and photo on Facebook (sometimes immediately, sometimes not). My tip to those of you who do this is to post it as a picture, and not a link. People like pictures, they are pretty and fun to look at. (Plus, when you realize you misspelled something, you can easily edit the caption of the photo rather than deleting and reposting the link!). Since I’ve already got a photo made, this process takes about 20 seconds, maybe 30 if I have to think of something witty to say.

Originally I was letting Facebook just automatically post to my Twitter feed (LAZYBONES!), because I wasn’t really using Twitter. Lately, I’ve been trying to focus more on Twitter (aka, remember that it exists and figuring out how it works), so I find myself re-posting in separately on Twitter instead of just letting Facebook do it for me. Here is another 20-second step, unless I have to shorten the link via bitly which can increase it to 25 seconds or so… Bitly is great because it not only shortens the link for you, but will follow the stats of that link.

If I decide to pin it, there’s another 2 seconds which I can do from directly within my website. Maybe a few more minutes if I decide that I want to make a “pinnable” picture with text overlay (I use iPiccy, it’s free and super user-friendly!) and then pin the item as well….

So, we’ve covered 3 outlets at a total approaching about 1.5 minutes.

Occasionally, I may upload a relevant post to a Serious Eats slide show (which takes literally like 1 minute out of 1 day every week, on the weeks that I remember to do it). I’ve also submitted a few to FoodPornDaily. These are all pretty randomly done though, and not part of any greater strategy.

I will also go through phases where I upload a bunch of stuff to Tastespotting, who rejects them for a generic reason (“composition”) and then I cry and throw my computer and resubmit the same unchanged photos a few months later and they are magically accepted despite their previously “poor” composition… Pretty sure they just throw darts there.

I also post for FoodBeast, she’s my “lady on the side”. Usually this involves copying and editing an existing recipe post and photos, about 15 minutes total. Occasionally, though, they do get “exclusive” recipes as well. They do accept reader submissions as well, so go ahead and check them out.

Let me just say that I really don’t get a lot of traffic from any of these avenues. The *MOST* traffic I’ve received from any one external post was a random comment on a post on TheKitchn where I mentioned growing basil on my windowsill… Random, right?

As far as traffic goes, most of my traffic actually comes from search engines (why do I even bother with all that other stuff!?), Pinterest is in second place, which appears to give the biggest “bang for its buck” since it takes like 3 seconds to pin something.

Facebook and Tastespotting come in a little further down the line, and Twitter even lower on the totem below those – granted, since I migrated my web page to a new host earlier this year, all of these stats only apply to March and later of this year.”

 Deb, East of Eden Cooking:

“After publishing a blog post I will Tweet one notification. I am not involved in food community or photography sites as I always thought it would be a time burn in terms of any viable results. I am very interested in finding out if other bloggers find the extra time and effort worth the results. I am also curious about Twitter “etiquette”. How many times does one self promote their own blog before becoming a nuisance to the Twitter community? The majority of new visits to my blog are from Pinterest, confirming the importance of excellent food photography. Web searches are the second highest source of new traffic.”

 Elizabeth, The Manhattan [food] Project:

“Post-production: to be honest, I’ve gotten really lazy about post-production these days. When I was really into promoting the blog, I would tweet an update, I would post onto my personal Facebook page, I would try to submit to Tastespotting and Foodgawker (with very, very limited success), and if a post fit in with the topic of the week for Weekend Cook & Tell on Serious Eats, I’d post a link there. While Tastespotting/Foodgawker would get me some traffic, I seldom felt like it was good traffic (i.e., quality traffic) for all of the hoops they make you jump through and how arbitrary the rejections are. My other issue with them is that because they have a specific aesthetic–something that they are absolutely entitled to have, I should emphasize–but that encourages everyone submitting to them to conform to that aesthetic in the ploy for traffic and does it ever get boring. To be honest, while the traffic spike wasn’t quite as high, whenever I’d get mentioned on Serious Eats (and especially when a photo made it on the round-up post) I would have a goofy smile on my face for the rest of the day.

Now, I have my LinkedIn, Twitter, and Tumblr accounts automatically publish an update for me, and I’ll pin the post to my recipes board, but honestly, I’m largely over the shameless self-promotion. I find myself on the lookout for online friends who love food, which prompts me to comment on blogs (hoping they can return the favor and we can actually become blog friends), but I have yet to hit “publish” on my Facebook page, largely because I keep my FB stuff relatively locked down and I’m petrified that I’d get all of five likes and that’s it.

To be honest, now that I’m writing more for me, I’m not aching for the big hit days like I used to–I’m happy to have the readers I do, and engaging in comments and the like.”

Emma, of agates and madeleines:

“Back when I was unemployed and lonely-at-home in early 2012, I broke my self-imposed No Social Media rule and signed up for Facebook so that I could create a page for my blog. Best decision ever, since I am often still quite lonely. I share my posts there, and usually send a photo into Tastespotting as well. My photos always look so evenly-colored and nice until they pop up in the little Tastespotting submissions square…. then they look funky and uninviting. I wonder if there is a Tastespotting filter I can apply to my images to make them look prettier?

I don’t do anything else to advertise my blog, really…. I’m always a little short on time. Post-production takes me ten minutes, tops.

The sites that have pumped me up most as far as traffic and visibility are concerned have always been very random – - being included on HuffPost Taste recipe roundups, being Freshly Pressed on WordPress, and Facebook sharing from pages like Wild Blueberries and Angostura Bitters (USA) come to mind.

Ashley, Hops:

“I must admit I don’t do anything after publishing a post.  I don’t have any other social media accounts for my blog (in fact, I only recently made a personal Instagram account that features a lot of food-related photos from me).  If I was more established, I would consider creating a Facebook page for my blog.  But I would probably limit it to that…unless I magically developed crazy good photography skills overnight!”

Faygie, Life Tastes Good:

“My “post-production” take no more than a few minutes. I share on facebook, twitter, and pinterest (to my Life Tastes Good board), and that’s it. Usually what I’ll do, if it’s a post with more than one picture, I’ll post each of the pictures onto my pinterest board, but I spread them throughout the day.

I actually don’t get a ton of traffic from facebook and twitter, but oftentimes it will start a discussion on there, which can be fun! I do get a lot of my traffic from pinterest, although not necessarily from the pins that I pinned. I think the great thing about posting to pinterest is that it gets your post out to those who are just browsing the site; they don’t have to be one of your followers.”

Dana, Whisks & Words:

“Oh social media, that fickle mistress. I’ve used Facebook, Twitter, and on occasion, Pinterest. Sharing on those outlets usually only takes a few minutes (unless a discussion gets started, in which case, it’ll take longer).

First there’s Pinterest, which honestly has not been useful for me as a social networking tool. I think it’s the platform I understand the least. I can pin stuff to my own boards all day long, but there are only 14(ish) people who follow me, which doesn’t make for great networking. With that in mind, I barely ever post links to my blog on Pinterest.

My Facebook page for my blog has a lovely little following, and I’ve been able to get to know a group of readers who consistently reply back to me. Some of them are from my dad’s hometown (where he has a reality television show on local cable), and they found my page through my dad. Some of them are old friends from Virginia. And some are readers who know me only through my blog. Facebook is the place where I can get to know my readers. We ask each other for help, we share photos of our recipes, and we have fun with the discussion. But as any blogger here can tell you, Facebook has gotten harder to work with now that there is an option to pay to promote posts. We have to tailor our posts to generate the most traffic; for instance, on my Facebook page, if I post a link, or share one from a website, it’ll reach maybe 45 people. If I write a status, and then post the link in the comments section, it’ll reach 120 people. That’s still only about 30% of my total audience on the page. That said, I also have to pay attention to what my readers like – that’s usually status updates and photos rather than links. Because it’s the most personal form of networking, it also requires the most time; this is the platform where I have the most interaction with people, and I like to give it the time I know it deserves.

I’m also on Twitter (@danastaves), which is fun on a whole different level. My dad (the reality television dude) and I were recently discussing Twitter because he doesn’t really understand it. My theory is this: Twitter works really great if you can pretend that you’re super-duper famous and everyone cares about every teensy detail of your life. And the thing is, on Twitter, people kind of do. Twitter is micro-focus. It’s details. It’s the disposable flash of moment-to-moment social media, and for that, it’s pretty fun. And since you can’t really track your traffic, it takes some of the pressure off. My favorite thing to do on Twitter is to just have fun. Make jokes. Join in on people’s conversations. Extend the hospitality that I shoot for in my writing on my blog to the Twitter universe. Imagine a frenetic cocktail party, and pop into conversations, join up with groups, have a martini. Leave with new friends. And if you’re not feeling it on any particular day, don’t worry; the party goes on whether you’re there or not, and when you come back, they’re always happy to see you.”

 Allison, Spontaneous Tomato:

“Right after I put up a new blog post each Thursday morning, the first thing I do is add Pinterest buttons under some of the (nicer) photos. (I can’t use plug-ins or Javascript to have this done automatically because I’m using free WordPress.) I also haven’t yet figured out how I could do this in advance of posting (since I’d need to know the exact future URL of each photo), so I always do it immediately after posting—it just takes 10 minutes, but it means I can’t schedule my posts to go up automatically if I want the Pinterest buttons to be ready to go before most people view it (and before the Feedburner e-mail goes out). Then I pin a few photos to a few boards of my blog’s Pinterest account (a separate account from my personal one), and hope for the best. I do often get quite a few hits from Pinterest compared to from Facebook or elsewhere, at least according to the WordPress stats page.

I also post a photo to my blog’s Facebook page, with a link to the recipe in the comment rather than in the post itself, in the hopes that Facebook will then show it to slightly more of the people who have liked the page. Facebook is frustrating though, because it wants to charge pages money to show our posts to more than just a small fraction of our page-likers, and that’s never going to happen. I sometimes consider posting a recipe link twice, but I don’t want to spam the same 20 people who saw it the first time.

That’s it! Beside the automated publicize-to-Twitter option in WordPress… so I guess I’m sharing every link on Twitter these days, too. But I still haven’t gotten into actually Twittering like a normal person, even though I know it’d be great for blogging, social networking, etc… I just don’t want to have my laptop in front of my face any more than is absolutely necessary I guess.

I’m actually really looking forward to reading everyone else’s answers to this one, to hear if people have had success with particular websites (especially sites that automatically pull from food blogs’ RSS feeds, since I’d much rather spend my time working on my next blog post than promoting the one I just posted!).

Back when I first started blogging (and my photos were AWFUL), I was somehow nevertheless happy with my photos (because maybe I hadn’t started reading/comparing myself to too many other bloggers yet), and I submitted a bunch of photos to a few sites like Tastespotting and got rejections for all of them.

After all of those rejections (on that one day), will I ever go back to Tastespotting? It remains to be seen… (On a related note, will I ever find a young, tech-savvy unpaid intern willing to solely spend their time cropping my photos into squares, submitting them to Tastespotting for me with all the right tags, and in their extra time attempt to make my Twitter presence seem “active”? Probably not…)”

Amy, Elephant Eats:

“I kind of touched on this in the last question you asked us, but usually I schedule my blog to post the morning after I compose it, so I can’t share it immediately on social media since it isn’t live yet. It publishes while I’m work so when I get home I’ll submit to foodgawker and tastespotting which are the only two food photography sharing sites I knew about…but now that you’ve alerted me to these others, I will check them out! Next I pin my recipe to my blog’s recipe board on pinterest. And finally, I share my post on my blog’s facebook page and my personal facebook page. This whole process takes maybe 15 minutes, but I usually don’t do it all at once because I get distracted :)

As far as traffic is concerned, I usually see a bunch of views from Foodgawker the day it goes up. It really depends on the recipe though, as some are definitely more popular to “the public” than others are. The views from that particular post dwindle within 3 days and then will just get occasional views here and there for months after. Tastespotting doesn’t really get me many views. My main source of continuous traffic comes from Pinterest. Things on that site get shared and shared and shared, and just when i think a post has lost it’s spark, someone will share it again!”

Elizabeth, Eating Local in the Lou:

After posting, I am so relieved to be finished, I first let out a huge sigh of relief. Pinning is easy, so I pin to Pinterest on my blog board and to a Cooking Light board to which I’ve been invited to pin. I get a fair amount of traffic from Pinterest on a regular basis. A tweet goes out automatically via Networked Blogs- can’t say I get much visibility from this but I still do it. I post a link & pic on my Facebook page, but often do this later (trying to hit the better times of day to post). That is all I do right now. In the past, I would try posting on other sites to increase visibility (BlogHer, erecipe, Feastie and Allrecipes, etc) but did not see a big enough payoff in traffic to warrant the time it takes.”

 Abbe, This Is How I Cook:

“After I post… I tweet to my one million followers. Just kidding. I probably have 10. Maybe. but I’m supposed to tweet so I do, but I still don’t get it. Then I post it to Facebook. Which I still don’t get. I call this age related quandries. Then I share on Google+. I feel so good sharing… Then I give out plusses, so they feel good and I feel like I’m a teacher giving out A’s to the entire class. Then I pin, which I am just starting to understand. I’m actually beginning to like this and understanding the whole bulletin board thing.

Then I submit which is like sending off bad photos to martians. Some like them, most don’t, but it does increase my traffic, if they accept me. Accept being the key word. Luckily my feelings aren’t easily hurt. But sometimes I know they are like WAY wrong and I took a good photo! Their loss. Right? I send to Food Gawker-why? I’m not sure. I’ve only ever gotten one photo there, though I do admit to not sending out any photos for probably my first 90 posts. I should try again. I then send to Tasteologie and Tastespotting where I have better luck. Serious Eats is in there and Foodepix. YumGoggle, and FoodiePortal. I do StumbleUpon, too. I think that’s it. I have done DessertSpotting, since they asked me to submit. The first one I submitted, I believe they turned down. So much for that. All of them appear to be very subjective and I laugh when one accepts a photo and the others don’t. It would be nice to hit a home run and get them all. I think I’d die of shock if I ever did!

This takes anywhere from 15 minutes to hours, depending on how much I get held up by my computer and their sites. Also, by how much extra reading I choose to do! I would be curious if the bloggers that form groups based around food themes and then post and publish all the photos on each site-well, I would be interested to see if this drives traffic to their site. I read a few of them like Sunday Supper and a few others, but generally I never go to the other sites unless it is a recipe I am interested in.

I do fairly well when I get on Tastespotting or FoodEpix. Tasteologie is decent, too. Pinterest can be really good. Right now I am in a holding pattern. My numbers haven’t changed much in months. If I get lucky and get a few photos on, then the numbers really shoot up. That works about a month and then they fall back down again. I really hope to take a photography class this year. It always gets me that your recipe could be total crap, but if the photo is good, then that is what matters!

I haven’t even heard about FoodBeast or Kitchen Artistry, so it will be interesting to see what others turn up.”

Willow, Will Cook For Friends:

“After I’ve published a blog post, the first thing I try to do is post a link to Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google Plus, and Stumbleupon. Sometimes this doesn’t happen until later in the day, but it almost always happens. Sometime later, when I have the time, I’ll submit the recipe to foodsharing sites. The main ones for me are Foodgawker and Tastespotting — in the past, I’ve submitted to as many as a dozen different ones, but I found that many of them weren’t driving any (or barely any) traffic to my site. Having too many to submit to made the task incredibly tedious and time consuming, so eventually I pared it down to just the big ones. Of all the places I submit to, I get the most traffic from Pinterest and Foodgawker. Of course, that all depends on if my photos are good… if they aren’t, sometimes I won’t even bother submitting/pinning them.

Other than that, I don’t do very much. There are a few places that have my RSS feed, which means they automatically update when a post gets published. I think the biggest one for me is Triberr, which helps get my posts out on twitter more (which is great, because I suck at twitter). After that, I have a mailing list which sends an email out to my subscribers the morning after a post goes live, and that’s about it. I would say in total, all of my post-publishing stuff takes about 20 minutes or so.

I think one of the most important ways of putting yourself out there (not just after a post gets published, but anytime), is to visit other blogs and leave thoughtful comments. Interacting in the blogging community not only gets your name out there, but it helps you make friends with other bloggers. Plus it can be a huge boon to your own blog’s traffic if other bloggers know who you. One tweet or facebook mention, and they could be sending their readers your way. I feel like the twenty minutes I spend submitting my posts to different social media and gawker sites is a bit like “work”, while just being me and making friends with all of you is “play”. The internet has given us this outlet for getting to know one another, and to me that’s one of the best parts of blogging. Any extra traffic that comes from that is just a bonus!

Shannon, a periodic table

“As usual, i gave away some of my answers throughout the post. I’ve been pretty lax about social media as of late, but I’m going to tackle that more this coming year. Typically, once I publish a post, I can muster enough strength to post the link to Facebook.

aaaaaand there you have it. *cymbals*

On an ideal day where I am bursting with motivation to get myself out there, I publish my post, share the link on Facebook and Twitter, and pin it onto my Pinterest board. Food photo sites are another beast entirely: I’d love to say I submit regularly, but I don’t. Sometimes I gather up my ten most recent posts’ photos and send them off to Foodgawker and TasteSpotting, and i have about a 10% success rate with that (although i haven’t submitted anything in awhile). Serious Eats is way less anxiety-inducing; that’s simply a matter of me remembering to submit it to their Photograzing section, because i’ve never had an issue with them accepting my submissions. My difficulty in photo sharing sites is the way I take my photos: what looks good in a normal landscape photo looks sometimes poorly composed when whittled down to a square, so if i’m planning to submit to food photo sites, it means i need to ready both versions or at least be mindful of the size difference when i’m shooting. Exhausting, really, because i could think of so many other things to care about most days. On any normal day, accomplishing this would take between 10-15 minutes of uninterrupted time.

I don’t even understand StumbleUpon or Tumblr or Google+ or anything like that: honestly, I think it’s because i don’t want to. Considering i spend a large amount of my time “running” this blog and i still feel perpetually behind. I have always enjoyed having conversations with people: through words, through photographs, through food. I feel like I can do that on Facebook and Twitter with actual back-and-forth conversation, and on Pinterest and Instagram with “visual” conversations: the latter two are more personal – although they all have elements of personal me in them – so it’s nice to share snippets of real life admist the blog life and have people share back. I mean, let’s get real, some of you crazies let me follow your personal Instagram accounts right back, so we’re like, tight now. And I prefer to keep it that way – to keep it meaningful and inspiring – rather than just be rolling out content on 93 different networks. I fear I would get watered down.”

Postscript: It was a busy, scattered holiday. I am normally very organized, but if for some reason you sent me a response to this and you don’t see it included, please let me know or resend it to me, and I’ll get it right in here for you. 

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36 Comments on "the just one question project: question three."

  1. This was so interesting! I love hearing where people get their traffic – my experience has been almost the same. I get TONS of traffic from Pinterest, and find the traffic from sites like foodgawker and tastespotting isn’t particularly appealing as they just bounce over and I don’t get to engage with them. I don’t care about the number of visitors on my site – I care about sharing a few laughs. The comments my “real” readers leave are funnier than anything I write in my posts! Also, I don’t take photos with those gawking sites in mind because I’m lazy and forgetful, so I get rejected regularly. I’m pretty sure I’m social mediaing wrong, but I’m lazy and forgetful, so… Actually, It would seem that blogging infrequently and using social media incorrectly has only increased my readership. Is it possible that people really like lazy, forgetful bloggers?

    • In all honesty I love that you post infrequently – it makes me look forward to reading whatever you have going on when I haven’t heard from you in awhile. The bloggers who post daily (even the ones I like) I get burnt out on and stop reading all of their posts. Realizing that made me ease up on posting so frenetically when I was actively trying to grow the blog – I found that my traffic didn’t really decrease at all even though I got so that I was only posting twice a week (down from five times), and that when I DID post, my traffic was even higher than usual for a day or two. So yes, you are on to something with the blogging infrequently and using social media incorrectly – apparently it’s a great blogging business model! You should write an ebook and get rich off of this revelation! :)

      • shannon says:

        You know, I’ll tell you: that makes me feel dang good inside. And it DOES take the pressure off posting all the time, because seriously people don’t go away. Certainly i’ve noticed my stats dwindling, but only in the way that there’s nothing new to look at combined with it just naturally being a time when people are doing other things. And today it’s right back up there, no fears, no worries. Big spiky thing indicating that you all are still right here, which is comforting.
        OMG ME WRITE AN EBOOK! Mellissa, we are just full of thoughts today, the two of us. Someday, maybe. It’s been a meandering thought over the past year. Don’t encourage me. ;)

    • shannon says:

      I can see how you would get lots of Pinterest traffic: you do your own Pinterest boards particularly well, i’ve noticed, and i’m sure that helps as well. I think the same of the “bounce factor” of Tastespotting and Foodgawker: it’s short-term reward with almost no long-term effect. If all of you were to mention how you met me, i bet NONE of you would say it was through either of those sites.

      Aren’t we all social mediaing wrong? I think so, but i think so many wrongs actually DO make a right, where we’re concerned. I think when we start doing it “right” is when we start to maybe get too preoccupied by it.

      People LOVE lazy, forgetful bloggers. Especially those who post infrequently. CASE. IN. POINT. *raises hand*

    • If you’re social mediaing wrong, I don’t know what the heck I’ve been doing…
      Also, I think you’re on to something about blogging infrequently and being lazy and forgetful. In fact, I think I’m going to make all those things my new New Years resolutions. Blog less, be lazier, remember nothing. Done.

  2. Haha! I’ve totally had the rejection notice due to “food having a bite taken out of it” (WHATEVER, THAT DING DONG LOOKS DELICIOUS!) – Too bad they don’t have that same sentiment about things balancing on glasses. I’m 99% sure if I took a picture of poop balancing on a glass of milk, Tastespotting/Foodgawker would be ALL. OVER. IT.

    StumbleUpon I’m pretty sure ruined my site because it blew up ON THE DAY I WAS MIGRATING TO A NEW HOST – so the page was down most of the day … I got like a bajillion hits and I’m sure they were ALL thumbs-down. *tear

    Also, reading this post makes me feel like I could delete my twitter account and move on with my life…

    Now to think of some blog-related resolutions (I hadn’t made any, but I really should have, so I think I will now. Thank you!) MOTIVATION, GO!

    • I’m with you Natalie – twitter, schmitter! Also I hate that I enjoy engaging with my fans on Facebook so much because otherwise I would shut that down too just because FB is a huge turd for not showing our content to people who have already liked us, people who are, in effect, requesting that it be shown to them. But now FB is holding our fans hostage and only agreeing to show them our stuff if we pay. That’s extortion and I won’t stand for it! Except I will, because I don’t have any choice. But I refuse to pay them to show people my posts. Nope. Won’t.Do.It.

      • shannon says:

        you know, it’s maybe interesting note that if no one paid to sponsor posts, that it wouldn’t be a problem for anyone. I get that it’s unrealistic because people/businesses can and will always want to advertise themselves, however: I think it’s poor back-end programming that full-fledged business paid advertising interferes with people who just blog for blogging’s sake and to share things and have conversations about things. There should somehow be a way to separate that. Like something in your settings which indicates that you will NEVER want to advertise and that you’re not a “business” in that way, nor will you ever be. that way there’s zero hope that Facebook’s witholding of your posts to others will amount to you being bullied into paying for people to see them.
        Wait: did i just come up with something?

        • So… much… facebook related… anger. HULK SMASH! Don’t even get me started on the whole not showing stuff to the people who follow you, thing. I’m glad I’m not the only one upset by it. I was a bit of a late bloomer when it came to making a FB page for my blog, and when I did everything was fine and dandy. Then my likes started to grow, and at the same time my reach dwindled because FB was making these changes. It drives me nuts, not because I get less traffic, but because I’m not able to interact with my readers (which, if I’m not mistaken, is the whole point of social media). Argh….

          • shannon says:

            That’s the biggest thing for me, too: the interaction. I don’t need everyone to see my posts each and every time, and i’m not trying to get all the likes ever on the planet, i just want people who are interested to see the things they would be interested in; that’s all. I don’t think people should be punished, in a sense, for NOT paying for people to see it. I just can’t figure out their logic.

    • shannon says:

      That Ding Dong pic reminder made me completely lol coffee all over myself, thank you. :) Now don’t get me started with balancing things on milk…i can’t do it. They *love* that. instant accept notice. Also anything on a marble slab, bonus points for vintage cake stand. Just saying.

      oh no!!!! See that’s the thing which scares me most about tech: hooking everything together. it’s like christmas light strands: one bulb goes wonky and BOOM: lights out all over. I feel the same way, which is why i won’t hook anything up to auto-anything. When it comes to internets and this blog, i basically walk around the house with a tin foil helmet on. PARANOID.

      oh don’t, because we have so much fun on twitter, you and i! Here, do yourself a favor. Do you follow @shitfoodblogger? do it, feel happy, and then don’t quit the Twits. Let’s just not care so much on twitter about the business end of things.

      I know you can think of three. I mean, i think at this point both of us could use “post something, anything” as a resolution. ;)

    • Oh my gosh, I cannot get over how hard I’m laughing at the thought of trying to balance a turd on a glass of milk… now I want to go take pictures of precariously balanced non-food items and submit them to foodgawer/tastespotting, just to see if they get accepted. Also, I’m pretty sure we’ve all experienced the rejection because of a bite taken out of the food. WTF, foodgawker? There’s gooey caramel in the center of that cookie, and you won’t let me show the world? I want to show the world the gooey caramel! *sob*

      • shannon says:

        I know! what seriously is wrong with them…is food not supposed to be bitten out of? I don’t get it. I guess we should just start sending like, immaculately cut cross-sections of things with pretty middles, because everyone seems to love those. :) I think natalie has a point with FG and TS: they do seem sometimes like it’s a game of darts; i suspect it’s whomever is on “photo duty” that day and what sort of mood they’re in. Get the right person, and that little “present” on a glass of milk would slip right on through, i bet.

    • You should totally submit a picture of poop resting on a glass to Foodgawker, Natalie.

  3. on a semi-related facebook rant – how enraging when you post to facebook AND IT DOESN’T EVEN SHOW IN YOUR OWN FEED??? WHO IS IT POSTING TO??? no one. No one!!

  4. This was great Shannon, I love reading what everyone else is doing! I never got a chance to send you my answer but I’ll just say what I do briefly here in the comments. I had stopped submitting to Serious Eats because I got lazy, but all of your comments have motivated me to start up again. I submit to Foodgawker and Tastespotting usually. I also pin to Pinterest (one of my main traffic sources) and share on the Facebook page (which then automatically posts to twitter), and try to remember to share on Google+. Here is the thing that motivates me to use Google+ even though it doesn’t really show a lot of traffic on the page, and since many of you have commented that you get a lot of search engine traffic you may find this interesting. When you post actively on Google+ (not just your own content but share others, plus others, etc.) it increases your personal authority on Google which helps drive search engine traffic your way. I noticed that my posts might show up on page 2 or 3 or even 5 or 6 of the search for low carb recipes before, but now when I put a little time into Google+ they show up on the first page. I know hashtags are controversial, but use them (judiciously) in your Google+ posts and it will help A LOT. For example I would use the hash tag #lowcarbrecipes in my Google+ posts and suddenly I’m showing up on page one rather than on page five under a search for low carb recipes. If you are trying to grow your readership with the intent to monetize, then it’s worth figuring out how to use Google+ – my search engine traffic has grown from around 1100 a day to about 3300 a day on average. That’s a huge jump! There are lots of articles on how to use it effectively if you do a search on it. Anyway, that’s my two cents and hopefully some of you will find it helpful!

    • shannon says:

      Mellissa, thank you for your thoughts! And no biggie about this question: it’s a miracle anyone responded considering everyone was so busy these past few weeks: i almost didn’t answer my own question. :) Good information regarding Google+ (and some people may have follow up questions, so i may direct them to you)…your explanation clarifies for me a little bit the whole point of it. I will say given sort of the nature of it, if that’s the right way to describe it, it may not be for everyone: i can see how it may not even be for me, depending on what i choose to focus on this year, but certainly if you’re looking to become more visible, it seems like a great option to explore. It makes me want to research it a bit to find out if it fits into my master plan to control the universe (muahahahahaha) ;)
      of course i enjoy your two cents, my dear. always.

  5. Brianne says:

    I really love this series, Shannon. I’m learning so much! Twitter is super weird. And I guess I better start pinning my posts! Enjoy your thoughtful January. How can anyone even think about January when November and December are so crazy? This is such a great time to chill out, reflect, and reassess. I hope you find some awesome inspiration!

    • shannon says:

      Yay! So happy to hear that, Brianne. And yes, Twitter is weird: I liked what Dana mentioned about how you really do have to act like a rock star when you use it and just not care in order for it to be effective. 98% of the time, i overthink it and get nervous, but when i DO act like people want to hear my comments, it goes well. I shall enjoy my thoughtful January (although right now i could use your Slanket) – it’s been good for me to give up that self-imposed expectation that things will be magically off on the right foot as of Jan 1; i feel much less like a failure, and oddly, it makes me way more open to change and productive in my tasks. I’m already feeling some crazy inspiration, so i’m making notes and plans and hoping you all like what comes.

  6. Deb says:

    Another great post Shannon! Promoting our blog, personal brand, is as varied as the individual blogs! Great insights, but no exquisite gems of what drives traffic. Although I better make Pinterest a priority this year!

  7. Ashley says:

    First, this is so interesting and helpful to me, the person with no social media going on for my blog. So thank you, everyone (especially Shannon for getting us together to talk about it!)! I’m sorely tempted to learn about Pinterest and use it for my blog….but I’m terrified of losing even more of my time to the internet! (silly, but honest)

    Second, Dana – love your comparison of Twitter and a cocktail party. Such a great image! And pretty much spot on.

    Third, Willow – you’re also spot on. It’s the reading and commenting that have made me friends, made me familiar with other bloggers (and sent me to their blogs, simply because of a comment they left somwhere), and even sent people to my blog (thanks, Shannon!!). And it’s definitely fun/play!

    • Dana Staves says:

      Thanks so much! On the days I manage to keep that in my mind – that it’s all about the mingling – I have a lot more fun with it. I was on there one night and a group of us got into this whole Emma Thompson-related love fest/discussion over ugly crying. And while, yes, I gained new followers through it (score!), I also had fun. It really was like being at a fun party.

    • Thanks, Ashley! Those are the best parts of blogging, for me. The fun parts where I get to make friends and learn new things.

      Also, I totally agree with what Dana said. I’m going to have to start thinking about Twitter that way!

  8. Really informative post! I do social media, but barely. Search is where I get most of my traffic, and then it’s pretty close to a tie between Foodgawker and Pinterest. Both Foodgawker and Tastespotting used to be huge a few years ago, but their traffic has dwindled. Tastespotting in particular – they just don’t update as frequently as they used to. Still, the traffic they deliver is nice, as is the (much less) traffic from Tasteoligie and Photograzing. Pinterest is the one to watch, though, IMO. I used to get a good response to Twitter, but not so much any more (I barely have a presence there, so no surprise). I barely have a presence on Facebook either, but get OK traffic from them – mainly because that’s how so many people prefer to learn about new posts, I think. The rest of social media? I’m not a big time blogger and just not into social media, so I barely bother (I’m on Google+ for example, but have yet to post a recipe there).

  9. Great info! I still don’t get the Facebook thing but none of my friends do Facebook. I’m trying Google Plus, but haven’t seen many results. I like Pinterest and feel I’m starting to get the hang of it. But I like commenting best though it takes a lot of time. Very interesting stuff. It almost becomes a game!

  10. There is so much good stuff in this post, I don’t even know where to begin! First of all, I thought I was the only one who struggled with social media. I seriously believed everyone else just rocked out every outlet of social media, and I was just kind of fumbling around trying to figure out what I was doing. It’s great to know I’m not alone in that, and to hear what people find works for them and what doesn’t.

    I especially love Dana’s interpretation of twitter as a cocktail party. All of a sudden it makes a lot more sense to me. I’m going to have to start thinking of it like that from now on, and just mingle!

    Also, the point about some of the best traffic coming from really random sources is so true. If Huffington Post, Bon Appetit, Buzzfeed, or any of those places happen to pick up something you wrote, you’re in for a huge influx of traffic. Getting noticed like that has a lot to do with having quality content, but it can happen at any time and really take you by surprise. Sometimes I have what I think is going to be an incredibly popular recipe, and no one seems to notice. Other times, I post something not-so-flashy and it really takes off. I think of that as a reminder to just to do what I love, and do it as well as I can… and to not worry so much about what readers might want or not want.

    • shannon says:

      Yay! Happy you liked it, Willow. Why do we all think we’re the only ones who don’t get it? We are all too hard on ourselves, and we’re obviously underestimating our collective talents. NONE of you said you thought you really had a handle on what you were doing social-media-wise, so i guess it’s just a matter of winging it for everyone and hoping we’re getting it right. We should all feel LOADS better knowing we’re not alone after this post: i know I do.

      I thought it was the best way to sum up Twitter i’ve ever heard, and it clarified it for me, too. Or at least made me look at it in a less-critical, less-serious light. I overthink everything i think to say on Twitter, and i need to stop doing that, because it’s not that important. period.

      Isn’t it, though! it’s like winning a blog lottery when someone big picks something up; i love that, and it’s nice to know that things happen like that without you planning for it. I’ve had the same happen: i go into something just knowing in my head that people will go crazy for it, and do they? not really. but others i don’t think are that big of a deal get HUGE. You’re right: quality + doing what you love = everything falling into place. You can only plan and promote so much, but if you’re doing things with purpose and thought, it’s always better.

  11. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who’s been ignoring the internet. I’m so behind on blog stuff I almost want to throw in the towel :( But I suppose that’s not really relevant to this post. i loved reading everyone’s answers, as usual. Obviously if you’re a well-known blog, social media isn’t really so important, but for those of us (*ahem* myself) that not many people know of, these are all pretty good ways to get traffic even if they’re annoying to keep up with. I think doing the minimum seems to be fine though. I’m with you on not understanding StumbleUpon or Tumblr. I’ve gotten views from there and it confuses me so so much…

    • shannon says:

      You’re not: if my stats and the feed are any indication, we’ve all been ignoring the internet to some degree, and we all deserve to! I’ve learned after three holiday seasons of blogging that unless you get those holiday recipes out the first two weeks or so of december, no one’s frankly looking that hard. They have their menus done. January, everyone’s on a diet, so, unless you’re a vegan/paleo/Atkins blog (MELLISSA), you should probably just use the time to think about what you want to do and clean up the backlog. You can’t force yourself back into it, this i know.
      It’s safe to say i don’t know how to Stumble OR Tumbl. Let’s work on that together; it can be a joint goal, not even to use it, but just to understand it. We’re smart girls. We can do it.

  12. Emma says:

    This might be my favorite question of the series so far! Nice work, it was an enjoyable read:)

    I just can’t interest myself in Pinterest, I just cannnnnnn’t. But maybe? Nah I dunno.

    Really looking forward to the next question! I’m not a resolution-setter/goal-maker, so this is going to be all sorts of beneficial for me!

    • shannon says:

      i’m happy you liked it! It was fun reading everyone’s answers to this one, because i honestly had no clue what outlets everyone used for their social media-ness.
      Pinterest: you know, it’s can be great, but it’s a time sucker if you let it be a time sucker. And if you don’t go in and routinely organized your most-used boards (like i *ahem* don’t but need to), it can get cluttery like a spare room you never open the door to, and that renders it useless. I think it’s a great tool for most people, but it certainly isn’t for everyone.
      I am looking forward to the next question also: i feel like people must really be thinking about their answers because i haven’t gotten any emails save for one back yet, and by now, i typically have several responses.

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