Monday, March 5, 2012

Food Bloggers Network

This morning I received an email from LinkedIn listing groups I might want to join. I don't use LinkedIn much but one group jumped right out at me: Food Bloggers. I clicked through, thinking, "yes! Finally! This is what I need!"

Have you tried networking with other food bloggers? I've been baffled over the last few months to discover that by and large the "networking" sites I've found are a bunch of links to people's blogs. How do you form relationships with a link? Where are you supposed to go to ask questions and get real answers without getting bombarded with "vote for my blog!" or "check out this awesomerecipeyoucan'tlivewithout!!!" or "we'd love to tell you... pay for this conference and you too can be one of 500 people to listen to someone we decided was an expert tell you how THEY did it... but not really give you any clue as to how to do it yourself."

The problem, in my opinion, is two-fold. Part 1) we aren't a formalized industry like lawyers, accountants, journalists, etc. so a lot of us are doing the best we can with what we've gleaned from other careers and industries. Part 2 (and most important) many people don't understand what networking really means.

Networking can best be described as "a process where you develop long term relationships with others for mutual benefit." And to delve even deeper into that definition the secret behind truly successful networking is not about what others can do for you but what you can do for others.

Here's an example: a few months ago I was at an alumni association event. I met a young couple who are looking for a home in a particular Boston neighborhood. I happen to know a real estate agent who specializes in that neighborhood. So I connected them. I haven't bought a house from this agent but I trust him. I found out later he was able to help this couple close on a condo. I got zero out of this endeavor and yet it was completely successful networking because a person in need (the couple) was able to connect to a specialist (the agent) through a networking source (me).

As bloggers we are often so consumed with raising our readership that we throw links to our site out there willy-nilly without taking the time to build relationships - the foundation for successful networking. We think there is some big secret we need to hold close to our hearts lest someone steal it from us. I'm certainly not the most popular or successful food blogger out there but I don't think I'm taking anything away from anyone else. Thus far I haven't felt like anyone has taken anything from me, either. So why all the secrecy?

I repeat: networking is about what you can do for others. 

So where do food bloggers go to network? I haven't found the place yet. There is Foodbuzz, but really, I haven't found a way to successfully network on that site (if someone knows how, by all means, kindly clue me in!). There is the Food Bloggers Association but I can't figure out what you get for your membership and it doesn't appear to be terribly active (most recent post I could find was from December 23, 2011). There is the International Food, Wine, and Travel Writers Association but most of us bloggers aren't journalists by training or trade. There is the Association of Food Journalists, but again, most of us aren't journalists. There are professional organizations for the culinary industry (I am a member of the American Culinary Federation and Women Chefs and Restaurateurs) but unless you have the credentials to join those professional organizations you're out of luck there, too, and anyway, they aren't blogger specific. 

So I decided to create a place. Ideally I hope that within time this can grow into an official sort of professional organization but that will require time & money that I don't currently have and in time, would have to charge a fee for membership which I am unwilling to do until I can be explicit about what one gets for their membership. In the meantime, I decided to create a closed Facebook group since it's easy to post messages and connect with others through a group page.

What is this group for?
1. Connecting with other food bloggers. Hopefully we will be able to form professional relationships with each other that do not revolve around promoting each others' content. Form relationships based on mutual interests and genuine camaraderie. The rest will follow.
2. Asking questions. Any question. I can't guarantee anyone will be qualified to answer. But you should be able to ask the question. What kind of questions? How about... what is SEO? What makes good content? What's the best book for learning how to take good photos? Where do I find information on the going rate for advertising? Is anyone going to the Foodbuzz conference? Etc.
3. Professional development. While some of us may have degrees in journalism, culinary arts, or photography I doubt anyone has a Masters of Blogging degree (that would be interesting!) but that doesn't mean we can't develop ourselves professionally through respectful discussion of best practices.

What is this group not for?
1. Posting content or links to content. You post a link to your blog/page/etc and you will be removed from the group. No warning. No second chances. It's really simple. No posting links to your blog (or anything that resembles your blog such as your Facebook page, Pinterest boards, twitter account, etc).
2. No posting links to giveaways, products, promotions, requests for votes, etc. It's not rocket science - no spam. Again, no warning - you'll just be removed. As in, "you are the weakest link. Goodbye."

How to join? 
1. Request to join and the admin (currently me) will approve you. Once approved, read the FAQ. I highly recommend reading this document closely. It's not meant to "test" you but simply to ensure that we're all serious and on the same page. Join here.
2. Introduce yourself (more on this in the FAQ) and update the member directory document with your info.
3. Read through the current posts & the docs before posting - you may find what you're looking for!
4. Post, ask questions, answer questions. Be active, respectful, and sincere.

I'm sure there will be a huge learning curve for many of us as this progresses - especially for me. For now, I'm excited and look forward to meeting you on the Food Bloggers Network.

51 comments:

  1. Some good thoughts there! I've had that same issue w/ FoodBuzz - I'm being overwhelmed w/ "look at my post" type messages, and I'm sure everybody else is as well, but I'm also sure nobody really reads any of them. That said, anything I post I reserve the right to add a "sig file" w/ a link to my blog, so what you're proposing may not be for me, even tho I'm on LinkedIn.

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    1. Hi Sofie, the LinkedIn group might be perfect for you. It's good to have options since not every site will work for all people. Best, Jessica

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  2. I must admit that I've only recently started to blog about food. But what you say here is exactly what I feel too! I get slammed in the face with a lot of links and while of course promoting your blog is nice, I would also like to meet and chat with people with the same intrest as me. Food.

    So I think this facebook page is a great idea and I'll be joining you there to connect with others.

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    1. I'm so glad you'll be joining us. We're a small group (hey, we're not even 24 hours old :) but I hope we'll become productive and useful for others. There are so many places to promote ourselves I think it will be refreshing to have a place where we can just be people, and not a product.

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  3. I just found your blog and I love this post and it is exactly what I'm looking for. I would love more blogger friends I can turn to for questions and answers. Sending you my request..
    Jackie Hale

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    1. Hi Jackie, I'd love to have you! The URL is https://www.facebook.com/groups/foodbloggersnetwork/

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  4. Hi Jessica,

    I like a lot of what you're saying. In the end I'm not sure if what you have in mind is what will be right for me but it's certainly worth trying. I just sent you a request to join the group from my personal Facebook (not fan page) account. Looking forward to getting to know you better as well as the other members.

    Anita

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    1. Hi Anita,

      It is definitely going to be a learning experience for me! I've had wonderful interactions through professional organizations in the past but the beginning of anything is always the hardest.

      Talk to you soon! ~ Jessica

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  5. This is a great idea.... I find I don't get through enough foodbuzz entries that people post because I do try and read them all and then I get inundated with repost if I walk away and can never seem to get through anything. What I love about reading others blogs is all the tips, ideas and just reading the process in which others do things which leads to me figuring stuff out. I hope this goes well for you and that it becomes what you want it to be. I don't Facebook.... because I am lame like that lol!

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    1. Haha - nothing lame about that! I completely agree about Foodbuzz - I try to read many (er... not all) posts but even then feel completely inundated and feel like I'm not really "following" anyone closely enough! Hopefully this group will be able to gather some best practices to share and grow into a professional group... off of Facebook. :)

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  6. I love this idea. Something I've been looking for. I'm in! Thanks for starting the group.

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    1. So glad to hear it, Trish! I look forward to getting to know you.

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  7. I am so naive about groups and networking. I just don't do it as I don't know where to go. This was so enlightening. I had no idea there was an association for us. Thanks for letting me know, I really had no clue. I would love to join so will be sending you an email. This is a lovely idea. Kudos to you for doing this.

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    1. Thank you! I'd be thrilled to have you join us.

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  8. I agree to what you are saying and appreciate your idea of Networking. I have to make a Facebook Account.

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    1. Hopefully someday it'll be a stand-alone website but for now Facebook is a convenient (and free!) way to converse. :)

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  9. This is a really good (and much needed) post. Thanks Jessica. I'd love to join your network. So far, I think the sites with forums (e.g. UKFBA, Great British Bake Club) have been good, when there's active discussion going on. Looking forward to connecting with more bloggers and really getting a chance to get to know them better.

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    1. Thanks Jaime! I hope you do join. :)

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    2. Definitely on, have sent my email so just let me know what I need to do. Thank you! x

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  10. I love the idea! Foodbuzz is great, but not exactly what I was looking for.

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  11. Thank you so much for writing this post. It hits home with me too. Great idea for the Food Blog community! You are definitely on to something here.

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  12. Great idea! I'm lucky to live in an area with a lot of bloggers, but it can be hard to meet those outsdie your home. There is a retreat called Blend (Blogger + Friend = Blend) happening in May where a bunch of us are going to meet in Denver. There are still spots available!

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    1. Thanks Laura! I am putting together a list of blogger conferences/events so I will add that to the list! I know there are a ton of bloggers in Boston but I haven't met anyone in real life yet! It's crazy!

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  13. I love the idea of this - it sounds fantastic/ My only issue is time - I already put in a lot of time for a hobby blog and might not be a responsible member. :(

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    1. My personal feeling for the moment is that as long as folks post an intro and don't hold back if they have advice - great. I hope you'll keep it mind for the future! :)

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  14. I LOVE this idea! I've been wanting to find a way to forge real relationships with other bloggers and I think this is genius. I sent you a request on FB to be a part of the group-I hope that was OK? Thanks :)

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  15. what a great idea! just sent in a request on FB as well. thanks!

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  16. I love this idea!!! I come from a business background and I am constantly telling people from all industries network, NETWORK, network! There is sooo much to be gained from networking. Thanks! I requested to join the site using my regular facebook: Carol Lovett

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    1. I had such an incredibly positive experience in the first professional organization of which I was a member that I am very excited about this group. Looking forward to getting to know you better!

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  17. This is great. I soooo want to just meet people who do what I do - cook, blog and love photography. I haven't been (formally) blogging a year yet, and I still have so many questions. I'm hoping that through this group, I'll get to meet more people on a personal level. Thank you for doing this! I've sent my request on FB and look forward to joining the group.

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    1. Welcome Lyn! We'd love to have you. So far it's a very friendly and active group. Of course, we're only a week old... ;) but it's a great start. I look forward to "meeting" you!

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  18. That's a really good idea! I may have to look into it. i have a lot on my plate right now, but I am bookmarking this post!

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  19. Huh, okay. It's a facebook group? I clicked on the request to join, is that the right way?
    Anyhoo, I have a fair bit to offer. I have been doing some marketing work for a seriously well-renowned SEO expert, and in the process I am learning a LOT! I can't give away all of his secrets but I can certainly share some tidbits that would help bloggers.

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    1. Hi Carolyn, yes - that's the way! It would be completely fantastic if you can share your SEO experience. You can even put together a document and post it to the docs page. We have one up on branding yourself, blogger conventions, and of course the intro/FAQ.

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  20. This sounds like a great idea and I want in. Sometimes my inbox on Foodbuzz is so full it's overwhelming. It's impossible for me to go through each post and comment, work, and take care of my blog. I feel bad about reading posts late or not getting to them at all. I also know I'm not the only one that feels this way. However, we do what we can. Great post!

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    1. Definitely! I try so hard to read as many other blogs and comment but it's very challenging to find the time. But I still want to get to know other bloggers and be able to discuss, etc. Hopefully this group will help with that.

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  21. This is a wonderful idea. I would love to join this group. It would be nice to talk to people with the same interest as me, food!! I just starting blogging about 6 months ago and it's hard making new friends. I would love to join!

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    1. We'd love to have you! Just click on "request to join" on the facebook page and I'll approve you. Talk to you soon!

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  22. I think there are ample sites for linking, a site for information on a topic we are all interested in without all the hubabaloo of collecting readers sounds great. I would like a general area to ask my sometimes stupid questions at because I can't find or figure out how to do something. I strugle with the meaning of foodbuzz and I am an IT, some of it just doesn't make much scence.
    Hats off to cake, great idea.

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    1. Thank you! You can find us on Facebook under Food Bloggers Network.

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  23. Hi Jessica. Count me in too if you'll have me :-) Sending a request now.
    Janet

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  24. Hey girl, there's a food blog I love about foraging and cooking delicious recipes with wild food. http://hungerandthirstforlife.blogspot.com/ Maybe you'd like to see if that blog owner would want to join up?

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  25. OK, ready through your posts, I've forgotten how I found you. This is a great idea, just sent my request. When I started blogging I signed up for Foodbuzz and several other "food networking" sites. Never saw any information, just posts about recipes. Looking forward to making some new friends and learning from others that are willing to share.

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  26. Hallelujah! I love being on facebook and twitter. Sincerely I do. And I always try to approach my interactions with a "what can I give" rather than a "what can I get" attitude. Which works well for me, but I sometimes feel that I'm in the minority. I'd love to be part of a group like this. I will go check it out now!

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  27. Hi, I found out about the Food Blogger Network through "The Girl In The Little Red Kitchen" blog and sent a request to join the group. My first name is Coleen, last initial H.

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  28. I found out about the Food Blogger Network through "The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen" blog and sent a request to join. First name is Coleen, last initial H.

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  29. Hi Jessica ... I would like to join the group but I don't see any way to send you a message on the Facebook page. I obviously need to network with some smart people :-)

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  30. Hello Jessica! That sounds very good. I have thought about something like this in the past, but I'm not that focused or have such good ideas. I already sent a request to join.

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