You can't go anywhere today without seeing someone taking a picture of their plate, leaning into different positions to get the perfect angle of their shrimp scampi or colorful sushi roll before digging in.
Maybe you're guilty of it--I know I am. It seems like everyone has this secret desire to become an Instagram food influencer. But the truth is, simply taking pictures of your food whenever you feel like it isn't what builds a big audience. And as much as everyone would love to believe that "going viral" is a viable strategy, it's really not--unless you're Salt Bae.
Building a following takes hard work, and persistence.
What's interesting about the influencer space today, specifically with the interest of food, is that it has become a viable way for even parents of busy households to not only have a creative outlet, but also build a side hustle around their passion. And for some, this side hustle actually becomes their full-time gig, and their personal brand becomes an industry voice worth listening to.
Especially if you play in the foodie space, then chances are you've heard of Mariam Ezzeddine, otherwise known on Instagram as @cookinwithmima. She has amassed over 2.6 million followers by sharing delectable food photos of her own dishes, as well as the dishes of fellow foodies--and has done so while raising her kids.
When I asked Ezzeddine what it takes to become a massively influential Instagram influencer in the midst of parental chaos, here's the advice she shared for others (moms especially) looking to turn their passion into a powerful brand:
1. Be a knowledge resource
You can learn just about anything you want on the Internet. So, if you want to be an influencer, you need to become one of the single most knowledgeable people in your space.
"Spend lots of time learning everything you can about the niche you want to operate in, before you get started creating content," said Ezzeddine. "Not only will this save you time down the road, but you'll come out of the gate with better content. Research social accounts that already have hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers, and figure out what they're doing that's working--or not working. The better you can understand the landscape, the easier (and less time-consuming) content creation will be once you get started. Besides, this also means you can spend more time with your family."
She went on to explain that once you begin publishing content, you need to pay close attention to what is performing the best and ask yourself why. Let that information guide you, and don't be afraid to try new things and see how they resonate with your audience. If you're seeing similar engagement on all your posts, try something new and see if it performs better or worse.
Again, the point here is to understand exactly what works so you don't waste time on what doesn't.
2. Automate to save time
Content creation demands a lot of time and attention. So does raising children.
To Ezzeddine, her kids come first. And a lot of times that means having to wait until her kids have been fed and put down for naps before working on her Instagram account. But along the way, she has not only learned how to achieve professional-grade lighting, or how to edit her photos like a boss, but she's also uncovered the secret weapon for full-time-mom-content-creators: automation.
"I stack my content as much as possible," she said. "I create my own content, but I also look for the best content out there to share. When my kids are asleep, I schedule my posts out so that my followers are never left hanging. I like to keep a library of content on hand so that if anything comes up, I'm never behind the curve. That's really the key to building and keeping a big audience, is consistency."
So, the next time you have an extra twenty or thirty minutes, don't waste it scrolling through your Instagram feed mindlessly. Work on building your own page instead.
3. Monetize organically
It's a whole lot easier to justify the time investment required to become an Instagram influencer when you are making money off it. But what you need to understand is that it takes to get to that level. However, once you're there and you've become a true influencer, the rewards can be fruitful.
"The key to monetizing your personal brand is building a loyal audience in a targeted niche," she said. "And, this may seem obvious but plenty of accounts miss the mark here: you can't become an influencer unless your content looks amazing. When I started Instagram, I posted very normal looking photos. It was nothing professional. But then I realized the prettier they looked, the more people paid attention. The more effort I put into creating the content or finding really great content, the more followers and engagement I would get. So, foodies especially, need to keep in mind that it's not just about being a great cook or a great food taster. It's about being a great content creator and content curator. There's a difference."
Once you have a large, targeted audience, she said, you can start making content for brands to monetize your account.
Becoming an Instagram influencer is no easy feat though. There are sacrifices you have to make in order to stay that consistent over a long period of time, and it takes a lot of discipline and persistence to grow an account. But it is possible.
If Ezzeddine can do it while raising a family, so can you.