How to start a Food Blog on Instagram in 2020
A complete step by step guide to getting thousands of followers
Learn how I grew my instagram food blog to 40K followers and created a multi-million dollar valued foodie start-up business called Cravve - a local food review and food blog app for foodies.
Written by Carol Hoang, Food Blogger @cravveapp and Owner and CEO of Cravve
December 5, 2020
Ever wondered how to start an Instagram food blog, grow it to thousands of followers and make some additional side money?
You can do it. Tons of people already are. I am definitive proof that it can be done and I'll walk you through the steps to get there.
Want definitive proof?
My Instagram food blog @cravveapp has over 40,000 followers, my posts reach over 1.1M people every month and our posts regularly reach over 10K people.
By growing my food blog on Instagram and not being satisfied with the experience of finding the best food and growing my foodie community, I decided to make a food review and food blog app called Cravve.
In just a few months from launch, the app has a 4.9 rating on the app store, has over 10K members, and a recent independent 3rd party valuation estimated Cravve as a multi-million dollar app.
I am so proud to say being an influencer and running this business is now my full-time job. I want to help you do it too.
Now, let's talk about helping you start an Instagram food blog and becoming a Food Influencer. It is essential to have long term and short-term goals. Becoming an overnight influencer and gaining 40,000 followers overnight may not be a realistic goal if you are just starting.
I'll be honest, creating a multi-million dollar valued app and growing a 40K Instagram following is REALLY hard, it takes a lot of time and commitment.
So let's be realistic, you aren't going to generate that much traffic and become an influencer overnight. However, growing your Instagram to thousands of followers and to start generating additional side income is doable in a short amount of time.
For most foodies (like myself), an additional income from a passion or hobby would be a dream come true. I know it was for me!
So, yes, your food obsession with photos and text can help make dreams a reality.
So where to begin?
I began my journey from the same place that you are right now. The only difference is that I've been doing this every day for years.
Was it easy? No, I made a LOT of mistakes. Fell hard, spent hours working on things that didn't work, and have had tons of terrible ideas that have since come and gone.
This guide will help you avoid the common pitfalls and mistakes I made. Your path to success will be a lot easier, quicker, and cheaper than mine.
Let's get started!
Your 3-minute quick start cheat sheet to get started
In this section, we cover the essential steps to get you on the fast track to creating your Instagram food blog or updating an existing account that is underperforming.
To start your Instagram food blog, you'll need to decide on the following:
1. Food blog type
2. Username handle for your Instagram food blog
3. Blog profile photo
4. Blog bio description.
These are important steps to creating an Instagram food blog and these decisions can be the difference between a memorable account that breaks-through and one that gets ignored and disconnected.
To decide on your food blog type, I highly recommend you tap into your food passions, assess your content creation technical skills and choose a blog type you think you can add the most value to what's already out there.
I suggest at a minimum doing some competitive research to see how the most successful food blogs in the category are adding value and then think about how you can build or add something different.
Not sure where to start when it comes to food blog type? To help you along, here are a few food blog types to consider and are commonly created:
Homemade Food Blog - sharing homemade recipes and creations
Travel Food Blog - sharing your food travel adventures
Local Food Guide Blog - sharing the hottest new local food
Food Category Blog - sharing the best coffee or pizza in a location
Healthy/Vegan Food Blog - sharing healthy food or vegan food
Food Diary Blog - sharing your everyday food adventures
Mukbang Style Food Blog - sharing live eating of amazing food creations
To note, some food blog types require more advanced content creation skills to be successful (i.e. Mukbang Style Food Blog) - keep this in mind as you create your food blog.
The next step is to then decide on a name for the food blog. When deciding on an awesome name you'll want to focus on four important factors including:
1. Availability - is the name available for use? Often great names are taken.
2. Discoverability - is the name easily searched by the target audience?
3. Comprehension - is the name easy for other users to understand?
4. Relevance - is the name relevant to the content your sharing?
With these factors considered - you'll be on your way to a great name that will be breaking through, easily understood, and be compelling to your target audience.
To develop your blog profile photo, it's best to connect this to your content strategy. If you're going to be featured in your blog posts, it makes sense to use a photo of yourself. If you're not going to be featured and you're focused on a specific location, category, or lifestyle you'll want a profile photo that easily associates with that type. Using colors that stand out helps.
Lastly, you'll want to create a bio that delivers on a few things:
1. Value Statement: Explains your blog type and how it is adding value to the follower
2. Credibility Statement: Demonstrate your credibility as an expert in the area/topic (i.e. other food blogs, statuses you have, websites, podcast, etc.)
3. CTA to engage: Add a call to action (i.e. create a personalized hashtag to reshare, DM for the collab, etc.)
Now, let's go through the whole process in detail - beyond the cheat sheet.
First Step. Choose an idea for your food topic
If you want to create an Instagram food blog, you don't need a revolutionary idea or think of something groundbreaking or something completely new.
But your food blog should be focused on a specific food topic and it should add value to what's already available.
You just need to remember that no idea, no matter how great, is truly unique.
But, you have different experiences. You have a unique perspective. And you, likely have a vibrant personality that will attract others, as you do with family or friends.
So, when it comes to choosing your blog's niche, there are essential questions you need to ask yourself.
1. Am I passionate about the food topic?
If you don't have a passion for a topic, it'll show in your food blogging. You shouldn't start a food blog if you don't love what you're blogging about.
Whatever the food topic you choose, you should have the natural curiosity to spend hours exploring and getting lost in it. If you don't have this you'll run out of ideas, get bored and the posting likely won't be very good.
With Cravve, I knew very early on that my passion was finding the best, must try food in large cities across the US. I loved traveling and planning to try all the best food on my visits.
I also knew I had a passion to be a food critic. I loved rating food, comparing food against each other, and ranking similar dishes against one another.
If you don't know what food topic you're passionate about, spend the extra time reflecting on what you enjoy most about your food experiences and explore other food blog topics to see how others are connecting with their passions.
2. How am I going to add value to the food topic?
You might feel like the topics you're most interested in are already covered so well by others and that there are no opportunities for you to be different or add value to the topics that you're most passionate about.
Let's be clear - there are opportunities everywhere - even the most covered and exhausted food topics. That's the beauty of food culture - it's always changing and evolving there is always a different trend emerging or an existing trend that's evolving.
For example, with Cravve - I knew that finding the best, must try and hottest new foods in large US cities is covered by so many food blogs and media companies - from Infatuation to Yelp to Eater to Timeout to BestFoodFeed Blogs.
But I also knew that no one blog or business could comprehensively keep up with the latest trends. I knew that I could do a better job curating the must-try foods in cities across the US - so I did it.
I just took a different point of view - I curated my top 5 favorites and ranked them. I also moved from city to city and delivered it all in a single account.
It became clear through my experience, that you just need to find a different point of view or take the same point of view but tell it from your unique perspective. I did it and so can you!
Second Step. Creating a username handle for your Instagram food blog
Now it's time for the fun part: giving your Instagram food blog a name.
This is your brand. It's what people will associate in their minds when they hear the name.
No need to overthink it. Your brand will build over time.
The best way to create a name is to start with brainstorming. In the previous step, you let the ideas overflow to nail down a niche topic to focus on. This is the perfect place to start.
Take those ideas and brainstorm names in three naming categories, including descriptive names, symbolic names, and abstract names. Spend about 5 minutes in each category. Aim for 5-10 possible names and write them down.
It's time to see if the names you've come up with are available. Start typing the names into the username of your page to see if those names are available.
As an example, food bloggers that are aiming to stand out for their own unique personal content will use descriptive names that build in an association with their name.
For example, @allyeats or @stuffmatteats or @eatwithlinda. This works particularly well if your name and content is the idea you intend to stand out with.
As someone starting, who doesn't yet have the authority or content creation abilities, you may want to consider something that helps elevate your credibility or creatively connects your blog that peaks a broader interest to explore more.
For example, leaning into your local area like @bayareafoodie @the6foodie or leaning into your food habits @putaforkinit or @bobaaddict or @brunchbelly.
When you land on an available name, be sure to save it by adding it to your account, so make sure to avoid losing it.
Important Tip: When creating your profile be sure to set up your account as a content creator or business. You'll get access to some awesome tools to build your foodie community and get valuable insights.
Third Step. Choose a profile photo that connects to your idea, is memorable and breaks-through
The profile photo you choose is an important way to shape perceptions of your food blog idea, build credibility, and also that can help you stand out of the crowd.
You'll want to choose a photo that reinforces the idea you plan to stand out for. If it's your own experience and content creation, you'll want to focus on yourself and what makes you unique.
If you're focused on food blogging for a specific food type or location - you'll want that to be reflected in the profile photo.
With Cravve - I've focused on the app logo as my profile photo rather than a personal photo of myself. My logo reflects what the app stands for in connecting foodies with the hottest new food and places near them.
Fourth Step. Create a bio that ties it all together and drives action
Now that you've caught a member's attention with your awesome profile name and photo. Your bio should do the job of bringing your food blog idea to life and driving action.
You'll first want to start with developing your value statement. This is a statement that describes how you're going to add value and why people should follow you. Your caption should be clear and concise.
Next, you'll want to make sure you highlight the things that give you authority or make you a credible source for this content. This is particularly important if you're food blogging on a topic where there are many credible competitors. For home cooks, this is particularly important.
Lastly, you'll want to create a call to action that drives the outcomes you're looking for. Whether it's collaborations (to mutually grow), a hashtag you're looking to build and to promote others, or a website that helps to reinforces your credibility or that you want to drive traffic to.
With Cravve, for example, our value statement is:
"Discover the hottest new food and places near you."
We leverage our positioning as a women-led startup for credibility and to demonstrate the level of commitment and investment in this space but also to connect with our audience.
"Proudly Women-Led | COVID Startup"
We then use a multi-pronged call to action, including introducing the Cravve app, utilizing our website to encourage users to download the Crave app and prompt users to tag us at #cravveapp for resharing our stories
A reshare strategy is particularly important for a food blog that curates content from others and is useful to keep your brand top of mind for other foodies.
We've now completed the account creation process and now we're reading to drive traffic and build your foodie community.
How to become a Food Blog Influencer?
Fifth Step. Your Food Blog Playbook: Start with your audience
If you want to drive a lot of traffic to your food blog, your Instagram needs to be set up that way.
Well, what does that mean? It first means you need to know your audience and where on Instagram you can find them and reach them. Then you want to understand what content they respond too and then having a lot of it.
So how do you go about identifying your audience and where you can find them?
A great place to start is to look at your competitor's Instagram pages. Pay particular attention to the audience that is liking and commenting on their posts as well as the common characteristics of those engaging with their content. I recommend reviewing the pages of at least 2-3 competitors.
Next, place close attention to the hashtags being used by the top competitor pages. Then have a review of those hashtag pages and note the hashtags down. These will be important channels of traffic for you to consider for your posts in the future.
Lastly, you'll want to review the content of those hashtag pages and those that have tagged content to those pages. Pay particularly close attention to the types of content being tagged. You'll want to go back to these as you look for inspiration for your portfolio.
1. Creating a content signature and system
A. Add Structured Post Description
A content posting structure is simple. It's the structure you use for the description you add to your Instagram posts.
This is an important step to shaping the perceptions of quality, reinforcing the unique value your content adds as well as driving the call to action you have (whether it's to follow you or tag your hashtag in posts).
You'll want to create a content signature that makes sense for your food blog, whether it's recipe details for your homemade food you create or in the case of Cravve, it's the city of focus, dish ranking, dish details, and restaurant.
This is the consistent info that your followers will come to expect your content and will help deliver the value you intend to create.
See an example here:
B. Add Post Hashtags
In addition to having structured content for your posts, you'll also want to have a system for your hashtags. This is critical to reaching your audience with your content.
Instagram algorithms increasingly make it difficult for new accounts to breakthrough with high traffic hashtags but they're so important.
When starting you'll also want to tag more niche hashtags that have less traffic as a means to establish your account and the content.
A few quick tips - you don't want to add too many hashtags - this will get your post flagged as spam. Also, you want to have enough hashtags where you get enough traffic.
I suggest using anywhere from 8 to 12 hashtags on your post and make sure they're relevant to your post or audience. Also, you'll want to rotate hashtags regularly where a majority of your hashtags change every 3 to 6 posts.
Note, your hashtags should be posted as separate content from your post description and be added to the comments of your post.
Now that you've got your content structure figured out and have a system for your hashtags - you're ready to build your content portfolio.
2. Build your content portfolio
Building a content portfolio is one of my favorite parts of food blogging. This is where you let your food artistry run free with your idea.
A. Choose a type of content creation
Now, there are three types of food bloggers. There are:
1. Content creators
2. Content curators
3. Mixed or Hybrid content creators
Content creators are food bloggers that create 100% of their original content, they are the skilled photographers and producers that create their photos or videos. Content curators are bloggers that love to explore content and curate 100% of their content from other food bloggers. Finally, hybrid creators share a mix of original content and content from other bloggers.
You may have already decided what type of food blog you're going to create, but if not, you're going to need to choose based on your skills and passions.
B. Great Photos or Videos of food (this is critical to bringing followers)
No matter the type of content creator you are - great photos or videos of food are critical to bringing in followers. This is a must-have
Top shots and far away shots work okay, BUT close-ups work better. Not too close - of course - your audience still needs to see what food it is.
The posts need to be clear and the food needs to be visible. Especially cheese shots; dripping syrup or oozing chocolate. Make it about the food, not the photograph.
A good test to consider is your self-test: does it look ‘yummy’ to you? does it make your mouth water? If yes, then it will work.
If it’s only a ‘good photo’ in general, it won’t draw as much attention. You have to think like your followers. Would you like to see that image/food on your feed/home page? Would that photo make you want to click on a link for the recipe?
Some personal shots, selfies, or ‘behind the scenes’ shots work okay if you have a lot of your friends following, but if your followers are there for your food, they may not care about your photos. Instagram food followers are different from personal followers. They want food!
C. Content Portfolio Development: Have a Game Plan
When developing your content portfolio you'll want it to deliver on the promise of your food blog. You'll also want to develop a game plan that allows you to test and learn from your content.
How do you come up with tests to develop your content strategy? I highly recommend you leverage the learnings from your competitive scans.
These scans would have helped to shape a perspective or point of view of what your audience wants to see and what's successful today.
You'll then want to create some hypotheses for your content and experiments to see which content draws the most demand and engagement. For example, you may hypothesize that you can get a strong engagement with your target audience in your area if you blog about the best desserts in your area.
You also want to be working with an inventory that gives you about a week of content. There are some awesome Instagram scheduling tools you can use to help with setting up your game plan weeks in advance.
With that being said you'll want to experiment with your content for the first few weeks to see which draws the most engagement. Once you have those learnings you can lean into the successes you have and build on them.
Some food bloggers can do creation and post on the same day but that's usually once you've well established your content portfolio strategy.
C. Carefully manage the frequency and time of your posting
While Instagram loves amazing food content, it doesn't want you to overwhelm the experience of others or hashtags. You can get blocked if you overshare.
This is what makes getting started and growing your food following fast very difficult. A lot of great content is critical to becoming a food influencer and growing your following and credibility.
Well, how much content can you share when you're just getting started without getting blocked?
I'd recommend a maximum of 3 posts per day and have these posts scheduled at different times throughout the day including morning, afternoon, and evening so you can test peak hours. You'll want to keep track of the performance of posts through Instagram insights.
These tests will help you understand when your audience is most engaged. You may learn that many of your followers are in different time zones than your own.
Generally speaking, the first two hours of an Instagram post are the busiest. You'll notice a decline in interaction as the day goes on.
With Cravve, we found our posts in the late afternoon PST performed best. We would get a surge of activity right when posted and then another surge of activity in the morning EST.
Each food blog is different and it depends on where your audience is located and when they engage with content.
Sixth Step. Find and build your foodie community: a multi-channel strategy
Getting people to follow you when you have no or few followers is among the most difficult tasks for any new food blogger. It can also be the greatest source of anxiety.
To add to the anxiety, similar to posting content, Instagram will limit you on the numbers of people you can engage with including following, liking, commenting, and direct messaging - which are important tools to growing your food blogging.
While a lot of great content is a terrific way to jump-start a strong following. You're going to need to employ a multi-pronged approach to grow.
So how do you overcome these hurdles and become a food influencer fast?
There are three strategies:
1. Building your foodie community on the Instagram platform
2. Building your foodie community from other social or online platforms
3. Paid advertising to build your foodie community
Note: For those that are looking for free followers or to buy followers from third-party apps. We highly recommend staying away from these options. This can be a quick way to get your account blocked or deactivated. Also, these accounts don't engage with your content and people will know right away when you're only getting a few likes on your post.
Here is a recipe that worked for us:
1. Building your foodie community on Instagram
Finding your foodie community on Instagram is the easiest and lowest-cost way to grow your food following. Here is a recipe that we used and we hope will work for you.
A. Reach out to your family and friends that are foodies
An awesome way to get started with at least a few followers is to reach out to your friends and family that are foodies and that you're already connected with on social media including Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, or Twitter, and have them follow you.
You can do this by sharing your Instagram food blog or if you already have a great following on your other social media account - you can add it to your bio with your IG handle.
This initial jump start can be so valuable to improving the conversion of the next audience you reach out to, which you don't know and you have yet to build credibility with.
B. Follow and like your active target audience
This can be a bit of art vs. science and you'll want to monitor where you're getting the best conversion. However, from our experience, this approach can be one of the best ways to accelerate your food page growth.
Before you get started. You'll need to proceed with caution. Instagram monitors this activity and if you exceed the limits they set - they will temporarily block you - sometimes for an hour or 24 hours and in some extreme cases for a week.
Given the limitations, you'll want to use your reach out strategically and focus on the high potential follower. So how do you find them?
Here are 4 tips to sourcing your target audience:
i. Explore Your Competitors Followers
Start by going to competitor instagram pages and view who's following them. Given your focused on food bloggers you're going to want to filter the followers by keywords including food, eat or blog.
ii. Explore relevant hashtag posts
As an alternative to looking at your competitors traffic, you can look at relevant hashtag pages for users posting content tagged to those pages. You'll also want to look out for the users that are specifically food bloggers and not just personal pages.
iii. Suggested follower section of your favorite followers
Lastly, have a look at your most engaged followers profile and use the suggested account drop down. This will suggest other similar followers like the person. Again, you'll want to make sure that this audience fits your target.
IMPORTANT: Before you begin following others
Follow for Follow
You'll want to follow active food bloggers with similar amount of followers as you or less. Also, look to see if they recently posted content to make sure the accounts are active.
If they pass those tests, then you'll want to give them a follow and be sure to like at least 5-7 of their posts. This is a way to signal to the user that you're going to be a great connection and help grow their post likes. It usually leads to a nice follow back.
Be sure to keep track of your follows. You'll want to monitor who's followed you back and who hasn't. This can be done through a spreadsheet. There are also apps out there that can help to identify users that have not followed but I don't recommend them.
They can often lead to issues with blocking or be flagged by instagram incorrectly as tools used to buy a following. You'll want to avoid those types of flags.
C. Other Tactics beyond follow for follow
i. DM to collaborate
If you see a foodie promoting the option to collab on their profile or a foodie that is cross promoting another foodies content they could be a great user to reach out to about cross sharing each other's content and to support each others follower growth.
When seeking out these collaborations - best to look for foodies with similar followers - it's unlike you'll get another foodie with a lot more followers interested in cross promoting.
ii. Tag other content curators with your content
Another great way to gain followers is to have content curators share your content. For example, with Cravve, we are a content curator and we share our communities food content when they tag us at #cravveapp. There are other curators like us who do similar cross sharing.
2. Building your foodie community from other social or online platforms
While using instagram is likely the best source of traffic and growing your instagram following for most people. Other social media pages can be really valuable as well. Here are a few ways you can leverage other social media to grow your food blog.
A. Promote your food blog on your personal social media bio's
Do you already have an awesome following on facebook, instagram or tiktok?
Why not promote your food blog there? It's free and if you're proud of your food blog - let it shine bright. Whether it's simply featuring the page on your bio or cross sharing content. This can be a great way to raise awareness with people that are likely to engage and also it's easy.
B. Join or create a foodie group on Facebook
Another great way to grow your foodie blog outside of Instagram are Facebook Groups. There are a lot of different foodie groups to join.
For example, with Cravve app we have a facebook group that helps us with feedback on our app but also is a great place to connect with other foodies.
Also, if you have the time, creating your own Facebook foodie group can be a great way to create more collaborations with other food bloggers. You can even DM other instagram food bloggers and have them join the group and invite other foodies.
C. Create other food blog accounts and cross promote content
If you have the time, another great option to grow your foodie following is to create a second food blog account. This is another place where you can test and learn but also reinforce your main food blog page.
This multiple instagram page strategy is particularly useful if you have different types of content or locations you may want to focus on.
You'll want to be careful with how much you use and engage with this account as Instagram will monitor both and can block your activity on main account for misusing the second account.
D. Join the Cravve App foodie community
We created Cravve to help foodies build a local foodie community and to support their food blogs.
We've got a particular passion for Instagram food bloggers and have special collaboration with Instagram where you can transfer individual posts or your entire food blog to Cravve.
Also, with Cravve you can feature your Instagram page right on your profile. So other foodies can easily find and explore your content.
With over 10K members, we're already helping a lot of foodies build their community give it a try and see how it can help you grow your influence fast.
3. Paid advertising to build your foodie community
Last but not least, paid advertising on Instagram or Facebook. Many new food bloggers have limited budgets and avoid this option in favor of free community building options, which makes sense.
For those that have a budget - it can be an awesome way to grow an engaged following and have your content reach a lot of foodies in a short amount of time. I
For our foodie app business, it's been an amazing way to reach our target audience for the app efficiently while also steadily growing our following.
Once your account is set up, here are the steps to creating an ad. What's great is that a campaign can be set up in a few minutes and you can use the content you've already created for your post.
Step 1: Select the type of campaign
For Cravve, we set up app install campaigns but you can set up traffic campaigns, if you're looking to send traffic to your instagram profile page to grow your following. You'll also want to turn the campaign budget optimization on and start with a daily budget of $20-$40.
Step 2: Create an Ad Set
We set up a campaign name, selected a manual campaign for details and then turned the campaign budget optimization on using the lowest cost bid strategy with a daily buget of $40.
Step 3: Create an Instagram Look a Like Audience
To do this, you'll need to select the option to create a new custom audience, then select the option to use your instagram account, then select an audience that looks like those that have engaged with your Instagram page in the last 120 days and then create audience. You'll also want to select the option to reach your audience beyond your look a like. See screenshots.
Step 4: Create your food blog ad
When creating your ad, you'll want it to be linked to your instagram account and add the media or select a post from your instagram page to promote.
In this example, we created a custom image to demonstrate the features of the Cravve app. We also added the primary text "What do you Cravve?" to elevate the focus on the amazing food content and then added the headline "NEW foodie app. FREE to download and use." to drive action.
Once you're happy with it, you can then publish your ad. It will then go for review and once approved watch the ads reach members.
Step 5: Track the ads performance and impact on your following
We spent thousands of dollar testing ads and hours optimizing the creatives to get to this point. Below are some of the ads we tested and the ones that performed best. We hope the example helps you leap frog the mistakes and deliver ads that help you grow your following!
We hope that our advice will help you create the ultimate foodie blog. Please let us know if you have any questions or suggestions of tips to add to this blog post!