Play To Your Strengths for a Natural Advantage

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Playing to your strengths gives you a natural advantage for establishing your credibility with readers and is key to growth. It’s a growth strategy that anyone can apply easily. So whether it be your ethnic background, professional training, experience, where you live, where you have travelled – make sure you take advantage of it. I do! 😉

How To Grow Your Food Blog - Play to Your Strengths | www.foodbloggerscentral.com

This is a unique but very effective blogging tip that is so easy to start incorporating into your blog and start reaping the benefits immediately:

PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS

What do I mean by that?

Let me break it down because it’s not a one sentence answer – believe me, I have redrafted this post so many times!

“Playing to your strengths” means sharing posts and recipes that leverage off your background and experience so there is a greater and faster element of trust from readers which then converts into blog growth. There are two prongs to this strategy:

1. Focus on sharing recipes that have strong links to your background/experience; and

2. Repeatedly writing about your background/experience in an organic (natural) way in posts to establish credibility with readers. Consistency is key.

In this post, I’m going to show you how easy it is for you to start playing to your strengths to grow your blog.

If you are an authentic food blogger who shares recipes you really truly love and take pride in your work, then this is going to be super duper easy for you. :-)

Back Up A Sec – How Does “Playing to My Strengths” Grow My Blog?

RecipeTin Eats New vs Existing Visitors Oct 2015

Most of RecipeTin Eats blog visitors are new visitors. So it’s important to establish my credibility and gain their trust quickly. The main way I do this is by “playing to my strengths”.

This “playing to your strengths” strategy is something I’ve been doing quite consciously from the very beginning with my blog RecipeTin Eats. The reason it helped me grow my blog at the pace that I did (you can read more about my blog growth here) is because I was able to establish trust with readers (quickly) who then converted into mail list subscribers / long term readers and shared my recipes.

Quite simply, in this day and age when the blogosphere is so saturated, you have to grasp every opportunity you can to convince readers as fast as you can that they can trust you and your recipes.

And there is no better way to convince a new reader in seconds than to have your credentials right up front so new readers can’t miss it by sharing recipes that have strong ties to your background and experience.

An Example

Nagi from RecipeTin Eats

Because of my Japanese background, I have a natural advantage when it comes to gaining the trust of readers when it comes to Asian recipes.

Here’s a basic example. Don’t get the wrong idea, leveraging off your strengths is not just about physical appearance, I’m just using this because it’s an obvious and easy example. :-)

If I, born to Japanese parents, and the All-American Meggan from Culinary Hill, post a Chow Mein recipe at the same time, all other things being equal, whose recipe would you assume is more reliable? Even though Chow Mein isn’t even a Japanese recipe, I am betting you’d choose mine.

And think of the situation in reverse. If Meggan and I post a classic American Green Bean Casserole at the same time, whose recipe are readers going to think is more authentic? Of course Meggan’s. She grew up with it at Thanksgiving every year, watching her mother and sister make it.

Meggan Hill | Culinary Hill

Megan from Culinary Hill has a natural advantage over me when it comes to American classics.

That’s a very basic example of playing to your strengths – sharing recipes with strong ties to your background. In this case, readers don’t even need to read the post, they make the connection when they even see a teeny tiny thumbnail image of the blogger, even on social media.

But the same principle apples to things about you that aren’t visual. Read on to find out how. :-)

How to Play To Your Strengths: Three Simple Steps

1. Identify your strengths and unique selling points.

2. Play to your strengths: Focus on sharing recipes with strong ties to your strengths and unique selling points.

3. Write about your strengths and experiences. Repeatedly. So every single post has strong “trust factor”.

1. Identify your strengths and unique selling points

Whatever food you blog about, it’s because of your background, your experience, the food you grew up watching your mother cook, or the food you’ve been making for years because you love it so much.

What I’m saying is this – the food you share on your blog is already inherently a reflection of you, your background and experiences. And that is your unique selling point. Your “strength”.

Me

Flying Around the World - TravelMy main strengths are: my Asian (Japanese) background, that I have travelled quite extensively and I am genuinely a cooking nerd who likes to learn about new techniques and learn new cuisines.

If you look through my posts, I guarantee that the vast majority of them have a strong tie to one or more of these 3 things as well as (mostly) within my niche (fast prep, big flavours, showing people how to make incredible food even if they are time poor and cost conscious).

Now it’s your turn

Now let’s figure out your strengths and unique selling points. They are what sets you apart from every other blogger because no two bloggers are exactly alike. Here are some examples:

  • training and qualifications (not necessarily just food specific!) that relates to the food you share;
  • your background/ethnicity – physical appearance, where you grew up, your parents/family and experience/knowledge;
  • travels;
  • where you live or used to live;
  • your obsession with a particular cuisine (even if you haven’t ever travelled or lived there);
  • how you grew up. Helping your mother in the kitchen, watching your grandmother cook, your aunt who was a caterer – anything;
  • where you get your inspiration; and
  • any relevant experience (personal, professional, leisure) that relates to the food you share on your blog and what you know about food and cooking.

That’s a non exhaustive list, of course. To figure out your unique selling point, you just need to ask yourself this:

What experience and memories drives the food you love that you share on your blog? How did you learn to cook, what inspires you?

The answer to that is your strength that is unique to you.  It is anything about you that will help establish greater credibility about a particular post/recipe and you as a food blogger.

Now, let’s capitalise on that to grow your blog.

2. Play To Your Strengths

“Playing to your strength” means sharing recipes that tie in strongly to your unique selling points and talking about it regularly on your blog. If you blog authentically, you’re already probably (mostly) playing to your strengths and you just need to close the loop to reinforce it (step 3).

But perhaps you aren’t playing to your strengths enough. I know from first hand experience how easy it is to get waylaid sometimes, and I think this is especially a risk for bloggers who do sponsored posts frequently because you don’t have 100% creative control.

So take a hard, honest look at your last 10 posts. How many of them are really “you”, recipes that you are able to demonstrate that you have a strong connection with that leverage off your unique selling points?

Basically, the more recipes you post that tie in strongly to your background and experience, the stronger position you are in to gain the trust of your readers. And therefore to grow your blog.

3. Write About It. Repeatedly.

Mojo-Marinated-Pork_PS1

I validated the credibility of my Mojo Marinated Pork recipe by talking about where I got the recipe from and why it’s a credible source. (As well as much vivid descriptions about how delicious it is! Seriously so incredible!)

The last step in this is to write about your unique selling points and how they relate to the recipes you share as often as you can.

When I write up a new recipe, all I do is think about whether it clearly falls into my “niche” or what I say about myself in the “About” on my sidebar. If not – actually, most of the time even if it does – I always make sure I tie it into something to “prove” or demonstrate to readers that they can trust my recipe.

Because honestly, someone who lands on my blog RecipeTin Eats for the first time from Pinterest, why should the believe that my Mojo Marinated Pork is a bl00dy good recipe? I’m obviously not Cuban, I’ve never even been to Cuba!

Well, that recipe can be trusted because it’s a kick @ss recipe by Roy Choi (legendary LA chef who created the recipe for the movie “Chef”).

If you have a read of the post, you’ll see that I don’t just drop in a link to the recipe source in the recipe. I do much more than that, I talk about Roy Choi and why he’s a reliable source (noting his name obviously indicates he isn’t Cuban!) and also about the recipe itself, demonstrating that I know what I’m talking about. :-)

Here are other ways I do “it”:

1. Around 25% of my recipes are Asian or of Asian influence because not only does that reflect how I cook anyway, I have a natural credibility advantage because of my background;

2. I share recipes from around the world where I have travelled. I talk about my travels and how the recipe I’m sharing is a recreation of food I tried and loved.

3. I’m a cooking nerd. I have a surprising amount of recipes on my blog which are new techniques or genius ideas I discovered, or cuisines that I’m learning more about even if I haven’t been there. Like Truly Crispy Oven Baked Wings, 30 Minute Ricotta Gnocchi from Scratch and Syrian Chicken (in my top 30 recipes!).

Some More Examples

Lindsay | Cotter CrunchHere is a great example of a blogger playing to her strengths. Lindsay from Cotter Crunch says on her “About” in the sidebar:

“Hi, I’m Lindsay Cotter, the gluten free house wife! Welcome to Cotter Crunch! I’m a Fitness Professional and Nutrition Specialist for Gluten Free eating. Here to FUEL you with EASY gluten free recipes, nutrition tips, and lots of no bake healthy bite recipes!”

No mistaking her qualifications, hmm? And also what recipes her blog specialises in! So when I land on her site for the first time via Pinterest for her Paleo Mango Coconut Almond Bars with Complete Protein (say that after 5 tequilas!) and her post talks about the nutrition and energy benefits of these bars, I spy her “About” and I instantly have faith in her recipe and the wealth of nutritional information she shares about it.

A+++ for you Lindsay!

Here are some more examples:

  • Trained culinary professional? Mention it. A lot! Drop in casual references like “When I was in culinary school” or “One of my favourite teachers at culinary school taught me that…” and “this is one of the first things I was taught at culinary school…”. Do it in practically every single post because remember, if your blog is like mine and 98% of other blogs in this world, the vast majority of your readers will be new visitors to your blog.
  • Food of the World –  Travelled alot? Is your food inspired by your travels? Talk about your trips on your blog when you share recipes inspired by your travels! Don’t assume a first time visitor is going to trust that your recipe for a Cuban Fish Curry is proper (or even tasty) if you don’t have a Cuban heritage or any particular knowledge or experience in Cuban cooking. Cite your source or refer to your travels in your post!
  • Registered nurse  – Here’s a great example. A registered nurse with a food blog that shares celiac and gluten free recipes. Especially for something like celiac which does not have a flood of resources and recipe sources (like “trending” diets such as Paleo and Sugar Free), a qualification as a trained nurse is pure gold. Having your qualification on the sidebar and littered throughout posts (especially Resources) is a must!
  • Restaurant Experience – So what if you were just the dish hand? You’ve been behind the scenes! Ordinary folk (like me!) are always so interested in how the “pros” cook behind the scenes. So regularly mention it in posts!
  • Die Hard Paleo – Been living a Paleo lifestyle for the last 5 years? Fantastic, so you actually KNOW what you’re talking about and not just going through a “phase”! I see so many Paleo recipes from bloggers who are not strictly paleo. If I stumble across one of your recipes, don’t let me miss that you really do know what you are talking about because you’ve been living and breathing it for the last 5 years.

KEY TIP: If you can, get the key selling points about yourself in your “About” on your sidebar so it is displayed no matter what page new readers land on.

Niche, Niche, it’s all about your niche!

how to make your blog stand out | Another great tip from Food Bloggers CentralPlaying to your strengths is really just another extension of the blogging philosophy that I continually harp on about that underpins everything from growth to successful monetisation…..regular readers know what I’m about to say….

Define your niche and stay (mostly) within it.

You can read plenty more about that in this post -> My #1 Tip: The Growth Tip You’ve Probably Never Heard and in this post -> How to Stand Out from 227 Million Blogs and in this post -> Proof: Earn More with your Current Traffic. Basically any post where I talk about blog growth or monetisation inevitably hounds on about niche. :-)

*****************

Woah, I totally blew my word count quota with this post! I didn’t expect to, that’s for sure. :-)

RECAP

1. Capturing the trust of readers quickly is key to blog growth;

2. Focus on sharing recipes that you can tie in strongly to your unique selling points, being your background, experience, qualifications. This is how you can gain the trust of readers – new and existing;

3. Be sure to regularly talk about your experiences and background that is relevant to posts/recipes you share to gain the trust of readers; and

4. It’s ideal to include your key unique selling points about yourself and your blog in the “About” on your sidebar – if you can. That way it’s always visible and people can read it in mere seconds.

Questions? What do you really think? Don’t be afraid to speak your mind, I want to hear if you have other views!

– Nagi x

TO BE CLEAR….

This post is NOT about changing what you blog about. If you blog authentically (i.e. not just “viral potential” recipes), you should already be sharing recipes that have strong ties to your background and experiences. This post is just about being a little more strategic about which of your fab recipes you share and ensuring that you create the link between your recipes and your unique selling points to establish trust with your readers. – N x

If you enjoyed this post, share it with your friends!

Play-to-your-Strengths

 

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The Food Photography Book by Nagi from RecipeTin Eats

Comments

  1. says

    Nagi, I periodically go back thru the posts on FBC to re-read them … I always come away with a new tidbit of insight … (we call those “DOINK Moments” at my house.)

    Today’s was the reaffirmation that I should write in my own voice and then repeat my “theme” consistently (easy to find ingredients, simple steps, good food for busy people).

    The first – I do pretty well usually since I’ve been writing for ages and blogging for several years – my voice is there. But there are times when I think I should jump on somebody’s band wagon and emulate their style. No. No. No.

    The second – I don’t do as well. Your comment that the large majority of readers have popped in from somewhere and are reading a single post really hit home (I spent time today reviewing my Dec stats – lots of one page people) If I don’t tell them my mantra in each post, how will they know?

    ps – I truly appreciate your efforts, guidance and willingness to share. I don’t think I’ve ever commented on a blog so often as I do FBC!

  2. says

    Great post Nagi, I love it! I have always bought in my ‘Klutzy’ angle when I can (it’s actually not that hard as I’m a genuine klutz), but another aspect that is really relevant to my niche (cooking from scratch made easy), is my science background. I’ve been toying with talking about it more, not from a boring chemistry perspective, but more about how I ‘experiment’ and ‘tweak’ to get things to work. Also, whenever I read the ‘scientific’ background of why things behave the way they do in cooking, I can naturally understand it. I can then translate this in a way that makes it understandable for anyone. A bit of a ramble…sorry…thinking out loud. Thanks again :)

    • Nagi says

      I’m glad you found this useful! I know what you mean about the difficulty finding your niche voice. It took me a while too :) Once you find it, you’ll hit your stride and won’t ever look back! :)

  3. says

    I dissected this post bit by bit and replaced the parts where you spoke about yourself and what you´re about, with me and who I am. I loved this post! At first it was a bit intimidating because I am so many voices and living in another Country makes you 2nd guess yourself at times. There are so many parts of me. BUT the more I went through this process, the more I understood what I need to portray to my readers. Nagi, you are THE BEST and I have learnt so much from you in just a few months!! Thank You!! xo

    • Nagi says

      YAY! I’m so glad you found it helpful Johnlene! In some ways, we are similar because I am in Australia but most of my readers are overseas. So I am constantly putting myself in the shoes of overseas readers, thinking about what they will or won’t understand in my recipes. Not just US readers either, in fact I have many readers in Europe too! A surprising number. :)

  4. says

    Oh Nagi, you are so kind and so knowledgable. Thanks for being an inspiration to us all! and i”m so glad that I got an A++++ haha. YAY! I’ll make you some paleo Mango Coconut Protein Bars with Complete protein for that. 😉

  5. says

    Great post Nagi! I feel like you are right on and that you were reaching out to each of us individually to guide us in the right direction. Thanks so much for your gentle push to be our very best. So are you liking your margaritas on the rocks or frozen? Enjoy your holiday!

  6. says

    I can’t count the times I’ve written in this comment box “Thank You Nagi”. Again, a valuable post. I’ll be changing by “about” section today.

  7. says

    Love this post, Nagi. You’ve said it so succinctly – thank you. I definitely needed this reminder. I know I do some of it now but I need to be much more aware of it. I think we underestimate how important it is. You’ve really driven the point home!

  8. says

    Nagi this is absolutely wonderful post and so relevant. And believe me what you’ve said in a few words — yes a few– writers have been publishing tomes on the subject. All they say is exactly what you’ve said. I have always been a little afraid of sharing the “personal” me. The imperfect slightly chubby Italian who loves to cook and share her love of all Italian things. I didn’t want to bore the reader but I guess they sign on not just for the recipe, right?? Big hugs to you, my friend!! You are such a wonderful generous person. Have a wonderful day

  9. says

    This is so spot on, Nagi. I’m no expert in food blogging, but I can speak from personal experience, and that is that when I started tying all of my recipes to my Parisian experiences (my niche), I started getting a lot more subscribers to the blog. The truth is that pretty much every recipe I share IS inspired by my French culinary experiences so it feels organic to share those memories and describe how they inspired the post. P.S. I don’t have a sidebar on my site, but I have seen some blogs use these gray shaded pop ups on the bottom right hand corner of their blogs that has a little photo and some “about me” info….do you know what service/tool that is, and do you think it would be a good idea to install one? Right now a user has to click the about link at the top of my page to read more about me.

  10. says

    Love this. I have been toying with my type of food for the longest. Yes I love to eat everything from every where but I grew up in the Caribbean and really just love showing the food that I grew up eating though I am no longer there. This has encouraged me to do Caribbean and Caribbean infused things and not to worry too much about showcasing it.

  11. says

    Hi Nagi! Thank you for sharing these tips! They are so valuable! It really got me thinking about my food blog. I’ve been blogging 6 years at A Dash of Megnut. For the last two years it has been gluten-free since I was diagnosed with celiac disease. Before that, I wasn’t even writing my own recipes. I was slightly adapting recipes from other people (and properly sourcing them of course). Part of me wonders if I’m not fully gaining the trust of my readers because I have 4 years worth of recipes that aren’t gluten-free or written by me personally. This post has kind of solidified that thought too. I want to become an authority in gluten-free recipes.

    • Nagi says

      So forget the past! :) concentrate on now and become that authority in GF recipes. You are in a perfect position to do that! There probably is confusion with people landing on non Gluten Free recipes but never mind that! Concentrate on the future! N x

  12. says

    Hi Nagi… I love how you share all these honest tips. I blog at Dish by Dish (http://dishbydish.net), and while I’m Asian, I only started cooking when I moved to Argentina a few years ago. And most of my recipes are western and gluten-free, not so much Asian since I never learnt many Asian dishes. I do gluten-free and grain-free because my bf is celiac and my mum has diabetes, so I think of my readers are very health conscious people looking for healthy gluten-free dishes. I also always share personal stories with each post, since my motto is “stories + recipes”. I’d love to hear what you think of the blog, and how I may better improve that and play to my strengths! Thanks for all you do Nagi!

    • Nagi says

      How about something like this: “I’m Felicia: a girl from Singapore who moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina for love, currently living in Washington, D.C. until end-2015. My partner is celiac and my mother has diabetes, so my recipes are simple, healthy, gluten-free or grain-free. Stay a while, and let’s be friends! ♥” That’s strong to me :) I’m confused about one thing – what’s the difference between grain free and gluten free? Is there a cross over?

  13. says

    Thank you for sharing this Nagi, I found it extremely interesting and in someway a confirmation (this happens to every time with your posts). I always wanted my blog to be of course about food but also about my life story. A blog where I can share what happened and has been happening to me through out my life. But lately I felt like people may not be interested in my life story so I actually kind of stopped sharing. But this post got me back on tracks and I will stick back to my plan. Share recipes with a side of my life story :) Thank you once again!

  14. says

    Love these tips Nagi! Definitely trying to work on showing people what I am all about. I’ve been thinking about diving more into my “about me” page and really sharing my whole story. Right now it is very basic and pretty “meh”. I have a lot more I want to say, just not sure how to get it all down!

    • Nagi says

      Just gotta set aside 30 minutes, buckle down and DO IT! :) I faffed around for ages with mine, then when I finally did it the words just flowed!! :)

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