In episode 442, Megan chats to Geo Banks-Weston about using social media, specifically Instagram, to springboard the development of a blog and/or podcast.
We cover being sparked creatively when sharing content on social media, what skills you use regularly on social media that transfer to blogging, how to know where to focus your energy, seeing what kind of content you engage with and enjoy, and focus on the values of your brand as you dive into blogging or a podcast further.
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Connect with Geo’s Table
Bio Geo Banks-Weston is a food and culture blogger, influencer, and recipe developer based in Philadelphia. In 2014, he launched his blog, Geo’s Table, where he shares recipes rooted in the African diaspora, as well as highlights black-owned businesses, and explores food’s connection to Black culture. In 2019, he started his podcast, Table 86 to showcase underrepresented creators transforming the food and beverage industry. His work has been featured in Food52, The Washington Post, The Spruce Eats, and Philadelphia Magazine and he currently serves on the boards of PA Eats and Eat the Culture, combating food insecurity and supporting Black culinary entrepreneurs, respectively.
- Build on photography skills from taking pictures at restaurants
- Enhance photography skills while sharing food styling/composition on IG as you grow photography at home
- Understood the target audience better by receiving feedback from the online audience
- Build community through IG both with the audience and other creators
- Reels are a powerful educational tool available to bloggers
- You can have a thriving blog/podcast without a huge IG following
- Instagram is great at helping you build ideas based on what you consume from the platform
- IG is a great research tool
- Consistently posting is key to growing but don’t stress about what, as long as it falls into line with your brand values.
- Be confident about 3-5 values around your brand. Center developing your content around these.
- Book So you want to start a Podcast by Kristen Meinzer
- Eat the Culture – a community-centered safe space for Black culinary creators and entrepreneurs by providing resources to grow their businesses and build a bridge for equity and representation in food media.
- Black Food Bloggers Club Facebook Group
- Tastemakers Conference
Click for full script.
EBT442 Geo Banks-Weston
Intro: Food bloggers, hi, how are you today? Thank you so much for tuning in to the EatBlogTalk podcast. This is the place for food bloggers to get information and inspiration to accelerate your blog’s growth and ultimately help you to achieve your freedom, whether that’s financial, personal, or professional.
I’m Megan Porta and I’ve been a food blogger for over 12 years. I understand how isolating food blogging can be at times. I’m on a mission to motivate, inspire, and most importantly, let each and every food blogger, including you, know that you are heard and supported.
Geo was such a great guest for this episode. I love guests like him, just open and insightful and encouraging and just a lovely all around human being. You guys are going to love this episode, I am anticipating. Geo Banks-Weston from Geo’s Table joins me in this conversation to talk about how to leverage social media, specifically Instagram, to springboard your blog and or your podcast.
Geo has a story that a lot of us probably cannot relate to in the way that he started Instagram first and used it as a learning ground to explore other areas of his business. He used Instagram to learn photography and lighting. He used it to get to know what his target audience was and to build community. He even used it to figure out a focus for his podcast and figuring out that he wanted to start a podcast in the first place. So it’s really cool the way he has used Instagram as a really great tool for success in other areas of his business. Hopefully you guys get a lot out of this episode. I absolutely loved this conversation. It is episode number 442, sponsored by RankIQ.
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Megan Porta: Geo Banks Weston is a food and culture blogger, influencer, and recipe developer based in Philadelphia. In 2014, he launched his blog, Geo’s Table, where he shares recipes rooted in the African diaspora, as well as highlights Black owned businesses and explores food’s connection to Black culture.
In 2019, he started his podcast, Table 86, to showcase underrepresented creators transforming the food and beverage industry. His work has been featured in Food52, The Washington Post, The Spruce Eats, and Philadelphia Magazine, and he currently serves on the boards of PA Eats and Eat the Culture, combating food insecurity and supporting Black culinary entrepreneurs, respectively.
Hello, Geo. How are you today?
Geo Banks-Weston: Hey, Megan. I’m doing well. How are you doing?
Megan Porta: I’m good, too. Thanks for asking. Super happy to have you on the podcast. I know you and I had a conversation a couple months ago, now.
Geo Banks-Weston: Yeah. It’s been a couple months.
Megan Porta: That was super fun.
Geo Banks-Weston: Super fun. Invaluable. I really appreciate it, your help and your tips.
Megan Porta: Oh, good. Yeah. We’ll have to touch base on that and how everything’s going. But we are going to talk today about just leveraging your social media to benefit your blog and/or podcast, which I know you have both and we’ll get into that. But first, we would love to know if you have a fun fact to share.
Geo Banks-Weston: Sure I guess this is a fun fact. So even though I work in marketing by day and blog by night, I am actually an instructional designer by trade and I have my doctorate in educational technology.
Megan Porta: I think I said this to you before, but what is, what does that mean? What is educational technology?
Geo Banks-Weston: So educational technology, specifically my research interests, are how we use communicative technologies. So we’re on Skype, even like social media, Facebook to build social capital. So build community. So I think about how you grow and develop by interacting with people through using those types of tools.
Megan Porta: Ah, love how you describe that. That’s amazing. So cool. So you are definitely a well versed human. You’ve got your hands in all different aspects of life and work. It makes you very well rounded. Super cool to learn that about you. Okay. Let’s dig into the topic which I’m super excited to chat with you about. Would you mind starting by just telling us a little about your blog and podcast?
Geo Banks-Weston: Sure, so my blog is Geo’s Table. I have a really simple philosophy that I’ve had since the beginning of the blog, and that’s, eat well, share experience, and cultivate community. It’s a food and lifestyle blog. You’ll find new takes on old favorite comfort food recipes. A lot of recipes rooted in the Black experience in the African diaspora. At some point I evolved the blog and started a podcast similar to you. The podcast is a play on Geo’s Table. It is Table 86. I interview creatives of color who I feel are disrupting the food and beverage industry. Each show has an educational component that I call a table topic, where my guests get to teach my listeners something within their area of expertise.
Megan Porta: Okay. When did you start your podcast and when did you start blogging?
Geo Banks-Weston: So my podcast is about three years old. I started it right before the pandemic, and I know pandemic time is a little different. Then my blog started around 2014, 2015.
Megan Porta: Okay. So you are definitely a little bit on the seasoned side there. Then where Did Instagram come into play? At what point did you start really getting into Instagram?
Geo Banks-Weston: So Instagram is what started everything.
Megan Porta: Ooh.
Geo Banks-Weston: The blog and podcast actually came after. When I started on Instagram, I had lived in Philly for a couple years. I was living alone for the first time and I just wanted to explore everything that Philadelphia had to offer. At that time, Instagram was really all about that, right? Just posting what you’re doing at the moment. At that time, I was eating out at a lot of restaurants because the restaurant scene here was booming. At one point, my husband, at the time, was my boyfriend, but his best friend was like, Oh, you have an eye for food photography. You should really lean into that. At the time, I think my Instagram handle was Geodarwinism. Darwin is my middle name. So that’s when I changed it to Geo’s Table. I really focused on eating out in Philadelphia and beyond and traveling. Then in the past, I’ve always been creative at heart. I love writing. So a blog was always eventually the goal and it became a natural transition for me to start it, especially having already had a social media presence. I wanted to really explore, as I said, new takes on comfort food. Growing up, I didn’t really eat that adventurously. We were a very meat and potatoes family. So it was really my exploration into trying new ingredients, learning more about Black food history, and that’s what started the blog.
Megan Porta: Then did you transition from doing Philly food to a wider array of food on Instagram after that?
Geo Banks-Weston: Yeah actually, so occasionally here and there on Instagram, I did focus mostly on the restaurant scene, but occasionally here and there I did post, Oh, I’m cooking at home or I’m trying this new ingredient. I actually saw a lot of response from that. People would be like, Oh, that’s interesting. Or where did you get that spice? So I knew there was something there. And that’s really one of the inspirations behind the blog as well.
Megan Porta: Okay. Interesting. It’s always fun to see how stories evolved like this. Yours is definitely a more non traditional one, which I like because my story is the cookie cutter. You start a blog with the hopes of monetizing and then you do Instagram because you have to do Instagram. Your story is very different from that. So yeah, this is really cool. So now today. How do you use Instagram? Do you use it as a way to showcase your blog recipes or is it still a collection of different things?
Geo Banks-Weston: Having Instagram, having a blog and then having the podcast as well, I really had to create some swim lanes and distinct purposes for how I use each one. So on Instagram, I do post photos of recipes. I also post a lot of lifestyle content, where I’m eating in the city, when I’m traveling, events I might attend. I’m an extrovert so I’m always out and about. The blog is really centered in the recipes, some lifestyle content, but mostly recipes. Then the podcast, that was really me building and cultivating that community piece. Every episode, I meet someone new, I say I make a new friend. I learn more about Black food history, Black food ways, adversity in the industry. So it has been really a fulfilling project for me that I didn’t expect to take off in the way that it did.
Megan Porta: So really, you’ve used Instagram and I don’t know if you are on TikTok or anything else, but Instagram especially, to help you find these other avenues of getting connected to the community and getting your recipes out there. So Instagram is your hub.
Geo Banks-Weston: I would definitely say Instagram is my hub, and I would also say because I started on Instagram, I was able to cultivate quite a few skills that have helped me in blogging and in podcasting.
Megan Porta: Okay, so tell us what you think those skills are.
Geo Banks-Weston: Yeah, sure. One of the things is photography. When you’re at a restaurant, a lot of times things come beautifully plated, but you’re dealing with light issues and things like that. So you learn how to get the best lighting or sit near a window. I definitely carried that into food blogging. Understanding composition, understanding lighting, understanding styling. All those actually came from eating out at restaurants and taking pictures in that environment, even though obviously at home it’s a little more staged and you have a little more time to work with things. Eating out at restaurants definitely enhanced that skill and taking photography there. I would also say that I really got to know and understand my target audience from Instagram. I had mentioned that I occasionally would post cooking at home or trying new things at home. I saw that it was well received and that really helped me with some recipe development and thinking about the types of ingredients I wanted to use and explore. So that’s definitely a skill that I gained through interactions on social media that benefited my blog.
Another thing I would say is building community in that social media space because social media is social. So I was already following different bloggers, listening to their tips and tricks, admiring their photography and the types of content that they created. That really helped me and build out the type of content that I ultimately wanted to create, both in podcasting and in the food blogging realm.
Megan Porta: Okay. This is so interesting. So what would you say to someone who did things a little bit backwards, started blogging and then explored Instagram as a way to build their business? Do you feel like they’re behind or do you feel like they’ve had to learn the hard way? Do you know what I’m saying?
Geo Banks-Weston: I do get what you’re saying. I would say no, because social media is constantly changing, right? So the skills that benefited me at the beginning of Instagram aren’t necessarily the same skill as now. Instagram was very basic when I started. It was just posting pictures. The timeline was chronological. I feel like we were concerned about likes, but reels didn’t exist. Stories didn’t exist. So I think, funny enough, it became challenging for me at times to keep up with all the different trends of the platform. So I think somebody coming in new might not have that history and they can learn with a fresh mind that I think might actually benefit them.
Megan Porta: Oh my gosh. So Instagram is this ever evolving friend.
Megan Porta: It just depends on when you get into the friendship. That determines how you use it, really, because it does change all the time. From when you started, in what year did you start Instagram?
Geo Banks-Weston:I want to say it was like 2020. It was early. It was like 2013, 2014 maybe.
Megan Porta: Oh my gosh. Yeah. It’s like a totally different situation now. Now it’s like you have to be doing reels. So the reels thing, do you see that continuing just out of curiosity?
Geo Banks-Weston:I do, but I’d be curious to see what happens now that just a couple weeks ago they added threads. So as they add new features, sometimes I feel like other features get deprioritized or become less relevant. So I think reels may be here to stay, but I definitely see other tools in the app getting a lot more shine. So we’ll see what happens.
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Megan Porta: Then as far as Instagram goes, are you just in, no matter what happens, no matter how it evolves, you are going to continue using that as your hub for learning?
Geo Banks-Weston: Absolutely. When I think about all the social media platforms, Instagram is definitely the one I spend the most time on. Namely, I think because it is so visual and I’m always learning something new. It’s funny, you mentioned Reels. Reels are such a powerful educational tool that the app has. I learned a lot about using the app through Reels. I learned a lot about photography tips through Reels, food styling through Reels. I think that it’s here to stay for me because I’m committed to that lifelong learning in any way I can to enhance my brands.
Megan Porta: I’m curious how the time commitment in Instagram has changed for you since 2013 or whenever you started to now. How much time do you spend in the platform learning and just observing and building that community and all of the things?
Geo Banks-Weston: It’s such a part of my daily life. I probably don’t think about how much time I spend on it, but I spend a lot of time. I can’t think of a day that I’m not on it. But that community in Instagram, some people I met for the first time actually at the Tastemaker conference. But we’ve been friends for years, and I’ve learned and I’ve been able to grow through my interactions with them and through following them and their journeys on Instagram. So I would say I’m probably on it much more than when I began, but what I will say is, even that has evolved for me. There was a point where I was looking at, okay, I need to post every day. I need to post at this time. I need to make sure I’m posting stories. I actually took that pressure off of myself as it comes to the Instagram platform. I really use it as a social tool and to really just share the experiences that I’m having and to just share my content for my blog and podcast.
Megan Porta: That’s so cool. Then numbers. Have you ever been in the phase where you’ve just been obsessed with your follower count? I need more. I need more.
Geo Banks-Weston: Oh yes. I’m like teetering right now at 7,000, right? I hit it and then I lost followers. For the longest time, I remember I have to get to 10k. I have to get to 10k. I was obsessed with that. And I would say about, I don’t know, a year ago probably, I stopped thinking about that as a goal. One of the things that actually helped that is I looked at people with less follower counts who were monetizing their blogs and their podcasts. I was like, you know what, I need to shift focus. If I really want to have a thriving blog, my mind can’t be concentrating on social media. That shift helped me actually to enjoy Instagram a little more and I think use it for what I feel is its intended purpose, which is to be social and to learn.
Megan Porta: Yeah, it’s so easy to get obsessed with those numbers. I’ve been there. I have definitely been there, but I feel like things grow more when you can take your eyes away for a little bit and just focus on what you’re saying. Why are you doing this in the first place, the community, all the social aspects of it and not the numbers, right? It’s a relief to really release your eyes from it for a bit.
Geo Banks-Weston: Yes, definitely. I agree.
Megan Porta: Then I want to ask about your podcast because it is a foodie themed podcast. I have a heart for foodies who go into podcasting. Because I think it’s such a powerful way to grow your business. It’s something that’s so discounted and not thought about because it’s, it’s food. It’s visual. How do I talk about food? But there’s so many ways to do this. I want to hear a little bit more about, like, why you decided to do this and what are your dreams for the podcast?
Geo Banks-Weston: Oh, absolutely. It’s funny. I don’t know that I’ve ever asked what my dreams are for my podcast, but that is such a great question. So I can start with the title. The title is Table 86. For many people who’ve worked in the restaurant industry, they know when you’re out of something, it’s 86. So that title really embodies the intent behind creating an inspiration behind the podcast, because I wanted to talk with people who are underrepresented in the industry or cast out of the industry, for lack of a better term and hear their perspectives. That’s really what drove the creation of the podcast. Already being someone interested in supporting Black owned businesses and learning more, as I mentioned before, about Black Foodways, I really wanted the podcast to be centered on conversations with those people, and having their perspectives heard and giving them some shine.
So initially, funny enough, I just reached out to people on Instagram who I followed, who I was interested in. Either they had a product I had used or was interested in using, or they were doing something inventive, like Black and Bold, the coffee brand. I believe they were my second guest before they even blew up. They blew up like the next year.
Megan Porta: Ooh.
Geo Banks-Weston: I had a woman who was located in Virginia who did social justice cakes, she did social justice related sayings on different cakes. I just found that fascinating. Another one of my favorite guests was the food truck scholar. This is a woman who explored the history of black owned food trucks and she had her own podcast. So I just found these people interesting and I wanted to have conversations with them. In terms of like dreams for my podcast, I would say I just love having those conversations. My dream for the podcast is to give shine to people and help them in their pursuit of developing their own businesses and their brands. Because I’ve seen people blow up and be successful, I wouldn’t say because of my podcast, but post my podcast, I’m just happy to have participated in a small part of telling their story.
Megan Porta: Oh, Geo. That was. So beautiful. I love all of that. And you have such a heart for people, I can tell. Just showing up and serving them in the ways that you can and really providing a community. Wow. That was really cool. Goodness. Okay. So do you feel like Instagram has helped to shape your podcast? Do you feel like without Instagram, you wouldn’t have had this rounded out idea about what it is and what you want for it?
Geo Banks-Weston: Oh, absolutely. I think the interactions, the content that I was consuming on Instagram heavily influenced the nature of my podcast. The guests that I ended up having on my podcast. All that I actually owe it to Instagram because otherwise I would have never discovered these people. I would say it’s a powerful research tool in addition to being a community building tool.
Megan Porta: So the message I’m receiving from you is that Instagram is powerful. Get to know it and then listen. Tune in, listen to what it’s telling you, and build a business around those messages.
Geo Banks-Weston: Absolutely. From even a perspective of how it can benefit you, like I said, I follow things I like, I imagine most people would follow things they like and that they’re interested in. There’s a story to tell there as well. I think that, pay attention to the types of content you’re constantly engaging with, you’re constantly liking, because I think that has definitely impacted some of the strategies that I use for my blog in terms of the type of content I might put on my blog or what’s trending, things like that.
Megan Porta: If there’s somebody listening or maybe many somebody who are frustrated with Instagram because I know this can be a theme with just getting stuck on those numbers. You know what it is like, why isn’t it growing? I want more. I don’t want to do reels. There are frustrations that come with it. Do you have any words of wisdom or encouragement for them?
Geo Banks-Weston: Yeah. So something a friend of mine told me recently is he was like, think of your content, not for the blog, but for Instagram. He said, think of your content as disposable. He said, don’t put so much pressure on the type of content you’re putting on Instagram. You already have an eye, you take great pictures, you can create reels, but take that pressure off of you because it’s only going to be seen for a finite amount of time. I think for me, that was a really important message because I did see myself in the past, obsessing about different things. Follower count, the type of content I put there, and things like that. As I mentioned a year ago, I stopped thinking about follower count. Now, I don’t think as much about what I’m posting as long as it aligns with the mission of my brand. I’m good with it. So that’s the advice I would have for other people too. Don’t worry so much about follower count as long as the content you’re putting out there aligns with your brand and you’re proud of it. Stick with that. I think you’ll have more success that way.
Megan Porta: I think some of your message too is just releasing that perfectionism and just putting things out that matter to you and not worrying so much, is this going to impact the entire world, but just doing things consistently?
Geo Banks-Weston: Yes. Yes. Consistency is key. I know when we talked before that was advice that you even had for me and that was very valuable advice. I appreciate it.
Megan Porta: Aw, yes. Consistency is very undervalued. But wow, it can be powerful when you actually follow through consistently over time with things that you know are beneficial, that are worthwhile. This is a powerful chat. I don’t know if I expected quite the depth, but this has been amazing. Is there anything we’ve forgotten that you feel like we should touch on, Geo, before we say goodbye?
Geo Banks-Weston: Yeah, I’ve mentioned a number of things that was helpful to me, but one of the things that I found most helpful is a recent conversation I had with a mentor where he said, as you’re building your brand, think about the three to five values you have that you don’t want to waver on. He said, use those to help develop that brand and to help create your content. That just has stayed with me. And I think it’s really important, no matter what platform you’re on, to always lean back on those three to five values.
Megan Porta: How do you determine those values? Because I could go on and on Oh, that value sounds good. That one’s great. Like, how do you get to three to five?
Geo Banks-Weston: Yeah. So I mentioned when I started Geo’s Table, my philosophy has been the same since the beginning. Eat, share experiences, and cultivate community. When I had that conversation with my mentor, that was an aha moment for me. I was like, these are my three values, right? I think for anybody looking to create values, I would write down a list of ten, and start ranking them in order 1 to 10, and the top 5 are the ones that you really want to lean into, at that moment. One other thing my mentor said to me is that those values can change as your brand evolves, right? When you have that list of 10, number 5 might fall off at some point and get replaced with another one. But just having that core list of 10 things that you’re really committed to and are really important to you, I think, is the way to go.
Megan Porta: Ooh, you just gave us all permission to change things because it’s easy to set these are my values and I have to stick with these for five years and that’s not necessarily the case. We can evolve with our values and our businesses and that is okay.
Geo Banks-Weston: Absolutely.
Megan Porta: So thank you for giving us all permission to do that. This Gio, for your time today and for sharing all of this amazing, awesome value and insights. We appreciate you. You’re welcome. Do you have a favorite quote or words of inspiration to leave us with?
Geo Banks-Weston: I actually do. It’s by the queen, Oprah. She said in a commencement speech once, Harness your power to your passion. That is something that’s in my email signature. I have it on the wall in my office. Harness your power to your passion.
Megan Porta: Oprah’s amazing. I love her. I love her words.
Geo Banks-Weston: Me too.
Megan Porta: Perfect way to end. We’ll put together a show notes page for you, Geo. If you want to go look at that, you can go to eatblogtalk.com/Geostable. Tell everyone where they can find you. Mention your podcast, your blog, your socials, everything.
Geo Banks-Weston: Sure you can find me on my favorite platform, Instagram at Geostable. That is G E O S T A B L E. My blog is geostablephl.com. Then my podcast, which season three is coming in September is Table 86 Podcasts and that’s on pretty much all streaming platforms, Apple, Spotify and many others.
Megan Porta: Everyone go check Geo out and all of his amazing content. Thank you so much for being here, Geo. Thank you for listening, food bloggers. I will see you in the next episode.
Outro: Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Eat Blog Talk. If you enjoyed this episode, I’d be so grateful if you posted it to your social media feed and stories. I will see you next time.
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