In episode 333, Sarah Barnes teaches us how to grow our Instagram and TikTok to more than 70K in an organic and enjoyable way. She explains she has done this for her own brand, Taming Twins, in 90 days by focusing on what her audience really needed and not winning the algorithm.
We cover information about why a mindset shift to helping your audience is valuable with the platforms, how to engage with your audience directly, create accessible reels that show a solution and consider the pace of the videos and what is shown to grab their attention for the most bang for your time.
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Bio Sarah is a food blogger, who is also Mum to 10 year old twins. Working and juggling young children, she’s forever struggled with the every day “what’s for dinner?” question. She now helps other busy people find their answer! Her blog has 8 million views a year and she has a combined social following of over 800,000 people.
- If you don’t want to put your energy into Pinterest, check out TikTok.
- Give yourself a short term goal of time to work on TikTok (or fill in the blank for a platform) so you can really dive in.
- Shift your mindset from, “what do I want to do/create”? to “what can I do/create to be helpful”? as you change your content to solve a problem.
- Pace of the videos are more important than the length.
- Edit tightly – each slide is 1 second or less.
- TikTok videos are inspiration and entertainment. They are not educational.
- Talk to your audience and validate what they say.
- Set aside time to absorb the responses from your audience who takes the time to respond to your questions.
- Plan to put extra time into the videos as you learn to edit – you’ll get faster as time goes on.
- Traffic to your site can really grow within 3-6 months of hard work.
- You need to get organized to help keep content growing and what you’ve already posted.
- Don’t aim for perfection in your video content.
- Post with the same frequency you decide to go with – be regular. Balance it between your life and what you’re willing to give and what your audience wants.
- You’ll be motivated if you genuinely enjoy the platform
- Pay attention to what stops you scrolling, what makes you save or follow someone to learn more about how TikTok works.
- Repurpose your videos to be used on the blog as well
Click for full script.
Sarah Barnes: Hi, this is Sarah Barnes from Taming Twins, and you are listening to the Eat Blog Talk podcast.
Sponsor: Hey, awesome food bloggers. Before we dig into this episode, I have a really quick favor to ask you. Go to your favorite podcast player. Go to Eat Blog Talk, scroll down to the bottom where you see the ratings and review section. Leave Eat Blog Talk a five star rating if you love this podcast and leave a great review. This will only benefit this podcast. It adds value. I so very much appreciate your efforts with this. Thank you so much for doing this. Okay. Now onto the episode.
Megan Porta: Hey there, food bloggers. Welcome to Eat Blog Talk, the podcast for food bloggers looking for the value and confidence that will move the needle forward in their businesses. This episode is sponsored by RankIQ. I’m your host, Megan Porta, and you are listening to episode number 333. Today I have Sarah Barnes with me. She’s gonna tell us about how she grew 78,000 Instagram followers and 130,000 TikTok followers in 90 days in a soulful way. Sarah is a food blogger who is also a mom to 10 year old twins, working and juggling young children. She’s forever struggled with the everyday, “what’s for dinner” question. She now helps other busy people find their answer. Her blog has 8 million views a year and she has a combined social following of over 800,000 people. Probably more by the time we are talking, right Sarah?
Sarah Barnes: Yes. Yeah.
Megan Porta: Well, it’s so great to have you here. How are you doing today, Sarah?
Sarah Barnes: I’m good. I’m really excited to chat.
Megan Porta: Me too. I was just telling you before recording that I just started a TikTok account, like last week. I don’t know where this came from because all year I’ve been like, no, I refuse to do TikTok. Absolutely not. Then something changed in me. I know exactly what it was. I heard someone say that they just presented TikTok in a new way. I was like, I have to do this. I just know I did. So Instagram as well. You’re gonna teach us all we need to know about how to grow quickly. Before we get into that though, what is your fun fact?
Sarah Barnes: I listen to your podcast all the time. I listened to these facts and I thought about mine today, coming on. I thought, oh, this is really vulnerable. Then I thought about Brene Brown and what she would say. I thought, no, this is how we make the best connections. So my fun fact is that I learned to ride a bike when I was 32.
Megan Porta: Oh my gosh.
Sarah Barnes: I was never interested when I was a child and then my children were learning to ride a bike and I thought, no, I’ve gotta sort this out. I went and had an adult learn to ride a bike.
Megan Porta: Oh my gosh. Okay. First of all, nice job being vulnerable. I think Brene would be very proud of you. Secondly, I would say within 10 interviews ago, another person had this fun fact.
Sarah Barnes: Oh really?
Megan Porta: Yeah. So you and her need to talk. I can’t remember who it was.
Sarah Barnes: I need to bond over it with somebody.
Megan Porta: Yeah. That’s so crazy. Then I told her, I’m gonna tell you what I told her, which is that my 15 year old son has just not been able to ride a bike. It’s been such a struggle. Finally, last year I was like, you know what? I’m not gonna fight this fight anymore. Someday he’ll do it and it’s just not gonna be an issue for me right now.
Sarah Barnes: I think I was more proud of myself than even my children were proud of themselves. More.
Megan Porta: Exactly. I was just gonna say that. So it’ll be more of an accomplishment down the road. So I really appreciate you sharing this. Thank you, Sarah. I’m glad that you learned. So are you like a confident bike rider now?
Sarah Barnes: Absolutely not.
Megan Porta: You’re like I can do it and that’s good enough.
Sarah Barnes: Yeah. I could wheel it out, excuse the pun, if I need to do it. I’m pleased I’ve done it. Put it that way. But I’m not regularly biking. Maybe one day.
Megan Porta: Good for you. Good for you. Okay. I am super excited. I know I say that on every episode, but today I’m really excited to learn from you about Instagram and TikTok because that growth is incredible. We just can’t argue with those numbers. So why did you decide to change your approach to Instagram and TikTok and talk through what that approach was?
Sarah Barnes: So I’d been blogging since 2013. For a long time, a lot of my traffic came from Pinterest. It’s obviously talked about a lot in the food blogger world at the moment, but there’s been a massive or for most people, there’s been a massive downturn in traffic from Pinterest. The same thing happened to me. I was really feeling the pinch on that. You know what? You try different things and you try different approaches. I kept trying and trying with Pinterest. In the end, I just thought at some point I’ve got to change my approach overall here. I started watching TikTok and using TikTok. Something kind of captured my interest because it is ridiculously addictive. I guess I felt, if everyone else is addicted to TikTok, then I should be there as well. I’d always had an Instagram account, but I’d never really focused on it. So at the end of last year, coming up to Christmas, I thought that January was actually a fresh start. I was really fed up with Pinterest and trying to make it work for me. I just thought I needed to put that energy somewhere else. I would have a go to Instagram and TikTok, and I told myself that I would really throw myself into it for six months. Almost at the cost of my time spent on my blog. But I felt like I needed to give it six months and see if it worked. And spoiler, it has. Yeah, it was a good choice.
Megan Porta: Okay. So it’s interesting that Pinterest was the catalyst to okay, I need to figure something else out. I think we’re all feeling that right now. You did, you dug in and you figured it out, obviously amazingly. So share with us maybe what your first insights were and what did you change first?
Sarah Barnes: So obviously, as I said, been doing this since 2013. The blog, and I think I’d probably had an Instagram account from about the same time. We all read these articles, don’t we, that tell us how to get more followers or how to play the algorithm. I spent years thinking about that and thinking, oh, I need a, I don’t know. If you’ve been food blogging for a while, there’s always different trends, aren’t there? So I’d think, oh, I need to do all photos with white backgrounds. Or I need to show my handwriting. Or my hands. There’d be something that you would think is gonna make me win Instagram. It never did, which is very frustrating. So I got to Christmas and I did something which I hadn’t done in the past, which is I asked my audience what they wanted. So I put a question on my Instagram stories and I really talked to them. I talked to Instagram stories and I’ll talk about this a bit more later, but I speak to my audience all the time, really directly, as if they are my friends , but I speak to them like I would speak to a friend who’s in the same room. I was just really honest and said what do you want, what can I do? What are your struggles? I found this amazing thing, which is that when people are struggling, they really want to talk about it. So I basically had a total shift from what do I need to do to win this algorithm thing to what can I do to be helpful? How can I be supremely helpful at all times on this platform and generally? It just totally changed my mindset because I shifted from what I want to do or give or make, to what is going to be the most useful. Yeah. That was my main mindset change for the start of the year.
Megan Porta: So what did you find people were telling you? What were they struggling with?
Sarah Barnes: There’s always patterns. I find. Which probably is fairly common, but there are some items which are specific to my audience who tend to be busy parents. Not always, but often families and parents who are busy working and juggling things. So they talk a lot about time. The time after work to cook. But it’s not only the time to cook. It’s time to think about food. So the time to plan what they’re going to eat, to think about what ingredients are needed, to just think about all of the things that go to contribute towards creating dinner in the evening. It made me start to think about the mental load that cooking dinner has on us everyday. On a Sunday, you think, oh my goodness, what we are having for dinner this week. That just really inspired me to change my content up, in line with those needs.
Megan Porta: So how did you take that specific problem? So time thinking about food was a pain point for your audience. How did you take that and turn it into content on Instagram and TikTok?
Sarah Barnes: I turned everything I did on its head. Which was a leap of faith. I used to produce quite a lot of cakes and sweet treat recipes, not exclusively, but I did quite a lot of that. I just thought that’s all really nice, but that is not serving my audience. That’s not actually solving a problem for them. I dunno as I get older, possibly, I think there’s something really meaningful to doing work that actually helps people. I know I’m not changing the world or anything, but just to be able to create things that actually gonna help people, felt very meaningful. So I thought, yeah, I just need to take a total leap of faith. It changed my content and made me really commit to this. So I did that by, as I say, changing my recipes. So they were much more heavily focused on dinners. So they were all reasonably quick, so that they were affordable as well. So that I could demonstrate them and convey them in a really effective way. So for me, that was creating Reels and obviously Instagram is video first now, and everybody loves video on Instagram, so we’re told, and I do agree with that. So yeah, just creating really accessible Reels to convey those recipes and messages was the route I decided to take. Which was actually a bit of a shift for me because I had always made, well, not always, but in the recent years I’ve made videos, but in a very different style. In that kind of, I was trying to make them professional whether they were or not, I dunno, that kind of hands and pans, like really clean video. Edited in a slightly different way. So I tried to make those Reels a lot tighter and shorter so that people within 15 or 20 seconds could see a recipe and think, oh my goodness, I could do this and I can do it after work. So that allowed me to convey that message, hopefully.
Megan Porta: So I’ve noticed this trend too, on both platforms. Things are really condensing. So you have to get your point across or whatever you’re solving, whatever solution you’re solving. You have to do that in a really short timeframe. Otherwise people are just gone, right? So 15 to 20 seconds is what you recommend or does it depend?
Sarah Barnes: I think it depends on the recipe. I’m more intent and intentional about how I edit the videos. So I think it’s less about the total time and more about the pace of the video. So when I edit the videos now, and I’d never done this before, it felt a little bit unnatural at first, but what’s happened over the last few months is they’ve gotten even tighter and tighter. So when I edit the videos, sorry, this is like my nitty gritty. I dunno whether you want this.
Megan Porta: No, that’s good. Let’s go. We’re rolling with it.
Sarah Barnes: But actually I think this actually has been quite key for me, I think. Which is to learn the videos that work. For me and I can’t say this is for everybody, but just from what I watch on TikTok and Instagram, is to edit them in a really tight way. By that, each clip of each shot would probably be one second or less. I feel like that is the pace of the video, which keeps people interested. So I think it’s important to have a distinction between the fact that this isn’t an instructional video, this is somewhere between inspiration and entertainment. So it doesn’t need to cover every single item or every single process that’s shown in the video. But what it does need to do is make someone want to click through to my blog and make the recipe. Yeah. That is a very different way of editing for me. I started about in January when I started making the Reels. I probably clipped each clip to about two seconds and between January and now they’ve just got tighter and tighter because I just feel like that’s what people respond to. I’m hoping they don’t get any shorter than that because that would be very tricky to edit.
Megan Porta: So you just started with something that you had in your mind okay, this could work, I’m solving a problem. Then you saw what worked from what you put out there and you just tweaked it as you went.
Sarah Barnes: Yeah. And again, just listening to my audience as well. So I started, I think in maybe January and February, I did lots of recipes that I just put on Instagram. Because in the past, this kind of, you know how to grow on Instagram, what does the algorithm like said, that you need to keep people on the platform. So I experimented, and I know lots of people do this and it might work for other people, but I experimented with putting the recipes in the captions on Instagram. So I did this for a few weeks and I went back to my audience and said what do you think about this? Two things happened. I found two interesting answers. One was, they said they didn’t like it because they wanted to be able to search my blog and they wanted to be able to find older content and they wanted to be able to think, oh, I wanna make this salad. So they didn’t wanna scroll through my profile. So that was interesting. The other thing that happened was I spoke on Instagram stories. I explained the question a bit more. So I went back and I said, look, the reason I’m asking this question is because I dunno whether you know this, but I make my income or my living through ad revenue on my website. This is how I explained it to my audience. I’m really happy to put recipes on Instagram but I can’t do that exclusively because I also need to pay my bills. It was so interesting because my audience was just so wonderful. I had so many messages saying, I didn’t know this. I can’t believe it. We love your recipes. I’m gonna click through all the time now. That was a really interesting thing to discover. So because of that, I now don’t put, generally, if it’s something that’s going to be on the blog or is suitable for the blog or I’ve taken photographs, it’ll go on the blog. There’s on occasion there’s things that I haven’t had time to take photos of and it goes on Instagram, but I wouldn’t have known any of that if I hadn’t spoken to my audience. I think of everything that I’ve learned, that’s a really good takeaway, which is to talk to your followers and listen to them. Because aside from shaping everything I do now, when I’m in an audience, it feels really good to be valued. Doesn’t it? It’s like a win-win, I think.
Megan Porta: Yeah. Talking to your audience, I think it is the easy part for a lot of us. It’s actually listening and following through. I’ve had that problem. So I’ll be like, oh, I actually sent out a survey and I polled my audience on Instagram. Like good for you. But did you actually follow through? No. So I think that’s the key: listen, what are they saying? Then figure out how to actually help them.
Sarah Barnes: Do you think maybe sometimes that’s because it’s like too much information.
Megan Porta: Yeah. Oh definitely. It is. Because especially if it comes to you in the form of a survey. Let’s say air table, they create this handy little spreadsheet with all the information you look at it and you’re like, what am I supposed to do with all of this? This is way too much information. So then you just close it and now you just wasted everyone’s time.
Sarah Barnes: Yeah. It can be overwhelming. I even now I do find that. So yesterday, or maybe the day before I went back to my audience and asked and said, I’m planning my content over the summer. What are you struggling with? What can I help? Like you said, I had thousands of responses and it is really overwhelming. My suggestion and what works for me, is I set aside some time to really absorb that. So I will, not when I’m busy, I will try and set aside a morning or something to really look at those responses. Skim through them all and just get a general feel for things.
Megan Porta: Pull out themes.
Sarah Barnes: Pull out a pattern and stuff. Also I think. It’s important to know what feels right to you. It’s important to use your own kind of gut instinct as well. So if people ask me for sugar free recipes or dairy free, and I try to give adaptation stuff, but that’s never gonna be my main blog because it just doesn’t fit with my life and my lifestyle really. If I was vegan, I wouldn’t be writing a blog with lots of meat recipes in. You have to take all of those answers and absorb them and then find a place that feels comfortable for you as well. That’s my suggestion.
Megan Porta: That’s great advice. That was very well said.
Sarah Barnes: It’s not scientific.
Megan Porta: You said that way better than I could have said that. But yeah, that was great. Okay. So you decided to do this, you just knew you needed to dig into Instagram and TikTok in a new way. You figured out how to go about that. You took the sleep of faith and you invested your time into these platforms and money probably too. So what did that entail? Did it require, how much time a week, and how much of your energy? Talk us through that.
Sarah Barnes: Can I just say, when you said there that I knew I needed to do it, you made me sound very organized and it wasn’t quite like that. I just feel like I need to have set expectations. Because I think it’s really easy to think I should have a plan. I should know exactly what I should be doing. It wasn’t like that. , I was feeling a bit desperate if I’m honest, because my traffic from Pinterest was important to me. I had to do something. So it was like, I’ve basically got to try this. So the reason I think it’s important to say that, is the same thing with a blog, there’s always more you could be doing, isn’t there. It can be really overwhelming. And that’s exactly how I felt when I started this. So it’s not like everybody else has got an amazing plan.
Megan Porta: Sometimes it does just fall into your lap, new things, you just know you need to do them. So however it came to you, you knew you needed to move forward with it, right?
Sarah Barnes: Yeah. But I wasn’t organized. It was literally a leap of faith. So I would really like to tell you that it was easy and I just slotted it in, but it wasn’t. It has been really hard. I’ve upped my working hours. I’ve worked a lot of evenings. But I would say, the more you do this type of video and this type of content, it gets so much quicker, very quickly. So at the moment, I’m putting a new piece of content out, so a new video on TikTok and Instagram, almost every day. I’ve found ways of editing. So I just literally edit on my phone. I use an app called InShot.
Megan Porta: I love InShot. I just started using it. It’s so easy. It’s so great.
Sarah Barnes: So when I’m on a train or a passenger in the car or something, I will just edit. So I’ve basically found pockets of extra time to make this work, but now it’s paying off. So now. I’ve taken on an extra VA to help me with comments and things and to keep on top of scheduling posts and stuff. So that’s made it easier and that is obviously a leap of faith, but I’ve started to see a return. I guess what I’m saying is, I’m really happy that I said, I’m gonna make this commitment for six months. In actual fact, it was probably three months until it started paying for itself. But those three months weren’t easy. I worked really hard. I worked really hard. But a hundred percent worth it because the return I’ve seen on that is massive.
Megan Porta: What is the return you’ve seen? What would you say?
Sarah Barnes: My traffic has increased enormously. It’s definitely made up for, it’s hard to say right now because I get quite a lot of seasonal traffic at Easter, which was very high, but say this time last year I was getting 12,000 page views a day, 15,000 page views a day on the blog. I’m now getting 45,000 a day.
Megan Porta: Oh, wow.
Sarah Barnes: It’s also hard to tell from the analytics, because a lot of it will look like it’s direct traffic, but that, I think that is because people see a recipe on social media and then they go and make it a week later and then they Google for it as well. I really feel like that is a benefit of all of this because their timeline matches up to the timeline of my really big growth. So that’s been really positive and also, I just think we all have patterns, don’t we? When you’ve been blogging for a while, you have times where it feels really successful and times when it really doesn’t. There’ll be a Google update, like recently, or there’ll be ups and downs to it. It can be really disheartening. And I’ve been through that lots of times. When things are going well, and you feel like you’re creating good content that is actually meaningful to people, it feels really good. It feels really good. So as well as having a financial gain, it’s just generally been a really positive experience to me to create content that people are finding really useful.
Megan Porta: Oh, I love that.
Sarah Barnes: There’s lovely messages from people about how, just how my content is making their life a bit easier. I keep all of those messages in a folder so that when I am having a bad day or the video I’m making hasn’t worked or something, I go look at those messages and I think, no, this is why I took that leap of faith.
Megan Porta: Oh, I’m glad you mentioned that. I started doing that as well, and it’s been a game changer for me. Just taking every single email or message that I get that’s positive or like you inspire me or whatever. I copy and paste it into a document on Google drive. It’s in a folder called awesomeness. I open that occasionally because I do have those bad days where I’m like, why am I working so hard? Or does what I’m doing really matter? You have those questions now, and then. It’s so good to have a reminder, just right there, all in one spot. So I love that you do that.
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Sarah Barnes: I feel like I might need to do some kind of collage from my office so that I can look up and see it, something like that.
Megan Porta: Oh that’s a great idea. Oh, I love that. I might steal that from you.
Sarah Barnes: I need to get some glue out and scissors and do a craft
Megan Porta: That’s something you would hand off to kids, right? Here, go at it. So you mentioned it really wasn’t an easy process. It was hard. This was hard. So how hard? Were you spending like I’m just on the range, like five hours extra a week, 25 hours? How much time were you spending in the initial stages of doing this?
Sarah Barnes: Initially, so in January and February, and March actually, so at the start of the year, I basically stopped posting new content on the blog. Not stopped. That’s not fair. But I went from posting once or twice a week to once or twice a month. I used that time to do this. So that was a big leap because obviously it’s scary to not be putting new content on the blog. But what that did was that freed up, I dunno, maybe 10 or 15 hours. The other thing that I did is, we all plan on updating our old content don’t we, and making it better. I just saw this as a slight opportunity to do that. This is just my own technique, but I was just thinking, how can I make this work and get added benefits. So I would film a video and I would then re-photograph at the same time. Then just refresh those photos. I’ve got blog posts from five, six years ago. I would use that as an opportunity to re-photograph those old posts. So whilst there wasn’t creating new full blog posts, it allowed me to do a lot of updating at the time as well. Then I guess I may have spent an extra 10 hours a week, I think. Because there was a lot of editing to start with. Now that’s a lot less because I’m so much quicker. InShot is, as you’ve just said, really good. I’m slightly torn because I don’t like the idea of staring at my phone for so many hours a day, but it does also make it more accessible. So I don’t have the answer to that one yet.
Megan Porta: Yeah, that’s OK.
Sarah Barnes: It’s a work in progress.
Megan Porta: So after that initial kind of time, when you had put all the hard work in, did things start getting easier? Why would you say they get easier? Is it because the algorithm gets to know you better or favors you more? Or is it because you’re just more in the groove or all of the above?
Sarah Barnes: Some of all of the above. But I think the algorithms don’t actually favor you. I think they just want you to do a good job. Which is they want you to give people what they want. If you’re doing that. You’ll just get the results. Do you know what? I also often think about the hours I have spent worrying about the algorithm in the past, and I just don’t even think about it anymore because I just think, people are coming because I’m making the stuff they want. That is a lot less stressful than trying to worry about how to win against the algorithm. Just the speed of editing gets a lot quicker. I’m a lot better at batching content. Like I say, I’ll do photos to update the blog as well. I’m also now a lot more organized with the content that I’m putting out. So I now put out a meal plan every two weeks. So that’ll go on Sunday. So there’ll be a video of that. Then during the week, I’ll put out five recipe videos, and often those are already posts on my blog that I’m updating. So that automatically gives me six days of content. Then I do that twice in a month so that’s 12. For me, that’s a really good way of scheduling because I’m already filling up half the month with content, which essentially is updates. Which also makes me feel organized, knowing exactly what’s going out when. Then I just keep really detailed lists. I use Trello on my phone and on my desktop, just of ideas that come to me all the time and things that people have asked for. Yesterday when I asked my audience, people asking for recipes to cook with their children over the summer, when they’re off school, to keep ’em busy. So I’ll wake up at 6:00 AM thinking about a cookie recipe that I can do. I just make a note so that when I come to scheduling those videos, I’ve got a list of ideas straight away. It’s then a lot easier to batch content. I have a filming day or two days, and I film everything in one go. Then, like I say, I edit through the week when I’ve got spare time. But those are all processes that have got so much easier by just leaning into this as a content strategy. It definitely wasn’t like that.
Megan Porta: Nothing ever starts out streamlined, right? No, you have to start out somewhere. It’s usually a mess when you start any new platform or new strategy. But it sounds like what you’re doing is just allowing it to evolve and figuring out how it works into your life and how you can foster it while not giving your whole soul to the platforms. Is there any piece of content or type of content, I guess that you put on either Instagram or TikTok that you know is always gonna be a hit?
Sarah Barnes: No, not a specific type, but the things that I find my audience want. So in the past, as I said, I used to try and do these really clean professional hands and pans videos. The thing I have noticed that people absolutely love is just a bit more reality. So if there’s a splash or a mess or things aren’t quite perfect. I think people love to see that in videos now. I would say that’s a relatively recent thing in the last few months that I’ve noticed. So yeah, basically a mess. The other thing that does is it makes it a lot easier to film videos because you’re not trying to aim for perfection. So leaning into that also has been really good for me in terms of time. People love it. People love to see a bit of reality. Also I’m not a big fan of the word hacks, but I do use it, but just ideas that people haven’t necessarily thought about as opposed to really detailed recipes. So just things that are just a really good idea with food and things maybe that us food bloggers, we do without thinking about too much. So I did a video on TikTok. We just had, I dunno, maybe two or 3 million views recently, which were waffle cones, ice cream cones.
Megan Porta: Oh, sure.
Sarah Barnes: You put. Like marshmallows and candy and stuff like that in the cone, and then wrap them up and put them on your campfire. They come out and they’re like smores, but all gooey inside the cone. This is just a funny thing that I always do with my children. They had some friends over and I said, oh, let’s make a video of this. People absolutely loved that video, which is just like a fun idea that we’ve always done. So things like that, I think make really good content at the moment, particularly. For me, they’re not driving traffic to my site, but they’re growing your profile as a whole. I definitely try to intersperse that content with my content that is serving the needs of my audience. So it’s just like a little sprinkling of extra stuff. That you just get a feeling that this could really stop people scrolling. This could be a reason why people stop scrolling when they discover me. So, I think it’s good to have a mixture of that content as well.
Megan Porta: It’s good to just experiment and see. I’ve only been doing this for a week on TikTok, but I found that you learn what people are looking for based on how fast you get numbers. My numbers are super small, but on a few of the videos I posted, oh, that was fast. Okay. That’s what they like. Then you do the next thing. Then you’re inspired by something else in there and it’s a process. It’s not something you can just sit down and figure out and plan out. You’ve got to go it right. It’s like a journey.
Sarah Barnes: I think that comes back to the key thing that I said at the start, which is just to listen to your audience. So even though on TikTok, you’re not asking them in the same way, what you’ve just said and what you are doing, is the key thing. Just to be humble enough as well. Like in the past, I would’ve just thought, oh, I’m going to do this. Whereas now I just approach it and think actually no, nobody wants that thing. What they want is something else. If you can do that, I just think that’s the key to it. Just to watch what is working and experiment. The other thing I would say is, the really good thing about TikTok is I find it’s just so much easier to gain traction as a new account. So if you’ve just started posting, you might have one or two videos. It’s just so much easier to become really visible with those. I think I had maybe one quite early on and that just really spurred me on and I just thought, this is amazing. This has never happened to me on any other platform that you could just have one video become so big, so quickly. That’s not necessarily always brilliant because you still need your, those people that are following you to be the right audience, but it is a boost. You need a combination.
Megan Porta: Yeah, absolutely. Talking about TikTok specifically to start, I know that this is always changing, but I would love to get your thoughts on how often to post, if you do wanna create a huge following and then, an engaged following, hopefully. How many times a week, a day do you recommend?
Sarah Barnes: I think it depends on your type of content. I follow lots of people who post multiple times a day. I don’t know if you’ve seen them, but those food accounts where people are cooking on screen, like almost live, with their face in it as well and chatting to camera. That’s a very different kind of account. It’s a very different kind of content. I really like watching that, but it’s not for me, I don’t think because I really like to have a set of time where I just film, edit it and then put them out. I don’t wanna really be filming every day. I do not blow dry my hair enough to be on camera every day.
Megan Porta: Same.
Sarah Barnes: I don’t think there’s a hard and fast answer. I think it has to be a balance between your life and what you’re willing to give and what your audience wants and responds to. So I couldn’t commit to filming eight videos a day that some people do. But then I guess if you are at home and you want to do that, and you find it easier to just film chatty videos as you cook and your audience like that, that’s great as well. But that’s not right for me. So I do one video a day, at the moment. I very rarely do more than that. And I think I will probably go down slightly in the summer. That’s working really well for me. I don’t think there’s a hard and fast rule, but I just think it probably does need to be regular. So I wouldn’t go down to say less than three videos a week. But if you can only do three videos a week, it’s better to do three videos a week, every week than not do any.
Megan Porta: Yeah, that makes sense. Okay. Then what other changes in style? Speaking about both Instagram and TikTok, have happened recently and just any trends, changes that you can talk about.
Sarah Barnes: I think so. Yeah. Showing real life, showing some mess and slight chaos. I think a lot about stopping people scrolling in the first one second. So is the clip that I’m putting as the very first clip, in InShot or however I’m editing? Is it enough? If you were scrolling through your phone to stop and very often I’ve edited the whole video, get right to the end. I just think, no, it’s not enough. That wouldn’t stop me scrolling. So it’s fine. I just rejigged it around, but again, it’s about being humble enough to say no, that’s just not a good enough clip. I also experimented with that. So sometimes I will put my face in and sometimes I will put a really good shot of the food to start with. Occasionally I don’t show the finished product at the beginning and it’s just experimenting and with stuff like that, to work out how to engage people. But certainly in that first one second, because we’ve all just got such short attention spans, haven’t we? So that would be definitely a tip for me to just think about that initial screen view that they see. Show some reality, whatever that means to you. Whether it’s the way you lay the food out or showing your face or showing mess or dropping something and stuff like that. People really like that, I think.
Megan Porta: The first video I posted on TikTok in my account was a day in the life of just being a podcast host. That’s my most popular one. It’s not even a thousand views, but it’s more popular than ones that I posted in the past few days that I thought were really fun. So people really like that real stuff. They like seeing your real life and behind the scenes. They like seeing your mistakes and your messy hair.
Sarah Barnes: Yeah. I think it’s good. Yeah. It’s really good. It’s a good way to connect to see that we are not just food. We are real life.
Megan Porta: Yeah, exactly. I like this trend that it’s going on because for a while I felt like everything needed to be staged and perfect and polished and curated, and your hair had to be absolutely like to the tee. Now it’s trending away from that, which I am completely embracing. I don’t know about you, Sarah, but it’s very refreshing.
Sarah Barnes: Yeah, I really like a bit of contrast. So sometimes I’ll do a video and my hair looks nice and I’ve got my makeup on and I’ll have my face in it. Then there’ll be some kind of mistake or I drop something and stuff. I quite like a bit of that. I think that’s really good so that people think they’re getting something really professional. Then they realize. But it’s a connection, isn’t it. It shows that we are all just doing our best in the kitchen. I think that’s a really good thing to share, because it’s true.
Megan Porta: I love that. Any other changes, and also along with that question, how do we keep up with the changes? Because I feel like that’s a full-time job in itself.
Sarah Barnes: Yeah. I think it helps if you enjoy the platforms. So I genuinely enjoy TikTok. I have to remind myself to stop scrolling. I think that’s a really good thing. I think just what you and I talked about and what you just said about starting, the way you have been posting and seeing what works. Just to really pay attention to the trends. What stops you scrolling when you are scrolling? What makes you follow someone? What makes you click like on a video? What makes you save it? And just to be really intentional about noticing those things as you scroll, whether it’s on Instagram or TikTok, I think that’s really valuable. I also, I keep a notes section of things that I’ve really liked in videos or that I thought have worked really well. So it might be I really liked that somebody did a side on shot for a burger, or it might be that I really liked that someone solved a problem in a voiceover. I just keep notes of things that I notice as I scroll because. By the time I have a filming day in a week’s time, I wouldn’t remember. So keeping notes and just being really conscious as you scroll to think about what has an impact on you. I almost set aside time just to do that. I’m telling myself that I’m just scrolling, but yeah.
Megan Porta: This is research and development.
Sarah Barnes: Yeah. Hundred percent this is research. This is not me. Just like watching funny videos about dogs. But I think that’s important. It is important to take that time to notice.
Megan Porta: I feel like you need to be a good consumer in order to be a good creator, because otherwise you really have no idea. You don’t know the platform well, and you don’t know what’s working at least in your perspective. So I think that’s step number one. Which a lot of us resist because that’s more time on our phone, more time away from the people around us, but really it is research and development. A lot of it can be. When I’m on my phone and I’m scrolling, I don’t often do it for pleasure. I often do it just to see what’s working. So my boys will say, mom, get off your phone. I will say I’m working because I truly believe that I’m working. So now, every time I’m on my phone, they equate that with mom’s working, which I like because mom is not endlessly scrolling because she’s a zombie, it’s true work. It’s true research.
Sarah Barnes: I think that’s really interesting. You are right. If you can make a distinction in your life between this is a whole nother podcast about how to not spend your whole life on your phone as a food blogger. But if you can make a distinction between mindless scrolling, which is what makes us all feel a bit gross, isn’t it and actually thinking, this is work. It makes me feel very different if I can split that time up and that’s definitely helped me with doing all of this. It’s helped me not to feel that it’s had a negative impact on my life. So I know that this bit is work. Then, another time might be dog videos.
Megan Porta: It is a mindset tweak that I. Think is hard to overcome, but if you can nail that, you can free up so much space to just not worry about that. Why you’re on your phone shouldn’t be a worry.
Sarah Barnes: And I know I’ve said it already but just for me, because this has been working and to have this shift into something really positive, which is, meeting people’s needs, helping people, doing something that is genuinely making a difference to people. Suddenly that time spent on my phone feels fruitful, it doesn’t feel gross scrolling. Because the outcome of it is really positive and is really helpful to people. It feels altogether good.
Megan Porta: Yes and it should. That’s the ultimate goal, right? We want it to feel good. We don’t wanna feel gross or icky. You mentioned that you’ve grown your traffic, your blog traffic from implementing the strategy in your business and growing your accounts. Have you seen other things that have benefited your business as a whole?
Sarah Barnes: I don’t do any at the moment, sponsored work on Instagram because I have been doing other work that was already booked in. But if I was doing that now and I will do it next year, I probably plan on doing a little bit more of that. Obviously what I can charge there now, going from 60,000 followers to 160,000, would’ve changed significantly. So that will be a big change to my business. That is a plan for next year, which is really positive, which is all around really good. The other thing which I haven’t mentioned is I’ve also repurposed these videos for the blog. So when I’ve recorded these videos for Instagram and TikTok, I then rotate them so they’re horizontal, upload them to the blog. So all the time that’s helping my ad revenue on the site as well.
Megan Porta: Ah, that’s a great little tip.
Sarah Barnes: Working smarter.
Megan Porta: Yes, absolutely. Anytime I can repurpose, reuse, recycle my content. Oh, I love that feeling. It’s so great.
Sarah Barnes: It’s very satisfying.
Megan Porta: This is inspiring. I knew this would be an inspiring conversation, but thank you for inspiring me and so many other people today. Sarah, is there anything we’ve forgotten that you wanna touch on before we say goodbye?
Sarah Barnes: I just wanted to say thank you to you, Megan for the podcast. Because it’s inspired me so much and I’ve listened to it a lot this year when I was really focusing on this stuff. When you’re at home typing away on your own, on your food blog, it’s really lovely to hear a friendly voice and other people who are doing the same thing.
Megan Porta: You’re welcome. Thank you for saying that. That made my day.
Sarah Barnes: No, it’s really true.
Megan Porta: Is there anything else you wanted to mention?
Sarah Barnes: Do you want my tidbit, my favorite quote or my favorite thought? Yeah, my, I didn’t actually know where this comes from. I should have found that out, but I think a lot about 1% infinity and the concept of just improving a tiny bit each day to make these businesses better. When you’re running a business where you essentially, you can do everything, it can just be incredibly overwhelming knowing when to stop and just reminding myself, if I just get a tiny bit better each day, who knows where I could end up in six months or a year, and that’s been just incredibly helpful to me. In the last six months and in the past years. So yeah, if you’re feeling overwhelmed with starting any of this, or if Megan, you are feeling overwhelmed with your TikTok videos, it’s just 1% infinity. If you just do 1% tomorrow, that’s better than it was today. Who knows where you will end up on TikTok.
Megan Porta: Oh, I appreciate that. I need that this week, because it’s like that honeymoon phase of doing it for a week is over and yeah now I’m like, oh my gosh, do I really wanna do this? I have to commit here. But yeah, I appreciate that. Those are very inspiring words to leave us with. So thank you, Sarah. We will put together show notes for you. So if anyone wants to go peek at those, you can go to eatblogtalk.com/tamingtwin. I’ve been stalking your Instagram page while we’ve been talking, but everyone else should go check it out. But share with everyone listening, where they can find you online on social media, on TikTok, et cetera.
Sarah Barnes: So you can find me everywhere at Taming Twins and the blog is tamingtwins.com. So yeah, on Instagram, just @tamingtwins and TikTok as well.
Megan Porta: Awesome. Thank you again, Sarah so much for your time today and thank you for listening today, 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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