Chefs, you probably have a personal Facebook page but perhaps you haven’t gotten around to setting up a business page. Or you have a business page but haven’t put much effort into populating it or promoting it.

Time to get off the dime.

I promote my writing business on Facebook with three pages: my personal page (hey, it’s my personal business), my Goldenwriting page, and my blog San Diego Foodstuff’s page. Plus, I have Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin, and Instagram accounts. Am I on and posting all the time? Of course not. I work for a living. But I make sure that I have a regular presence on each. I’m probably most active on Facebook and Instagram. And on Facebook, I’m most active on my personal page and San Diego Foodstuff (not to mention APPCA’s business and group pages).

The point is that social media–and Facebook in particular–hones community and community is what I need to further my business. As personal chefs, you need community, too. You need people to be aware of you and what you do and offer. You need to whet their appetites for your offerings. You need to help them think about their culinary needs or health needs or lifestyle needs.

Despite its flaws, Facebook remains a great option for this.

Now perhaps you’re on Facebook and haven’t gotten much traction from your efforts. Have you considered how you’re approaching it? Have you asked for feedback from fellow personal chefs or friends you trust? Are you trying to engage people or just posting (mediocre) photos of food you’ve made? Are you offering them anything useful? Are you demonstrating to potential customers or partners who you are and what you’re interested in?

Now your Facebook business page isn’t going to save your business. But its got the potential to be a tremendous marketing tool. And, I’m hoping, the tips that follow can help it become just that for you.

  1. Strategize: Consider what you want to get from the time you expend on Facebook. More clients? Of course–but how? Who are your target clients? Families? People with special health needs? Those who want to get fit? Caregiving children of parents who need assistance to stay home? Men or women? Knowing who your audience is will help you better craft your messaging and engagement. It may also help you determine what time to post and how often. Working people probably log on early in the morning or in the evening, for example. One way to learn about who is visiting your page and when is to check your page’s analytics that are in the “Insights” section of the page.
  2. Offer something of value for free: These could range from cooking tips, health news, and food recall updates to recipes. Try subscribing to food site email newsletters and post intriguing news and ideas you get from them to your page. Great resources include Cooking Light, Time Health, Well Done, the Kitchn, Epicurious, and Health.com. But explore the web for others you’re interested in.
  3. Hold a quiz: Not only are they fun, but done the right way they can give you consumer information. Ask people what they’d like to see on a weekly menu, their favorite Italian-style dishes, how they use their slow cooker, their kids’ favorite meals… Maybe quiz them on safe cooking practices. You get the idea.
  4. Post beautiful food photos: We write about this here all the time, but some of you aren’t paying attention. Here’s just one of our posts, written by APPCA member and superb photographer Carol Borchardt. If you do nothing else, make sure your photos are in focus and are well lit. If they look lousy, admit it and don’t use them. Then work on ways to improve them–and you can do this even with a cell phone. Take a look at this piece and think about how you can use these tips for improving your photos. They’re your business cards.
  5. Engage in Facebook groups: One way to bring people to your business page is to participate in relevant Facebook groups so people can get to know you and want to hear from you. They could be food or chef groups (be sure to join and contribute to our APPCA group and Carol Borchardt’s new group Taste Matters). But consider other options, such as a local community group, a group dedicated to discussing health care issues you specialize in, and even totally unrelated groups that engage in topics you’re passionate about–politics, gardening, pet care. The point is you’re meeting people and they’re meeting you. Offer useful information to demonstrate your expertise, ask great questions, let them know what you do. They’ll surely subscribe to your business page–and perhaps generate referrals.
  6. Make sure all critical business info is on your business page: Is your name and geographical location listed? Your services? Your areas of specialization? Do you list your website and contact information? Don’t make people have to labor to find you. It may not be a client. It may be a newspaper reporter who wants to interview you.

Facebook business pages will only be as useful as the time you put into them–and the quality of your content. You can’t stay off for weeks or months at a time. You can’t post lousy photos. And you can’t try to promote your business with it if you don’t engage with others and draw them to it. A Facebook business page has the potential to be a great marketing tool, but only if you master best practices in running it.

Do you have a Facebook business page? What are your best practices and how useful has it been?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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Being a personal chef can be a solitary endeavor. You develop recipes and create menus on your own, you shop alone, you often cook and clean up alone. It’s up to you to market yourself and attract clients. You are the one responsible for growing your business.

Nothing wrong with that; in fact, it’s what we signed up for. But at some point we all need advice, education, and help with advancing our business. Joining a professional association can help with that. It should help with that. Joining a professional association means making a commitment to your career through networking with peers. It means having a forum that allows you the opportunity to take advantage of situations that arise where you are able to make personal and professional contacts that can benefit you at the present time and also provide beneficial opportunities in the future.

These days, it’s understandable that many professionals feel that the interactions they experience on social media can replace membership in a professional organization. Millennials especially have eschewed professional organizations, according to Entrepreneur magazine. They reported that in Buzz Marketing Group’s “Professional Organizations Study 2015” survey, more than one quarter of respondents referred to professional organizations as “old school.” Why did respondents, who were under the age of 40, leave older groups in record numbers?

  • 37 percent did not see value in the group.
  • 45 percent reported participation was too expensive.
  • 35 percent said the group wasn’t a community comprised of their peers.
  • 31 percent felt that groups lacked technology.
  • 27 percent said it lacked proper curation.

But, Entrepreneur also points out that that with social capital being so important to millennials, they’re being drawn into professional organizations that are millennial focused.

We think that’s short sighted. While being in a group of same-age peers can be useful, there’s a lot to be said for interacting in groups with multi-generational members who can learn from one another and expand opportunities across the breadth of experience and networks.

At APPCA, we’ve found that our members most definitely learn from the expertise of those who have been in the business for years and from the insights and knowledge of young members who are in tune with new technologies and lifestyles. We share these on our forums and at meetings–as well as on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin. Our members tell us that they hope to get job leads from membership and that they want to get together at conventions.

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On our Facebook group page, Carolyn Tipton Wold explains that, “Joining an association has given me hundreds of ‘sounding boards’ when I find myself with questions about pricing, marketing, recipes, etc. I also gain perspective on issues I haven’t yet encountered but could in the future. I gain a lot from the annual conferences and, depending on which association(s) you join, you can also get insurance coverage for your business and access to organizational cheffing databases.”

The consensus among experts in career advancement is that there are some key gains to be made by those who invest both time and some money in joining a professional organization. The top benefits they see include:

  • Networking
  • Business operations resources
  • Access to insurance or other member perks
  • Greater exposure to jobs/clients
  • Continuing education
  • Shared information
  • Inspiration and motivation
  • Mentoring
  • Developing leadership skills

Of course, simply joining an organization won’t yield results–unless you’re looking to just add the fact of your membership to your resume or website. You need to participate, get to know other members, share information and insights.

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So, let’s say you’re game to join a professional organization. Homing in on the right ones takes some research. How do you evaluate their effectiveness for your specific needs? Here are some questions to ask when considering membership in a professional organization:

  • What resources and benefits are you looking for and are they offered by the organization? 
  • What in general does the association offer to members?
  • What are the criteria for membership?
  • Are industry-specific training materials and programs available to members?

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  • Does membership in the association offer its members professional credibility?
  • What professional continuing education opportunities does the association offer? Does the association offer professional certifications?  Are they valid? Are they meaningful in the industry?
  • Does the association provide assistance to members regarding job lead assistance? 
  • Does the association provide access to professional support such as specific general liability insurance?
  • Does the association provide internet interaction access between members for mentorship and support?
  • Does the association provide information about current trends impacting the industry?
  • Does the association provide ongoing industry support to members through blogs, social media, forums, etc.?
  • Does the association represent the members through participation in other prestigious professional organizations and the media in order to further the value of membership in the organization?
  • Does the association win awards for developing and furthering the industry it represents?
  • Is the association committed to the success of the industry and members it represents?
Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson Accept Chef of the Year Award from Candy Wallace

Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson Accept Chef of the Year Award from Candy Wallace

APPCA, for example, has long been committed to the success of our members. We offer all the tools and resources a budding personal chef needs to start a business–including our upcoming Personal Chef Seminar in San Diego this weekend–as well as support and guidance for those with more experience. We are revving up our Chef Summit this year. We offer this blog–which features discussions about business strategies, recipes, member spotlights, and special diets. We are active on Facebook and other social media. We operate an active member forum on our website. We provide access to general liability insurance. We help members design effective websites. We have software to support your business. We have developed an app to help potential clients find and hire personal chefs in the association. And, founder/executive director Candy Wallace is always available to help individual members address issues they’re facing with their business.

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Candy being inducted by Michel Escoffier as a Disciple of Escoffier at the prestigious Gathering of Gourmands

If you’re not already a member, make 2016 the year you join a professional association so you can get these benefits.

What are you looking for in a professional organization? What’s been holding you back from joining one?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

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We love connecting with you on our personal chef forums. But we also enjoy the relationships we’re building on social media. Some of you are just as active on social media as we are. But others are wary of this medium or uncertain about what to do. One thing we’ve noticed, particularly on Facebook, is that when we go to your business pages to try to promote your work or your page, it’s often neglected. The most recent posts are months old. Or, you haven’t got any useful content to speak of that would draw people to engage with you or help them understand what you do.

So, we thought we’d give you some tips for how to draw people in–people who could be potential clients, after all, or good contacts for networking–and keep them coming back. They aren’t difficult to do. In fact, all they do is make you more interesting, useful, and engaging. We like to think of social media as a large cocktail party filled with lots of conversations going on simultaneously. Do you want to be the wallflower or social butterfly? Think about how you act at a party. You find yourself in a small group of people. Do you monopolize the conversation and not let anyone else have a turn or do you ask others questions to learn more about them? Do you have some interesting anecdotes to share, some useful information or story you found in a newspaper or do you drone on about how hard it was to shovel snow from the driveway or get your car to start?

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The idea is to become a person who is helpful and entertaining. To be viewed as an expert with resources to share. To engage others. Yes, you want to promote yourself and your business–but not at the expense of being boring or viewed simply as a self-promoter. Be the cool guest at the cocktail party.

With this in mind, here are six ways to help you accomplish this:

1. Ask questions. Think of it as a way to learn more about your “friends” and “followers”–and as a useful market research tool. Find out what people’s favorite foods are, how often they eat at home with their families, if they enjoy cooking shows, what their favorite ethnic foods are, how they learned to cook–or if they cook. If you are ignorant about something–an ingredient from another culture or a cooking technique–ask if someone can share their knowledge. As you do this more frequently, you’ll find your questions will be more targeted and you’ll be surprised at what sparks a conversation. And that’s a great result.

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2. Tag people with a purpose. One of the most annoying things on Facebook or Twitter is to be tagged by someone just because they want your attention. But if you have something to share (a link to a magazine article, a TV show, or cool website) that specifically mentions someone–a friend, a celebrity chef, a business–by all means tag them. If you want someone in particular to respond to a question, tag them. If you’re linking to a blog post you’ve written that mentions someone, tag them.

3. Use great photos. Facebook has recently acknowledged that long posts are out and photos are in. If you want to show up on other people’s news feeds, make sure you have at least one great photo to draw attention. It could be a beautiful dish you’ve prepared, a gorgeous piece of produce, an infographic, whatever. And, if you use a smart phone to shoot your photos, get an app called InstaFrame or one like it to easily create a multi-photo collage you can upload. You can do the same with PicFrame on a Mac (very helpful in blogging, too).

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4. Share posts others put up–or be a helpful retweeter. Be the good guy and generously spread their good news or interesting articles. You may even find other people like your business page because they’ve now discovered you.

5. Engage with others on their feeds or tweets. Read your news feed and become part of the conversation. If you have something useful to say, jump in with a comment, observation, solution, or question.

6. Be judicious in promoting yourself. All social media platforms are great resources for self promotion, but don’t overdo it and find ways to do it that are useful (like offering a recipe or cooking tips). Brag on a new gig you got or a compliment a client gave you for a dish. Announce what your services are and how you can help people. Illustrate it with gorgeous photos. Just do it as part of your larger engagement with others. They shouldn’t be the majority of your posts.

And, here’s an extra tip–feed your accounts regularly. Pick a few platforms that you think will do you the most good and be involved on them. If you try to be everywhere you’ll surely give up. It’s very frustrating to have people you’re trying to build a relationship with disappear for months on end. Don’t over post, but don’t go AWOL. Find your rhythm and try to stick with it.

And be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter (@AmerPersChef), and join our LinkedIn group! Let us know where we can find you so we can have a conversation!

What social media challenges do you have? Where can we find you?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

 

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