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Hearth & Home November 2016

Hungry for Ideas?

By Lisa Readie Mayer

How food photos and recipe posts can help you grow your business.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are you’ve seen those step-by-step, time-lapsed recipe videos on your Facebook news feed. Shot from a bird’s-eye view and set against a jazzy musical score, “Tasty” videos by Buzzfeed play automatically as you scroll past on Facebook, luring you in.

The recipes are simple enough that they can be understood by visual demonstration only. The videos usually feature two hands on camera preparing the dish without spoken instructions, although some list ingredient quantities and basic instructions in onscreen captions. Fast moving and short – most run between 30 and 60 seconds – the videos are mesmerizing and addictive.

Since it was launched July 31, 2015, “Tasty” by Buzzfeed has amassed nearly 71 million followers on Facebook, five million on Instagram, 309,000 on Twitter, and more than 1.2 million subscribers on its YouTube channel with more than 140 million views.

Its videos have an extremely high rate of engagement and post-viewing actions, averaging 306,000 likes, shares, re-tweets, or comments per video post. It has spawned numerous spin-offs, such as “Tasty Junior,” with recipe videos prepared by children; “Goodful,” which emphasizes healthy cooking; “Proper Tasty” in England; “Tasty Demais” in Brazil; and more.

To say the videos are the hottest thing in social media is an understatement. The recipes are not fancy or gourmet. Case in point: a 44-second, how-to recipe video for Cheese Stuffed Pizza Pretzels has attracted over 111 million views and been shared over two million times. (One might argue that the sky-high number of views is due, in part, to the fact that the videos move so fast you need to keep re-watching them to figure out the exact ingredients, quantities and method!)

While most recipes have generic ingredients, some feature a brand name product, such as Oreos, in the preparation. The impact of such exposure can be powerful and swift. Last March, a recipe for Jalapeno Popper Burgers prepared on an Oster indoor electric grill had over 58 million views, over one million shares, and the grill reportedly sold out on Amazon and Target within hours of posting.

Though most “Tasty” recipes are prepared on a cooktop burner, or in an oven or slow-cooker, there are also grilled recipes such as Grilled Salmon with Avocado Salsa (212,000 views), Grilled Fajita Skewers (103,000 views), and Spatchcocked Grilled Chicken (175,000 views). The latter is unusual in that it runs two minutes long (double the length of most “Tasty” videos) and features a chef talking about the brining method, butchering techniques, and grilling process in the background.

Why are “Tasty” videos – which have been called the “21st century cookbook” – so popular? “(They) tap into a simple truth: People love tasty food, comfort food, and the kinds of foods that remind them of their childhood or an experience,” says Frank Cooper, BuzzFeed’s chief marketing officer in an article in Fortune.

Tasty, and similar recipe video sites such as Delish, Tastemade and Tip Hero, are just a few examples of the growing presence of food photos and recipes on all social media platforms. Bon Appetit magazine credits social media and smartphones for “cuisine becoming cool in American culture,” noting the Internet allows consumers to see what chefs, food bloggers and writers are cooking and eating all over the world.

It has also created food stars out of ordinary people, not just those who have their own television shows. A study by the Retail Dieticians Business Alliance reveals that “food, drink and travel” are the most discussed topics on social media.

Using social media to tap into this hunger for food photos, videos, recipes, and how-to content through social media is a smart, relatively easy and inexpensive way for retailers to connect with consumers and increase business.

Eric Davis, vice president at Harvest PR & Marketing, the marketing communications firm that handles publicity for the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, says, “It’s important for barbecue retailers and manufacturers to have a presence on every platform to reach the widest audience.”

For instance, he says Facebook and Twitter skew to Baby Boomers; Instagram and Snapchat connect with Millennials; Pinterest is popular with women searching for recipes, DIY projects, crafts and other topics; and Houzz is effective at reaching the design community.

The Audience

According to NextRestaurants, a marketing resource for restaurateurs, “consumers love to devour (food and recipe) content to feed their passions, learn new skills, or to research what they want to buy and where they want to shop.”

This is especially true for Millennials. According to the Supermarket Guru report, 90 percent of Millennials prepare dinner at home three or more times per week, but only 56 percent of them feel confident in the kitchen, and nearly 75 percent say they would like to be a better cook.

“But they’re not following Betty Crocker recipes,” says Phil Lempert, food trends analyst for Supermarket Guru Report. “They’re checking out Instagram photos for inspiration and then experimenting.”

Indeed, according to Pew Research, over half of U.S. Millennials use Instagram, and half of that group use it every day. About 21 percent of all U.S. adults use Instagram.

According to NextRestaurants, nearly 70 percent of Millennials believe they can find a YouTube video for anything they want to learn, and they believe it’s the best place to learn about a product or service that interests them. Searches for “how to” videos are up 70 percent on YouTube.

According to, the online newsletter for the food and beverage development industry, nearly 80 percent of Millennials say they use recipes they see online. Thirty-four percent always/frequently watch cooking videos on YouTube and 28 percent sometimes do. Helping to fuel the growing popularity of cooking videos is the ability to watch on mobile devices – you can easily watch along on your phone while cooking.

Step-by-step recipe Tasty-style videos are popular, but videos offering basic instructions on how to light and judge the temperature of a kamado cooker; a comparison of charcoal fuels; how to clean a gas grill, and a host of other topics, would also be of interest. The videos can be posted on your website, YouTube channel, and Facebook page.

Social Media Platforms

Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter are ideal platforms for posting recipes and accompanying still photos. Pinterest and Houzz are great options for posting all things related to outdoor design, outdoor kitchens, and Outdoor Rooms. Besides these well-known platforms, there are several new social media apps that are gaining a following among food enthusiasts.

Vimeo ( is a site on which users can upload, share and view videos, many of them related to food and cooking. Nom ( is a platform that describes itself as “a community for food lovers to create, share and watch their favorite stories in real-time.” The platform allows users to create and distribute live-stream cooking broadcasts, recipe videos and other food-related content, as if they were hosting their own live cooking show, with an opportunity to engage and interact with viewers.

The new photo-sharing app, Forq (, promises to help users “celebrate, share and remember” their food, and offers a chance to share, store and reference their recipes.

Tender, an Android app from Google, showcases artful food photos and recipes from around the world. Users can post their own food photos and follow friends to see what they’re eating. Like the dating app Tinder, you can swipe right to save recipes to your personal cookbook, or left to delete it. The Foodie app, available on iTunes, offers 26 filters and editing features to help users snap perfect food photos from directly above and share them on social media networks.

Grill manufacturers such as Dansons, Twin Eagles, DCS by Fisher & Paykel, Bull, Saber, Napoleon, Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet, Weber and others are stepping up the content on their websites and social media platforms. They are posting grilling and smoking recipes, sharing recipes by celebrity chefs, investing in professional food photography, developing how-to and use-and-care instructional videos, and posting photos and information on Outdoor Room projects.

Jim Ginocchi, president of Coyote Outdoor Living, says, “We utilize the strengths of different social media platforms to grow awareness of our brand and get our message out. We use Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook to post design and outdoor kitchen ideas, grilling how-tos, maintenance tips, and recipes. We also tie in with bloggers by sharing or linking to their content.”

Big Green Egg is among the most prolific creators of food content on its website and social media platforms. The company produces its own radio and TV podcasts. It has created instructional videos on topics such as how to prepare a pork loin, or how to assemble a cooker. The company also offers an extensive online library of recipes, photos, and recipe videos.

“We want to catch someone who might be thinking about what to make for dinner tonight, and deliver solutions quickly and conveniently with a couple clicks or swipes in an entertaining way,” says Ardy Arani, president of Big Green Egg. “People don’t want to watch a 45-minute video; they want a quick, step-by-step tutorial and, in a few short snippets, see what ingredients they need and how to make the dish. We make it easy for consumers to get engaged and make it fun for them.”

While your social media posts may not garner millions of views such as Tasty videos do, they are still a fun way to whet customers’ appetites and inspire them to grill up something good for dinner and, in the process, maybe even increase your sales.

Here's How

Want to step up your food, recipe and how-to content on social media? Here’s some practical advice from the experts:

  • No need to invest in expensive camera equipment; an iPhone, smartphone, or GoPro is all you need to take professional-quality photos and videos.
  • Shoot food photos and videos with natural light.
  • Position the camera directly above the food, shooting down on it. Use tight shots without showing much background.
  • Keep it simple; don’t stage the photo or video with extraneous “props.”
  • If your video will not have an on-camera host speaking, add captions to describe ingredients or any directions that are not obvious from watching.
  • If your video features an on-camera chef or other expert conducting the recipe demo or how-to instruction, your in-store cooking class kitchen, outdoor kitchen display, or a demo grill with a side table will make a fine setting. Just remember a wider angle will show much more, so make sure the area is clean, neat and orderly – pay attention to the details.
  • Your hands will be on camera; make sure your fingernails are spotlessly clean. 
  • Use the time-lapse setting on an iPhone camera to record videos that automatically play back at a faster rate of speed, in the style of a Tasty video. A rule of thumb: you will need to shoot 15 minutes of footage to end up with a time-lapsed video that is one-minute long.
  • Footage can be further edited, slowed down or sped up with an easy-to-use editing program, such as iMovie, on your computer.
  • For background music, royalty-free music is available on websites such as,,, and
  • Use a tri-pod for your phone or GoPro for stability, especially when recording videos.
  • To maximize exposure, promote recipe, video and photo posts on your website and blog, and across all your social media platforms.
  • Encourage engagement and interaction with fans and followers by asking them to submit their own photos and recipes to you, and sharing them on your website and social media platforms.
  • Share recipes, food trends, and information from other sources you trust. Often, when you follow a blogger or other source and share their posts, they will share yours as well, further increasing exposure for your store.
  • Make your posts mostly about useful content. Avoid being overly commercial or promotional.
  • Post when people are most likely to see them – in the morning before work, during commuting hours, and in the evenings. Posts in the middle of the night get lost.
  • Opt for quality over quantity; experts recommend posting no more than once per day so your followers don’t feel inundated and annoyed.

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