Welcome to episode 42 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! Today, Bjork interviews Clotilde Dusoulier from the popular food blog Chocolate & Zucchini about running a bilingual blog.
Last week, Bjork talked with Barry Moore from the Active Marketer about maximizing your email marketing. Barry shared his wealth of knowledge about how to become a true ninja email marketer using advanced email marketing tools, such as Active Campaign. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
Building a Successful Bilingual Blog
Many of our Food Blogger Pro members reign from places all over the world where English might not be the primary language. This presents a bit of a difficult decision for these bloggers – what language should they use to blog?
Clotilde from Chocolate & Zucchini decided to not even make that decision a while back. Instead, she chose to blog in both languages, and today you’ll find both an English and a French version on her long-standing website. In this episode, she talks about why she blogs in both languages and what that looks like from a process standpoint, as well as how she manages to stay relevant after being in the blogging game for over a decade.
In this episode, Clotilde shares:
- What she does as a food trend consultant
- Why she decided to write her blog in multiple languages
- How she prepares posts for both English and French
- How running a multiple language blog affects her SEO
- What tools she uses to help users select a language
- How sponsored posts and ad networks differ on her blog
- Why Clotilde is willing to try new things with social media
- Why she is so excited about live video
- How she prepares for a live video session
Listen to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast below or check it out on iTunes:
- 12 Amazing Instagram Accounts for Paris Lovers
- Snapchat & Facebook Live for Food Bloggers: 5 Reasons to Get Started
- Weight / Volume Conversion Chart
- Episode 016: How Elise Bauer Built Simply Recipes and Recovered from a 70% Drop in Traffic
- Chocolate & Zucchini
- Chocolate & Zucchini on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Facebook
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].
Be sure to review us on iTunes!
If you’d like to jump to the comments section, click here.
Bjork Ostrom: Welcome to episode, number forty two of the Food Blogger Pro podcast. Hi there, this is Bjork Ostrom, you are listening to episode number forty two of the Food Blogger Pro podcast. Before we get into it I just want to say thanks. We really appreciate you tuning into this podcast each and every week, if you tune in each and every week, even if you don’t, even if this is the first time that you are listening to it. I really, really appreciate it. I think it’s so incredible that we can live in a world where we record this podcast and send it out to the world.
The conversations we are having are with people from around the world as well, which is true for today’s podcast as we are talking Clotilde Dusoulier. I hope that I did my French accent correct. She is from Chocolate &Zucchini. Clotilde was part of a group of bloggers that kind of forged the path for this industry of food media online or food blogging. I’m really excited to share this interview with you. She is going to talk about a few things that I think are really, really fascinating.
The first is just kind of the background and her story and how she got started. She is also going to talk about how she runs a blog in two different languages and we get that question often. We are going to talk about kind of some of the ramifications of that, what that looks like for her time and how she does that with search engines, and what that looks like. Then last she is going to be talking about some of the new things which she is trying out and how she is venturing into these new spaces and even though she’s been doing this food blogging thing for a long time, she is not afraid to jump in and try new things. I think that’s a huge takeaway.
She is going to be talking about specifically some of the live video stuff she is doing, Snapchat, Facebook live and how she is using those to help build her blog and to help build her brand. One quick note that I wanted to share is, we are going to talk about show notes in this podcast. If you want to see those are, click on any of the links that Clotilde shares in this podcast. You can go to foodbloggerpro.com/42, type in the number 42 and that will direct you to the show notes. Without further ado, let’s jump into the podcast. Clotilde, welcome.
Clotilde Dusouiler: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.
Bjork Ostrom: This is really exciting. As I was doing some research here, before we started recording. I was looking through some of the social media posts you had. One of the posts was a picture of you with another younger lady. I said, “This is interesting, this is … I clicked into it and it said that, you had written in the caption that you had just worked with this individual and it was through Make a Wish but she was from Minnesota, which is where we are from.
Clotilde Dusouiler: Yeah, she is actually from Saint Paul.
Bjork Ostrom: My good neighbors.
Clotilde Dusouiler: Yeah, it’s kind of like that.
Bjork Ostrom: What a weird connection. I’m curious, can you tell me a little bit about what that was and what the story behind it?
Clotilde Dusouiler: Sure, it was … I was so honored to be contacted by the Make a Wish foundation which is a foundation, it’s … Some people are not familiar with it. They have basically money to spend to make a sick child, the dream of a sick child come true. It maybe chronically sick children or severely sick children. This young woman, her wish was to come to Paris and pursue her passion for baking. They thought of me, they put together this whole trip for her, with different kinds of things. They thought of me to give her a perspective French home style baking. I’m not a pastry chef, but and I of course said yes. She was at my house actually this morning. We baked cookies together and we got to chat about her life and my work. It was really sweet experience. She was really sweet and it’s just an honor to be …
Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome.
Clotilde Dusouiler: Part of somebody’s wish.
Bjork Ostrom: If you want insider information, you can … If you see her again or interact with her again, you can ask her about Minnesota State Fair Food and her favorite food on a stick. That will be like the leading conversation that you can ask her about. We do a really big fair here and everything is on a stick. That’s Minnesota.
Clotilde Dusouiler: That sounds fun.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s Minnesota insider information. That’s really cool That you did that. thank you so much. I know that it’s an incredible organization and they do incredible work and it takes time to dedicate out of your morning to spend time with somebody and kind of reel out what you are doing. that’s cool that you did that. I would assume one of the reasons that people that run Make a Wish thought of you right away for French baking was because you have a long history with it, all the way back to 2003, right?
Clotilde Dusouiler: I know.
Bjork Ostrom: I’m curious to know. Can you take me back to 2003, what was happening at that time? that was like the idea of these two words going together, food and blog didn’t really exist at that time. If it did, it was really, really early, can you talk to me about?
Clotilde Dusouiler: It was like, back then there were about a dozen food blogs. It kind of blows the mind to think of it now. I had spent two years working in California. I was a software engineer back then. I was very passionate about cooking and baking. I had discovered food blogs and I loved the kind of diary format, the idea that it’s very conversational, it’s very much like sitting on a stool in somebody’s kitchen and they are just telling you about what they made, very approachable, very friendly. I just wanted to share my passion in using this format and share my thoughts and recipes with others. That was in 2003 and I was lucky enough to start at that time. When the big wave of food blog media attention hit around 2004, 2005, mine was already well established and so that gave me a big push in terms of traffic and just recognition.
I had a chance to write a first cook book and that was the point at which I said, “This is really something that I’m … The food and writing about food. I would really love to make a career out of it. I quit my day job, my software engineering job in 2005. It has been almost eleven years now that after working fulltime doing various activities around cooking and writing.
Bjork Ostrom: Which is incredible, and it’s fun to see here if I pull up your Wikipedia page. I always do this and I’m sure it’s probably embarrassing for people, but I think it’s important and worthwhile. Just, the awards that you’d won as you kind of built your blog and talks. They are, the food blog award for best writing voice and best European blog, and a lot of things confirming that this is a good thing for you to be doing. It’s an expertise for you and obviously you are very good at it, which is why I’m excited to talk to you.
One of the things that’s interesting to me about your story is that you are involved with a lot of different things. It’s not just your blog. You’ve written books, you have your blogs, you write for magazines, you speak, you do consulting. You are active on social media; you do working tours of Paris. I’m curious to know, for you, what do you feel like is, maybe it’s two questions wrapped into one. What do you feel like for you is the most exciting thing for you to be doing, what do you love the most about all of those things? Then, where do you feel like you have the most traction? Maybe those are the same thing or maybe they aren’t, I’m curious to know.
Clotilde Dusouiler: I think that everything circles back to the blog. I think this is really where my truest self and this is where everything also circles, everything, all the opportunities that I’ve had too stem from the blog. Everything that I do outside of the blog I try to make sure that it feeds back into it in terms of for instance if I have the opportunity to write on, in a magazine for instance. I make sure that if there is an author bio, or a contributor’s bio, I make sure that my website is mentioned because Chocolate & Zucchini is my home base. This is where I’m in control of the content and this is where I want people to find me because that’s, it’s home for me.
Bjork Ostrom: I hear people describe it sometimes as like a river and tributaries. The idea that you have all these others things whether it’s writing for a magazine or maybe it’s social media but all of those things kind of lead back into the blog which is kind of the main hub where you keep everything and direct people. I think that makes a lot of sense. One other things that you say on your about page as I was through it is, you were kind of talking about some of the things you do. You named, food trend consultant. I’m so curious to know, what does that look like? Then, I have some follow up questions about that.
Clotilde Dusouiler: Because I’m based in Paris and I observe things around me. I have regular business relationships with companies that are abroad that come to Paris on a regular basis to do kind of inspiration trips to, for instance they might create food products or they might be retailers trying to make a selection of innovative food products. They come to Paris for three or four days and they want to research everything pastry or everything holiday foods or everything food gifts or everything bread. I put together itineraries and I point out different trends that they should look into because I know them and I know the kind of things that they are interested in. I basically save them hours of research. I also point out things that you can’t really get from just looking online. Things where you really have to be in the specific place.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting. I think of that normally, not that I’m a very a fashionable guy but I think in the terms of fashion. It’s true for food too where like, you need to go the source of where things are happening and then ripple out from there to know what is coming down the line. It makes a lot of sense that for food and probably for fashion, one of those hubs would be Paris.
Clotilde Dusouiler: Definitely.
Bjork Ostrom: People that, whether businesses or people that are involved in the food space go to Paris and say, “Let’s do some research around what’s happening and how things are trending.” One of the questions that I have specific to trends, for those that are listening that maybe can’t do a trip to Paris but are curious and interested in staying on top of what’s happening in the food space. Do you have any recommendations for people, maybe people it does have to be online but where people can go to stay involved in the conversation around food and maybe see kind of what’s coming down the line?
Clotilde Dusouiler: I think that Instagram is a very good source of inspiration and observation of trends. It’s become very popular with French bloggers and influencers in genera I would say. I’ve actually put together. Maybe this is something that we can include in the show notes, I put together a collection of twelve Instagram accounts that cover Paris food stuff or Paris in general but with a focus on food that I think people should follow if they want to stay on top of what’s happening in terms of shops and producers and restaurants.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great.
Clotilde Dusouiler: That could be a good place to start.
Bjork Ostrom: For sure, we’ll include that in the show notes which I’ll reference at the beginning and end of the podcast. Thanks, that’s awesome. Lindsay often talks about that, using Instagram as inspiration. It’s such an incredible social media tool in general but also it’s so incredible that you can reach out to these areas. You can go to Paris without going to Paris by seeing what people that are in that hub are posting about in terms of what inspired them. I think that’s a great little tip. I want to go back to your blog a little bit. First of all, Chocolate & Zucchini. What’s the story behind that? Obviously two very different things.
Clotilde Dusouiler: I chose those two words because they are two of my favorite things to eat. Also as an illustration of my cooking style. I’m very much about seasonal cooking and I’m very vegetable driven, it was the zucchini. I’m also very drawn to baking desserts and I’m a huge fan of chocolate. I have chocolate every, a day without chocolate is just unthinkable.
Bjork Ostrom: I got it. One of the things that’s interesting to me about your blog is and this is a question we get relatively frequently but it’s this idea of a blog being really focused on, potentially two different languages. For you that’s French and English. Can you talk about why you’ve decided to have both French version and an English version of your blog?
Clotilde Dusouiler: Sure, I started it only in English back in 2003, because in 2003 there were no French blogs pretty much. French people didn’t know, in the US it was already, it wasn’t something that was very common. In France it wasn’t at all. I created the French version a few years down the line because I had my first cook book that was coming out in French, so it made it sense to start building a platform for it about a year before it came out. I think I started the French version in 2007. It’s been nine years and initially it was kind of a side thing that I was doing because the audience for French site was a lot smaller than the English language side, just because there is so many more English speakers in the world than French speakers. Overtime the French side has really grown, so that I now get about half of my traffic on the French side and half on the English side.
What I love about maintaining both is that I’ve always been, because I lived in the US and have an identity to American culture and American food culture but I’m also French. I’ve always had kind of a bicultural background. It’s something that I share a lot with my English speaking audience but it’s really something that I can also bring, the kind of mirror image of that, I can bring to my French audience. That’s, it’s definitely a trait that makes my blog and my content stand out from others.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting.
Clotilde Dusouiler: It’s because it’s a unique positioning.
Bjork Ostrom: We talk about that a lot. We try and be intentional about talking about people’s story and maybe their experiences. Sometimes it’s like past jobs but other times it’s just like your story and your experiences. How those can be used as an asset in what you do. The example that we always give and that I always talk about is Lindsay, she was a fourth grade teacher before she started doing her blog fulltime. Usually people would think, fourth grade teacher and food blog, those things aren’t really connected. In actuality, what she is doing literally right now is she is leading a food photography workshop. She is teaching.
I think it’s using your past story to implement and leverage to building your business. I think that your story is a great example of that, where, because a self-described kind of bicultural person, you can, what I hear you saying is you kind of cross pollinate. You talk on the English side and you can sprinkle in references to your experience living in Paris. Correct me if I’m wrong here but on the French side, you sprinkle in some of your experiences with maybe cooking in America or that, I don’t know what it would be. Is that accurate?
Clotilde Dusouiler: It is. On the French side what I bring is an awareness of trends and what’s being done in the US and in general in the international world, which isn’t something that everyone has a foot in. I really feel like an ambassador in some ways. The funny thing is that as a software engineer, this is what I was gravitating toward, I was always kind of the interface between people who were very technical and couldn’t really simplify their discourse and people who are not technical at all and were intimidated by the technical staff. I was kind of the go between those two worlds. It’s a position that I enjoy and it’s just something that I like doing.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s such a valuable skill because I feel like we’ve all had those conversations with somebody who is very technical and can’t translate that into, plain English or plain French. I think a different version of that applied to the food industry is such a valuable thing as well. I think that’s cool. I want to dig into the language piece a little bit because I’m curious to know, first of all, how do you do it, is there a plugin that you are using? I know that you are running your blog on WordPress. Is it custom code, what does that look like in terms of the technical aspect of it? This will be a good test of communicating a technical thing in plain English.
Clotilde Dusouiler: The way my blog is set up. The way we’ve chosen to set up my blog is that I actually have two different WordPresses that are WordPress instances. That are almost mirrors of one another but they are not exactly the same. This is why we didn’t go, there is a plugin, I think I forget the name but it’s like multiple language plugin for WordPress. For that to wok you really need to have like exactly the same categories, exactly the same page structure and that sort of thing and I wanted a little more freedom and flexibility. The downside of that is that a lot of the setup I have to do twice, because it is essentially two different sites that just happen to be very close in structure.
Depending, this is really something that people need to evaluate for themselves, whether it makes sense to use the plugin or to have two different sites. In terms of process, what I typically do is I create the recipes and then I sit down to write the post. I write the post in English post and then I translate myself into French. I do it this way because I’ve always written in English first for the blog and so it just seems more natural. In the process of translating myself I often, it’s also an editing process because it forces me to really look at what I put in and identify whether things are maybe repetitive or maybe unclear and maybe I’ll think of something else to say because I’m writing it in French and something else comes to mind that would be useful for English post as well. Perhaps the most amusing thing to me is that I don’t have the same sense of humor in English and in French.
Bjork Ostrom: Funny.
Clotilde Dusouiler: The jokes that I might make in the English text, oftentimes they just won’t work. In French though, I’ll think of something else. I love being able to play with both languages because I love them both equally. It’s really, it’s a lot of work, I won’t lie about that. It’s a lot of work but it’s very fulfilling because I feel enriched by being able to communicate in two languages and also two audiences that have different, very different cultural backgrounds. The feedback that they give me is very diverse and very, it teaches me so much.
Bjork Ostrom: I’m curious to know, with the humor thing. This is just curiosity, is it culturally humor is different or would you say that your personality in those languages is different?
Clotilde Dusouiler: Let me think. How would I define it? I just think that culturally the sense of humor is different. I just, even in conversation with my American friends, I don’t … I think I just, I’m a different person when I speak English than I am when I speak French.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s so interesting.
Clotilde Dusouiler: I think my sense of humor in French is probably a little bit snakier than it is in English.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s just really fascinating to me. To recap what you are saying, just so I make sure I’m understanding this. You have Chocolate & Zucchini and that, the main dot com for that is an English site on WordPress?
Clotilde Dusouiler: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: Then, essentially what you’ve done is you’ve created a replica of that and then that is, it’s a replica in the design and the functionality?
Clotilde Dusouiler: Mmm-hmm (affirmative).
Bjork Ostrom: Then, you’ll go dotcom/VF?
Clotilde Dusouiler: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Even though it looks like it’s on the dotcom of chocolateandzucchini.com, you say -VF, can you talk about what VF stands for?
Clotilde Dusouiler: VF means Versions Francaise, or French version. It alludes to the fact that when you go and watch a movie in France, you can choose to see the VO, version originale, original version, which will be in whatever written language. It is originally, or you can choose to watch the VF, the French version which will be dubbed as opposed to subtitled.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s really fascinating. It’s literally a different version of WordPress that’s on the, it’s like, this makes sense if you are technical, and this is my inability to explain something technical. On the server there is folder/VF and that’s technically another version of WordPress, another version of the blog?
Clotilde Dusouiler: Of WordPress, exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: When you log in, you are logging into two different sites?
Clotilde Dusouiler: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: When somebody leaves a comment, it’s not going to show up on the English version but it will show up on the French version if there are only comments in French?
Clotilde Dusouiler: Exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: Obviously the downside to that is the work involved with it. The upside is that, if you have a plugin or something that makes it like, it’s super easy to switch back and forth between languages. So often that’s going to be not accurate and it’s going to, I would assume … I haven’t used one before but we’ve looked at them because people ask questions about it so often. I can’t imagine that working well unless you are very intentional like you said, or you have to be very intentional like you said and create two different versions essentially.
Clotilde Dusouiler: Yeah, I also wanted the freedom to sometimes create posts that will be only in the English version and others that will be only on the French version, just because sometimes that’s what makes sense. I will add that I developed a small, kind of switch that makes it so that if someone logs onto Chocolate&Zucchini.com, I actually have a short URL that’s cnz.to. if you log onto cnz.to, it will add a preferred a language in your browser. If that preferred language is French, it will direct you to the French version so that you don’t have to type /VF.
Bjork Ostrom: Can you explain that one more time? you said you have a short URL?
Clotilde Dusouiler: The short URL is cnz.to. I just, I purchased it because it was easier to share than Chocolate&Zucchini.com which gives more opportunities for typos. If you type cnz.to basically there is this small piece of code that grabs your in the user agent, which is the information that follows you around the internet in your browser. It grabs the preferred language. If that preferred language is French, it’s going to redirect you to the French version so that you don’t have to actively seek out the French version, that’s what it will present to you.
Bjork Ostrom: Interesting.
Clotilde Dusouiler: Actually there is even a cookie thing because I was thinking, some French people do have French as a preference but they prefer to read the English version. They might, and if you switch back to the English version, it will remember your preference.
Bjork Ostrom: Interesting, because I just tested it out and it went to the French version, but I think it’s because I had switched to the French version and so then it was smart enough to know. Obviously this is very technical and we don’t have to spend a lot of time talking about it but I’m curious, where in the process does that happen, is it with that short URL, is it redirected through a certain script or what is that process, is that something that you created on your own or?
Bjork Ostrom: I think it’s worth, if nothing else, for those that are interested, which is probably a small group but I know that there are people listening that are like, “This is perfect for me. this is what I needed to know.” It’s enough for them to like take the next step and do some research on it without explaining something totally technical. I think it’s important to know and I think that is interesting. Can you talk a little bit about the SEO implications of having two different blogs? Obviously when people, if people travel internationally, you know that, like for us when we go to the Philippines it’s Google.com.ph. it’s a different version of Google. If you go to France it’s going to be a different version of Google. How does that impact your blog, having two different versions of the same recipe, living on two different sites?
Clotilde Dusouiler: Google treats it as two different, two separate pieces of content. It doesn’t know that one is the translation of the other. I have to do the same kind of SEO work of figuring out what a good title is for my post and creating a better description that will be appealing to users of Google. There is no competition between the two and what it will do is French users using the French version of Google will have, will be looking for a recipe using the French terms, so they will find me through that and they will find the French version.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s scary how intelligent Google is, right?
Clotilde Dusouiler: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Like how smart it is to know or to separate that stuff. What I hear you saying is that essentially by writing in French, Google knows that it’s French and then so, it’s not like it’s going to show the English version when people are using French terms.
Clotilde Dusouiler: No, yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Which makes sense. The last question that I had specific to the recipes and blogs and two different languages is the idea of communicating a recipe. Americans typically measure by volume or if you are writing a French recipe I would assume it’d be by weight.
Clotilde Dusouiler: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: What do you in that situation, do you different for like the English version versus the French version, or what does that look like?
Clotilde Dusouiler: On the French version of the site, it’s all in weights and in grams except for, because we do use teaspoons and tablespoons. We call them coffee spoons and soup spoons, but it’s the same amounts. On the French side it’s all by weight and grams but on the US side, I use both systems. I give volume amounts and weight amounts, just because I feel I want to be part of the movement that encourages America to switch to using scales.
Bjork Ostrom: Please help us.
Clotilde Dusouiler: Yeah, I’m doing what I can. I do want to encourage that way of cooking. I am including my main unit is weight, also because I’m, because I feel like it’s much more accurate and so I feel like it should be the primary system that I recommend. I do have a big page of conversions. That’s one of the most visited pages on my sites because as I have to have recipes for my books, I’ve made notes of like how much does a cup of Oman flour weigh, how much does, those weight to volume conversions. I give that as a resource on my site as well.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s, I think that would be really, really helpful. I know that it’s not necessarily across the board for everybody that’s doing, most people will just write in English but we get enough inquiries from people that say, “I just don’t know what to do. Spanish is my first language, primary language,” but I also know that the majority of potential traffic would be in English. People are very conflicted about what do I do? I wanted to present you a story because I think that it’s really helpful to have some perspective on that. were you going to say something?
Clotilde Dusouiler: Yeah, one thing I wanted to add was that. you also have to consider the blogging landscape in your non-English language. Because of the English language market, the food blog scene in English is very saturated. Perhaps, even though your audience, your potential audience maybe in Portuguese is smaller, you have to ask yourself, is that audience served by high quality food blogs or not? If it’s not or if it’s not very well served by very many food blogs, then maybe you have a chance of being a really big fish in that smaller pond. It’s very gratifying. I think it can be worth your, it can be worth the time that it takes.
Bjork Ostrom: One more question actually that I wanted to ask that we, that you reminded me of was, how does it work in terms of working with ad networks or potentially sponsors when your primary resident and your business resident is in France but potentially somebody is coming to you from US and saying, “We are a US ad network, will you do, we want to work with you on a sponsor constant relationship.” What does that look like, is there anything different about it or anything that people should know?
Clotilde Dusouiler: Sure, basically when I have opportunities for sponsor post or partnerships, one of the first questions that I have to get answered is, are they interested in only the French version, only the English version or both? Obviously my rates are not the same because the reach is not the same. Because I don’t live in the US, it means that I’m not eligible for sponsored posts for brands that want you to be a regular user of, like someone who regularly shops at Target for instance, because that’s not … It’s also not really my style. Not that I have against Target per se, it’s just not where I shop because there is no Target here.
That remove some opportunities but I also gain opportunities on the French side. I think that about, evens things out. In terms of ad networks, I work with one network that also sells property on my French site. The revenue, the CPM is lower on the French side. It’s still very, it still makes sense to monetize it through that network and it’s the best deal that I’ve found so far.
Bjork Ostrom: Because that’s another question that we often get asked from people. Thanks, that’s really helpful and again, good perspective on this idea of being really representative of two different places and also speaking to two different distinct groups of people. I think that’s really helpful.
Clotilde Dusouiler: Some readers will actually, some readers read both to try and learn the other language.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure, cool.
Clotilde Dusouiler: They will start with the French post and when they can’t understand they will switch back to English. It actually draws in people who are interested in languages as well, which when you are bilingual is also your tribe. It’s nice that way.
Bjork Ostrom: The only thing that will happen that will still have a really mixed up sense of humor as they get those crossed. One of the things that I also want to talk about that is maybe related to this a little bit, is this idea of your ability to stick with something for a long period of time. You’ve done this since 2003 and I have so much respect for you and for individuals that are able to continue to do something as things so quickly change. I don’t need to tell you how much is changed in the world of online media over the past thirteen plus years because you’ve seen it and you’ve been a part of it.
One of the things I’m interested in, to hear you talk about a little bit is your mindset in terms of adopting new things as they are introduced. An example would be Snapchat or Periscope. I would assume there are two paths that you can’t take as a content creator. You can roll your eyes and say, “Another social media. I’m getting so sick of this. It’s always something new and maybe it will eventually die out and then all the work I did to build something isn’t worth it.”
You can say, “I’m going to do this and I’m going to try and figure it out and I’m going to try and build the following.” Even though in some ways you are kind of starting from the beginning, when you’ve been doing it for thirteen years. I’m interested to hear your philosophy on that and how you continue to stay motivated despite seeing a lot of things that have come, potentially a lot of things that have left and yet continue to be a content creator and continue to produce and put your art and your work into the world?
Clotilde Dusouiler: I think that doing this kind of thing for thirteen years means that your mindset changes a lot also, not just the internet world but your own perspective on it. I definitely had ups and downs over the years, times when I had more doubts and times when I felt more on top of things. I guess it’s always also …
Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk about those a little bit? Just because I think people connect with that. what are the times when you feel like you run into doubt and kind of the struggle of like, “Is this working, is what I’m doing making sense?” How do you work through that?
Clotilde Dusouiler: I guess it’s a matter of having started in a very unsaturated landscape. There was something very spontaneous and very innocent in many ways when I started. There was a lot of time and space for experimentation because there was no, mistakes were very low. None of us thought that we could make a living out of any of this. I had a chance to kind of carve out my space without, with no real sense of competition or like visits, or like it’s the cake that we had to share.
As the food blog scene got more and more crowded, it stops being, it long ago ceased to be a village in which everyone knew everyone. Also I guess, the idea that I was initially, the idea that there are … Because I guess I was the first, I was among the first generation of food bloggers. The second generation usually had some reference to me or to my generation in some ways. We are now at the tenth or eleventh generation. There are a few bloggers who start out today who have no idea that my generation even existed, because their inspiration was the eighth generation.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s so fascinating to hear you talk about that. I know exactly what you mean.
Clotilde Dusouiler: It can sometimes feel like, you are like, “I was among the first.” Sometimes it can feel like you’ve been doing this for a long time and new people have no idea who you are. At sometimes it can feel like this was a shift that I had to just get used to. Once I got past that I, it wasn’t a matter of seeking fame, because it’s not really something that I’m into, just more like recognition. I guess it’s also I think a matter of where you are in your life. It just happens that I had two children over the past five years. My eldest is four. When you start growing a family you have less time to invest in new things. You are kind of basically maintaining what you have. New things can feel a little threatening because you just don’t have the resources to pursue them. It can feel frustrating or it can feel, you can feel anxious about those things. At least that’s how I reacted, but then it’s too …
Bjork Ostrom: I think most, not most, I think a lot of people. I think that’s a universal thing which is why I’m so thankful that you are open to sharing and talking about it. I think you have the unique story where you were part of, kind of the founding group of people that kind of started this. The visualization that I had in my mind was, walking forward on this path and kind of clearing the path in a lot of ways and creating this path and maybe kind of a, I imagine, like kind of a jungle and you are cutting it down and you are moving forward. Then what happens is, the people right behind you that are walking the path come by and say, “Thanks for clearing the path.” Then the next person comes and says, “Thanks for clearing the path. That’s good.” Eventually people just are walking by and they just wave …
Clotilde Dusouiler: Yeah, it’s a highway.
Bjork Ostrom: Then they don’t know that you’ve cleared the path and it’s like. It’s a weird position where you want to be like, “Just so you know, this was a path that I cleared.” Not, they are like, “You are so famous,” but to say, “That’s really unique. That’s cool, thank you for clearing this path.” I think it’s unique.
Clotilde Dusouiler: I really don’t claim the entire credit for that. for my generation creating that path because others have made progress and strides since then. I guess it’s just a matter of the fact that I used to be involved, when there so few of us I felt like I knew everyone and I was involved in most of what was going on the food blog scene. As soon as there are more than maybe fifty people, you just can’t keep track. You have relationships that form that you have no idea that they are going on and conferences that are organized and you didn’t know that they were going on and people … It just feels like this much bigger space. I guess just because I’m so enthusiastic about what I do, I would love to be a part of everything. That’s not, it’s just not possible, you have to let it go. You have to know and foster those relationships that you do have and create.
I guess it’s more a matter of like knowing that there is things going on that you are not aware of and of course this is going to happen and you just have to focus on those things that you do know about, rather than thinking that the grass is greener. I am definitely fortunate. I feel very fortunate that I have forged great relationships, amazing relationships over time and I continue to create new ones. You had a recent podcast with Lindsay about jealousy on the internet. I loved her tip because it’s something that I’ve also done about reaching out to people when you feel uncomfortable, like you are feeling like you are a little envious. Whenever I’ve done that, it’s always reaped great benefits from those relationships. I think that was an excellent tip.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. One of the things I think that’s important that ties into this, is you’ve … You have seen this change and you have experienced things where you started it and then it grows and then there is all these little, there is like a podcast on food blogging and there is conferences and it becomes a little industry. One of the things that you said is to pick what we are going to do and really do that. I think that one of the things that is really important for the creators or people in this space or even people that aren’t specific to the food space, just in general is to, it’s just as important to commit to what you are doing as it is to not commit to something and say, “I’m going to be okay letting that go, and to not have the, whatever it’d be, knowledge, skills or expertise, in that specific area,” which I think was insightful.
At the same time, one of the things that I’m interested to hear you talk about is kind of that thing that I referenced a little bit earlier is this idea of being willing to try new things even though it’s starting fresh. An example would be something like Periscope like live video streaming or Snapchat which is, it’s a few years now that Snapchat has been around but it’s something that you say, “I’m going to do this, and I’m going to learn it and I’m going to implement it.” Can you talk about your mindset in adopting new social media platforms and your willingness to jump in and try it? Then also I’m interested to hear, has it been a good thing and do you enjoy it?
Clotilde Dusouiler: Yeah, my philosophy has changed a little bit. One thing that happened to me is that I feel like I missed the Pinterest vote. It started to become really big when I got pregnant with my first son about five years ago. It was just more than I could handle at that time. I kind of let it be. Then when I woke up and found coffee, there were already people who were already big and things were already established in that space. I’m now kind of trying to get back into it, but it’s a lot harder than if I had gotten into it on day one. I’ve been very cautious since then to not miss any other vote. I had a great conversation with Elise Bauer of some of Simply Recipes when you had her in the podcast.
Bjork Ostrom: She is great.
Clotilde Dusouiler: She is part of my generation of food bloggers and so we’ve been friends for a dozen years. We had a conversation about Snapchat and Periscope and how those were exciting platforms and how it was important to use them. Part of it is sending signal that you are still relevant. That you are moving with the times. One big plus that I’m seeing is that, because video is so big and is going to continue to get bigger and bigger, Snapchat and livestreaming are good ways to have a video presence without necessarily having the budget to hirer an actual crew to film you, with big lighting and great styling and great production value.
With Snapchat and live video streaming the expectation is that, I think that’s spontaneous and true. It’s a great way to, I guess become more approachable and accessible to your audience because for the very facts that they are un-staged and unedited, you can be yourself on Snapchat especially. There is the expectation that you can be a little goofy, that you can make little jokes, that the lighting can be really bad, but it’s fine, you are just sharing this little snap. You can’t edit anything.
It’s just a very liberating, very fun way to share things from your daily life that wouldn’t necessarily write a whole post or maybe bits and pieces that will become a post but aren’t yet. For instance, yesterday I Snapchatted, I’m trying my hand making my own fermented mustard. Eventually that might become a post, I’m not exactly sure yet because I don’t have photos. I snapped, last weekend when I set the mustard seeds to ferment, I posted that. Yesterday I mixed it with my son. I just snapped, I just showed it. you can actually hear the voice of my son saying, “It’s becoming mustard.”
I’m careful to protect my kids’ privacy but I felt like his voice was cute, but you can’t see him, you can just hear him. It’s just a really fun way to show daily stuff. Also because on Snapchat the crowd is so pretty limited. I’m finding that it’s a good way to form relationships with other bloggers who are on Snapchat and with whom I might not interact otherwise. Just because it’s a small crowd of us for now it feels, go ahead.
Bjork Ostrom: I was going to say, one of the things that, before it gets too far away that I want to point out that I think is a really important concept is this idea of engaging in space where things are trending which is towards more interactive, it’s towards video. The reason for that like you said is because of engagement. People engage in video in a different way than they do with text for instance. You are able to engage in an audience, and get to know them better, they get to know you. I think sometimes what happens is people feel like the hurdle is so high to jump over, because you have to, or people perceive that you have to hire a video person or learn video DSLR, create these public videos that you then put on YouTube or whatever.
What I hear you saying that I think is so valuable is Snapchat or livestreaming or any of these other different platforms is a way where you can engage with industry trend, which is video, interactive video but also not under really high stakes. It’s like, it’s live, it’s interactive. It’s still valuable for you but the culture of that social media is not one that’s like very polished.
Clotilde Dusouiler: That’s very true. I also feel like for people who are hesitant about being on camera and who are used to being safely hidden behind their food. It can be a good way to dip your toes in. You just try it and initially you don’t show your face but then it’s just a good way to ease into maybe being on camera and seeing, and becoming more comfortable. I don’t know about you but I feel like the more phots you see of yourself the more comfortable you are with your face.
Bjork Ostrom: For sure.
Clotilde Dusouiler: It’s like showing your own voice. It’s not comfortable at first but then you get used to that voice or that face or that, the face that you apply on video, is not comfortable for anyone to see at first, but the more you see it, the more you are like, “This is my video face. It’s different from what I see in the mirror but that’s, it’s fine and people are not throwing stones at me. it’s probably that I look okay.”
Bjork Ostrom: I think the piece there that I took out of what you are saying is, you don’t start by being comfortable, you start and move towards getting comfortable. I think so often people don’t start because they say, “I’m not comfortable with that.” It’s comfortable then start, it’s start and then comfortable. I think that people that look at others and say, “They look so comfortable in front of the camera. They look so comfortable doing a podcast interview.” It’s not because they are just naturally somebody that, there might be those people but it’s because you do it enough and you do it for a long period of time, and you continue to figure out ways to get a little bit better as you do it that then you become comfortable. I think that’s such an important takeaway.
Clotilde Dusouiler: That’s very true. when it comes to finding your audience for that, I tried using Periscope at first. I found that I wasn’t getting much traction because for Periscope, people have to install the Periscope app to their phone. That extra step I feel was too much for people to, at least for my audience to take whereas when I used the live video streaming, Facebook live, the live video streaming functionality on Facebook. I had a lot more engagement on there. This is now my platform of choice, just because people who already follow me on Facebook are notified.
Also Facebook is really pushing. That’s a good tip for people who want to, Facebook has just generalized Facebook livestreaming to all pages, not just verified pages. They are really wanting to promote that functionality. Right now if you get started you are going to see your live videos being pushed to people’s newsfeeds, a lot more than you will six months down the line when everyone was doing it. Now is a good, one deal of opportunity to get on board with that if it’s something that you are interested.
Bjork Ostrom: We are coming to the end but I want to dig into that a little because I’m sure people are familiar with the idea of a live Facebook feed, but not necessarily from the side of publishing one. Can you talk about what that process is like and like how that works into, does it just live on forever on Facebook then, what is that like to do a live Facebook video?
Clotilde Dusouiler: It starts on your phone. You have to have, for now it’s only on IOS but down the line they are going to, add it to the android Facebook as well. You connect to your page with your phone on your Facebook app. When you hit publish you have a button that symbolizes the livestream. You enter description that says for instance that says for instance, “This is my Friday check in.” Then you hit live and you are live. People who follow you are going to be notified that your video is streaming right now and they connect and watch you and they can share comments and they can interact with you. You can choose to answer their questions or answer them after the fact. When you are done with your session, I recommend keeping them short because no one has time to watch anything that’s longer than like five or ten minutes.
People who missed the live session will find it on your Facebook page. What’s great is that you kind of build a little video library. It stays on your Facebook page. You can also interact with people after the fact because people can comment afterwards and you can answer and you can add show notes. This is really valuable to me because I didn’t like on Periscope the idea that after twenty four hours the session kind of disappeared.
Bjork Ostrom: Disappeared.
Clotilde Dusouiler: There was no way to interact after the session was over. I feel like this is much more full featured.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting, the idea of something moving on versus now, I think one of the things that’s nice for people that are just starting out, with something like Snapchat is that, it does disappear. If you are having the mental roadblock of being like, “I’m scared of doing video. I don’t know what to do.” Snapchat is great because it’s like it lasts for a little bit and then it’s gone. The disadvantage, businesswise, as you are building something is that, usually you want to build up this kind of like a snowball of content. Like every time you create content and it adds a little bit to the snowball and eventually it gets big and it’s rolling down the hill and we all know that analogy. In Minnesota we know it better than in other places. With Facebook I think that’s a really good point is that it lives on a little bit longer.
Clotilde Dusouiler: The engagement is great I found. At least with my experience it has been, it’s been really wonderful. People have come out of the woodwork, people who don’t necessarily comment on regular written posts. They just, they really appreciate that. It just feels a lot, very personal I guess.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. How much preparation do you do for those usually, is it kind of like, “I’m going to jump in. I’m just going to talk conversationally.” Do you have some type of kind of rough outline of where you go, does it look the same from video to video?
Clotilde Dusouiler: Usually I decide on a topic in my head. What I’ve done so far is kind of, I’ve done show intel sessions, so to speak. I recently came back from vacation in a region of France that has really good producers. I just showed on camera what I had brought back and jars of snails and a really good Walmart bread and ham and pasta. That kind of stuff. I might do a Friday kitchen peek in where I say what I’ve been up to during the week and just share kind of what I’m up to kind of thing. You can also do AMA sessions that you are familiar with the Food Blogger Pro, the Q&A sessions, that’s popular.
Bjork Ostrom: Maybe for those that aren’t familiar, it stands for ask me anything, which is a nice format in that it maybe takes a little bit of the pressure off of like off the top of your head concentration and instead it’s like people just interact with you and ask questions and you respond, which I think is a great way to start out.
Clotilde Dusouiler: Then I can address specific themes. Like over the holidays I did a session where I explained how the French typically celebrate Christmas, whats the … What kind of meals, what kind of food during those meals, what kind of traditions? It can be themes or it can be kind of what I’m up to right now kind of things.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. We have covered a lot of territory and I feel like I say this often but I really mean it that if you like you can talk about stuff for hours and hours here, but I want to be respective of your time. Before we wrap things up though I have a couple of more questions. One of the questions I’m always curious to hear is, if you were to go back and have a conversation with yourself in 2003 as you were starting Chocolate & Zucchini, let’s say you are sitting down at a Paris café. You have a cup of espresso, and you are sitting down with yourself, what would that conversation look like in terms of advice that you would give yourself?
Clotilde Dusouiler: I think I would probably, I don’t know if I would have, if this is advice that I could have taken back then because it was also a matter of, I started when I was twenty four. You do a lot of growing up between twenty four and thirty six. I guess the biggest thing is to embrace change. There were times when I just felt resistant of change because as a person I’m not great with change. I just like my life the way it is, and I don’t really want it to change. This has been a struggle sometimes for me, embracing new ways the internet works and I feel like over the past few years I’ve gotten a lot better at that, and just knowing that whatever it is that I do.
There are things that I do really well and there are those things that I can improve upon and I’m a lot more attuned to this being a constant learning process. It’s absolutely fine to recognize that this is an area that needs improvement and maybe you can’t do anything about it right now but just keep it in mind and when you are ready you can, for instance I resisted doing migrating to WordPress and redesigning my site for years, just because it felt like such a huge undertaking.
It really took me a lot of time to gather the momentum to do it. Then when I did I was so happy to have done it and it gave me a great energy to do it. It took me years to decide to take on an intern. Now that I have, it’s just fabulous to have someone to work with me. I feel like, it’s just something that I need to remember is that I tend to be a little resistant to change and to big decisions, but then when I’ve made them I’m always really happy that I did.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. I think that people listening understand that because there is decisions that we face every day, sometimes little, oftentimes big, that we need to make, and to encourage people to move through that potential fear or resistance to making those and to commit to doing it, which I think is great advice. We are coming to the end here. before we do though, I want to call back to something we had talked a little bit before, in this idea of, kind of this first generation of people that had started what is now kind of an industry of people that are publishing food related content online and just to say thank you to you and obviously there is other people that have been a part of that as well. We want to acknowledge those people.
Clotilde Dusouiler: Thank you so much.
Bjork Ostrom: I don’t know if it’s Isaac Newton or who that the quote comes from but this idea that, if I’ve seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. I think that we acknowledge and see that as, if we are able to see a little bit further, it’s because of people that have helped to forge that path and you are one of those. We want to say thank you. The last thing …
Clotilde Dusouiler: Thank you.
Bjork Ostrom: Where can people follow along with you and what you are doing online?
Clotilde Dusouiler: They will find my blog, Chocolate & Zucchini at cnz.to. I am on most social media under the handle clotildnet C-L-O-T-I-L-D-E-N-E-T. I’m on Twitter, I’m on Instagram, I’m on Pinterest, I’m on Snapchat, and then I’m on Facebook under Chocolate & Zucchini, and Facebook live. You’ll find those on my Facebook page.
Bjork Ostrom: We’ll be sure to include those in the show notes as well.
Clotilde Dusouiler: I’m also a member of the Food Blogger Pro community, you can find me on the forums as well.
Bjork Ostrom: Before we wrap up I want to say thank you because it’s fun to see you being a part of that and offer a lot of value and insight, that’s cool.
Clotilde Dusouiler: It’s definitely something that is part of my mindset of growing and learning. It’s that I’m not too proud to join a food blogging community, twelve years after starting my blog because you could, maybe some people will think, I’m experienced and I kind of know what I’m doing by now. In truth, there is always stuff to learn.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s so true.
Clotilde Dusouiler: This Food Blogger Pro community has been really, both videos and the live, the videos that you share, are, there is always things to learn from those. I’m so happy to hear that and so honored that you are a part of the community. We are honored to be a part of it as well. Thanks again Clotilde for coming on the podcast, really appreciate you, the insights that you’ve shared. I know that people will really enjoy this podcast. Thanks.
Clotilde Dusouiler: Thank you so much Bjork.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s a wrap for episode number forty two. Another big thank you to Clotilde for coming on the podcast and sharing her insight that she’s gained over the past ten plus years that she’s been doing this food blogging thing, very inspiring. Thanks so much, and thanks again to you for listening each and every week to the podcast. I hope that you find an incredible amount of value for it. I know that it is an honor for us to be able to have these conversations and to share them with you. From here in our little home in Saint Paul Minnesota to wherever you are, I hope that you have a great day. We’ll be here same time, same place next week, thanks.