This episode is sponsored by Clariti.
Welcome to episode 353 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Jane Ko from A Taste of Koko about her Pinterest strategy as a content creator.
Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Paul Bannister and Courtney Kahn from AdThrive about optimizing ad revenue. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
Getting the Most Out of Pinterest
Today, we’re really excited to be chatting all about Pinterest with Jane Ko!
She runs A Taste of Koko, a food and travel blog focused specifically on Austin, Texas. And since she has been blogging since 2010, her content and social media strategy has definitely evolved over the years.
In this episode, you’ll hear what her revenue streams are as a content creator, what her current Pinterest strategy looks like, how she repurposes content across different social media platforms, and more. Enjoy!
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- What type of content Jane shares on her blog
- What her revenue streams look like as a content creator
- How she works with brands
- What her Pinterest strategy looks like
- How she uses static pins, idea pins, and video pins
- What it’s like working with a Pinterest marketing agency
- How she repurposes content for different social media platforms
- What it’s like running a personal brand
- A Taste of Koko
- Koko’s Guide To Austin
- FBP Live Q&A: The State of Pinterest – available for FBP members only
- Simple Pin Media
- Follow Jane on Pinterest, Instagram, and TikTok
- Join the Food Blogger Pro Podcast Facebook Group
- Check out the Food Blogger Pro YouTube channel (and subscribe while you’re there!)
About This Week’s Sponsor
We’re excited to announce that this week’s episode is sponsored by our sister site, Clariti!
With Clariti, you can easily organize your blog content for maximum growth. Create campaigns to add alt text to your posts, fix broken images, remove any broken links, and more, all within the Clariti app.
Sign up for the Clariti waitlist today to receive:
- Early access to their $25/Month Forever pricing
- Optimization ideas for your site content
- An invitation to join their exclusive Slack community
- And more!
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].
Transcript (click to expand):
Bjork Ostrom: This episode is sponsored by our sister site, Clariti. C-L-A-R-I-T-I, is how you spell Clariti. All different iterations of how people say it, but it’s Clariti, because it helps you to be clear on what it is that you need to be working on and really gives you direction around how you can go around improving and updating and tracking the content on your blog. We built it because we had been managing everything in a spreadsheet. So my guess is, there’s two people listening to this podcast.
Bjork Ostrom: One, would be you are people who track stuff and you probably track it in a spreadsheet, maybe Airtable, maybe Notion. And my guess is it’s a lot of manual work. There’s another group of people who just aren’t tracking anything. And that’s okay. You’ll get there eventually. But Clariti’s going to be the tool that’s going to allow you to do that more easily. It’s going to allow you to not spend as much manual time doing the tracking, updating, improving, and just generally understanding the lay of the land with your content.
Bjork Ostrom: And one of the things that I think is most important, a lot of times we talk about hiring on this podcast, but one of the things we don’t talk about enough, and I probably should talk about it more, is some of the first positions you should hire for are software. It’s not an actual person. You’re hiring software to come in and do a lot of the work that you are doing. And that’s what Clariti is for us as the Pinch of Yum team, Food Blogger Pro team. We use Clariti to take manual work away from our day-to-day tasks and we automate that. It’s one of the easiest ways to have your first hire.
Bjork Ostrom: So if you’re thinking, “Oh, I hear people talk about hiring a lot. Who should my next hire be?” My encouragement for you would let your next hire be a tool like Clariti, where you’re going to spend $25 a month and you’re going to save an incredible amount of time. That’s what it’s all about. So if you want to check it out, if you want to learn a little bit more about what it is and how it works, you can go to clariti.com/food.
Bjork Ostrom: And you can deep dive into the ins and outs of Clariti just by signing up for that list. And that’s not going to sign you up for the app, it’s not going to sign you up and process any payments or anything like that. It’s just going to allow you to understand the tool better through some onboarding emails that give you a little bit of context around what Clariti does and why we built it. So again, that’s clariti.com/food, if you want to check that out. And as a last note here, we’re halfway through this $25 forever deal.
Bjork Ostrom: So when I say you can think of hiring Clariti at $25 a month as a little, team member who’s in the background working for you, that deal’s not going to last forever. We’re just wanting to get to our first 500 users as we’re in the early stages with this. You’ll still get a lot of value out of it. But the great thing is as the value within Clariti increases, as we build out more features, as we build out more functionality, you will be locked in at that $25 price as a thank you for signing up early, for being somebody who’s using the tool early on, giving us feedback, but also finding a lot of value out of it.
Bjork Ostrom: We’ve actually had two people followed up and one person said, “I love,” it was all L-O-V-E capital, “this service.” And somebody else said the same thing in the Slack channel, which you can join and be a part of that after you sign up for Clariti to see how other people are using it and the questions that come up and offer any insider feedback along the way. So thank you to Clariti for sponsoring this episode.
Bjork Ostrom: Hey, hey, hey. This is Bjork. You’re listening to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. Today, we are interviewing Jane Ko from A Taste of Koko. She’s going to be talking about what it’s like to be a creator focused on a certain area. She really grew her brand, her following and her social profiles by talking about what it’s like to do all things food in the City of Austin. And we’re also going to be talking about what it’s like for her from a business perspective. Where is she earning revenue? Where are the places she’s focusing on?
Bjork Ostrom: We’re going to be talking about Pinterest and strategies behind Pinterest and working with brands. All of these things that are important for anybody who’s looking to build a following online and finding ways to create income from that, which Jane has done through lots of hard work. And she’s going to be talking about where she focuses and the areas that are most impactful for her as well. It’s a great interview and fun to be able to talk to somebody who takes a different spin. It’s not a recipe site in the same way that a lot of creators, like Pinch of Yum are creating content. But instead talking about what a certain area has to offer and that area is Austin, which is a really cool city. So that makes it fun as well.
Bjork Ostrom: Hey, before we jump into the interview, I wanted to give you a quick heads-up about some things that are happening at Food Blogger Pro. We have a Pinterest course coming out for members. It’s launching on April 21st. It also has a strategy lesson with Kate Ahl from Simple Pin Media and lots of lessons to really walk you through idea pins, video pins, analytics. And the updated course, it’ll give you more info about what you need to be thinking about and doing on Pinterest as a food blogger. Things have really evolved on that platform, and we wanted to reflect that in the content that we are producing on Food Blogger Pro.
Bjork Ostrom: So you can go to foodbloggerpro.com/join to learn more about how you can sign up, become a member and double click on the things that we are talking about and learning about here on this podcast. So if you’re ready to go a little bit deeper, a membership would be a great thing that you can check out. This interview is going to be a great one and excited to share it with you. So let’s go ahead and jump into this conversation with Jane from A Taste of Koko. Koko, welcome to the podcast.
Jane Ko: Hi, I’m so excited to be here.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Your name came up because we were doing a live Q&A with Kate Ahl from Simple Pin Media, and she was like, “Koko is doing really good work on Pinterest.” And anytime that comes up, our team, me, whoever it might be, will like, “Hey, star this person’s name guest for the podcast.”
Bjork Ostrom: So we want to talk about Pinterest for this episode. But before we do that, I’d be interested to hear a little bit about your story, because you’re doing a type of publishing that we don’t have an opportunity to talk to people a lot about on this podcast.
Bjork Ostrom: And it kind of touches a lot of different things, but a lot of it is around like, “Hey, if you’re going to this city, Austin, but other cities as well, here are the things that you should do. Here are the experiences that you should have.” So when you’re in an elevator and somebody’s like, “Hey, nice to meet you, stranger,” what do you do? How do you describe it to them?
Jane Ko: I always say I’m a food blogger based in Austin. However, I know the industry calls us influencers. They now call us creators. I also have friends that work in advertising and they’re like, “You’re not a food blogger anymore. Don’t put yourself in that corner. You’re a lifestyle brand.” So I would say pretty much all of that is what I’ve been doing.
Bjork Ostrom: Yep. In terms of the actual content that you’re producing, when you sit down and you have a week ahead of you, you’re planning out the content that you’re doing, whether it be on Instagram, Pinterest, on your blog, what type of content is it? And the majority of the content is what type of content at this point?
Jane Ko: I would say I’m still very restaurant-focused. So when people think food blog, they think like, “Oh, recipes. You must do a lot of cooking at home.” So no, I actually don’t. I hardly cook at home. I try to avoid that at all costs. I do primarily restaurant coverage here in Austin. That’s kind of how I got my name. I was the first… 11 years now.
Jane Ko: I’ve covered hundreds and hundreds of restaurants to the point where I think most people who are living here in Austin or visiting Austin usually will come across the name, A Taste of Koko, whether it’s on Google, Pinterest, or Instagram or TikTok now. So that’s how I got my name. And primarily, my focus is still restaurant content.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure. So a new restaurant will come in, you’ll go in, you’ll review that restaurant. One of the things that happened to me, this was maybe five years ago, I was at some meetup in Seattle. And there was somebody who used to be a food writer.
Bjork Ostrom: And she would talk about how she would go in and she’d have a notepad underneath the table so nobody could see that she was a food reviewer. And she’d be able to write notes without looking at it and was super secretive. What is that like for you? Does a restaurant know you’re coming when you’re there? Do they reach out to you?
Jane Ko: I wish.
Bjork Ostrom: My guess is things have shifted in that direction. What does it look like?
Jane Ko: I wish I had started off that professionally. In 2010, I was 20-years-old, I was getting my bachelor’s in nutrition and didn’t want to work as a dietician in a hospital for rest my life because that was really the only career path at that time.
Jane Ko: So I was reading a couple of national blogs, and I was very inspired by these women that had their own websites. They were writing about food or fashion or things that they were doing at home. So I got on Google and Googled how to build a website, bought my domain. And I did actually two years of recipe blogging and got absolutely no traction. Again, college student who didn’t even have a kitchen. So you can imagine my “recipes” were not great.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure.
Jane Ko: Being in Austin, I had a random restaurant that just invited me to come over to eat. And I grew up in a really small town. My family did not grow up eating out. My parents still very much eat at home. So for me, that was a really big deal to have a restaurant invite me to come over and basically eat and photograph and write about it. And again, no journalism background. So I didn’t know to show up with a pen and pad and take notes. I was not a strong writer.
Jane Ko: So I had a lot of interest in photography and was very fascinated by magazines. I would’ve loved to work at… I would still love to work at Bon Appétit or Food & Wine Magazine, but was very inspired by all the photography that you would see in these print magazines. And I was a pretty early adopter to Pinterest because Pinterest was already around at that time, and you would just see these stunning food images. And I just really pushed myself to try to shoot images that were as close to that kind of quality.
Jane Ko: And so when it comes to restaurant reviewing, at that time, a typical journalist would only go in, try the food and write about it. Usually, the restaurant would submit photography, or if they have a marketing agency or peer agency, they would submit photography. However, I kind of went the other way around. I would really focus the attention on the photography, which I think food should be so beautiful that it can speak for itself, and then sub in my commentary.
Jane Ko: I don’t really call myself a food reviewer. I never really have. I just was like, “Well, here are things that I like and here’s maybe aspects of the restaurant that I think are great.” And currently, I would say I give people suggestions and they can decide whether or not they want to go try a restaurant or not.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And so for you, it’s less of saying like, “Here’s a new restaurant, and I give it a six out of 10 stars.”
Jane Ko: Eight out of 10. Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, exactly. But more of like, “Hey, I’m going to try a bunch of different places, tell you some things I liked about it. And if you’re coming to Austin, here’s three restaurants you might want to check out.”
Jane Ko: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: And after going to a lot of different restaurants, you have strong opinions on what would be a good restaurant to check out. Like, “Hey, you have a day in Austin. Where are you going to go?” Is that generally aligned?
Jane Ko: Yes. Spot on.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And in terms of if you were to say kind of pie chart of your business, is your business ad revenue from people coming to your blog, sponsored content revenue? I see also that you have city guides.
Bjork Ostrom: Are those almost like a category page where you post to those and people can explore like, “Hey, here’s Lake Tahoe and what I can do when I get to Lake Tahoe”? What does the mechanics of the business side of it look like and search traffic primarily from that or also social?
Jane Ko: Yes, I love getting into all of this. I kind of nerd out. And I think nowadays there’s… When you think of the term influencer and creator, only a fraction of those are actually bloggers. I think it’s not common nowadays for someone to be like, “Oh yeah, I want to be a blogger. I want to start a website.” And I think one, it’s not trendy, right? You can now create a TikTok page and maybe go viral tomorrow for some mundane thing that you probably did in your bathroom.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, there’s less friction to getting to where you want to go, right?
Jane Ko: Yes. And I started with the website in 2010. So I would say around from 2010 to 2015, 100% of my revenue was blog revenue. I’m currently signed with Mediavine. So before that, it was just Google AdSense that would pretty much pay pennies.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s like coffee money, right?
Jane Ko: But for an early 20-year-old, it was a lot of money to be doing something that was considered a hobby. For me, what changed in 2015 was the city of Austin started becoming popular.
Jane Ko: We had offices like Facebook, Dropbox. Indeed opened offices here. And that started surging people wanting to move here. And that has obviously not slowed down. Austin is one of the most in-demand markets right now. We have a real estate market that’s completely ridiculous. And what happened for advertising is brands would typically only look at maybe LA, New York, Miami, Colorado maybe as big advertising markets started looking towards Austin and Texas as a whole.
Jane Ko: At that time, I was one of few personalities, if you will, in the city. And so I had a lot of early success doing Instagram campaigns with brands like Carnival Cruise Line for a two-year contract for someone who didn’t even hit 10,000 followers, which would not happen nowadays. But my revenue percentage pie chart started shifting. As of now, 90% of my revenue is Instagram campaigns, I would say Instagram combined a little bit with TikTok. And because of the surge of revenue I’m getting from social media, the blog revenue is only a fraction now.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure, that makes sense. Are those people who are reaching out to you directly or relationships that you have? I think for a lot of people, especially people who are just getting into it, the mystery around a brand connecting with a personality, influencer, creator, how does that even work? Do you work with an agency to help facilitate those?
Jane Ko: Yeah. Also, keep in mind, I never worked in advertising, don’t know how this works. In 2015, I just started getting reached out by brands, primarily ad agencies, which I didn’t realize was such a unique situation. So I would say 90-
Bjork Ostrom: Unique how so?
Jane Ko: … I think because it’s more common for a brand to reach out to a creator and say, “Hey, we’d like to work together.” For me, I think I’m in a unique position where 90% of my work is from ad agencies. And so I saw this shift as ad agencies who used to only manage print media, TV media, radio media start incorporating in their advertising budgets, “Hey, we’re going to allocate 20% of this year’s budget to working with influencers. And here are the markets that we’re going to target. And then these markets, these are the 10 that we have lined up for you to figure out who you want to work with.”
Jane Ko: And I learned from a lot of account managers that I became friendly with and they were like, “How are you on every single table of ad agencies that we’re talking to? You’re on the table, there’s your portfolio.” At that time, I was in my mid–20s, lives in Texas, has an audience that’s between 25 to 35. All the demographics that brands are usually wanting to advertise with.
Jane Ko: And so in the last six years of doing this full-time since 2015, primarily all my work consisted of ad agencies who emailed me and say like, “Hey, Jane. X, Y, and Z are a big fan. We’re working with X, Y, Z brand. They’re looking to do this. We would love to work together. Are you interested?” From there, I do the first run of vetting. So any brands that I’m not interested in working with, whether it’s a brand that I don’t use or just don’t want to be affiliated with, or someone I just don’t feel like it’s a good fit, I’ll politely decline.
Jane Ko: And then the ones that I want to work with I’ll say, “Hey, would love to work together. I’m going to CC my manager here.” So I am signed with a talent agency. I made that business decision in about, I would say, in 2016, early 2017, I think, when I was literally pulling off the side of the road with my laptop in my car to sign contracts and jump on calls with ad agencies. And I had no idea what I was signing my life away to.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Right, right.
Jane Ko: And one of my big campaigns early on was being the face of Miami tourism for New York Times. They did a video campaign, my face was running through TV, print… Or not print. It’s digital. So TV, airports. And I didn’t know what I sold my rights to. And I was like, “I need to find an agency that can manage and protect myself.” Because-
Bjork Ostrom: Suddenly. It’s kind of cool. You see yourself showing up in a subway ad and you’re like, “Wait.”
Jane Ko: … Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: “That’s me. Kind of cool, but also, I didn’t know that that’s what I was signing up for.”
Jane Ko: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Jane Ko: So I made that early decision to look for a talent agency that could help me manage my contracts, negotiate with brands. And so that’s how I’ve structured everything right now.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s cool. So Instagram, obviously a really big, important platform for you. Different brands will work out, connect with you there. I’m curious to know, obviously Kate mentions you in the live Q&A that we’re doing as doing really good work on Pinterest and starting to use a lot of the new tools that they’re releasing.
Bjork Ostrom: How do you view Pinterest as a platform when you think about all the different platforms that you could be spending time on, that you are focusing on? And do you view that as potentially a place where you could be doing sponsored content or do you view it as a traffic driver?
Jane Ko: So I wouldn’t say I have a love and hate relationship with Pinterest per se because I think it’s about setting expectations and understand how you can maximize your potential in each platform. So my thing with Pinterest is early on, it was the reason why I had so much traffic to a website that really didn’t have that much content.
Jane Ko: And I think the reason why my website comes up on page one of Google for a lot of key terms, especially with anything Austin-related, thanks to the SEO that I’ve invested in, but Google also looks into how many social shares that you have on your page, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or whatever else. Pinterest is a big driver of that. I think because I focused so strongly in the very beginning on how my photography looked, that’s why Pinterest has worked in my favor.
Jane Ko: I also figured out a template that looks great. So even on Google, I have people who are like, “I can recognize your photo from anywhere, whether it has a text overlay with the color blog because the way your hands look, you have your white nails.” It’s just a very iconic style. And I think I’m… I wouldn’t say a creature habit, but if I find something that works and sticks, I will stay with it.
Jane Ko: And it’s just kind of on clockwork, which is why I’m able to power through and get so much done every single day. Pinterest is definitely a big traffic driver for me. When it comes to sponsoring content, I would love to do sponsored content on Pinterest. I think that Pinterest has… And I’ve talked to their teams before. It’s hard because a lot of agencies that maybe I’m working with are not selling Pinterest to their clients because they want to see that immediate ROI.
Jane Ko: So I can easily do a Instagram story and get hundreds of views within seconds. By a 24-hour loop, on average, my Instagram stories get about 8,000 views. That’s not something that you’re going to get on Pinterest right away. I see Pinterest as something as a long tail.
Jane Ko: So what I try to tell brands, especially if it’s a travel campaign because travel content does so well, is I will tell agencies if we’re doing a travel campaign like, “Hey, you’re already flying me to the destination, you already have been shooting all this content. I already have the blog post going up. Let’s repurpose it for Pinterest. We’ll still do all of their social shares, but your brand will still get visibility six months from now.” The lifespan of a TikTok video or Instagram post is about 48 hours and then it’s gone.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s interesting, brands. You potentially will have this mindset of like, “Quarter one. We have goals for quarter one. Here’s how many impressions we want to get on this specific piece of content.” But whether it be a blog post or Pinterest, I feel like is the other platform where this is true, YouTube as well.
Bjork Ostrom: That can be kind of forever in some instances. Not forever forever, but there can be a really long tail on the content that you’re pushing to YouTube, Pinterest, your blog. And you almost have to sell a brand on that or an agency to say like, “Hey, this continually delivers value.”
Jane Ko: And it’s hard.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Jane Ko: And I think it’s hard because I had some Pins take off after six months, or after a full year loop, then it’s gotten 10 million impressions. And occasionally, if I do have a Pin that does that well, I will go back to the agency and unfortunately their retainers are usually six to 12 months. They’re like, “Cool, thanks. We’re not with that client anymore.” So that’s the uphill battle right there.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that makes sense. So as Pinterest has introduced new elements like, “Hey, it used to just be the Pin, but now we’re going to do all of these different things,” that they’re experimenting with. What has your strategy been with saying like, “Hey, I’m going to try these out”? Is it creating content specifically for that, or are you repurposing content that you’re putting in other places and then trying that on Pinterest? And then would you be able to stack order? What are the different things that you’re doing on Pinterest right now?
Jane Ko: Yeah. So obviously, a Static Pin is still my favorite because I like to sit down once a month and power through and create a bunch of new Pins. Because Pinterest likes to have new content, and it can’t be the same photo that you’re basically re-uploading again. I guess their algorithm will detect that as still old content.
Jane Ko: So I will go in with my template on Photoshop and make a bunch of new Pins for blog posts that we know that are doing well or I know that are… I can also follow seasons. So right now, we’re going to start spring. So people are going to look for patio stuff to do. Maybe people who live in the North are looking for things to do in the South. So Miami content’s going to do well, Texas content’s going to do well.
Bjork Ostrom: Just last night-
Jane Ko: During the summer…
Bjork Ostrom: … I walked into the room and Lindsay had Expedia, Miami pulled up. I was like, “Yeah.”
Jane Ko: Yeah, exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: So you’re spot on. Yeah. You know your audience.
Jane Ko: Yeah. And then I would say with Pinterest, what are they calling it where it has the slides and the different frames? Idea Pins. That’s what they’re calling them. We’ve experimented with recipes. I do have a few recipes on my website. And we’ve been able to bring a lot of old blog posts back to life by creating Idea Pins with a step-by-step.
Jane Ko: And I think with any platform, whether it’s Pinterest or Instagram or TikTok, is whenever they release a new feature, it is recommended to jump on that feature and use it because the platform is hoping to promote that kind of new feature. So you’re going to get more generous engagement and visibility. Like when Instagram first launched IG Reels, it got a ton of impressions because it was a feature that they were hoping to push. So I jumped on Idea Pins pretty early.
Jane Ko: We then realized like, “Oh, it’s also pretty relevant to travel stuff,” where it’s like, “Oh, 10 things to do in Austin.” We just grab stuff from my website. And because I have so much content, it is, I would say, a little easier for me to repurpose content because everything’s already there. We then realized like, “Oh, video content.” So her team was like, “Hey, would you consider creating videos on all these blog posts?”
Jane Ko: And of course, they’re only there to manage my Pinterest. So I was like, “Hey, I actually have a pretty big following on Instagram and TikTok. You can just download the videos and we can just test them and repost them to Pinterest.”
Jane Ko: So that’s what Kate’s team has been doing is downloading my TikToks. And then say if it’s a restaurant with a patio, then we will hyperlink to my patio guy. And we’ve actually had a lot of videos go viral that way too, which is great because I’m not recreating videos for the sake of Pinterest, but we’re able to repurpose what I already have posted on my other platforms.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So you’re creating something and you’re thinking, “I’m going to publish this TikTok, but there is the potential to use that on Pinterest.”
Jane Ko: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: Is there one platform that you think is your leading platform and then you repurpose underneath those to the other platforms? And are you changing anything in-between?
Jane Ko: I would say Instagram is still my priority because that’s where all of my revenue is tied up to. So my focus is still, I would say, 60% Instagram, then it’s 30% TikTok. I have this running series on TikTok. I just laugh because it took me 10 years to get to 100K on Instagram. And on TikTok, it took me about three months. And the…
Bjork Ostrom: Why do you think that is? What is it about the-
Jane Ko: I think there’s just more active users on TikTok because it’s a newer platform. I think also on Instagram, when was the last time you followed a new account? Is what I ask people. It’s like, “When was the last time you followed a new account?” You don’t really because you like the accounts that you’re already following.
Jane Ko: They’re people or personalities that you’ve been tethered to for years. And I think it’s a lot harder to want to have to follow a new account. Whereas on TikTok, you will see content from people, whether you’re following them or not because of your For You page. So my For You page is filled mostly with plants, Trader Joe’s hauls, Costco hauls, and obviously things to do in Austin and Texas because that’s what I engage with. So the algorithm will constantly feed me videos in those topics.
Jane Ko: So I’ve had early on, before I had maybe even 500 followers, I had one video go viral, about two million views. And that sent me 30 new followers because it’s like, “Oh, hey. There’s this new girl on TikTok.” And these are all people that weren’t following me on Instagram. It’s a demographic that I would not have reached. And just a bunch of people started following my account.
Jane Ko: Because they’re like, “Oh, it looks like she does things in Austin. I live in Austin.” It’s very fascinating because I’m already on Facebook, I’m on Instagram. You go on Google, I’m on page one. Then you’re on Pinterest, I’m there. But then TikTok then reaches another demographic that actually doesn’t use any of that stuff, or didn’t discover me through those outlets, which is very fascinating.
Jane Ko: And so here in Austin, people usually do recognize me, but the fascinating thing with TikTok is because my series is called 100 Things To Do In Austin This Summer/This Winter, is when I’m out and about people are like, “Oh my God, you’re the 100 Things girl on TikTok.” And I’m like, “Yes, 100 Things girl.”
Bjork Ostrom: … Right. It’s like if somebody sees me and they recognize me, they’re like, “Oh, you’re Pinch of Yum’s husband.”
Jane Ko: Yes, exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s how I’m known in the world forever. So it’s interesting. And people hear that a lot. Like, “Hey, it’s important to repurpose your content, think strategically about where it can live on different places.” But I think what you said is really important to point out. The reason that it’s important is because everybody uses platforms differently.
Bjork Ostrom: Some people exclusively use TikTok, others have never opened it and they use Instagram or they use Pinterest. And so if you can find ways to put your content into multiple different places, you’re going to reach people that you wouldn’t reach otherwise.
Bjork Ostrom: What I’m curious about is can you just essentially take something from Instagram that you’re creating for Instagram and repurpose it to those other platforms? Or do you need to tweak and adjust? Even dimensions, or a lot of times you’ll see a TikTok export that then is uploaded to YouTube reels or Instagram. And you see the little… And it’s like, “Oh, this is just a direct export from TikTok.” Are you needing to change things or do you find something can perform well across all the different platforms?
Jane Ko: So I still kind of create content for each platform. I know there’s maybe some bloggers that just make one content piece and just auto post even, and I’m like, “Oh, my God. Why would you do that?” Because I think you’re only going to get what you put into a platform the amount of time and effort.
Jane Ko: I think if you have limited time and resources, I would say create on Instagram a video for reels and then you can save and export that because there’s no watermark. However, I really don’t like it when I’m on Instagram Reels and I see TikTok videos because it has that watermark. And I also know the platforms don’t… Instagram doesn’t like that. So I think if you’re going to go one way to another, it would be creating a video for Instagram Reels and then downloading and re-posting it onto TikTok because it’s not going to have the watermark.
Jane Ko: Then you could take that same video and post it onto Pinterest. My strategy for each platform, like I said, is everything that I’m posting on TikTok is not necessarily going on Instagram because I’m posting on TikTok almost once a day to fulfill my 100 Things To Do in each season goal.
Jane Ko: So a lot of things that are in that TikTok series aren’t necessarily cool enough, per se, to make it onto my Instagram because my Instagram is a very curated experience. Also, on TikTok, it is all just things to do in Austin. I have not posted a personal video. And by personal, I mean my home renovation, which has been heavily promoted on my Instagram channel. Because I’ve heard, and I have friends that work at TikTok, they’re like, “Hey, once you make it in a niche, don’t go outside that niche because the algorithm will get confused.”
Jane Ko: So I’m just a little careful of that. Whereas, on Instagram, I have an audience that has followed me for a very long time, maybe two years, five years, however. So they’re not really looking at me just for Austin content. Actually, only 30% of my audience on my Instagram account is in Austin.
Jane Ko: The rest of it is in California and New York, primarily because of the migration route maybe for work or personal. But people who are just interested in what I’m doing with my life. So I get high engagement on my home renovation right now because I’ve been doing that for the past year. They want to see what my dog is up to, or they want to know what trip she’s taking because maybe they will go to Miami right now because everywhere else is pretty cold.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, interesting. I think of a friend of a friend, but somebody I’ve connected with before. His name is TJ, and he’s on TikTok. And he does birth order humor. So your youngest child, your middle child, the oldest child. And how they eat an Oreo.
Jane Ko: Oh, my gosh. Oh, that’s interesting.
Bjork Ostrom: And he has 900,000 followers. But to your point, oh man, it’s this super-specific niche. And it’s just repeating that over and over and over. And it’s all these different versions of that type of humor. But do you think that’s more true for TikTok than, say, on Instagram?
Jane Ko: Yes, I really think so. I think just because of how the algorithm presents content. Whereas on Instagram, I think the platform allows you to build a brand that people become invested in you and your personality.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Versus-
Jane Ko: I feel like on TikTok, people are more-
Bjork Ostrom: … more content-centric.
Jane Ko: … Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: They may know you, may not. But they do know this thing that you’re doing and this thing is a specific niche.
Jane Ko: Yes. And I don’t want to say selfish, but I think as we’ve been talking right now, I feel like the consumer on TikTok is a little bit more selfish. And I think it’s because of how easy you’re able to swipe up through videos.
Jane Ko: When I think about how I consume content, if I’m watching something like a plant video, I’m like, “Oh, I don’t like this breed of plant.” I mainly swipe out. On TikTok, it’s like, “Oh, that video is not good, not relevant or something. So we’re not going to show something like that again.”
Jane Ko: Which is why I think the average consumer on TikTok is more selfish. There’s a lot more comments, I would say. People are like, “Hey, why didn’t you put the location? Oh, this is too expensive. Oh, why didn’t you feature a vegetarian ration?” So they’re just a lot more vocal. And these are people that probably will never message me.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And those are people who, like on Instagram, they’d maybe know you, they’d be following you.
Jane Ko: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Versus TikTok.
Jane Ko: And they would not comment or complain. Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: Totally. That’s really interesting. So when you think of the pie chart example again, Instagram, my guess is most significant. How do you factor in the other platforms, like Pinterest, TikTok?
Bjork Ostrom: You have to decide you only have so much time in a day and you have a budget to spend, if you are working with somebody to manage an account. How do you think about justification of time or money spent on a certain platform and the potential return on that? Pinterest, TikTok, Instagram, whatever it might be?
Jane Ko: Yeah. I would say three or four years ago, I was very stretched on budget. So I had to be very careful where time and money resources were being spent. I was spending a lot more time on the website. I invested in a redesign, really fast loading sites. Sometimes I would work with Mediavine ads.
Jane Ko: Where I’m at right now, I would say Instagram is 60% of my time in money resources because that’s where 90% of my revenue is held up in. I would say 30%… I’m just trying to count the percentages. Okay. I’m going to say 20% that’s been allocated towards TikTok. And that’s just because video content is very time-consuming. It’s a lot harder to shoot video and edit video versus taking a static image and just editing that and throwing it up on Pinterest.
Jane Ko: The remaining 20%, I would say, has been split between the blog and Pinterest. And I hired Simple Pin Media about two years ago to run my Pinterest. And you just have to let go of something. And so for me, I was like, “Well, Pinterest can be automated.” They also have access to tribes that they’ve already created. So I’m just going to let them manage that because in reality, if I don’t hire them to manage it, then I won’t be posting in on Pinterest because again, all of my revenue is tied to Instagram.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that makes sense. So let’s say, if you hit the reset button and everything went away and we’re recording this in February, it won’t come out in February and you didn’t have anything. How would you go about rebuilding what you’ve rebuilt?
Jane Ko: Oh, God.
Bjork Ostrom: Seeing where you’d be able to get traction. And whenever I ask people who have been doing this for longer than 10 years, it’s always like, “Oh, please. No.” But let’s say the great reset, where would you look at? And where would you invest your initial allotment of time and resources?
Jane Ko: Oh, man. I sometimes daydream about this because it can be very taxing of people constantly like, “Oh, what are you doing? What is she up to? Who is she dating? And what is she doing at home? Oh, she’s working on this home project, but then I heard she might…” It takes a little bit of skin over time to be okay with basically having your privacy violated a little bit. And you’re constantly working.
Bjork Ostrom: You, being the brand that you are publishing?
Jane Ko: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: You’re putting yourself out there. People aren’t commenting necessarily on a place or a thing but you, as it relates to the thing.
Jane Ko: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally.
Jane Ko: And so it’s pretty much not really taking a day off and working. I don’t know. From the moment I wake up to when I go to sleep, obviously I can have boundaries of how often I’m posting the stories, or maybe not checking the app for the next five hours. Those are boundaries that you can put up.
Jane Ko: So I often do daydream where I’m like, “Oh, what would I do?” However, I think I’ve been very lucky in the last decade to have built up this brand. I don’t know if I could replicate it if I lost everything or, say, I’m just starting right now.
Jane Ko: I think it would be very hard because of how I built my brand. It’s very much tethered to Austin. I was there for Austin during a time when nobody else was writing about Austin, when Austin didn’t have a restaurant culture, when people weren’t coming here to come for the weekend or come for a couple months for vacation.
Jane Ko: I don’t know if I could replicate it. But I think if I was going to and I had limited resources, I probably would just jump on TikTok, just because I’ve been very shocked about how quickly you can grow on TikTok. And it’s not even about the number of followers you have. It’s about how much reach you can have on a post. That’s reach that you just-
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. You can have something that gets two million impressions, views.
Jane Ko: … Yeah. And you can’t even pay for that on other platforms right now. And so I think I probably would just start on TikTok.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. You kind of alluded to this, and I’d be interested to hear you talk a little bit more about it. But the reality of what it looks like to have a personal brand. And for you to be the one that the content is channeling through. And in my conversations, whether on the podcast or within the communities that we’re in, or even privately with people, that’s one of the things that you hear people talk about is that being potentially a burden.
Bjork Ostrom: I all also think it’s an advantage. I think people want to follow people as opposed to… I think people can follow brands as well, but I think it’s a little bit stickier. You have more traction if it’s an actual person who’s doing it, who’s doing a thing, there is a niche. But it sounds like you were kind of hinting at the potential of maybe not doing something that would be so personality-driven. Is that right? Do you think you’d create something that would be more brand-driven and less personal brand-driven?
Jane Ko: I think it’s more scalable, which is why I have… That’s how I alluded to it is not from… I’ve known a few people that have sold their websites. I wouldn’t say, not because I’m thinking in that direction. But yes, hypothetically, if I wanted to sell my brand, I couldn’t because my face and my voice is so tethered to all the social accounts to the blog.
Jane Ko: There’s no way I could do that. But when I think about if I didn’t put my personality so much to it, then I could onboard more freelance writers. I could maybe incorporate more cities, but I think that’s why my brand has been so strong and resilient through. It’s not common people probably hit over 10 years. I don’t think there’s a lot of us, honestly. Mostly, maybe because of burnout or you weren’t able to monetize or you got bored or life just happened.
Jane Ko: Those are all very common factors. But I do think why mine has stayed so strong for so long is because it is so much my face, it is so much my voice. I do a lot for Austin. Last year, there was a winter storm that hit Texas and there was hundreds of thousands of people without power. And I jumped on stories and said, “Hey, there’s a lot of us that are hurting right now. Will you raise money with me?” In less than a week I raised $160,000.
Bjork Ostrom: Wow. That’s awesome.
Jane Ko: I don’t think that’s something that another publication could have done. They also didn’t do it because I think when you have people on your team, you can’t move as fast, I want to say.
Jane Ko: You probably could get more done, but when it comes to a natural disaster or if I want to take off to Miami tomorrow, I could because I’m pretty much a team of one. I do have different aspects of my business to outsource, but it’s like, “Okay, I’ll just jump on stories right now. I think I’m going to do this. Who knows if I’ll raise a single dollar?”
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s really cool, by the way. That’s awesome that you were able to do that and incredibly impactful. And my guess is that people are doing that because people are kind, people are generous. And also because people feel connected to you. And I think that’s what you’re saying is if it was like, “Visit austin.com,” people would maybe move to help people of Austin. But it’s through you that people are doing that.
Bjork Ostrom: And that’s really powerful and a great… Not an analogy, but a reflection of why personal brand is powerful. But then to your point, if you onboarded, it reminds me of… There’s this YouTube… This is for anybody who has a toddler, they’ll be like, “Oh, yeah. This YouTuber.” But his name is Blippi.
Bjork Ostrom: And he dresses super bright colors, orange and blue and will go and visit a zoo. And will walk through and do a 10 to 20-minute walk-through of a zoo just talking about the animals. And he did this tour where he would do live in-person things. But he booked a different person, an actor to play him on the tour.
Jane Ko: Oh, God.
Bjork Ostrom: And all these parents were outraged like, “That’s not, Blippi.” You can wear the same outfit, you can say the same things, but it’s not Blippi. And I’m sure for this individual, it’s this incredible thing that he’s built, tens of millions of followers, but it’s him.
Bjork Ostrom: And so the positive of it is the incredible reach and impact. And then the difficult reality of it is you can’t sub in some random person to be like, “Here’s Blippi.” And it’s like, “No, that’s not Blippi.”
Jane Ko: Yes. That’s exactly on point because I used to do three restaurant tastings a day in my 20s.
Bjork Ostrom: Wow.
Jane Ko: It was a lot of food. I’m very lucky that I have high metabolism because you’re eating very heavy food. And it can be quite detrimental to your body over five years, a decade. Nowadays, I probably do one tasting a week. And it’s mostly because I’m involved in a bunch of other projects. I’m also just not covering that many restaurants anymore.
Jane Ko: But a lot of restaurants are emailing me every single day like, “Hey, will you come? Can you come? Can you please come? I saw you in here, can you come?” It builds a lot of anxiety. People are just asking for things all the time. And I wish I could help out every single local business and restaurant because to this point, I have never charged a local restaurant or business.
Jane Ko: All of my ad money and brand partnerships are from national companies like IKEA, Target, Trader… Not Trader Joe’s. Whole Foods or whoever. But it’s hard. And I even have friends who are like, “Maybe you should hire a body double who can go.” And I was like, “Yes, tell me how that’s going to go?” She’s going to wear my clothes.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, exactly.
Jane Ko: She’s probably going to obviously be Asian with balayage hair, white nails. Then what are we going to do about the voice? Am I going to do a voice over? But what happens when she opens her mouth? She can’t be me at the restaurant being like, “Hey, guys. I’m here at a restaurant.” No, I can’t do that.
Bjork Ostrom: Right. Yeah. And it’s just a reality of… And we talked about that with Pinch of Yum. What does that look like to make sure that you make space for yourself so you don’t burn out? You mentioned that, but that being a reality. But also continue to have to be personality-driven, which is a hard thing to find that balance.
Bjork Ostrom: As we’re coming to the end here, I’d be curious to know one of the questions I like to ask people, especially people who have been at this for a long time and continue to do it at a high level. If you were to go back and sit down with yourself, let’s say in 2010, what would your advice be knowing what you know now?
Jane Ko: I am very happy and proud of where I am right now. So I think I would just poke myself and whisper and be like, “On the right track.” Everybody else that is around you that’s like, “This is stupid. What are you spending your time on? Your parents are so mad at you. Why are you obsessing over Pinterest?”
Jane Ko: I truly mean that. I would obsess and save so many images on my laptop and just be like, “How do they shoot this? I want to shoot the perfect photo.” And I was just so obsessed with food photography and really just tell myself like, “Just keep going.”
Jane Ko: Because it’s hard when nobody else at that time was… Social media wasn’t the thing. Blogging, nobody was making money from that. But for some reason, I don’t know, I call it stubbornness probably. I just want to do something different. I would just tell myself to keep going.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. I love that. And I think it’ll resonate with a lot of people who are listening. Because I think when you get into it, there are people from the outside who look and they’re like, “Wait, what are you doing? Why are you doing this? Doesn’t make sense.”
Bjork Ostrom: Maybe more so now. For sure, more so now people understand this world better. But even so, I think it’s common for people to not encourage but discourage. And so to go back and say to yourself, “Stick with it.”
Jane Ko: And I want to add onto that because I have a lot of people that will ask me like, “How did you get started?” Or, “I want to do what you’re doing,” or, “Hey, I’ve been doing this for six months.” And I always try to set the expectation like, “Hey, what you’re seeing right now is the end product. This is 11 years of working a hundred hours a week for the last five years.”
Jane Ko: And it’s a lot of sacrifice. It’s a lot of broken relationships. I also didn’t foster a lot of my friendships because I was so obsessed with trying to create really good content. And again, it goes back to people who are parents. And they’re like, “Well, how do I do this?” And I’m like, “I don’t know. You can’t ask me how I did it, because I’m not in the same situation.”
Jane Ko: Also, at that time, I don’t have expectation because there was nobody else that was doing it. So I was just pretty much having fun every day because I didn’t have to measure up to anybody. Whereas, now I can see how it can be tough where you’re like, “Well, this person started three months ago. Why are they at 500,000 followers?”
Jane Ko: Don’t know. You’re not them. I think that’s the weird thing about social media that people don’t understand. You could have the content, you could have the voice, but you’re not that person. No one can replicate what I’m doing because I’m making up things as I go. Kind of have a good idea what I’m going to do for the rest of today, but I don’t really know what I’m going to do tomorrow.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Yeah. That’s awesome. I love that. And one of the great luxuries of all of that time and energy that you’ve put in. I love the phrase, “Live like no one else so you can live like no one else.” And I feel like working 100-hour weeks for years allows you the luxury then of having a freedom and flexibility that doesn’t exist in a lot of other situations because of that work that you’ve done, which I think is really cool.
Jane Ko: I want to add on. Sorry, one more quote. What you just said-
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, please. Yeah.
Jane Ko: … is I always tell people in my industry, the best way to escape competition is to be yourself.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally. And to not try and replicate what somebody else is doing because what they’re doing is probably a really good version of who they are, themselves amplified. And if you can amplify yourself, what a great thing that can be.
Bjork Ostrom: So we talked a lot about your platforms, your site, but can you talk about where people can actually follow along with you and keep track of what you’re up to? And maybe, if they’re going to Miami or Austin, where they can download some of those trip planning sites?
Jane Ko: Yeah. So I’m A Taste of Koko, which is K-O-K-O on every single social media platform, most active on Instagram and obviously TikTok. But generally, if you look up anything in Austin: best brunches, best happy hour, things to do. I’m on page one, probably result number three or four.
Jane Ko: I also have a book on Austin, which actually we didn’t talk about, but it’s a little yellow guidebook called Koko’s Guide To Austin. It kind of fit into my ecosystem over the last couple of years. And to tie up, what is the value of a website versus just having social media channels? I have this website, generate hundreds of thousands of views a month. People who are looking for content, but yet they’re still asking me for recommendations.
Jane Ko: So the beautiful thing about that was I was like, “Well, I always loved printed material.” Again, wish I would’ve worked at a magazine at some point, but decided to self-publish my own little guidebook on Austin, put up on Amazon. I have all these lead gen pages basically for the last decade.
Jane Ko: So anyone looks at things to do in Austin, there’s a little CTA on top that’s like, “Hey, buy my book on Amazon.” It’s also been a big gifter for people. Real estate agents love using it as welcome gifts. So they’ll buy hundreds of books at a time. So yeah. I’m on a lot of different areas.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. We’ll link to those in the show notes. Koko, thanks so much for coming on.
Jane Ko: Thank you.
Leslie Jeon: Hello, hello. Leslie here from the Food Blogger Pro team. We really hope that you enjoyed this episode. Before we sign off, I wanted to quickly mention the Food Blogger Pro Podcast Facebook group, in case you haven’t joined yet.
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