253: Growth Hacking – How Yumna Jawad Got 2.2M Followers on Instagram and 200K Followers on TikTok

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An image of plants and the title of the 253rd episode on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, 'Growth Hacking.'

Welcome to episode 253 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Yumna Jawad from Feel Good Foodie about how she grew her social following.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Andrew Wilder, Danielle Liss, and Kate Ahl about traffic, sponsored content, and Pinterest strategies. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

Growth Hacking 

In today’s episode, you’ll hear from Yumna from Feel Good Foodie. You may recognize the name because you may be one of her 2.2 million followers on Instagram or one of her 200,000 followers on TikTok.

As you can probably imagine, we’re talking all about growing your social media audience with Yumna today. She, more or less, has figured out the secret sauce to growing an audience on Instagram and on TikTok, and she’s sharing her strategies and tips for “growth hacking” during this episode.

It’s a really fun episode, and Yumna is just such a knowledgeable, hard-working blogger. We know you’ll have a ton of takeaways from this episode!

A quote from Yumna Jawad’s appearance on the Food Blogger Pro podcast that says, 'The more you post, the more you grow.'

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How she learned more about social media marketing
  • How she grew her Instagram following to 2.2 million
  • Her advice for growing an audience on any platform
  • How to supplement your content on Instagram
  • How she grows the right audience
  • How she grew her blog
  • Why connection is important
  • How she got started with TikTok
  • How to post unique content to TikTok
  • How quickly her TikTok account is growing
  • How TikTok posts can have a longer lifespan than posts on Instagram
  • How TikTok works

Resources:

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].

Transcript (click to expand):

Alexa Peduzzi: Hello. Hello and welcome to the Food Blogger Pro podcast. I’m Alexa from Team FBP and we are so thrilled that you’re here tuning into the podcast today. In today’s episode, you’ll hear from Yumna from Feel Good Foodie and you may recognize the name or the handle because you maybe one of her cool 2.2 million followers on Instagram or maybe one of her 200,000 followers on TikTok. As you can probably imagine, we’re talking all about growing your social media audience with Yumna today. She has more or less figured out the secret sauce to growing an audience on Instagram and on TikTok and she’s sharing her strategies and tips for quote, unquote, growth hacking during this episode. It’s just a really fun episode and she is just so knowledgeable. She’s an incredible blogger and we’re just so thankful to have her on the show today. We really hope you enjoy this episode. Without further ado, Bjork, take it away.

Bjork Ostrom: Yumna, welcome to the podcast.

Yumna Jawad: Thank you Bjork. It’s good to be on.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, so even in … whenever I do one of these podcast, we do a quick check in. We talk through stuff. I kind of explain how it’ll go and you shared a couple of different things as just little snippets that I think are going to be really exciting for people to hear about. You shared about your growth on Instagram. You have 2.2 million followers, you shared about your growth on the blog and building that and we’re also going to be talking about TikTok and you tied it all back to this idea of really being a growth hacker. Let’s start with that. What is your idea of a growth hacker and can you kind of explain to podcast listeners what that is and how you adopt that as kind of who you are in the work that you do.

Yumna Jawad: Absolutely. My background is actually in marketing and so, what I did before all of this was like 10 years of marketing and trying to figure out how to get the message out in the best way, in the most concise way and the cheapest way. When I started on social media, the first thing I ever did was Instagram in July of 2013. When I started there, I didn’t know anything about social media marketing but I said, “Well, I know all … as the other parts of marketing, I’m sure I can apply it to this.” So, it became this fun little challenging thing for me to do while I was on maternity leave and I took it as an opportunity to say, “Okay, what are people doing on here and what’s working for them, and what can I learn from them and how can I grow from this?”

Yumna Jawad: At first, it started out like a hobby like most people but I started seeing, “Oh, that person has 5,000 followers. I wonder if I can get 5,000 followers.” It kind of became the thing and so, what I ended up doing on Instagram which is kind of what I replied to on different platforms is I tried to follow different accounts from different niches. It’s not just food account. I started following the fashion account. I started following makeup artist and music and just seeing what different people were doing and just trying to learn from them and trying to just emulate those ideas. A huge part of it is just seeing what the trendsetters themselves are doing and trying to understand what it is they do and then experimenting with different things.

Yumna Jawad: Just trying out if there’s a new feature on Instagram, hopping on it as soon as possible, if there’s a new feature that allows you to do something that you couldn’t do before, Instagram is going to be pushing that and promoting that. It’s a good idea to hop on it and to give that a try.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, give an example of that on Instagram. What were some of the things that you did that were helpful, like 2.2 million is an incredible amount of people.

Yumna Jawad: It is, yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: There’s an incredible amount of people who would want to have 2.2 million followers.

Yumna Jawad: Yup.

Bjork Ostrom: What were some of the things along the way that you did that allowed you to grow faster? It has to be good content but there’s also some of that growth hacker element that you talked about that it sounds like helped along the way.

Yumna Jawad: There were … like I would probably break it down to three different things that I did. The first thing that I did was I realized as Feel Good Foodie, I was making content, I was cooking content, like three times a week, I was producing content. It’s on my iPhone. It was simple photos that I was taking and posting them on there. I realized that the more you post, the more you grow. What I decided to do was I actually started a second account and by starting a second account, I was able to repurpose content and not a lot of people were … there was basically two types of people back then. There was the true bloggers who are pushing people to their blog and then there was these repost pages and I was kind of probably one of the few people who are with both of them.

Yumna Jawad: I decided to be both and actually have two kinds of pages. What happened was that page was called Foodie DIY and that page basically grew to be way bigger than Feel Good Foodie and so, what I did was I kind of used that page to boost Feel Good Foodie. Anything that I was doing, I would post it on there and I would say follow Feel Good Foodie, follow Feel Good Foodie, over and over again so that helped me out. It was kind of reposting that content, liking the page alone, there was a time where Instagram, you can actually grow a page just by liking content. My sister is a dentist and I was able to grow … help her grow her page to 200,000 followers just by liking her content in like 2016, ’17.

Yumna Jawad: That was another strategy of just liking content that it was just amazing, like 10,000 followers per day, you can grow by using one big account and liking it from another.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure and can you explain the reason behind that, like how that works?

Yumna Jawad: Yeah, so basically what happens is when I … if I’m going to like a picture from Pinch of Yum for example, what that’s going to do is it’s going to tell my 2.2 million followers that like, “Hey, Pinch of Yum is an account that this influencer likes, so you might like it as well.” What happens is, it ends up popping on the suggested explore page and Instagram was really pushing that for a while. It doesn’t work as strongly now. I mean, it still works to some degree but Instagram has kind of cracked down on that now with everyone doing this like pods and comment pods, that back then it was really powerful because it would suggest it and continue to suggest it over and over again. So, the more I like, the more I posted, the more that it would be suggested.

Bjork Ostrom: With something like that was like that, how are you discovering that that is something that’s working? Are you reading marketing articles? Are you following people who are suggesting it as best practice? Is it just kind of a gut intuition thing like as you use the platform, you discover that it works, because that is a concept, like you said to 2016, 2017, it’s working really well and then things shift with any platform pretty quickly. How do you know the thing that is currently working well?

Yumna Jawad: Yeah, so back then, because I was starting these different accounts, I was actually talking to people in different niches. I actually even started a makeup account because I said, “Well, if I can grow a food page to be this much, what if I can do … can I do it with another vertical?” I did and I grew it with another vertical, something I know nothing about. What I ended up starting to do was communicating with people in different verticals, and then watching them really closely. I didn’t get my information outside the app. It was literally all on the app. It was these like, 14 year old kids who are like, “Oh my gosh, if you geotag your picture today to say Singapore, it’s going to hit the popular page and you’ll get double amount of likes that you normally get.”

Yumna Jawad: I literally did that, so it’s just these random things that would happen and they would find out about something that would work and so I kind of became part of these like circles of people who would share this information, but it wasn’t even food bloggers, it was these random people who are probably 15 years old and they’re so young, and they’re just … they’re basically so passionate about the app and on the app so much that they were finding these little tweaks of things that were happening and sharing them with everyone.

Bjork Ostrom: Are these like groups that you’re … I’m so fascinated by it, number one, just because of the growth around it. Number two, because of the creativity and the hustle involved with you saying, “Hey, I’m just going to go on this and learn from this,” and if it’s a 15 year old kid who’s telling me no different than like a consultant who’s 30 years old and has done marketing for 20 years but number three, what’s interesting to me and why I love it is because I feel like there’s something to do with tapping into, for lack of a better word, like youth culture, and that’s what we’re going to be talking about a little bit as we get into discussing TikTok. That being kind of a demographically speaking, a younger skewing audience but also really exciting because it’s a new platform.

Bjork Ostrom: Inevitably what happens is that trickles up and suddenly my 30 something year old friends are using it. We’re going to talk about that in a little bit but how are you discovering these groups of people, whether young or old, regardless, these experienced and knowledgeable people on a certain platform to inform some of the things that are happening and that are working?

Yumna Jawad: Well, a lot of it is just really geeking out over a platform, whatever it is that you’re on. So, when I started on Instagram, I basically would just look at the Explore page, Explore page was such a powerful tool just to see what is trending because Instagram is putting on there what they think is popular. So, if accounts were showing up there over and over and over again like this person knows what they’re doing. They’re always on the explore page and so, I would just start chatting with them and just say, “Hey, I love your content and what are you doing?” This is the kind of stuff that I actually don’t have time to do anymore but back then, when I was on maternity leave, I didn’t have a blog or Pinterest account or any of that.

Yumna Jawad: I was just obsessed with the app of Instagram and just learning how these different things were happening. The explore page was the biggest way for me to do research, like what is hitting on there and why? So, I think it was January 2017 when Instagram first introduced video. All of a sudden, we started seeing a couple videos in our explore page. I’m like, “Oh my goodness, there’s something going on here with video,” but nobody was really making video yet. I wasn’t able to make video, maybe it was 2016 actually. What I discovered is I said, “Well, even though Feel Good Foodie is my content, I don’t want to share anyone’s content on there. What if I shared something helpful that doesn’t compete with my content but actually supplements it?”

Yumna Jawad: I found a video of like how to wash your pants. I’m like, “I’m not going to do this tutorial. Somebody did this tutorial and ruin six pants probably to do this tutorial.” I reposted, I think it was from Food Network or one of those types of pages. So, I reposted it and just from that one video, I was able to grow like 15, 20,000 followers in a day. The next day, I’m like, “All right, let me find another video.” There weren’t a lot of people doing videos so it was really hard, few and far between trying to find them. That was another huge growth tactic for me, was reposting these people’s videos of fun ideas that didn’t really compete with the food content that I was making but actually was interesting because the people followed me were curious about that stuff. Then eventually, I made my own videos and that’s been a huge growth, quote, unquote, hack for me as well.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah and when you say … let’s say you find this video, reposting it meaning taking that, crediting back to whoever the original person was within the app itself or is that like taking the video, uploading it and then crediting back and reaching out and saying like, “Hey, is that all right?” We have that with Pinch of Yum sometimes. People will be like, “Hey, can we share your video and credit you back?”

Yumna Jawad: Yeah, so basically it would be, there’s these download apps, so you would download it and then repost it or not repost it basically but share it as a new video to your video crediting the account. Originally, I had reached out to a couple people, and I asked them to do it. What’s funny is I actually got in trouble with BuzzFeed because BuzzFeed was one of the first people doing that and I had asked permission from three or four different people and everyone said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, do it. We don’t care.” Then, BuzzFeed found me doing it and they said, “We do not want you to share this content,” and what’s funny now is everyone shares BuzzFeed’s content and it’s so popular but when I first did it, they said, “Please, you can’t share our videos. We don’t want anyone sharing these.”

Yumna Jawad: Yeah, so there was a little bit of that, where I got comfortable, and I said, well, everyone said yes so I’ll just continue it.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it.

Yumna Jawad: Yeah, so those are the different kinds of things that I look at, whenever something new is introduced, like when video was introduced, when carousels were introduced. When stories first came up, the kids, what they were doing … the kids, they’re literally just these kids who are so smart but one of the things that they would do is they realized that if you can get 200 comments on your post within 15 minutes, that Instagram would actually push that up in the algorithm and show it to more people. They would go on live and they would say, “I’m going to follow the first 200 people who comment on my post.” So, all these people like would … and all you have to do is comment pizza word, letter by letter.

Yumna Jawad: All of a sudden, within minutes, you have 200 comments and they’re all just P-I-Z-Z-A. All of a sudden, you’ve got 200 comments and you beat the algorithm and your content is showing up before other people’s content is. Just all these and I never did that personally because I thought it was cheesy and weird. I would never try something like that but I did kind of one time just go on and say, “Hey guys, you know, it means a lot to me, if you can like my stuff or comment within the first 15 minutes, it really helps.” It was just … it felt kind of weird so I tried it once. It worked and then I just didn’t do it anymore because the idea of going live every single time you post content and you beg your followers to go … but it worked.

Yumna Jawad: All these little things and then what’s funny is, whenever I tried something that would work, it would work for sometimes weeks, sometimes months, sometimes like hours and then it would just die down, Instagram is constantly tweaking those algorithms because people take advantage of them. There was that day with Singapore, Everybody was in Singapore, like 50% of the content are like, “Oh, everything was in Singapore.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s really interesting and you hear that a lot with this idea of growth hacking and there’s kind of this constant learning about what’s working, if you use … like lean into the hack side of it, what is it the thing that is an area that is, there’s exponential room for growth and I feel like the hard part with it is always finding like what is the thing that’s on the cusp of unlocking growth, video being an example, without it leaning too far into the hack side of it? Because on some of those platforms, maybe using Pinterest as an example, it might be a platform where if you lean in too far into the hack side of things, search optimization would be a great example of this and it falls on something that would be a flag, then there’s going to be detrimental impact that happens to your account, whether that be banned or whatever it might be.

Yumna Jawad: Exactly. Yeah, exactly and there’s a fine line between being spammy, for example, and you don’t want to produce … you want to be quality, yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s also I think, a through line that I hear in stories of startups, who have grown exponentially fast is that they’re looking for creative ways to do things that allow them to grow quickly and it has to do with really understanding and playing the game at a level where you’re passionate about, and I think that what you said earlier, it really makes a lot of sense where you almost become obsessed with the platform and you say, “What are the things that I can be doing that are unique, that are different, that are a new feature, that they just launched,” the example of repurposing content like, okay, so somebody else share something, obviously you want to go out and say like, “Hey, like people do with a Pinch of Yum, are you okay if we share this on our account and credit you back?”

Bjork Ostrom: You want to connect with that person, you want to get permission but there are people and there are accounts, the feedfeed I think, as an example, who have built a substantial following by giving exposure to other people’s content at scale, they get more followers because of it, but they’re not actually creating the content. There are platform where … and I’m not saying any specific platform but there are platforms that kind of are aggregate platforms that surface up the best of, like I think of these animal accounts that we follow, Lindsay and I, and at the end of the day, when our brains are completely drained, we’re like, “Let’s watch some inspirational Animal Rescue videos.”

Bjork Ostrom: Some of those might be original but some of those might be stories that they’ve seen that they want to surface, but point being, it’s thinking creatively around, “Hey, it’s not just about showing up and posting a photo at the same time every day along with a caption, there are creative ways that you can be lifting this content but then also, knowing that inevitably, you need to be aware of how much of the algorithm hacking are you doing, to play the game as clean as possible.” Do you have feedback or ideas or thoughts around how to know when you’re pushing things too far and how to pull back on that, and how do you make decisions around that in regards to the growth hacking side of things?

Yumna Jawad: Well, I think it’s a good idea to learn about all the different ideas that are out there. There’s so much right now too, especially with these platforms being as old as they are now, with Instagram being almost probably a decade old. I think 2011 it started, so almost a decade old. There’s so many different ideas out there all the time. I think the first thing is it has to feel good in your gut, it has to feel like it makes sense to you, it just has a good gut feeling.

Bjork Ostrom: Yup.

Yumna Jawad: It’s ethical, I think too, some part of it has to be ethical and I think you have to think about your audience too. How does your audience going to react by seeing something like this? One thing I tried four years ago that I’m not even proud of but I tried it because people were growing crazy like this was these giveaway loops. I don’t know if you’ve heard of giveaway loops but they’re basically like, “We’re giving away this $2,000 Mac package,” and so what you have to do is you have to follow these 10 accounts and then every person you follow, you end up … you grow that way. So, everybody who’s seeing is following all these accounts and you end up growing this way. People are growing like massive and those food bloggers who are doing it is on like, “I’m going to try this, why not?”

Yumna Jawad: I tried it once or twice and I literally grew 30,000 followers a day. It was intense but then I said, “Okay, then all those people who are following me now were following me in order to get a new Mac and okay, now that they didn’t win, what are they going to do?” Guess what, the next day I lost 90% of those followers. For me, being so interested in growth hacks, I wanted to try it. I thought it was a really cool experiment to try it and I did put my audience through that trial and I look back at it and I hate the fact that I did that but I learned so much from that experience and I learned to … sometimes it’s just not worth it. Sometimes the kind of followers you get it’s just not worth it.

Yumna Jawad: I go back to that now and if something doesn’t feel right, if me getting on live begging people to like my content and comments on it within 15 minutes, feels really weird and cheesy, I’m not going to do it. Some part of it has to be that and I think you have to think about the audience you’re serving and making sure that they’re actually going to gain something from what you’re doing.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s … it’s interesting to think, what is the ultimate goal in pursuit of this? I think some people stop a little bit early where the ultimate goal is the number.

Yumna Jawad: Yup.

Bjork Ostrom: If you’re building your brand as a business, the ultimate goal would be attention, it would be impact and that’s a little bit harder to track and it’s also maybe not as, you can’t like check a box and say, “Hey, I hit the impact level of XYZ or I hit the …” and you could do engagement, versions of engagement.

Yumna Jawad: Right.

Bjork Ostrom: Really like Instagram for an example, if you’re building that as a brand, it’s either to promote internally your own personal brand or products that you have, if you’re thinking of like, the Kardashians, they build billion dollar businesses selling their own product or its selling somebody else’s product through sponsored content, and the best way to do that isn’t necessarily through hundreds of thousands of followers but 100,000 or millions of engaged followers, which is what I hear you saying like, “Hey, you could add 30,000 people, but if they’re not going to be engaged with the content that you’re creating, if they’re not going to care about it, then … if you’re building your brand, as a business, then it’s not really going to matter.”

Bjork Ostrom: You’ve also done some of the growth related obsession hacking with your blog itself and we haven’t even gotten to the meat and potatoes of what we’re going to talk about, which is TikTok but I’d be interested to hear how you went about doing that with your blog. You’ve grown it to multiple millions of page views and kind of with the same mindset of a marketer and trying to learn the things that are working and how you apply those. Can you talk about some of the things that were most helpful on the growth of your blog?

Yumna Jawad: Yes, absolutely. So, the first most helpful thing that I ever did was that I signed up for Food Blogger Pro and I didn’t even tell this before. Honestly, I literally walked through the first tutorial where you show me how to purchase the domain and go through the whole Bluehost thing. I did all of that and what I did was, I basically bought the whole membership and I binge watched for two months. I said, “I’m not creating any content for two months. I’m just watching everything.” I learned how to take photographs from Lindsay. I learned all about Google Analytics from you. I learned everything that I needed to know to get started. So, that was a huge help getting started.

Yumna Jawad: Then, what happened was I use my Instagram platform to kind of pivot the whole blog and so from day one or month one, I had 30,000 page views, which is amazing, like to start from day one having 30,000 page views is such a good feeling. I thought, “Oh, this number is just going to continue to grow and grow and grow.” What happened was two years later, it didn’t continue to grow and grow. It just kind of hung out at 60,000, 80,000 which was fine, it was doing well but I just wasn’t getting the traction that I thought I would get. I thought after two years, I should be much bigger than this. I should be growing … and it’s a very long game. It’s what I’m learning now.

Yumna Jawad: What ended up starting to help me was going through different conferences, going to conferences, meeting with people who were experts in different things and sometimes too, it wasn’t just about the keynote speaker who was speaking or that really interesting presentation about how to do your videos better but it was more of these hallway conversations with friends and the coffee talks and things like that. I remember one of the first ones I went to, I was really interested in like the final keynote speaker and one of the bloggers was like, “Hey, do you want to skip it and just have coffee instead?” I’m like, “Oh, what do you mean skip it?” I’m just like a student who’s there at this conference, it’s just a coffee and I’m like, “Oh, okay. Well, I guess, are you sure?”

Yumna Jawad: We just sat there and had coffee and that 20, 30 minute conversation with her was just so impactful, just introducing me to this person who can audit my website or introduced me to this person who can help me create graphic design so that I can free up my time to do this. So, the networking for me has been huge, it’s been just a huge amount of help because every single person that I’ve met, there’s just … everyone is just kind of helping along the way and just like, “Oh, have you talked to this person and have you met this person and try this new thing.” So, all of that has been really helpful and now, having these Facebook groups and having … listening to podcasts like yours, where you’re interviewing experts in different fields and learning about new things has been really helpful as well.

Yumna Jawad: I think the biggest thing is like getting an audit, getting things started, having good content, having an audit that kind of tells you where you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong and all of that.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s something that we … so two pieces to pull from that. Number one, I think both with talking about some of the things with Instagram growth and then your blog. One of the things that is a through line there is learning from other people and it sounds like, well, yeah, of course you need to learn from other people but it’s one of the things that I need to consistently remind myself is, I need to put myself in places where I’m able to interact with, rub shoulders with, ask questions to and not just passively but intentionally asking questions around how we can be doing things better and even within our own businesses, we’ve just shifted into a new season of kind of remembering that.

Bjork Ostrom: So, we’re starting to reach out and we’re having conversations with people where we just went through a podcast audit and we said, hey … we connected with an expert who’s a podcast expert and we said, “Can you do a complete rundown, look in the nooks and crannies of our podcasts and tell us what we could be doing better?” We connected with a friend of mine who is really good at search and we said, “Once a month, can we do a one hour phone call with you that we’ll pay you for, as we build out our plan in keyword research for Pinch of Yum and design decisions that we can just ask you questions?” So, we’re kind of building like a board of advisors, so to speak, that we can reach out to and ask questions to and we wouldn’t have been able to do that if we didn’t have this networking that we had done.

Bjork Ostrom: I think that’s a super important piece that you talk about and the other piece that I think is so important is continual learning and you talked about that with Food Blogger Pro, which I super appreciate the plug there but wherever that is, if it’s listening to the podcast if it’s taking Lynda courses, I’ve been thinking about that lately for accounting and like me understanding QuickBooks better, is that becomes a more important piece of our business. So, not ever giving up on the learning because sometimes we can get swallowed up in the content creation or the grind but to know that you need to level up consistently and that goes back to kind of that 1% infinity, getting a tiny bit better every day that we talk about so often. What does that look like, you remove conferences now, right, in this unique season that we’re in?

Yumna Jawad: Right.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s Facebook groups, it’s connections that you have personally, it’s reaching out to people organically like finding a site that you like, sending them an email, any other advice for connecting with people who can be peers as you grow what you’re doing?

Yumna Jawad: I think those are probably the major ones. I think for me, what’s worked really well too is just different types of podcasts, so we all know there’s different food blogging niche podcasts that we listen to and obviously this is my favorite one. I also tried to listen to different podcasts outside of that and then sometimes when you email those people who create the podcasts and ask them a question, it just kind of goes into this whole other thing that you didn’t even expect. Don’t worry about doing something like that and I always thought, “Oh, I could never email this person and they host the podcast and whatever.” You shouldn’t be too intimidated about reaching out to someone.

Yumna Jawad: I was recently on the Gary Vaynerchuk, at his podcast and I asked them a question … Yeah, I asked him a question and he said, “You know what, that’s such a good question, we want to have you on the podcast and we want you to ask it live on this,” I’m like, “Oh, my goodness, this is amazing.

Bjork Ostrom: What was the question?

Yumna Jawad: The question was, it was right at the time of the quarantine and it was basically like, this is the time where my blog is booming more than ever but it’s a time that I’m working with less brands more than ever and nobody is reaching out and it basically died, where I used to do four to five to six sponsored content a month, I’m doing zero right now, the last two months. I said how do I get brands to work with me more and Gary, of course, threw a couple of like swear words and then said, “You don’t. You don’t.” He yelled at me but basically told me no, you don’t get the brands to work with you right now. This is not the time to make money. This is the time to connect.

Yumna Jawad: Those are really powerful. I love Gary and so yeah, I’m trying to listen to different podcasts outside of just the food blogging niche. I also listened to one … it’s more for like people in design and beauty and they give excellent advice that’s not about food at all but it kind of transcends into this part as well. I do an SEO one like all 100% super nerdy SEO podcast that really delve-

Bjork Ostrom: Can you share … like if you were to share the top three, for people who listen to the Food Blogger Pro podcast, complimentary podcast, so like … and you think of the color wheel, not the same shade but like complimentary that it fits in but it maybe looks a little bit different, like the beauty one are the SEO, what would the top three be?

Yumna Jawad: My top three would be Search News You Can Use with Marie Haynes and she’s an expert in SEO. It gets really into it but I think it’s fascinating. The second one would be Video Creators with Tim Schmoyer. I’m obsessing over YouTube right now and so I’ve been listening a lot to that. When I start a podcast, I go back to the beginning because I feel like I don’t want to miss anything. If I listen to a couple and I like it, I go way back. The other one is called A Drink With James. A Drink with James, he basically has an influencer network called Fohr.co and most of the people in that network do beauty and lifestyle but his advice is impeccable and it’s timely and interesting and there’s a lot of Instagram advice in there.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. That’s great. We’ll link to those in the show notes to make sure that people can check those out. Let’s jump in to the topic that we originally kind of bounced some ideas back and forth, on TikTok. It’s something that we’ve been talking about as a team, we’re kind of like, we feel like we’re going to a high school party, how do we dress? What do we wear? Is it dumb if we say something is hip or totally cool, like you’re just trying to figure out the language, what it looks like, when did you start on TikTok and what does that experience been like?

Yumna Jawad: Okay, somebody from TikTok reached out to me in September 2018 and that day … or they reached out, they said, “We want you to get on TikTok, it’s this amazing platform, blah, blah, blah, we’ll help you, we’ll help you grow,” all of this stuff and I said, “Sounds good,” and I ignored them. Then a week later, they said, “I can hop on the phone with you, I can help you,” and I said, “I don’t really have time right now. I’m working on SEO.” I just kept ignoring this person but I said, you know what this is getting a little bit of buzz. Let me at least grab the Feel Good Foodie handle just so I have it because I lost it out on Pinterest, for example.

Yumna Jawad: I grabbed that and then I didn’t do anything for a year, for 12, 13 months and then I was listening to A Drink with James and there was a beauty influencer talking about how she posted a video of her Manhattan view and was able to grow to more followers than she had on Instagram within two months of being on the platform. I’m like, that’s crazy. That’s insane to think that someone can grow that much from one video going viral. I got on the platform and I just said, “You know what, I’m just going to experiment with it,” and I had a friend who started out with me at the same time and we basically made a pact and said, “We will post every single day to something, we’re just going to try things out.”

Yumna Jawad: The fact that I had this friend with me, she’s also a food blogger, it kind of helps to make it a little bit less intimidating. We got on there together and we would try things and we’d say, “Oh, my gosh, do you know, there’s this feature and that feature.” We danced, we sing, we tried all the hip things and eventually, we figured out where we belong. Eventually, we figured out the kind of content that our audience was looking for, that TikTok was craving and we kind of settled back into food tutorials. It’s funny because we started out doing something so crazy and so out of our comfort zone because we thought that’s what the platform needed. In the end, the food content that we’re making for Instagram, for Facebook, it’s the same idea just kind of repurposed in just a much snazzier way.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Can you talk about that, like, I think that’s one of the intimidating things with TikTok is you pull it up and it’s like, The Rock doing like dance in his weight room. It’s like, “Whoa, how do I fit into this,” or some kid doing a prank or there’s one, Lindsay and I listened to where it was like the run, like there’s that, I don’t know what the song is or who the artist is but it’s like, run.

Yumna Jawad: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s like when you’re shutting the lights off at the end of the night and you get to the last light and you have to shut it off and then run up the stairs. Anyways, it is like, how does food content fit into this but it sounds like what happened was you started on that kind of extreme end of like, “Hey, let’s get on the trendy side of some of these TikTok like skits essentially that are happening.”

Yumna Jawad: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Eventually, just moves towards what was most familiar and comfortable, which is recipe tutorial videos. Did you not have traction with some of the like trendier stuff and can you talk about what those are and for the people who aren’t familiar with TikTok, like kind of explain the different genres of content that you can produce?

Yumna Jawad: Yeah, so when I first started, I did … you would take different soundtracks, like there was one where it sounded like your oven was creaking and so it’s like … and then you start dancing at the end of it. I’m like, well, this kind of relates … and I always wanted to kind of stay in the food realm. So, I took my oven and I kind of creaked it a little bit and then I started dancing in the end. So, I did things like that just for fun or there was a soundtrack where you come into a room and everyone starts to clap and cheer for you. I came into a room with sweets for Christmas, and I was like, “Oh, you know, when you show up to a party with like baked goods, this is what happens.”

Yumna Jawad: I did those kind of fun things where it’s like taking a soundtrack and thinking about how it applies to a foodie and what would make sense to somebody who enjoys food and doing some of that stuff. I did you know … some of those did really well and I use my kids in some of them. The biggest one that went viral … and some of that stuff does work. We did one, it was called UNO in real life. If you are playing UNO, like the reverse wild card, whatever, in real life, what would it be like? So, I did it with my daughter where I made her eat celery and then she doubled it and then I did the wild card and turn it into broccoli, and we got four million views on that and so, it’s just something like really creative and fun, still dealing with food, bringing my daughter into it and just having fun with it.

Yumna Jawad: Then, one time, what I did was I basically just showed breakfast, lunch, dinner, a couple snacks throughout the day and I just picked whatever trending song was on TikTok. That exploded and got five million views as well. I was like, “Oh, people want the food stuff,” and then another time, I actually showed a real tutorial, it was actually something that I filmed for Instagram stories, how Lindsay films them ahead of time? She has somebody filming them for her. It’s basically the same thing. I took that and I made it shorter, just much more crisp and much more interesting than a long Instagram story, put it into 30 seconds and I made energy bites. That got millions of page views, of views.

Yumna Jawad: It’s just really interesting to kind of … so I’m like, “Oh, well, this works, this works and this worked but what do I enjoy doing the most?” I kind of fell into … and when I first, first started, I thought, “Oh, I’ll just take my square Instagram videos and throw them on TikTok and it will be great.” What happened was some of them did really well and I was like, “This is perfect. I don’t have to do anything and I could just grow on this platform.” Then pretty soon, they stopped working because what happens is, you have to embrace that vertical format. People don’t want to see the square videos. It feels foreign into TikTok.

Yumna Jawad: Yeah, so I tried a bunch of different things and I’m still experimenting now as well but I think what’s working for me is showing my face like, “Hey, I’m going to teach you how to make this really quick recipe,” then boom, boom, boom, how do you make the recipe? Look how beautiful the recipe looks. So, trying to do that in like 30 seconds, 60 seconds max is what you have, it’s kind of challenging and it doesn’t work for every single recipe. Yeah, so that’s kind of where I’ve landed but it’s just interesting … my biggest video ever was 12 million views and all it was, was Vacuum Sealing Cranberries. It was a four second video and what happened was it just kept looping I think and so people would just watch it.

Bjork Ostrom: So fascinated, there’s kind of those weird like power washing your back deck and it’s like, how does this have 10 million views but there’s something satisfying about seeing that and I would imagine that kind of falls into that category.

Yumna Jawad: Yes, the power washing guy became really popular and there’s literally a power washing guy in TikTok, that’s what he’s known. He was power washing so yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: To recap a couple of things that you talked about, it’s interesting to hear you say, essentially like food content at its core can work on TikTok. It’s maybe going to feel a little bit different but you can go ahead and create a recipe. It’s just then delivering that in a way that feels organic to TikTok. Is the footage that you’re taking for TikTok, do you repurpose that anywhere else? Are you going in and saying I’m going to create this just for TikTok and if so, what are you doing that’s different for it?

Yumna Jawad: Okay, so I basically started doing … I basically started taking footage from my Instagram stories and repurposing them for TikTok, just like what Lindsay does. She shows those behind the scenes. She’s not taking photos, she’s not doing an Instagram video. She’s just in her kitchen doing that. So, I do a lot of those on my stories as well and so, I was taking those, using a video editing app and just piecing all of that together and just trying to make it as quick as possible and sometimes just doing a big voice over the whole thing, just to re-explain it well. Yeah, so you can kind of see … but then I realized people love the sizzle sounds. There was one time I did just cooking salmon and that sizzle sound like really got to people.

Yumna Jawad: What I’m doing currently is I’m actually recording it in the app and I’m not showing that footage anywhere else. It’s just living on TikTok but what’s cool is that it’s recipes that I’ve made before so I’ve photographed them. I’ve done videos of them. I’ve done Instagram Stories of them and it’s like a fourth time doing or fifth time doing this recipe.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Yumna Jawad: Yeah, and so you can make them quicker. You can do it pretty nice and simple and it’s just another way of showing the same content in a different vertical.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it.

Yumna Jawad: I think you can still take that video and share it on Instagram story.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Yumna Jawad: I do know some people who share them on like Blogilates. She does like Pilates blog. Her name is Blogilates. She is really big on TikTok and she basically … if you look at her Instagram account, I think the last three months is all 100% TikTok videos so they’re super polished, beautiful lighting. She has a beautiful studio and if you look at them, you can tell from the text, they’re all 100% TikTok videos that are living on her Instagram.

Bjork Ostrom: Yup, so she’s going to TikTok first and then putting it onto Instagram.

Yumna Jawad: Yep and she obviously was Instagram before and she’s really big on all the platforms and she was able to do that, and there is another food blogger who does that, she takes her TikTok videos and she adds them to her Instagram feed as well.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Yeah, it’s interesting that that switch, you’d think it’d be the other way but my guess is that people are starting to notice the benefit of TikTok growth so you kind of pivot and say like, “Okay, if I’m going to get more out of this on a certain platform, I’m going to focus on that first and then secondary benefit will be Instagram,” because prioritizing the thing that is the most beneficial which obviously in that case, at least for those creators that is TikTok. A couple like nitty gritty questions, the videos that you’re creating, are you putting your phone on a tripod, how do you get the … and you mentioned, Lindsay.

Yumna Jawad: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: We have somebody on our team who comes in, Rita and so it’s kind of like, she’s following her, it’s still a phone but we have the luxury of having somebody on our team. Are you putting that on a tripod, is somebody holding it for you and then what is the video editing app that you’re using?

Yumna Jawad: I have my first ever tripod that I used to use for my camera, so it’s a very cheap thin one so the legs are pretty thin and I’m using that, it’s a Manfrotto. It’s one of those like 30, 40, $50 ones. They’re not super expensive but that’s what I’m using and it basically comes with a phone screw on kind of hook. So, I can put my phone on there and I can tilt it 360 degrees, so I can have it facing me or I can have it facing right or horizontal on top of the fruit. So, that’s been working pretty well for me. Sometimes you can see the legs when it’s horizontal because it doesn’t have a long neck for it, I would recommend especially if you’re shooting after hours, getting one of those ring lights because they come with the iPhone, it comes with a tripod inside of it, it’s built in. It’s like 50 bucks, you have a ring light with the tripod built in and you can put your phone in there.

Bjork Ostrom: So, the idea being that it’s artificial light that wraps around the phone so it gives it a nice kind of basic simple line structure. Yup.

Yumna Jawad: Yes. It does because lighting is very important on TikTok. When you’re scrolling through and you’re seeing something super dark, you’re less likely to hang out and watch it and if something … but on the other hand, if something looks super polished, then people kind of gravitate away from that. So, if something looks like-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, there’s a fine line between like, is this a studio because you see that even in TikTok’s advertising, they say like real people, real footage. There is an element of … to go back to that, what do you wear to the party, like you don’t want a suit. You’re going to want to wear something that doesn’t look like you just rolled out a bed but also doesn’t look like you’re going to the Grammys. It’s kind of that in between of what is just the right amount of polish where it is interesting, it feels good, you’ve tried. You’ve showed up, you’ve tried but you’re not disconnected from what the actual spirit of it is. We should say this, so your account right now, you have 180,000 followers.

Bjork Ostrom: I forget when we first started talking but you’re like 140,000 and I feel like that was just a few weeks ago. Is there a number that you’re seeing in terms of how quickly your account is growing?

Yumna Jawad: I think it’s doing 2000 per day now so that’s pretty cool. Yeah, it is pretty incredible. The cool thing about it is that what happens with TikTok that’s really unique, one of my favorite reasons for using the platform is when you post the video and it does really well, it basically boosts everything else on your account. What happens is, if one video gets a million views, all those people who … the million people who saw like, “Oh, what’s Feel Good Foodie? I like food, I wonder if I would like her.” I mean, your name has to be interesting or the content they saw on the explore page which is called the for you page has to be interesting enough for them to check you out.

Yumna Jawad: If they like you, they come to your page, they’re like, “Oh my gosh, this is so cool,” and what TikTok does is if it’s queer, it’s still a grid format but it kind of shows those little numbers at the bottom that says, “Hey, you know, watch out this video actually has a million views. That one has 50,000 views,” and so people are like, “Oh, why does that one have a million views? I want to watch that one.” People kind of get interested and start peeking at your account versus Instagram, what happens is people who come to your account just see, “Oh my God, what a beautiful photo,” and they start clicking on what looks beautiful but on TikTok, they click on the numbers that are high and the more they click on those numbers and the more they absorb that content, the more likely it is for that content to go viral again.

Yumna Jawad: So, you can have content, wake up months later and so, if I look at my top nine videos, I think six of the nine are from February or March. They’re videos that went viral in February, March and they’re still bringing me people today. So, the people who I’m gaining today are from videos that I shot months ago, which is so interesting and very different from the way Instagram works.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, the idea being that one of the ways people seek out quality content or interesting content is by looking at the view number and you could have something that’s three months old, but if you go back, people will be like, “Wait a minute, why does this video have three million views? It must be interesting. I’m going to click on it.” It can potentially have a longer lifespan than let’s say Instagram where if somebody comments on Instagram that’s three months old, you’re like, “Whoa, like, what are you digging around in my feed for and going back this far like it’s a little bit weird when somebody go back that long.”

Yumna Jawad: Right and it’s creepy to like something … it would be creepy to like something from three months ago.

Bjork Ostrom: Right, it’s almost like you know somebody’s doing something like diving on your account. So what are the other things, when you’re creating a piece of content, there’s the text overlay. You put a description along with it. There’s hashtags, can you talk about everything that goes into the different parts and piece of content that you’re posting to TikTok?

Yumna Jawad: Yeah, so I’m currently experimenting with filming everything through the app because I think it’s a lot less work doing it through the app than filming … what I was doing before was taking 10 things and aggregating them and cutting them and you could still do that and I might go back to that one day. Right now, I love the way it works in the app. What happens in the app is that you can set a timer so that you can start within three seconds and then you can kind of pause that. So, you can basically film different parts of something like, I’m putting together the wedding gradients and you film something really quickly and the timer goes off.

Yumna Jawad: So, once you have all of that filmed, the TikTok video editing app is actually really high quality and they’re constantly working on it to improve it and add extra features to it. So, within their app, you can go in and you can see different … you can speed it up, you could add special effects to it, you can make some part shorter, like if I dragged on before I said, “And here it is out of the oven,” and so maybe I want to cut off some of that where I wasn’t seeing anything so it’s a little bit more sharp and more quick. There’s different things that you can do within the app. You can also … they have a lot of fun things that you can do that I don’t really get into, like the different filters and the green screen where you can … the green screen is actually really cool.

Yumna Jawad: If you’re demonstrating something, you can pull up … like people pull up their accounts or they’ll pull up something on Amazon, like this is the one I bought and basically it’s just something you’re sharing from your computer or from your phone. There’s all of these like really cool things to play around with and I remember the first video I ever did, I added all the effects.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure, I think that’s the standard for any first time you’re using an app, you’re like effects on everything.

Yumna Jawad: Effects on … I was finalizing butternut squash and I thought, “Oh, this is a really cool video.” So, I was finalizing then I added a twirl then I added bling to it and then I added like a slow motion part. I mean, it was just like so many special effects that it was dizzying, but I thought this is what’s popular on TikTok. This is what people do on here. So, playing around with them and I think there is a time and place for different effects to use in there so you can have fun with them. Another thing too, what’s cool is when you’re creating a video just like you would in Adobe Premiere or Final Cut, you can time that text so that it appears at certain parts.

Yumna Jawad: When you’re adding ingredients in for example, you can say flour and you can time it so that the flour goes in when you’re pouring the flour in. It’s a little tedious to do in the app, it’s not as fast as doing it in Adobe Premiere for example, but it’s still kind of cool way to just make your video more interesting.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure.

Yumna Jawad: Then, there’s something fun where you basically pick a cover shot and so that cover shot has to be another thing, also part of like clickbait. So, people are going to click on it based on the number of views but also based on what that cover shot is. I used to do a lot of, “Oh, I’m mixing something, this will be intriguing,” but I realized that didn’t work very well. So, now I’m doing color, like lots of color and, “Oh look at this, it’s raspberries and their thing.” She’s washing the raspberries like I want to see this. So, I’m making it less mysterious and more to the point like, “Okay, it’s a video about raspberries like, we don’t have to guess what’s under the towel. I mean, it doesn’t have to be so sneaky.” Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s kind of telling … it’s showing the finished dish for instance versus cutting a tomato, like this is what you’re going to get if you watch it.

Yumna Jawad: Yes, exactly, and so I’m doing more of that versus before I used to kind of show more of the process shots, which I like to pause it on the process shots when I do Instagram, I still think that works best on Instagram but on TikTok, it’s … I’m still constantly experimenting, because it’s still such a new platform. When it comes to hash tag too, a lot of people … There’s something called the for you page, which is like the explore page and so people will hash tag for you page or FYP or for you page, and there was a big common misconception that if you tag it that, it’s going to get on that page but that actually doesn’t work. What TikTok recommends is, instead use the hashtags to kind of tell TikTok what your video is about.

Yumna Jawad: So, if you are targeting moms, hashtag like moms be like or moms over 40 because what’s going to happen is those moms over 30 or 40, they’re looking for those videos as well and they’re gonna find you or food blogger like if you hashtag food blogger, I think I might be the top … number one for that because not a lot of people are using it but if you were looking for food bloggers, you’re going to find me because I’ve used that hashtag multiple times. Those are the people I want to find me. I want the food bloggers, the people who are interested in that to find me. So, when you’re looking at hashtags, think about your audience and think about … use a couple for your audience.

Yumna Jawad: Use a couple for what you’re actually doing and don’t go overboard and there’s no need to hashtag a for you page. It doesn’t work.

Bjork Ostrom: Right. That’s one of the … to go back to the hack conversation, that’s maybe one of those that doesn’t actually work.

Yumna Jawad: Yes, it doesn’t actually work. Yeah, exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great.

Yumna Jawad: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Well, it’s interesting to look through here, I have your account pulled up and I’m looking through and it’s like, to see videos that have a million views or three million views, it’s incredible to think about what that actually represents when you think about people around the world, consuming a piece of content and that being in the millions, is really, really incredible and a testament to you jumping in and doing it. I feel like when you look back at the conversation we’ve had, the through line with all of this is a willingness to jump in to experiment, to learn, to put yourself out there, which isn’t an easy thing to do. I love that you had the story of having an accountability partner. You and your friend say, “Hey, we’re going to post every single day.”

Bjork Ostrom: The result of that, if you do it over a long period of time, it’s getting a substantial amount of followers, whether it’d be on Instagram or on TikTok or on your blog and able to impact a lot of people’s lives. I know that you’ve also done that through this podcast. I’m sure that people will come out of this inspired and excited to jump in, whether it’d be with content that they’ve been producing for a long time or trying a new platform like TikTok. I also know a lot of people will be interested in connecting with you. So Yumna, can you share a little bit about where people can find you, the best way to reach out. If they want to pick up the conversation, how they can do that? Obviously, Feel Good Foodie is your brand but what are the best places for people to connect with you? Are there DMs on TikTok? I don’t even know.

Yumna Jawad: Yeah, so there are DMs. So, I’m at Feel Good Foodie everywhere except for Pinterest because I didn’t get there early enough but I don’t think anyone contacts you through Pinterest so we’re okay. Yeah, my favorite platform is Instagram. Slowly TikTok is starting to take over but I answer DMs on Instagram daily. I do a habit of watching TV and I answer all of my DMs. It’s a thing that I do.

Bjork Ostrom: Nice.

Yumna Jawad: So, if anybody ever wants to reach out, that’s the best way to reach me or via email as well.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. That’s great and we’ll be sure to link up to all the resources you mentioned in the podcast show notes but really great to connect, super fun. It’s a space that we’re excited about, so you’ve inspired us as well Yumna. I really appreciate you coming on the podcast and sharing your story.

Yumna Jawad: Awesome. Thank you so much Bjork, and one last piece of … I know you’re trying to-

Bjork Ostrom: No please. This can be our PS. I love when there’s a PS so please share it.

Yumna Jawad: The PS in all of this is, okay there aren’t … I’m making zero dollars on TikTok today. The reason to get on TikTok is not necessarily to make money today. Our blogs usually make us more money, our Instagrams are making us more money. The reason to get on there is, the potential for growth right now as it’s starting is exponential.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s a great point.

Yumna Jawad: Any video can go viral and there is actually a person who started on March 6, who now has 2.5 million followers and just got picked up by the agency that represents Ariana Grande. She was a nobody before this.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Yumna Jawad: The potential is amazing and I hope that everybody takes the chance and just explores it and just tries something out with it.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. I love that as a closing note and I think the point about delaying gratification, like doing the work early on before you see the immediate rewards for that is so important for what we do. You see that with a blog, right? It takes years to build up and get traction, as you talked about. Also, true for social platforms even if you’re able to grow quickly. There’s still an element of doing the work for a long period of time before you see some of the fruit of that labor. A great note to end on. Yumna, thanks so much for coming on, really appreciate it

Yumna Jawad: Thank you so much. Thank you Bjork.

Alexa Peduzzi: That’s a wrap on this week’s episode of the Food Blogger Pro podcast. Thanks again for tuning in today. Now, I want to know who doesn’t have a TikTok account, but is thinking about starting one because of this episode. My hand is way, way up. Yumna shared so many insights during this episode and we hope you are able to implement some of her strategies, if you’re looking to level up your social media game this year. We hope you’re doing well and staying safe and as always, if you have any recommendations on ways that we could be making this podcast better and more helpful for you, you could just let us know by emailing us at [email protected] or by leaving us a review on Apple podcasts.

Alexa Peduzzi: Any review helps the podcast so, so much. We’ll see you next week for another Bjork solo podcast episode. We call them a solo-sodes and from all of us here at FBP HQ, make it a great week.

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