A guest post by Cheryl Sternman Rule
In our social media ocean, most of us swim, flail, float, glide, and sputter, sometimes all in a single day. We do our best not to drown as we navigate crowded platforms, with varying degrees of success, enthusiasm, and begrudging obligation.
We also play favorites.
I, for one, love Instagram. Instagram has grown my network in ways I both couldn’t have imagined and didn’t know I needed.
Yes, I use other platforms, too, but my heart belongs to Instagram’s tidy squares, its colorful filters, its friendly tags. Here’s how I use it and what I’ve found:
1. I can approach editors in a casual, light-handed way.
I’ve been a writer for 11 years and still hesitate to cold-pitch editors. Now I follow them on Instagram first. Not to stalk them, by any means, but to get a sense for the public face they show the world.
You can learn a lot from someone on Instagram… Cat person or dog person? City slicker or country mouse? Coffee or tea? Does he knit? Does she play soccer? With luck, some of these folks will follow you back, and then slowly, slowly, you build rapport.
2. Instagram is an easy way to feel out a new connection.
You’re not prying; you’re just bearing witness, engaging bit by bit, square by square. And it’s a true two-way street. While I’m learning about them, they’re learning about me: my visual and culinary style, what foods I favor, how I write. While Instagram’s primarily a photo site, I take enormous care in choosing my words. Editors see this. They notice.
I emailed an editor after we’d been following each other for a while. The first thing I wrote was: “Hi. I’m @sternmanrule on Instagram. You and I have gotten to know each other over there, and I thought it was time to say hello more directly.” After a bit of back and forth, she referred me to an assigning editor, who went on to offer me a major feature in a food magazine I admire.
3. Instagram fosters global relationships.
Yes, Twitter is global, too, but because Instagram’s primary viewpoint is visual, the world actually looks and feels closer. I can see folks dance in Italy, feed livestock in India, swim in the Aegean.
As a food writer, this inspiration is enormously powerful. I sip my morning tea and observe meals across the globe, with new flavors, textures, and ingredients right there on my screen. If something moves me, I can tell the person: “Hey, that market/dragon fruit/salad you made looks beautiful. You’re inspiring.” And then I follow them and, sometimes, they follow me back. Relationships form.
4. Instagram has helped me find – and build – a new community.
As a way to build up my newest venture, called Team Yogurt, I’ve used Instagram to create an authentic community of yogurt lovers from Europe to Malaysia, from the Middle East to South America. Hashtags are powerful tools to identify those with common interests, and with Instagram, no matter where in the world someone lives, there are no borders to cross – everything’s right there. (My community uses the #teamyogurt hashtag, and new yogurt lovers find us daily.)
Above all, Instagram provides one more way we writers can experience the food world – but without a passport or a wad of cash. It allows us to show our work to others, identify potential professional partners and collaborators, and explore new avenues for work.
It’s a pretty great sea to explore.
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Cheryl Sternman Rule is the author of Yogurt Culture: How to Make, Bake, Sip, and Chill the World’s Creamiest, Healthiest Food, founder of Team Yogurt, and blogger at 5 Second Rule. Find her on Instagram @sternmanrule and @teamyogurt.