News flash: The future is not the Food Network
During the peak of lockdown, downloads of the TikTok app began to spike in North America. At first, it was all lip syncing and dance videos but soon, other categories trickled in. One of the most popular? Cooking videos.
With many at home with little else to do, cooking videos quickly rose to the top of many user's algorithms. During this time, Chef Natasha Greene began to experiment with creating cooking content on TikTok, along with other more general lifestyle videos. Almost immediately her food content began to go viral. She decided to double down on this niche.
Natasha started creating content, however, long before lockdown began. She moved to New York City after college in 2011 and found herself working in the fashion industry. It was here that, between work, going to “Fashion Night Out,” and being surrounded by the dynamism of New York City, she felt inspired to start her blog, Asili Glam. With her blog, Natasha focused on posting guidance on fashion and beauty, but eventually shifted to experimenting with content that touched on additional subjects to see how each topic resonated with her audience. Once she began to experiment with food content on TikTok, her overall following exploded.
Over the course of the past year, Natasha saw her followers go from hundreds to hundreds of thousands on TikTok and Instagram. I asked Natasha, who also became a full-time creator last month, what she thinks sets her food content apart in this saturated category. She adds that she asks herself this too, and that it’s about finding “that perfect formula," and that "if people like you and can relate to you, then they’ll vote for your content. That’s always been what it is for me," she adds. "I’m your home cook. I like making other people happy with my food and leading with that authenticity and showing how, if I can do it, you can do it too.”
Watching Natasha’s TikTok videos, one feels as if they could be Facetiming a friend (a very talented and patient friend that is). The “perfect formula” for her virality seems to be the combination of close-up footage of the ingredients she's cooking, with a a voiceover walking the viewer through her process (she laughs as she adds, “I’ve gotten feedback that people really find something comforting and calm with my voice”). Occasionally in the background, you can also hear her newborn murmuring.
With a quick tap to pause the video, a viewer can easily follow and replicate the recipes she's presenting. You can also grasp the overall process by just spending one minute (at most) watching the entire video. Compare this to the process of following a recipe presented on Food Network, in which instructions are explained over the course of, often, a thirty-minute segment. By condensing the entire routine into such a small time commitment, a follower can know exactly what they're getting into before they even start cooking.
Today, Natasha’s schedule juggles between taking care of her newborn, creating social content for her platforms, developing content for brands, and optimizing her blog's website. She’s also expanding her social presence onto YouTube Shorts (if you're a creator, the time is now to get on Shorts!) and is focused on driving growth on Pinterest. She's aspiring to “build an empire” for Asili Glam and hopes to introduce new content categories to her social platforms (such as beauty and fashion) in the near future, in addition to her cooking content.
Reflecting on this story now, I'm reminded how important it is for creators to remember that, most often, the roadmap to an engaged audience is rarely straightforward. Popping off in the algorithm with the first piece of content you make, and sticking to that content’s niche for your career as a creator, is rare. Instead, the process takes time. It requires patience, conviction in what you’re creating, and trust that if your content is great, the social media systems are efficient enough to eventually show your content to the right target audience, allowing for you to scale your following and community. Natasha's willingness to continue trying and experimenting with her content allowed her to finally find the perfect combination that's brought her to the top of the For You Page. So, although it may sound cliche, determination and experimentation do work. Trust the process and eventually you will find that perfect formula ★