Cupcakes, homemade pasta and pulled pork burgers. That’s just a bite of the flavorful life of M.A.-based food adventurer and blogger Danielle Iozzo, who operates the up-and-coming Instagram account “New England Noms.”
I recently sat down with Iozzo to talk about everything from strategic branding to the art of hashtagging to the universal language of quality content.
Q: Tell me about New England Noms. What is it and why did you start the project?
A: New England Noms was created partly as a result of a joke. My friends were always kidding with me and telling me that I was saturating my personal Instagram account with food photos from restaurants. “Danielle, you should just make a separate account to post all your food pictures,” was a comment I heard often. Eventually I took it to heart!
In addition to this, I realized that I was often “Yelping” new places to eat. I love Yelp and think it is a great tool (one that I still use often), but its high number of reviews can be overwhelming to read through, especially if you’re just looking to get a quick “snapshot” of a dish. I thought to myself, “How many times have I been with friends and it’s taken a half hour to decide where to eat because no one had any ideas?” New England Noms is the result of this combination of factors.
My hope is that my followers will use New England Noms to plan their future dining adventures; whether it be a night out with friends, planning a date night for a significant other or taking an out-of-town friend to a delicious spot for brunch. Ultimately, if someone is looking at my picture and thinking to themselves: “Where IS this place? I HAVE to go!” (or better yet tagging their friend) then I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.
Q: What are some helpful marketing/branding lessons you’ve learned from operating New England Noms?
A: While some people don’t like looking at pictures of food (or so they claim), I stand pretty firm on the idea that most people enjoy looking at food media that makes their mouth water (there’s an entire TV channel based on this right!?) One thing I’ve learned is that the more outrageous the dish (especially anything involving chocolate, peanut butter, bacon, cheese etc.) the more traffic the post will get. Bonus points for a clever caption.
Also, it’s amazing to see just how much a unique background, design or image can enhance a piece of content. For example, on the 4th of July, I featured a local bakery’s red, white and blue- themed cupcake and used the American flag as a backdrop. I was stunned with how the picture came out and, as a result, my photo was featured on a well-known foodie account called “Food in the Air.” Overall, the shot received over 10k “likes.”
Lastly, marketers really need to think about the quality of the content that they’re creating. Whether that content is a picture posted by someone in the Instagram foodie scene or a B2B blog. For me, I always try to remember that I’m not just posting a “food picture.” I’m also putting someone else’s work out there–be it a chef, a restaurant, etc.
Q: What suggestions do you have for building brand awareness?
A: Don’t pretend to know it all. I’m open with the fact that I’m still learning about the type of content that receives the most attention from my followers with each post.
Originally, when this first started, I was thinking about making an account that was strictly M.A.-based–that is, catering only to restaurants and food spots local to M.A. After doing some research, however, I was shocked to discover how many Massachusetts/Boston foodie accounts there were on Instagram. As such, I decided to make my account more New England inclusive in order to competitively differentiate myself, as well as to give me some leeway in diversifying the locations of my posts as much as my schedule would allow.
Q: As a brand that is currently only on Instagram, what are your thoughts on the social platform? What are some of the top benefits of Instagram?
A: I pretty openly admit that I have a love affair with Instagram. It’s my absolute favorite social media platform because I just love looking at photos, and the platform is photo-driven. Most of all, I love that Instagram is constantly changing because people are always adding new posts.
I honestly get the biggest rush when I make a post and get a bunch of likes in seconds; it signals to me that photos, like any other type of quality content, are capable of defying geographic borders and even language barriers. It signals to me that people are emotionally connected to good content. In my case of food, it can even be a response as simple as, “MAN that looks good!”
Q: How can business owners or creative artists, such as yourself, use Instagram to their fullest extent?
A: #HASHTAG, #HASHTAG, #HASHTAG. Similar to food photos, some people love hashtags and some people hate ’em, but if you’re on Instagram they are essential. The platform was built for them. More importantly, use the right hashtags. Poke around on Google and find a list of the most popular hashtags for whatever your account or business is about. For instance some of the most popular foodie hashtags include: #yum, #foodgasm, #f52gram and #eeeeeats. Don’t #hashtagwholesentences or obscure words. The broader the better!
But remember: hashtagging isn’t enough. Look at other accounts, both professional and amateur, and comment and like their pictures! I spend time everyday (more than I’d like to admit) doing this myself. I know that commenting or liking someone’s post may result in a new follower for New England Noms.
Iozzo was generous enough to share her favorite eateries across New England. If you’re in the area, check ’em out:
Massachusetts: La Qchara (Melrose, MA) NE Noms tip: Try a sorta sandwich…the Latin American version of a sub!
New Hampshire: The Friendly Toast (Portsmouth, NH) NE Noms tip: Whatever you do, don’t leave here without trying a piece of homemade toast.
Maine: Stonewall Kitchen (York, Maine) NE Noms tip: This flagship store, home to an endless variety of jams, jellies and other specialty condiments, provides samples galore while you shop. If that doesn’t fill you up, stop by the kitchen for some homemade lobster Mac and cheese or lobster tacos!
Vermont: The Skinny Pancake (Burlington, VT) NE Noms tip: If you aren’t counting calories, get my favorite crepe called the “Josh Panda.” It’s a cornmeal crepe filled with fried chicken tenders, shredded potatoes and smothered in a rich sausage gravy.
Connecticut: Rein’s Deli (Vernon, CT) NE Noms tip: For a taste of the traditional, go for a corned beef Reuben. If corned beef isn’t your style, then make it a Rachel. Before you leave, make SURE to try their unreal pickles!
Want to be featured in my #weekendinspiration blog series? Comment here or e-mail me at Aboccamazzo@hotmail.com telling me what inspirational topic you’d like to discuss!