Random Thoughts “Cooked Up” From Food Bloggers About Blogging

I’m convinced if you want to learn more about yourself and what it is you do…sometimes you need to step back and look at things from a fresh new perspective.   I’ve been fumbling around now with this blog for almost 8 years and the more I attempt to discover about the craft of blogging, the more I quickly realize how much I still have to learn.

This past Saturday I spent the entire day with a bunch of hard-core food bloggers from the Minneapolis/St. Paul surrounding area.   In total, there must have been 70+ attendees specializing in everything from cookies, cupcakes and desserts to artisan breads of all types.   As one can imagine, when it comes to food a person can specialize in a multitude of different areas.

FBC1So, what was a blogger who mostly writes about hunting and fishing doing by infiltrating this quadrant of the blogosphere?   Learning, observing, discovering, and well, of course, finding many good eats to pass the day.

But seriously, each time I hang with bloggers outside the realm of hunting, fishing and the outdoors I find it completely fascinating to compare how I do things with their challenges and opportunities.   What I learned may surprise you.   In fact, you may want to argue this point with me…but in many ways the food bloggers (at least those observed locally) are light years ahead of some of us in the outdoors industry.

Consider these thoughts:

Food bloggers have better developed their “voice” than most bloggers in the outdoors/shooting community.   What do I mean by “voice?”   I’m talking about the ability to stand up and be heard as a group by channeling expertise.   As blogging evolves it’s simply not enough to be a solitary entity spewing forth a few hundred words from a basement computer on a daily basis.   Nope, bloggers of all genres need to develop local communities where they gather often and understand they are not in competition with one another…instead, they have the unique opportunity to build an alliance where combined learning and readership has power.   Only then will marketers and public relations people begin to take bloggers more serious.

Food bloggers also tend to give readers better value for the time spent on a blog.   Honestly, I know I’m stepping on toes here, but it behooves all of us outdoors bloggers to take a moment for some introspection.   Do you ever ask yourself…”what will a reader learn from my blog post?”   We should.   Is the blog being written because we just have something important to say…or do we construct each post with the intention of rewarding the reader with some morsel for the time they spent reading?   Consider this, in almost ever food blog the blogger either reviews a restaurant (sharing advice on yea or nay to visit) OR the blogger provides a tested recipe with a potential mouth-watering payoff to the reader.   What do we give our readers as a “take away” for their time?

Food bloggers have amazing pictures that help sell their content.   Don’t get me wrong, a food blogger showing a picture of a sizzling burger on the grill layered in cheese and bacon has a distinct advantage here.   But let’s face it…the outdoors has tremendous opportunity for captivating pictures, too.   I think we can all do a better job of whetting the reader’s appetite for the outdoors by including more creative visuals.   It certainly is one of my goals for this blog.FBC2

And finally…Food bloggers do an exceptional job interacting with their readers…both on and off the blog.   If an outdoors blogger can garner a handful of comments after a post…that is typical.   But check out a popular food blog and you will often see posts turn into virtual discussions.   Readers suggesting variations in a recipe, pointing out links for additional information not shared…just a whole host of positive interaction.   Furthermore, it appears to me that many of the food bloggers make it a point to spend time on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. because they know how to go where both their potential and active readers are hanging out.

Look, I’m not suggesting that outdoors bloggers are doing it all wrong.   Instead, I think it’s time for the outdoors blogging community to step up to the plate (pardon the food blogger pun) and realize we might have to adjust the way we are doing things if we want to keep step with other bloggers and the success they are achieving.

Hanging with a bunch of food bloggers for a day was definitely a fun experience I will not soon forget.   But above all, the experience taught me if outdoors bloggers want to be respected and appreciated for our efforts…we still have a ways to go.

FBC3Case in point, I recently tried to unsubscribe to a GunsAmerica newsletter that I did not subscribe to in the first place.   Customer service wanted to know why upon making my request…so I explained I did not like how one of their employees bad mouthed bloggers at the last SHOT Show.   In return, I received a terse e-mail calling me a “bumblehead” which they later unsuccessfully attempted to remove from ever being sent to my mail system.

Here you have food bloggers and the food industry trying to positively align themselves with one another as they are forward thinking and can visualize where this is all going.   Then we have our industry and the prevalent short-sightedness that lingers because those of us who are bloggers need to do a better job of reclaiming who we are and enlightening the world as to where we plan to take things.   Other bloggers are already achieving these successes.   Those of us in the outdoors/shooting blog community need to better change our focus to attain similar results.   Indeed, a lot can be learned from our food blogger comrades.

©2012 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Stepping Outside The Box

Don’t get me wrong…I’m not bored with outdoors blogging, but every now and then a person must change things up just to make life more interesting.   Indeed, it is just too damn easy to fall into the same old rut and continue to do things the same way over and over again.

Consider it sort of like throwing a burger on the grill.   Do you always season it with just salt and pepper…or occasionally do you get a bit “wild” and try something new like Cajun seasoning just to spice things up a bit?   I’m guessing it depends a lot on your personality.

You see, I come from a conservative Norwegian upbringing which often relates to doing things the same old familiar way each time you do something.   If it works and tastes good, well, then for heaven’s sakes why would you risk doing something different and adventurous?   That said, it goes against my very nature to make radical changes and to step outside the proverbial box in the way I do things.


Expect to see more pictures like this one on the blog as I turn into a “foodie.” Just kidding!!

That all changes beginning tomorrow morning.   Yup, I will be attending a blogger conference in Minneapolis that has very little to do with shotgun shells, fishing tackle, or for that matter anything outdoorsy in a recreational sense.   I will be attending my first ever food blogger conference called TECHmunch (facebook.com/techmunch).

So, how does a hunting and fishing blogger fit in at at a conference with a bunch of knife wielding, whisk swirling foodies?   I have absolutely no idea…but it should be fun to give it a try.

Actually, I’ve come to learn that it really doesn’t matter what the blog topic is about…bloggers of all genres have many of the same challenges and opportunities when it comes to their craft.   In fact, the unique manner in which some of these food bloggers meet those challenges I’m guessing will serve as an inspiration for how you might see me doing things here in this blog during the coming months.

Here’s the deal…as many of my long-time blog readers probably know, I have not been the most active blogging over the past year as I have been dealing with the time consuming end-of-life process of my mother.   Last week was her funeral and it sort of closed a chapter in my life with a new one about to open.

Each of us has the power to choose how the book of our life is written.   Obviously, the last chapter in my life was difficult and filled with sadness.   Well, guess what…the next chapter is going to be vastly different because that is how I choose to have it written.   No more excuses!

Beginning tomorrow I will be doing some fun things that break me out of the rut I’ve been in.   Yes, I will be having fun at a food blogging conference and I plan to report about it right here.   Oh, and by the way…maybe this is a great time to introduce another blogging venture I have started.   As I have since 2004, you can read about my outdoor exploits right here in this blog…but I would like to introduce you to my other NEW blog:  www.BaconWrappedBlog.com

This new blog promises to be a fun way for me to share some of my foodie experiences…mostly as produced on the BBQ grill or the smoker.   I urge you to check it out as I get this new blog up and running.

In the meantime, thanks for putting up with me as I have been in this rut.   It’s time to move on…and I truly believe I have some exciting things planned for the months and years to come.   I hope you’ll continue to be along for the journey.

©2012 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Twitter Holds Exciting Possibilities At SHOT Show 2012

Let’s face it…if I was to poll my Facebook friends I would guess less than five percent own a Twitter account.   Of that dismal number, my guess is even a smaller percentage really understand the social media concept of “tweeting,” “following” and as far as “hashtags” go—let’s not even start that discussion.

But it’s such a shame.   Twitter is an awesome social media tool that has possibilities reaching far beyond our current imaginations.   And few places or events have the necessary ingredients to maximize the effectiveness of Twitter than at the annual SHOT Show where thousands of exhibitors, dealers, manufacturer reps and media converge.

Certainly the only event that comes to mind as having better exposure for Twitter than SHOT is the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) also held in Vegas.   Not only does this show attract the so-called geeks that would obviously have a stronger affinity to use this technology, but CES annually itself attracts nearly 150,000 people to the Las Vegas Convention Center.   In fact, just registered media alone typically attracts three times as many media individuals as does SHOT.  (side note: CES begins its annual show this week—one week before SHOT in 2012)

But my intent is not to compare numbers between SHOT and CES, per se.   Each event stands largely on its own.   Yet, if you look at a typical list of names who use Twitter at the CES it’s pretty impressive.   Consider this list of nearly 500 tweetin’ individuals compared to the overall attendance at CES and it still represents a number less than one percent of total attendance.   The point is there’s plenty of room to grow and for those people who have invested in learning, understanding and using Twitter, their pay-back potential can be huge.

Times Are A Changin’

Back during the fall of 2009 my very first tweet consisted of announcing what I was cooking the family for supper on the grill.   Yeah, I know, rather boring I agree.   But then several months later, and still a newbie at this Twitter game, I tried to connect with people at the 2010 SHOT Show on a more professional level.   As I recall, there might have been, at best, 30 or 40 of us tweetin’ fools talking about the show that year.IMG_0188

Then, in 2011, I saw the number increase substantially.   If I was to render a guess, I would say there were approximately 200 people talking about the 2011 SHOT Show and using the #SHOTshow hashtag.   Now, that’s not to say more people might not have talked about the show last year…but if the hashtag doesn’t get used within their tweets they have virtually no readership, but for their followers.

This year I can already tell things are going to be much different at SHOT…and I dare say exciting for those of us who thrive using Twitter.   The hype over this year’s show began several weeks ago on Twitter and I have to believe it will crescendo into raw excitement by the time the show finally opens its doors next week.

Honestly, if you are new to Twitter I can’t teach you how to be savvy using the social media forum within a single blog posting.   Yet, that’s one of the great things about Twitter.   People need to understand that you can learn and discover what people are saying on Twitter even if you don’t want to actively participate.

Over the next week or so readers with limited experience using Twitter should remember this link:  #SHOTShow (note: if this link doesn’t work on one browser, try a different one)  By clicking, it will provide you an opportunity to eavesdrop on what those of us are actively doing, saying and experiencing while at SHOT 2012.   By reading our tweets I hope it eventually inspires greater participation in this social media forum to discuss important matters about hunting, shooting, etc.   Seriously, the learning curve for using Twitter is not that great to overcome.

As always, if you want to follow just what I am saying on Twitter, or perhaps you want to connect and follow me, you can use the following link:   www.Twitter.com/jim7226   I promise, now 2 1/2 years into this Twitter experiment, occasionally my tweets get a bit more exciting than announcing what I’m planning to eat for supper.

©2012 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.