We made the year-end 2017 announcement that we were setting down our Tastemaker role to invest our time, energy and effort into yet another start-up business endeavor.
We're business people at heart, so living out loud as Tastemakers was a fun hobby (to plant our flag) that enabled us to hack into the blogging world, but was never a long-term plan. We committed for one year, learned a ton, met some great people, took copious notes, gave it our all (encouraging travel/promoting chefs) and pivoted back to business development for numero uno - E & B Woodward.
Spending the majority of 2017 posting about chefs and luxury travel in exchange for complimentary meals and comp'd travel across the globe was NOT a bad trade off, but there's no real money (cash exchange) or future in purely blogging, however, there is some value in bartering - blogging in exchange for goods and services as a side gig is not a bad plan - matter of fact, we highly recommend it.
Our thanks goes out to the World's 50 Best (William Reed) for showing us the ropes as far as what it means to be "online influencers." Now that we've had those lessons, we can apply strategy and perspective to any business we launch and get a leg-up with social media marketing. WOOT! WOOT!
Interestingly enough, as we set down the role, we were surprised to land a spot as "Top 8 Travel & International Influencers" for our global reach winning both the public and professional nomination for the UK Blog Awards 2018.
We just returned from a weekend in London attending the awards ceremony and we are THRILLED to announce that we DIDN'T win. We didn't go to win, we went to celebrate hacking into the blogging world on a whim and landing a coveted spot with W50B (only 22 people in the world held this role as of 12/31/17). These things don't happen every day, so we went to relish in the beautiful probabilities that intersected our path. (we love statistics!)
Why We Joined Tastemakers, i.e. The Instagram Game
- To plant our flag
- To hack into the blogging world
- To promote food and travel
- To honor chefs
- To see if personal revenue could be derived from "blogging"
- To bring people together
- To generate revenue for underdeveloped nations (by investing our own dollars globally and encouraging others to do the same)
- To tap the minds of celebrity chefs
- To make luxury travel assessable
- To meet top content creators
- To meet savvy business people
- To cultivate friendships around the world
- Taedium vitae
- To fall in love with other cultures
- To do something we've never done before
What We Accomplished In One Year
- Wrote and published a book (available on Amazon) with proceeds going to hurricane relief
- Photo and caption of Grant Achatz's Alinea dessert was 'top 9' most liked post of 2017 (9,160 thumbs up) for the entire World's 50 Best Instagram profile (555K followers and 2,865 posts)
- Received over $15,000 of complimentary food and travel in just under 10 months
- Nominated as top 8 "International and travel" influencers, UK Blog Awards 2018
- Red Carpet invitation (some expenses paid) to London for the UK Blog Awards
- Red Carpet invitation (some expenses paid) to Melbourne for Food Grammy's
- Red Carpet invitation (some expenses paid) to Colombia for Food Grammy's
- Red Carpet invitation (some expenses paid) to Asia for Food Grammy's
- Travel to Europe, South America, Africa, Australia
- Private (all expenses paid) food tours of Bilbao and Guggenheim with Michelin Chef, Josean Alija
- Private (expenses paid) 6 Michelin Star dinner in Washington D.C. with 3 renowned chefs
- Appearance on Massimo Bottura's Instagram page (while with him in Melbourne, AU)
- Appearance on Jordi Roca's Instagram page (while with him in Melbourne, AU)
- Appearance on Ryan Poli's Instagram page (while with him in Nashville)
- Appearance on Frankie Solarik's Instagram page (while with him in Toronto)
- Content creation for The World's 50 Best Restaurants broadcasting from Grant Achatz's and Jenner Tomaska's Next Restaurant in Chicago - "instagram takeover"
- Republished by Peter Gunn of Ides Melbourne
- Business Consultants for a pilot 'Amazon Series' focusing on Mumbai, India collaborating with famous producer, Shubhashish Bhutiani and business owner Aditi Dugar
- Convincing Jose Andres and Ryan Poli to collaborate on a joint-menu in both D.C. and Nashville - out on May 29, 2018. Score tickets now to Minibar! Nashville dates TBD this fall
- Private Michelin Star meals (expenses paid) with executives from Michelin Guide in Washington D.C.
- One-on-one interviews with celebrity chefs for pilot 'Food World' podcast:
- private interview with Jose Andres (in Washington D.C.),
- private interview in our Germantown home with Ryan Poli (in Nashville),
- private interview hosted by and expenses paid by Four Seasons with Virgilio Martinez (in Colombia),
- private food tour and interview with Josean Alija (in Bilbao Spain),
- private interview with Frankie Solark (in Toronto, Canada) returning to the USA with the 1st ever bottle of his branded alcohol
- A genuine following of over 5,000 people (4,999 too many)
- All expenses paid to Mumbai, India for foraging and a restaurant tour (we quit food blogging and started business #2 right before this trip)
- A dozen new passport stamps
- Robust restaurant resume of the top 1% most elite restaurants across the planet
- Paid expenses to Istanbul, Turkey (sadly Americans were suspended from visiting and this trip was nullified).
What we learned on our journey
- That Tastemaking and Instagramming is not for us
- Food is the world's common denominator
- It doesn't matter how many likes, followers or comments on a profile.
- The only measurable impact is a portfolio of influence, restaurant resume, passport stamps and monetary value derived from the blogging experience.
- We treasure every chef and every bite in our own private utopia
- Abundance should not be expressed via social media
- There's no way to retain magical moments if they are lived on line
- Posts about food are deeply boring but posts about the experiences, romance and chefs surrounding food is liberating
- Our biggest asset is getting caught-up in the moment with no camera and no social media
- Writing memoirs is solely for our own benefit and amusement
- That we can't be bought and are truly free agents
- An even greater respect for restaurants and chefs
- There are some genuinely loving people in the world and we were graced with having interacted with them (Monika, Heather, Tony, Lux, Petitely, Sweet Treats, Lola...)
- We'd rather promote our own brand versus someone else's brand
- Bartering for food and travel is a decent exchange for short bursts of time
- How to build a professional website
- How to market on line
- Content creation
We much prefer our vacations and experiences to be about us, the once-in-a-lifetime moments with special people quickly get swallowed-up with picture taking (forgoing the magic of a moment to promote someone else's brand is not a good return on investment unless you're getting paid actual dollars and cents or getting free merchandise and you pick your moments carefully). For us, fine dining and travel is the core of our relationship, so we had to give up everything sacred to us in order to grow a following which was not a worthy exchange. We bucked the system anyway snapping slopping food pictures which we rarely posted because every other Tastemaker was already doing so (along with every other self-proclaimed and knock-off food influencer). Our unique angle was the romance surrounding the dining experience, not the actual food. What are Americans lacking the most? PDA! Public Displays of Affection, "so let's do that," we said. We never used a special camera or special lighting and we certainly didn't make any scenes at a restaurant. All of our photos were taken on the down-low. We will never understand or support this dumb as heck notion of "eating for the insta." where food is ordered only because it photographs well, not because it's desired or necessarily tastes good - say WHAT?! Such an empty thesis on life's journey.
- When you have abundance, you forgo some of it by living on line.
- When you lack abundance (romance, friendships, meaning), you gain some (or fabricate it) by living on line.
We have no business living on line. For our brief stint in the Instagram abyss as food/travel bloggers, our #1 endeavor each and every day was to make everybody feel like a somebody. Social media is a feelings game with words like "positivity" floating around, it throws participants into two camps: either feeling great or feeling bleak about oneself and the gap between the haves and have nots is only growing wider. Knowing this, we treated each and every person with dignity, respect and relevance. I guess it was easy for us.
We admire other people and their work. We never competed with the others or compared ourselves with anyone else, we just honored the lot of them and everyday put forth the effort to lead the way while making other people feel special. Never condescending, just observing. Our message to the Tastemakers, Instagrammers and bloggers alike is "Comparison is the thief of joy!" Honor others and in your process you yourself are lifted with dignity and grace. We met a few that placed the bulk of their self-esteem in their Instagram page and/or blog and our hearts immediately broke for the emptiness in their lives. (When Instagram is used to fill a life void - very common.) We continue to send our love to these folks and hope they grow in wisdom and maturity. There's plenty of room for success in life in general.
Case in point, we were nominated for the UK Blog Awards and in that very moment, we found out who nominated us and we immediately nominated them back and then voted for them. We are thrilled to announce that our nomination won (Travel Like A Cheiff) which is vastly more rewarding than winning ourselves. It's the 'pay it forward' and 'service to others' mentality that makes life worth living.
It's not all shits and giggles, puppies and kittens...let's level for just a moment.
Food Gone Wrong, The Ugly Side
Sadly, Instagram is highly concentrated with food pictures of which exist no real value, personality or influence posted by a smattering of highly insecure people. Over time it became apparent to us that the people hiding behind the food pictures are wanting and needing to feel relevant more so than they're needing an audience to like food they've actually tried. Shit, half the time these people don't even like the food they've tried, but order it because it's "picture worthy." These posts are about self-esteem or a lack thereof, it really is that simple, a cry for validation. The illogical behavior of our peer group was sobering and made us run the other direction. We won't allow ourselves to be lumped in with people like this! Bloggers got a bad connotation associated with them - they're mostly crazy or starving artists or suffering from rich-kid syndrome.
Ask yourself, am I traveling to the other side of the world with the objective of capturing a photo for Instagram? If the answer is yes, may we politely suggest you hire a therapist and reevaluate your existence. Social Media is the new alcohol - a drug to mask problems, fill voids and pass time.
It was very interesting to sit back and watch the dopamine triggers play out. The human condition is still very conflicted as demonstrated by observing behaviors both on and off line. Seems people are more alone than they've ever been and the only thing they really have is their blog. We've seen them, we've met them, out hearts go out to them.
While Social media is perfect for small-businesses and large brands to educate, promote and connect with consumers, there's a middle market of rather pointless handles. How many latte arts have we seen? yawn. How many plates of food? zzzz. How many different ways can we describe truffles or wine?! Please no. I say this yet there will be future Nashville_Connoisseur posts I'm sure of it (you're welcome mom). 😉
Our biggest warning for both consumers and brands alike is to watch out for insincere bands of food people (food tribes/gangs) who are assigned jobs (with no pay) to like and comment on all their "friend's" pictures in an effort to (a) validate each others feelings and (b) deceive restaurants and retailers into believing profiles are creating a bigger impact than they actually are! There's some misguided stuff out there people!
The Bright Side
On the bright side, there are a few legit influencers in the world like Zoe Bowker, an actual person (and good friend) adding value, getting deals and driving traffic, but If you're uploading things just to get people to like you or those things, it's time to question your purpose in life.
The most rewarding thing we gleaned from our time on Instagram was meeting new, rational, emotionally-sound people who we could then go and meet in person on the other side of the world - there are a handful of them, but they're like unicorns - so good luck in your pursuit. Actually, we've made it easy and rounded them up below.
We treasure the new friendships, diverse cultures and delicious cuisines we partook in. Every chef and nation that welcomed us into their restaurants, homes and hearts, we carry a piece of them always in our hearts. The loviest of Tastemakers and people making a stir on-line include Zeboy, MsIhua, Oscarbarreramarengo, Camipot, Zoe.Bowker and Chertiu along with Aditi Dugar of Masque Restaurant, and Pamela Chieffallo of Travel Like a Chieff.
Killing Off An On-Line Influencer
We have achieved the deepest sense of relief by setting down this Tastemaker role. We loved killing off @e.b.woodward too - we maketh therefore we taketh away. Who doesn't love a good mic drop at the top? The only thing we feel bad about is making Erin's mom cry for shutting down the profile. Actually a few people cried over this - once again we found ourselves utterly astounded. How can someone get so wrapped up in a stranger's life? How is that even possible? We'll never understand. Our closure came with toasting each other and hugging Pamela in London last weekend.
A Reason To Keep Blogging?
We don't want this blog to rank high on Google. We don't want to invest in SEO. We don't want the majority of the people (or our clients) to read our memoirs. We will continue to write because we love to write and organize a timeline of our lives to reflect back upon many years from now. We still get notes from randoms who find us across the world and those notes are fun, but we don't want to manage viewership or traffic or manage people's feelings anymore. For us, ebwoodward.com is a journal that we're confident enough to leave unlocked in a public place, letting our words hang in the abyss with no reassurance that they will ever be read, validated or relevant. For us, this is enough.
Update January 3, 2022: @e.b.woodward Instagram (food, travel, fun) still exists, and is set to private. We do accept new friends, but we're not looking to be well known hence the privacy setting! Since writing this post back in 2017/2018, we have successfully used our social media to drive over $2MM in sales - real dollars and cents - to our very own store! We are happily (mostly) anonymous these days. If you're going to influence anything, do it for your own brand, brick and mortar. The point should be yielding joy and income.
Erin & Brandon