Smitten Kitchen is a food blog written by the warm, friendly, comfort-food-loving Deb Perelman. I am a musician, but like most people, I also like to eat. And I really like to cook. I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time on Deb Perelman’s website. Along with the many carnal, food-related reasons I love her site, I also like using her successful blog as a model for my own online musical marketing promotional adventure. With more than five million visitors each month, she’s obviously doing more than a few things right.
Photos, photos, always photos. Perelman includes pretty — very pretty — high-quality photos in every one of her posts. There are lots of them, and they are gorgeous. (By the way, here’s the link to those apple cider caramels pictured above, just in case you wanted to make them.) In her cookbook, for example, there are photos for each and every one of the recipes. You know how in cookbooks it’s easy to overlook the recipes that don’t have photos? That’s totally true of blogs, websites, and social media postings too. We’ve heard this before. We’ve experienced it with our own eyes. Perelman’s delicious photos encourage excessive browsing. If you, like me, haven’t been reading her blog for the six years it’s been around, there are plenty of things she’s posted that you haven’t seen — but good lordy, all those delectable photos keep you searching for more, and you’ve loved every minute of it. This brings me to:
Links, links, links. She gives links and links and links with every post. She links to Wikipedia pages about special ingredients, to photos of food or her adorable baby son surrounded by a half-completed laundry job, and to other posts within her site. You start poking around, feeling like you know a little bit more about her — it’s like you’re in her inner circle, or part of her community. Which brings me to:
Her voice. Perelman has mastered this great casual, conversational tone wherein she’s able to do the promotional marketing stuff (i.e. linking to her own relevant posts) but not have it feel like the promotional marketing stuff. She’s not just giving the bare bones of, “Hey, look at all this awesome stuff I’m doing! Check my site out so I can get more hits and sell more ads and pay my rent!” Instead, you connect with her on an emotional level because her warm, engaging personality positively shines through the computer screen in every great, engaging story she tells to introduce each recipe. Which brings me to:
Consistency in format, quality, and volume of posts. Like I was saying, you can always expect a really entertaining story peppered with beautiful photos followed by the recipe itself. Everything always looks gorgeous; the writing is solid; the recipes are always well-tested and fabulous. You can expect a new recipe once a week, usually on a Tuesday. She’s dependable. The anticipation this creates is palpable — and mind you, this is coming from someone who looked forward to every Sunday night at 9pm that The X-Files aired and who now looks forward to the weekend, when I can listen to This American Life on my local NPR station or computery device. And I’m sure the majority of us only lived through the week, as children, in order to experience Saturday morning cartoons.
She’s responsive. Apparently a big part of being a food blogger is that a whole bunch of people ask a crap-ton of questions, some more random than others. She’s great at responding to people who comment on her recipes or ask her questions. ‘Cause that’s the whole point of this, right? Interacting with people. In our lives as socially media-ed musicians, it’s really important to connect with people both in person and online, and I’m totally willing to take a leaf out of Perelman’s book. For example, in the acknowledgements section of her new cookbook, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (which I totally have, and yes, it’s totally wonderful) she credits her readers who challenge her with a myriad of great questions every day. “Without you, this would be no fun at all,” she says, which is a really nice departure from the hackneyed, “I couldn’t do this without you!”
Her site reflects who she is. When it comes to the design of the site itself, things are pretty, things are clean, things are streamlined. Things are the way you want your kitchen to be before you try a new recipe. Perelman, in the subtitle of her cookbook, bills herself as “an obsessive home cook.” So, naturally, the site and the posts themselves are going to be really well-organized. On the music front, musician, businessman, creator of CDBaby, and caring advice-giver Derek Sivers said it really well when he advised musicians (in his free ebook How to Call Attention to Your Music) that “your public persona, the image you show to the world, should be an extreme version of yourself … . Define yourself,” he says. “Show your weirdness. Bring out all your quirks.” This is something Perelman does when she insists that her obsession to create delicious food may leave her out of the realm of normal human behavior.
These are among the things I’m integrating into my own music-business-internet-presence-marketing-moguldom. Clearly, you can take every website visit, every show watched, every conversation with a fellow artist had, as a pleasurable learning experience. I’m appropriating/learning good habits from friends, fellow musicians, and food-blog-celebs I internet-stalk for so many reasons: It’s cheaper and probably more fun than going to grad school for business; I’ve got a voracious appetite for learning this stuff; and I want to have a happy life doing fun things, which definitely includes music (and making Buckeyes).