Ute was quite right in her last post about selecting a niche. It is so much easier to talk about, promote, clarify and become an expert within a narrow focus, and selecting or researching into the kind of customers that fall into that niche will be that much easier.
One niche that does very well is food blogging. You’ve all probably heard of the film Julie and Julia, when Julie Powell decides to cook through an entire cookbook by Julia Child and blog about each of the recipes. The blog is a fantastic triumph and goes viral. Stimulated by its success, Julie converts her posts into a book, which then becomes a film, and the rest is history.
Well, our British version of this is a blog by Martha Payne, a 9-year old schoolgirl from Scotland, who decided to start a food blog called Never Seconds to enhance her writing skills (stemmed from her desire to become a journalist). Choosing the subject of her school dinners, and with her school’s permission, she photographed and wrote about her lunchtime menu every weekday, only starting from April until the middle of June.
She talked about the food in a positive way, such as when she found out the children were allowed to ask for bigger portions of vegetables and salad. She rated her meal out of 10 with a food-o-meter and a series of other criteria like mouthfuls, chosen courses, health rating, price and ‘pieces of hair’, later added to by ‘ease of eating with wrist in stookie’ (plaster-cast) and a tally of how much she had raised for her chosen charity (see below).
The blog started to go viral when it reached 1 million hits per month and TV chef Jamie Oliver added his support, and the interaction escalated when Martha received requests to post pictures of school dinners from all over the world into her blog. Martha then set up a fund-raising exercise for Mary’s Meals to raise £7,000, enough for a lunch canteen in a school in Africa so the children could have nutritional meals while they got an education.
The result was a light-hearted, entertaining and extremely well written blog that everybody was enjoying, but as usual the grown-ups got in the way. The press intervened with unhelpful articles about school dinners, which triggered her local Council to ban her from taking pictures of her meals for her blog. After this was reported on the BBC news on Friday 15 June, it resulted in a social media uproar in Martha’s defence, with Twitter leading the way with three trends including a voracious hashtag #neverseconds, literally teeming with support for the blog, what it stood for and slamming the Council’s decision to censor it. Not only that, Martha’s fundraising efforts were hugely boosted as people started to contribute to it, with a regularly expanding tally standing (at the time of writing) at an incredible £60,700.
Succumbing to this digital bombardment, the Council were forced to announce on the lunchtime news their U-turn regarding Martha’s blog, allowing her to continue photographing and posting about her school meals. I wonder how many of the grey suits had any idea of the power of social media, and how a reputation can be enhanced or destroyed through a lack of 21st century media knowledge. The world can go viral at any time, all it needs is a good reason based on an unjust decision or a trend that creates a typical reaction, which can result in an immediate, impulsive and far-reaching response.
Martha bravely weathered the storm, and has announced she will continue with her food blog and her fundraising. Good job too, as her blog’s page count is ticking over at a fantastic rate (over 4,700,000 at the time of writing) as everybody wants to have a look. I suppose that, as a child, she may not fully realise the potential of what her blog has created, taking it all in her stride as every tech-savvy 21st century kid does, but to us old hacks it is a phenomenon worth reporting! I shall be keeping an eye out for the name Martha Payne in the future…