Winner CIM Best Agency NI

The recipe for success: How I grew my food blog to 50K followers in one year

As a digital marketer, I’ve always been at the forefront of the latest trends in social media and content creation. But it wasn’t until I launched my own blog, @nifoodreviews, on TikTok and Instagram, that I truly understood the power of these platforms. Let me take you on a journey through my career and how it helped me amass over 50,000 followers in just one year.

The birth of @nifoodreviews

Working as a social and content lead in Digital 24, I specialise in organic social media management, influencer marketing, blog content writing, and TikTok content creation – and I was constantly immersed in the world of influencers living the dream – attending fabulous events, unwrapping stunning PR packages, and even getting paid to create content on social media (talk about goals, right?)

This got me thinking about my own passions. Fashion? Well, my wardrobe is a sea of beige, so that’s a no-go. Makeup reviews? Hardly, considering I’ve been loyal to the same few products for ages. But then it hit me – food! I have SUCH a sweet tooth, and my boyfriend and I love exploring new spots for brunch or a fancy dinner on weekends… but we often find ourselves revisiting the same places due to a lack of recommendations online.

So, what did I do? I decided to take the plunge and start my own food blog in Northern Ireland. And just like that, @nifoodreviews was born! A place where I could share my love for food, but also use it as a platform to discover hidden gems here in Northern Ireland and share all of my recommendations, and opinions.

Consistency is key

Anyone in digital marketing will nod in agreement when I say consistency is crucial in social media. I chose to upload every Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday (days that I found garnered the best engagement) and spent my weekends visiting all my favourite cafes, trying to find new food spots or even visiting ones recommended to me. I would spend hours every Sunday editing footage, adding voiceovers and prioritisng keywords within my captions (and trust me, I was exhausted trying to juggle a growing food blog, a full-time job, seeing friends… but also exercise to burn off all those calories!!)

Within one month, I gained 1,000 followers over on Instagram and another 1,000 over on TikTok. I was so proud of myself. I then got my first-ever brand outreach message from Bob & Berts asking to come in for a gifted review (and I was SO buzzing about it). That was the day I knew the blog had potential… and if I kept it up, I wonder what position I would be in a year’s time.

The power of collaboration

Collaborations have been a game changer. By utilising Instagram’s collaboration feature and encouraging businesses to share my posts, I’ve seen a substantial increase in engagement. Whenever I partnered with a business, I would invite them to join in on my post. This allowed them to share the same video on their grid and with their followers. Consequently, not only did my video receive additional views, but it also helped get my name out there (and ultimately follower growth!)

Hashtags: the unsung heroes

Now, let’s talk about hashtags. Their importance in social media growth cannot be overstated. They are not just a trend; they are a necessity (especially for NI Food Reviews). Put yourself in your ideal customer’s shoes. I was a page that posted about food in Northern Ireland, so I tried to think about keywords users would search for on social media to find out about local food spots in their area. After some research, I decided to use hashtags such as #belfastfood #nifood #nifoodie #northernireland and #belfast (depending on the location of the business of course). I feel like this was a great way to target local people over on TikTok, and as it stands 94% of my followers on TikTok are within the UK (47% in Belfast!) which I am really pleased with.

SEO & keywords: not just for websites

Believe it or not, SEO and keywords are just as crucial in social media. It’s a common misconception that they’re only relevant for websites. For example, when I was uploading a video for a restaurant in Belfast I would describe the food first of all, but think about what users are searching for on TikTok to find this restaurant. Therefore, I’d put keywords in the caption such as ‘Are you looking for dinner in Belfast? Check out this Mexican restaurant.. it’s a must!’ That way, anyone searching for dinner in Belfast, could potentially see my video. The same goes for fashion, lifestyle and much more. Put yourself in the shoes of your customer and what they would actively be searching for on social media explore pages… trust me, it will help!

Results so far

In the last year, my journey on TikTok has been nothing short of phenomenal. My videos have millions of views. My TikTok alone has over 530,000 likes, with our most popular video sitting at 655,000 views (which still amazes me!) A nice wee case study would be a video I shared of the brand new Christmas box available at the Spar Titanic (funny thing is my dad was the one to call in and get the food as I was sick!) When he got home, I filmed a nice video of the Christmas box, and all of the brand new Christmas items they have available in their shop (and it’s safe to say the video blew up!) On TikTok, it gained over 200k views in the space of 24 hours… the video is now sitting at 412,000 views, while Instagram isn’t far behind with an impressive 393,000 views.

But what truly humbles me is the tangible impact my videos have had on local businesses in Northern Ireland. Numerous business owners have reached out to share how my content has significantly increased foot traffic, with some even experiencing sell-outs following my posts. This incredible feedback underscores the influential power of not only TikTok and Instagram but influencers. And I’m so grateful to be in this position – helping businesses across NI share all of the amazing things this wee country has to offer.

My thoughts (yes, I’m thinking along with you!)

As I reflect on this incredible journey, I realise that my background in digital marketing was instrumental in the success of @nifoodreviews. The skills I honed over the years – from understanding audience engagement to mastering content creation – all played a pivotal role. Not only that, this food blog has been a fantastic gateway to forming lasting friendships within the foodie community. We’ve even set up a WhatsApp group chat with over 14 foodies/food bloggers from across Northern Ireland. It’s quite funny to see how like-minded we all are, sharing our passion for all things food… and I’m so grateful for that.

The importance of authenticity

Finally, let’s chat about keeping things real. In the world of digital marketing and social media, being genuine is crucial for growth. My way of doing things? Just be yourself. I’ve always focused on sharing honest opinions and really connecting with people. And guess what? It works! Studies show (like one from The Drum) that consumers are more likely to purchase from brands that share content made by real customers instead of traditional, sponsored influencer content. That’s why when I started talking about food online, I knew being honest was the way to go. And it’s paid off – we now have over  32,000 followers on Instagram and over 38,000 on TikTok!

Wrapping this up, my digital marketing know-how didn’t just help me start a blog; it helped me build a community and a brand where I can share my love for food with loads of people who are just as into it as I am. And here’s a thought – why not turn your passion into something big on social media? You could start today!

Don’t overthink, just do it.

Cara x 

Cara Jackson

Cara Jackson

I'm Social & Content Lead at Digital 24. I specialise in Organic Social, Video & Influencer Marketing. You'll probably catch me scrolling through TikTok during the day looking for fun trends and video ideas for clients... (yes, scrolling on TikTok is part of my job description... don't be jealous).