How to Teach Cooking Online, Part III: Marketing
You’ve put a lot of work into creating a high-level cooking course. How do you spread the word?
For many online instructors, creating content is the easy part—it is, after all, their specialty. Marketing, on the other hand, isn’t. Those of us who work in marketing may be too used to what we know to remember what it was like to be a beginner. But in the dynamic world of digital marketing, both technology and best practices change so fast it can be hard to keep up.
So even if you think you know marketing (and especially if you don’t at all), here are a few tips to help your online culinary course succeed.
Video will be a key resource for your success.
If there’s anything we learned from the rapid rise of Tasty videos a few years back (and the subsequent proliferation of Tasty imitations) it’s that the Internet has an insatiable demand for more video content featuring food.
Of course, Tasty’s true genius lay in delivering simple recipes featuring creative uses of common ingredients in a format that was easy to consume. Viewers could easily imagine themselves whipping up one of those recipes, especially as they glossed over all the tedious chopping and prep work.
There’s a lot to learn from this video format, among others, but the most important lesson is that, if you want someone to try your recipe, you need to nail the video content.
Use Pinterest to reach a wider audience.
Pictures are another essential. From the Instagram-worthy arrangement of ingredients to the meticulously casual staging of the final product, having photography of your recipes throughout the cooking process will both intrigue and instruct your learners.
However, there’s another major ingredient to add to your recipe for social media success, and that is Pinterest.
In general, Pinterest isn’t the first choice for a lot of online educators—and in that respect it’s probably underused. Pinterest is essentially a big, public inspiration board that allows individuals to pull together ideas from all sorts of sources and collect them for future reference. That means you can create pins of your recipes and watch as other users pin them to their idea boards.
Over time, your original pin stands a good chance of making the rounds far and wide. And if you’ve included information about the recipe and a link to your course in the pin, it stands a good chance of drawing new learners to your course.
Another way Pinterest adds to your success? Google image search results. If you’ve spent any time searching for images on Google, you will notice that when you click on the image, Google brings up the original source—in this case, your Pinterest post.
Suddenly, someone who was searching for image results of black bean burgers has stumbled from Google to your Pinterest page and eventually all the way back to your site.
SEO optimization: know your keywords.
Speaking of optimizing for images, you will need to work hard to keep your entire site up to scratch for SEO purposes. Online cooking courses are a competitive market, which means there will be plenty of other instructors out there trying to rank for similar keywords.
Of course, this is where knowing your niche can save your bacon. Suddenly, instead of optimizing for “online cooking classes” like the rest of your peers, you can optimize for “online dairy-free, gluten-free wedding cake decoration classes.” Not only will your competition be less stiff, you’ll also attract people who are actually interested in your course (instead of those looking for a specialty course on how to home-smoke cured meats).
Use your blog to chronicle your culinary adventures.
As someone trying to teach an online cooking course, you’ve probably spent a lot of time cooking yourself—and that includes looking up recipes online and probably reading through numerous blog posts.
I rely on food blogs quite frequently for pictures of a food’s process throughout the various cooking stages, and I appreciate long, detailed descriptions of the cook’s experience. Many times, the authors of these posts are trying out a recipe for the first time themselves, and happy to help their readers avoid pitfalls.
So, if you’re trying out a new recipe or practicing ways to improve it, don’t be shy about chronicling your mistakes.
Create an email newsletter to maintain contact.
Most of us engage in food preparation every day, and that means that even the most inventive of home chefs needs a steady supply of new content to keep the creative juices flowing.
Email newsletters are a great content delivery method for this purpose. Not only can you schedule, monitor, and track your content, you can also format it to be more visually appealing. With beautiful pictures from your latest recipe haunting their inbox, your subscribers won’t be able to resist clicking through.
Reach out to other online chefs for networking and collaboration opportunities.
The online network of culinary professionals and food bloggers is large. This offers fertile ground for collaboration and cross over. Maybe you are teaching a course about finding the perfect cheese, and you know an online sommelier who runs a wine tasting course. Why not do a joint video talking about how to find the perfect wine to pair with three of your favorite cheeses?
Or, if your specialties converge, offer to trade content. Be each others’ special “guest chefs” for a video or two. You might be pleased to discover that the collaboration builds the platform for both of you.
Planning, producing, and marketing an online cooking course takes time, but you won’t find yourself reaching for subject matter.
A lot of prep work goes into a good cooking course, but the compensation is that you will have plenty of material to work with. From images to video to written content, you won’t ever be short of interesting social media posts to publish—or lively anecdotes to share on your blog.
Stay tuned for the final installment in our series: Resources (+ an Infographic!)