Conor Hogan is a Belfast based Blogger, who regularly blogs and shares photos of the latest hot places to eat in Northern Ireland. He is active across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter as well as his personal blogging site. For the past 2 years his blog, The Belfast Food Blogger, has mainly been about food and restaurants, however he is also a special needs teacher and a first-time dad therefore as life has evolved so has Conor’s blog.
Having worked with a range of various restaurants and brands including SERE, PowerNI and most recently McDonalds, here Conor shares some of his experiences and advice for Influencers as well as brands who hope to work with influencers.
How did you first get into blogging, and how would you describe your blogging style?
I have always enjoyed cooking and going out for meals, I would often share posts on Facebook and a lot of friends would ask me about recipes or the best places to eat in Belfast, so one day I just decided to start blogging. My style... I just try to be honest, share a bit of my personal life and add some humour; I think people react better to the blogs if they have an insight into the person writing them.
What do you think is the best strategy that worked well for you to get more traffic to your blog?
I think you have to be fresh and stay up with current trends, for me this is trying to visit the newest places in Belfast before others. I also find that expressing my personality works, so sometimes I will just blog about life, or even just share a quick story on Instagram, you have to be relatable to your audience or you won’t get any engagement. I also attend The Blogger’s Brunches run by Cathy Martin and this is a great place to pick up tips or see what new apps people are using to direct traffic.
What inspired you to start your blog?
I have always looked at it as a distraction from my actual job, although sometimes the Blog seems to take up more time than my actual job. It is a place where I can share one of my passions in food, and more recently a place to express or share my life as a new amateur dad.
How active are you on a weekly basis? How often do you communicate with your followers?
I try to put up one written Blog a fortnight but I post every day, whether this be a photo, a meme, or even just a tweet. It is important to engage with your followers or they will move onto a more active page/blogger.
What is your biggest challenge?
I think there are two;
One is definitely time, I am a new Dad and so priorities have majorly changed in recent weeks, that is why I have started to blog about my life, rather than a sole focus on food, but food is still an important part of it.
The second one would be getting brands to understand that a smaller, specialised, following can be much more beneficial to their product than a blogger with a larger audience. In the past brands have looked solely on following rather than engagement. Luckily though that appears to be changing.
What’s your best advice for handling criticism on social media?
Embrace it, seriously, don’t let criticism in any walk of life get you down, look at it as an opportunity to grow as a person. Or if you feel the one criticising you has crossed the line you can tactfully educate them on why they were wrong.
Don’t, or try to not let it affect you, the social media world can be a very cruel but you need to take any criticism with a pinch of salt
Have you ever worked with any brands/businesses through your blog?
Luckily, I have had the opportunity to work with quite a few brands, this has helped me to understand what my audience want and so, this has also given me the opportunity to turn down brands as I feel it doesn’t suit my blog or fit with my audience interest. My top advice would be don’t be afraid to say no, when I first started blogging I was too keen to say yes to every invite or brand opportunity and I found myself doing things I didn’t enjoy, and so my hobby was becoming a burden…do your blog for you, only then will you enjoy it and gain a loyal following.
What is important to you when working with brands?
Clarity – what do they expect and will I be able to fit this around my brand. A friend and fellow blogger’ Dillon Osborne once gave me great advice; don’t let them dictate what they want as it won’t appear true to you, find out their goal and work together in an approach that will work for all parties. I have made this mistake before and my content was so restricted that it appeared contrived, which was bad on my part, but a chance to reflect and grow. I also think it is important for brands to communicate with you and be honest, this could be in terms of pricing, job description or times.
What advice would you give to a brand/business who wants to work with an influencer?
Please look at engagement rather than following; find a blogger with a specialised audience for your product. Follow that blogger for a week or two to see if their style is good for you and if your product will suit their audience. I am also a big advocate of using local bloggers, they will be more passionate about the product and may even be able to bring some great ideas to the table.