Dennis Littley is a retired chef and culinary instructor, now enjoying life traveling and eating his way around the world sharing his recipes and adventures along the way on his blog, AskChefDennis.com. During the new phase of his culinary journey as a food and travel blogger, Dennis has amassed an impressive combined following of over 1.8 million followers on his social channels. He joins us this week to talk about his transformation switch from chef and culinary instructor to the world of blogging and to offer his perspective on the importance of social media in building a business.
Your travel blogging career is act #2 in your life. Tell us how you made the transition from life as a chef and culinary instructor to a life of travel blogging and roaming about the world.
I started a food blog as a resource for my culinary students. A place where I could post recipes and they could ask questions. While it didn’t turn out to be the resource I expected it began getting readers from around the world. I began blogging with more purpose, rebranded my blog, and worked on becoming my brand, which ended up being the best thing I ever did.
After a series of work-related injuries, I was forced into retirement and moved to Florida which is where my transition to travel blogging began. I started working locally with a Florida based boutique hotel group, Superior Small Lodging of Florida. Thanks to my social stats, they welcomed me at many of their properties around the state. This started me thinking that I could do this on more of a global scale which prompted me to attend my first TBEX in Minneapolis. The people I met at this conference helped me realize what I needed to do to become more successful as a travel blogger and provided me with the resources and network to achieve my goals.
If you had to choose the top 3 things that have contributed to the success of your site, askchefdennis.com, what would those be?
Having a BFF that I can talk over all my plans, ideas and new strategies with. It’s really important to have friends that understand what you’re going through and have a complimentary skill set to your own. I’ve been lucky enough to find someone that I can trust and talk to about my blog. I also network with bloggers local and worldwide to help keep me informed of the latest developments in social media and blogging. This is critical to your success.
I understand that I can’t do it alone and have been adding team members in different capacities to help with keeping my blog running. It takes a village to run a successful business and my blog is my business.
Having an SEO audit done on my blog and implementing the changes that were suggested has taken me to the next level of blogging and increased my readership substantially. This has allowed me more freedom and increased my personal value as a blogger. The more successful you are the more successful you become.
You’ve made a point to stay on top of social media trends and, consequently, have built an impressive following. What tips do you have for other bloggers who are trying to build a social media presence?
You have to remember that social media means engaging with people, not just scheduling your social posts. Social media needs to be social…and size does matter. The only people that tell you, you don’t need a large social following are the people with small social followings. Brands look for bloggers that get engagement, but they also look for bloggers with numbers to back up their engagement.
So bloggers need to spend more time being social and increasing their presence on the different social channels. There is no getting around that fact. Social media is the new platform for advertisement and it’s a great way to not only get noticed by brands but to make money.
I work on one social channel at a time and I’m currently working on increasing my Twitter following (organically). Never pay for followers, that is the biggest mistake anyone can make. Numbers without engagement is very obvious.
There is no secret to increasing your social following, it just takes time and hard work. You can also hire virtual assistants to help with your social channels which is what I do to free up time to work on actually being productive as a blogger and making money. You have to spend money to make money.
How do you choose the destinations you visit? Is your focus primarily culinary related or are there other factors you consider?
Most of the destinations I visit choose me. I will go just about anywhere that someone wants to send me. That being said I have turned down locations that I don’t really want to visit or that I don’t think will have the appeal to my readers. Most of the travel opportunities do feature the culinary aspect of the trip, but I also don’t want to be one dimensional, so I always mention others highlights of my trip. Your readers want to experience what you experience.
Decide what type of travel opportunities you want and work towards those. You always need to have goals as a blogger.
If you had a month to travel and money was no object, where would you go?
I would go to the South Pacific and New Zealand. That is at the top of my bucket list and hopefully, I’ll be able to achieve that in the next few years.
Dennis regularly speaks at conferences around the country on the topics of Live Streaming, Social Media for Small Business and Travel Blogging and will be one of the speakers at TBEX North America this year. A native Texan living most of his life in the Philadelphia area, Dennis now resides in Kissimmee, Florida with his wife Lisa. Keep up with his latest culinary adventures on his blog www.askchefdennis.com and on his social media channels: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and Instagram.