Are you starting a business and are not sure what to make of social media? The Interview London’s Features Editor Katie Sansom talks to The Food Medic, aka Hazel Wallace, about how life as a blogger has taught her why to value social media for bloggers and brands alike.
Hazel started her blog around 3 years ago as a personal documentation of recipes online and photos on Instagram. Her followers soon began to grow, and she had to learn the ropes of social media on the go, on a low budget and while working to complete a medical degree.
Hazel is the perfect example of how important social media is, she now has a combined following of 67.4K on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, and a successful blog. Read below to find out how she has grown her following, kept a work/ life balance in the 24/7 social media world, and where she sees social media going next.
Can you please introduce yourself? What was your first job, what you are studying at uni and what your hobbies were growing up.
My name is Hazel Wallace, the girl behind ‘The Food Medic’. I am a health and fitness blogger part-time, and full time medical student. I’m currently in my final year and on the road to graduating as a doctor in July 2016.
My first ever job was as a pharmacy assistant. I realised I wanted to do something to do with medicine so I decided to get some experience in the village pharmacy. I must have done something right as they offered me a part-time job!
I was the ‘Tom Boy’ of the family. My sister was the musical one in the family, and I was the sporty one with no artistic talent. I grew up playing soccer, gaelic football, horse-riding, gymnastics, tennis, badminton, golf, basketball, hockey and athletics. If there was a team, I wanted to be on it. If there was a competition, I wanted to compete. I also loved to read books, and every week would take out three books from the library – usually Roald Dahl, and at least one cookery book!
The Food Medic has become a brand in itself – how quickly did it go from a hobby to something more?
I initially used it as a personal log book to track my own progress and within 2 or 3 months it generated quite a bit of interest so I decided to start a blog. I soon started posting recipes, reviewing products and sharing tips. It grew from there really, but it wasn’t until this year that I actually began to monetize it.
And how did this change the way you were using social media?
It made me more cautious of what I posted. Being exposed to such a huge audience of people it can be very easy to be misinterpreted or taken the wrong way. Also as a medical student I have a duty to maintain professionalism.
What motivated you to pursue what your blog and Instagram was becoming?
I guess the challenge. I’m a goal digger. I’m constantly searching for ways to better myself and when I discovered this hidden talent and passion that I had for health and fitness blogging, I just ran with it! It’s scary because it’s growing so fast and I’m not sure where I’m going to be by next year but I’m loving the journey – I’m the happiest I’ve ever been!
Social media is key to bloggers and brands alike – what platform do you think is most influential to followers and consumers, and why?
Instagram is definitely the most influential. It’s so easy to interact with followers, you get immediate feedback from posts, it’s visual, which is the best form of advertisement particularly for food posts, and it basically allows you to form your own portfolio for companies to browse through.
What do you find the most fun to work on, and the least exciting?
Photoshoots and video shoots are always exciting! I love when I really connect with the photographer and we can bounce ideas off one another and come out with some really cool shots. I also love working with start-up companies because I know myself how hard it is when you’re starting out and you’re trying to get your foot in the door. Working with big brands like Nike and Daniel Wellington is always a ‘pinch-me’ moment.
In terms of the less exciting projects… I turn them down! If it doesn’t fit with The Food Medic ethos, then I don’t do it. No amount of money will persuade me to work with a brand that I don’t believe in or I’m not inspired by.
How did you grow your social media following?
There is no magic secret. I think the biggest factor leading to my success is that I am your everyday girl who juggles a full time degree alongside blogging and staying fit. That resonates with a lot of people.
My following didn’t grow over-night. It grew over 3 years now. However I feel like I really know my followers and they really know me. Many of them have followed me from the very beginning and continue to support me, something I’m very grateful of. My Instagram is very personal and honest. I only promote what I believe in and I stay true to my own morals. I think this is important for bloggers, social media influencers and brands who are trying to build their social media following. It is far too easy to get caught up in the rat race for the most amount of followers and then lose sight of why you got into blogging in the first instance.
The content of social media is extremely important. How do you ensure what you post is what your followers want to see?I gauge it on what feedback I get from previous posts. I know what my followers like, what they find interesting, and what they engage in the most. I also ask them regularly what they want to see next. That’s the beauty of social media – instant feedback!
How do you keep content fresh, personal and relevant?
I keep up to date by doing research and getting inspiration from current trends. I track trends through hashtags, other blogs, magazines, & Youtube.
How important do you think the execution of design and visuals are for you and your followers?
Very important, I mean like I said my Instagram is basically my portfolio so I’m very particular about what I post; the content, the quality of the photo, the time of the day etc. I’m an amateur photographer and I’m teaching myself but when I get more time I hope to enrol in a course to take my skills to the next level! My top tip would be to use natural lighting and a plain white back drop – it’s my signature!
Social media should allow personal and almost instant engagement with followers, how have you managed to sustain this over time?
It’s difficult to switch off from social media. We are a generation which is constantly connected to our phones. When I’m busy at the hospital, library or in the gym I switch my phone on airplane mode to disconnect. I set aside 2 hours each evening for social media and emails. I also tend to check my notifications on my breaks but I have a lot of them switched off.
What do you feel you gain on a personal level from engaging with your followers?
It’s a little bit cheesy, but I feel like I have found a little family in my community of followers. They constantly inspire and motivate me to keep doing what I’m doing, they pick me up after a rubbish day and I learn a lot from them.
What is the most frustrating thing about social media?
It’s not frustrating but it’s not always easy. For most people, social media is a tool to connect with friends. For someone like me, social media is basically my job so there’s a lot of pressure. It took me a long time to realise that I don’t have to respond to every comment right that minute and it’s okay if I take a day off. However not everyone understands that, some people expect you to be available 24-7 as if social media is the only thing in your life.
How do you deal with negativity?
I don’t get much of it, but I just delete any negative comments and block the user. I have zero tolerance for bullies!
What do you think the next big thing for social media will be that bloggers and brands should be using?
I imagine more and more apps will be developed, which offers more and more platforms to connect on. Everything is moving mobile, not only telecommunications but TV and radio. Social media influencers are now taking over the advertising industry.