This morning I sat down at my favorite spot, the West End Coffee House and had a coffee and a chat with Geoff Barker, creator behind “Geoff’s kitchen”—the place where he shares everything food and cooking! To get to know Geoff and gain insight on the ins and outs of being an influencer, read on to our lovely conversation.
How did Geoff’s kitchen get started?
Geoff’s Kitchen grew organically. I started with a personal account, and I still have one, that features what I do with the family and friends, all that kind of jazz, and I posted about cooking on that as well. I started to get a few random followers on that account because of the cooking, but I had one young kid at the time, and my wife wasn’t comfortable with these random people seeing our personal life, so I decided to start a food blog. And that is really how it started. I privatized the personal account, created this public account, and it’s been going for four years now.
It is really nice that your follower growth was natural. There are many influencers interested in buying followers, but that strategy doesn’t work well. And at Scrunch, particularly in our blog, we try to inform our readers about what we consider to be the best practices that influencers should consider.
It is challenging today on Instagram. When I started, organic growth was easy. Without working for it, I actually got better engagement three years ago than I do today.
And you weren’t paying for any of Instagram’s services?
No, nothing. No paid advertisements. I never bought followers, never anything like that. I don’t see the point anyway. If you are getting engagement from people that don’t really care about you are doing, what is the point? There are nuances to Instagram where you find smaller accounts with smaller followings that have crazy good engagement because they are saturated in their small pocket, but as they grow the engagement levels grow. It is challenging, but mine has always been organic. I see no point in trying to fudge the figures.
Right. So, are you doing this full time now?
I actually work from home. I manage a small logistics company. That is where my little bit of income comes from. My wife is the primary breadwinner of the family. She works full time. She is a lawyer for a large rail haulage company. So, I look after the kids, and I cook food.
That is the dream.
Yeah, seriously. When people ask me how I am doing. I tend to say I’m living the dream because realistically I am.
100%. At Scrunch, our campaign managers make sure to inform brands that not all influencers do it full time—that they have lives outside of social media. It just helps everyone manage their expectations.
Yeah, food is very a large part of my life. It really is. I am already thinking about what I am cooking for dinner tonight while we are talking.
What are you cooking tonight?!
I think it is going to be tempura cauliflower with pizza, and maybe a salad. It is still going through the brain.
I’ve honestly given up on trying to make pizza. How did you come up with “facehole?” This was the first thing I saw on your Instagram.
Yeah, I know. It was one of those things that kind of just happened. I used to just refer to it as my face, initially, and then I realized there was a massive hole on your face. I put it out there one day, and I got some pretty cool reactions to the word.
Yeah, it is a little edgy, a good play with words. People like this.
I use it in my scripts every now and then when I am trying to be a little cheeky. I have done a few posts for The Rawballer. Kylee is a local Brisbane girl that does raw balls, protein-energy balls. I wrote a post where I said, “you need to get these balls in your facehole.”
I saw that one! So funny!
Yeah! It was actually a friend of mine, a connection through Instagram, and he said that has got to be one of your staples—this is who I am.
Did you ever have that moment when you really started gaining traction where you realized you were really going to do this?
Actually, not really. What I have done for the majority of my Instagram is simply show people what I am cooking for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It is just what I do. My wife says to me all the time, “Geoff its crazy. You have seven- odd thousand people around the world that pay attention to what we eat. From my point of view, it is mildly ridiculous. I know my following isn’t the largest compared to some major influencers out there, but I’ve got my little niche. These people obviously enjoy what I am doing, and I am enjoying it.
We do have many brands that prefer to work with micro-influencers because the engagement can oftentimes be better, and they can be more genuine. People appreciate a real connection.
If I were trying to become huge, taking on every opportunity, only pushing other people’s projects, I wouldn’t be doing it for myself.
So how do you make decisions on what brands to work with?
If I am likely to use the product or if I have used the product, it is a no-brainer. It is really that basic for me.
Have you ever tried a new product for a brand opportunity?
I have, but honestly, it was a mistake. I promoted the product as I said I would.
You followed through.
Yeah, I followed through, but I wouldn’t buy the product for myself. It is the same reason I don’t attend blog events. This is digressing a bit, but when it comes to blog events I find the quality of food isn’t an accurate representation of what an atypical meal there. I used to go to a lot of these events early on but I have stopped primarily for that reason. I would promote the places, then friends would try them out based on that, and my mates would go Geoff what are you talking about? I don’t want to compromise my integrity and who I am and what I do.
And really being authentic and genuine leads to more quality opportunities because you have established a good reputation. Word of mouth is key for influencer marketing.
What is your favorite brand you have worked with thus far?
I do a lot of work with Barilla Australia, the pasta company. That is one of the staples in my cupboard. If I am not making the pasta myself, I use Barilla pasta. It has been awesome! They contact me every now and then and say hey we’ve got this coming up, do you mind making this and posting it on your account to make people aware. Last year, there was Carbonara day which is the sixth of April, so they asked if I could cook up a spaghetti carbonara and write up a post. Easy.
Do you have any goals for 2018?
Well, I make hot sauce.
So you are a brand AND an influencer.
Yeah, I have a branded Instagram account sitting in the background which I haven’t done anything with. I’ve got two hot sauces currently being sold at a local café.
This is so exciting. I will have to let everyone at the office know. What kind of hot sauce?
I make a fermented habanero and apple hot sauce, and also a fermented watermelon hot sauce. The habanero one has a bit of a kick to it, but the watermelon hot sauce is more of an “arty” one.
Do you think you could give our readers any advice on being an influencer?
The biggest piece of advice is to be genuine to who you are and the message you want to give your followers regardless of whether it’s via a blog, Facebook, Instagram, or whatever your platform is don’t compromise on your values and integrity just to be an influencer.
Okay, it’s SCRUNCH TIME!
Favorite cafe spot in Brisbane?
When you are feeling lazy, what is your go-to meal?
No, this is horrible. Generally, when I am feeling lazy, I pull out a Kraft dip and crackers.
Oh yeah, that is bad! Ingredient you always need in your pantry?
Only one? Salt. Without salt, you don’t get the flavor.
What is your favorite cookbook?
The Silver Spoon, the bible of Italian cooking. The most interesting dish I have cooked out of there was a blueberry baked pork loin cutlet.
You are inspiring me to make it a priority to learn how to cook better. The one dish you can’t live without?
Favorite dish not prepared by you?
My wife makes a mean lasagna. My wife doesn’t like to cook, but when she does damn its good.
It was a pleasure interviewing Geoff Barker. If you need food/cooking inspiration or you are just hungry, be sure to follow Geoff here. Also, for any more information about what it means to be an influencer, check out our blog—Best Practices for Influencers.