Karen Martin, Principal Business Analyst, shares her journey from food lover to successful food blogger and influencer! ? 

How did you get started? 

It started completely organically through a passion and love for food. I had recently moved to London, and originally thought I’d only be here for two years before moving back out. So, the plan was to throw myself fully into London for that time, trying to experience everything the city had to offer. 

Instagram was just taking off around that time, so I’d casually take a photo of my food or cocktail and post it, probably with a few random hashtags thrown in. Needless to say it was purely a hobby at that point and I had zero clue it could actually turn into a side business. I also used one Instagram account for everything, so there was no focus at the time. 

Now I’ve been living in London for over seven years, and my love of London and food has continued to grow so have no plans to move out anytime soon! 

Where did the idea come from?  

I took inspiration from some other accounts I followed, and wanted to cover food and bars, so rebranded to @karenloveslondon in 2018. I’d seen that some food accounts were getting free restaurant invites and decided I wanted a piece of the action. So, I started posting every day and engaging with my favourite accounts for at least an hour a day. Once I hit 1000 followers I received my first invite to a PR meal, and it’s just taken off from there. 

What was the main challenge?  

This started out completely as a hobby for me, so it was a bit of a mindset shift to start thinking of it as a business. I created a separate personal account, so that I could focus @karenloveslondon on what my followers were interested in.  

This took a bit of trial and error, for example testing out different types of content, times which I post and hashtags used. I could then look at the insights and learn what created the biggest reach to ensure that I created more of that content going forward. Instagram’s algorithm is constantly changing, so you have to keep looking at the data and mix up your strategy if it’s no longer working.  

Another challenge has been learning to say “No” to free products and meals that didn’t align with my brand, to ensure that I stayed consistent. 

Do you have any advice to share with others who would like to do the same? 

Growing your Instagram takes time and a lot of patience. Don’t be duped into buying followers, most brands have tools that can detect fake engagement. My main pieces of advice are: 

1) Make sure you switch to a business or creator profile

This gives you access to dashboards and analytics about how your posts and reels are performing. It also gives audience insights so you can ensure your content is relevant and useful for your followers. For example, I know that most of my followers are London based, so I could post content about other places, but it’s probably not what they’re interested in. 

2) Build a network and engage

Follow like-minded accounts or those you admire. Be sure to engage with their stories and posts and start building those relationships. If you want people to follow you or engage with your content, then you will have to give back. Instagram now favours content with a lot of engagement, and the more you comment on people’s posts, the more likely they will return the favour.

If you do get to the stage where you are invited to events or press meals, be sure to get everyone’s handle and give them a follow. I’ve learned so much from other bloggers that I’ve met at events, and it’s led to me expanding my network further and opened doors to other opportunities. Be sure to pick their brains for any tips! 

3) Be consistent and practise, practise practise

Once you’ve chosen your theme/subject then stick to it. Don’t post about a recipe one day, then a workout the next, followed by some mindfulness content. There are some successful people who do this, but they’ve usually built up a good personal brand by this point so that followers want to know about everything they do. Keep practicing and like any other skill, you’ll find you massively improve with time.