What started out as a small joint project amongst friends who wanted to share recipes and their love for cooking, became one very big and successful community on Social Media in just a few years. Who ever said too many cooks in the kitchen was a bad thing?
Interview by Dan Willersdorf
Paulene Christie, the genius behind Slow Cooker Central that currently has over 290,000 Facebook members in just over two years, sees a big future for the online community and her goal now is to make the website self-sustaining. Here she shares how Slow Cooker Central became a quick success using Social Media:
SMSM: Tell us about Slow Cooker Central.
PMC: I began this journey when I opened a Facebook Page called ‘Slow Cooker Recipes 4 Families‘ in late 2012. I thought a few friends may share some recipes, and who knew, maybe I could get a few other people out there to join. By August 2014 I had over 200,000 members in my group and I knew that due to the layout and design limitations on Facebook that a webpage was the way to move my group into the future.
On the advice of others I used a GoFundMe campaign and raised $2000 from our group members to fund the initial website development. I’ve since doubled this investment from my own money but the fund got us off the ground and running!
Our website has passed 1 million hits in just nine weeks and now averages 1 million hits per month. My goal now is to generate an income to make this my full time job. For now, it’s many, many long hours a day but I love it.
SMSM: How did you go about the marketing aspect?
PMC: In late 2013 I contracted a marketing/promotions type manager to help this side of my new business. She is just now laying the ground work in this area, but we are using sponsored posts, targeted advertising and blog articles, amongst other ideas to help market our site. I have the rare benefit of such a massive online Social Media backing meaning it’s a great tool to direct people from one to the other (FB to website) and back again. I also run competitions to increase my web traffic.
SMSM: What are your thoughts on using Social Media for running your business?
PMC: In my case, Social Media came first. It took me a while to realize the massive potential I was sitting on with such a large and engaged following already there in the group. And it goes both ways as the website gives the Facebook users a better platform to access and share info so it’s better for them also.
I was more skeptical about the potential to make a business out of the Social Media I already had. It took a while for me to see it in that light and to take the chance to see how it went. I guess I lacked the confidence at first. However, now I am seeing the light coming at the end of the tunnel and letting myself believe that “Hey, this really could BE something!”
SMSM: Tell us how you went about running the Facebook group compared to running a website.
PMC: I launched the fund drive on the Facebook site. I built anticipation on Facebook for the opening of the website; I constantly link one to the other, sharing links from the website back to the Facebook group and driving people back and forth between the two.
[I decided to put up the website because] Facebook had too many limitations for a group such as ours. The inability to customise albums was a big hindrance. Also, I had some unique issues, because ours was a group, not a page, so I had no stats on the group that a page has. I was also unable to change the group name to match the website name.
The biggest drama I had was trolls and troublemakers posting rubbish and spam. The beauty of the website is no one publishes without my approval. I now have 9 admin on the FB page who help me run it as the page moves non stop 24/7 with members all over the globe.
SMSM: What were the obstacles that you had to go through when managing your business on Social Media?
PMC: I was already a total Facebook addict so I knew my area very well but then I had to learn I have no paid advertising with the Facebook group. I have now placed ads on the website and am working to expand and customise these.
Negative comments came thick and fast from trolls and troublemakers. I was accused of all sorts of lies. Saying my fund was a scam – that I was ripping people off. The people who behaved badly on the Facebook group and were banned from it created hate groups and cyber bullied and threatened me. I quickly learned to never look at the hate groups, never respond to the lies, and to try to hold my head high. And I try to remember that for every hater, there were literally thousands who loved what I did.
SMSM: What’s your most used Facebook feature?
PMC: I think the most valuable tool is the share feature. It’s like free viral advertising as people share amongst their friends.
Also when someone ‘joins’ our group it often says on the feed that their friends see that they have done so. Also, unlike a website which people choose to go directly to, many people are on Facebook all day, so are constantly exposed to our group and website links on it.
SMSM: What do you think are some areas Facebook can improve on?
- Allow replies to comments on groups and not just pages
- Allow more than one pinned post in groups
- Allow more customisation in albums
- Allow you to name the tabs at the top of the group to what you want to name them … eg recipes, tips, etc
- Allow you to change the name of the group after it’s already large
- Allow you to change between open and closed group even after it’s large
- Allow you to gather stats on groups and not just pages
- Allow you to stop comments on a post without having to delete the whole post!
SMSM: What do you say to those who have been thinking about using Social Media to run their business?
PMC: Do it! Social Media is taking over the world! Use it to your advantage. Start with a page – not a group, if you are wanting to impart information. The group is best if you want customer-client interaction, though and not just you delivering info to them.
Have a thick skin for criticism – online trolls and keyboard warriors are everywhere!
Slow Cooker Central is an online community for slow cooker recipes. For more information and if you want to join, visit www.slowcookercentral.com
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