Maintain your authentic voice. The influencer industry is full of different personalities and specializations. Find out what works for you and stay true to yourself. For a long time, I felt like I needed to be perfect and portray a very put-together version of myself. But, the more I let reality seep into my content, the better feedback I got from my fans. They really enjoy getting to see the “behind the scenes” work that goes into what we do.
We often use the term “Influencers” to describe people with significant social media followings on platforms like Instagram, Twitter TikTok, Youtube, Linkedin and Facebook. Influencers have become today’s media titans, sought after for everything from product placements to timely trends. What’s the difference between influence and impact? Fans and followers? Sizzle versus staying power?
In this interview series, called, “How To Cultivate Community In A Click to Connect World” we are talking to influencers about how they define success and what we all need to discover about the true nature of influence. As a part of this series I had the pleasure of interviewing Natalya Drozhzhin.
Natalya is the founder of Momsdish, a food blog focused on bringing crazy easy recipes to the masses. Obsessed with short ingredients lists, Natalya is a firm believer that you don’t have to turn your kitchen into a science experiment to get a wholesome meal on the table (unless she’s obsessively trying to crack the code on homemade sourdough).
Thank you for making time to visit with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. How did you discover your career path and what got you to where you are today?
It all started with a genuine love for helping people. Kind of cliche, I know, but it’s true! As a Ukrainian-American, I come from a tight-knit community that loves to help each other, share, and see one another succeed. This sits at the heart of what we do at Momsdish. Our main goal is to bring crazy easy recipes to the masses so our readers can be exposed to the benefits of eating homemade food regularly and lessen their dependence on takeout and frozen food. I truly believe that wholesome food brings joy to so many other aspects of our life than just our plates. It makes us stronger and in turn, makes the communities that we live in stronger.
In terms of what brought me to this point, I’d have to say it’s a sincere love for food first and foremost. When I first started Momsdish in 2009, it was just a hobby. I would share family recipes that were dear to me and enjoyed meeting people from all over the world through my food. As the blog began to grow in size and I realized just how much effort it would take to maintain it, I quit my full-time job in 2019 and decided to start treating Momsdish like the growing business it is today. It was such a scary and exciting move and I’m so grateful I took that leap of faith.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned along the way that influences how you operate now?
As a self-proclaimed “people pleaser”, I had to learn how to show up for myself and make decisions that were beneficial to the long-term vision of Momsdish. When I first started working with brands and exploring partnerships, I realized that some brands want to control every aspect of the content you put out. In certain cases, this makes a ton of sense and my goal is to always represent the products I love accurately.
However, sometimes their goals don’t align with my audience. And as an influencer, it’s so important to me that I never forget about my followers and always put them first. It’s been a long road of trial and error figuring out how to be transparent within my partnerships, while also maintaining my authentic self that my audience has grown so accustomed to. This includes never promoting products I don’t believe in or use just for the money and being very methodical about making sure every bit of content — from daily social posts to blogs — truly resonates with our audience.
We’re all searching for some good news. How are you using your platform to make a positive social impact?
I love this! Throughout the pandemic, we doubled down on making Momsdish a safe space that our audience could turn to for a dose of positivity. With so much bad news and fear circulating in the real world, we wanted our website and social channels to feel like a warm hug. Over the past few years, we have encouraged our followers to try making dishes from other cultures, foray into meal prepping, and even learn how to master bread (sourdough in particular!).
For me, the kitchen has always been so therapeutic. It’s a place to take your mind off of things out of your control and to make something beautiful and delicious to gather around. Instilling that same passion in my audience will always be a top priority — even beyond this ongoing pandemic.
Many of our readers are influencers as well. Others have tried and have yet to succeed. What words of advice would you offer to aspiring influencers, knowing what you know now?
Firstly, consistency is key. In today’s fast-paced world, your audience is expecting you to churn out a steady stream of content across all your channels. They also want you to speak to current events and trends. For a food blogger like me, that means planning and making sure we pump out timely content around holidays and major events. For example, the last quarter of each year is almost solely dedicated to helping our followers get through the holiday season.
Secondly, you need to always keep your ear close to the ground and be listening to your readers’ needs. They are the ones who hold all of your growth and the ones that are on this journey with you. While it’s easy to get caught up in being competitive and trying to nab as many sponsorships as you can, you’re nothing without your people. If they don’t see you as a trusted resource with their best interests in mind, it’s really hard for them to find a reason to keep on coming back and enjoying your content.
Lastly, be yourself. That sounds easier said than done, but being a public figure comes with pressure. The things about yourself that you’re most embarrassed or shy about are likely the things that will set you apart from the crowd. They’re also the qualities that will make your followers stick around and feel close to you!
Success is often a matter of perspective. I’ve always resonated with Henry David Thoreau’s quote, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” How do you see success — or define success — for yourself now?
Success for me isn’t measured in dollar signs. Instead, it’s about being able to provide opportunities for others, maintaining a happy, healthy family life, and seeing the daily growth of our Momsdish community. One of the most life-changing experiences for me as an entrepreneur was being able to finally hire team members. I wanted to give my team the work environment that I’ve always dreamed of — a place where they can feel creative, empowered, and cared for. My husband and I make it a point to have conversations with each person to figure out what their goals are, what they love working on, and how Momsdish can accommodate both of those things.
Another measure of success for me is having a work-life balance. In this industry, it’s so easy to never leave your screen and to be glued to your phone. At Momsdish, we aim to break out of this mold and be supportive of everyone’s right to a happy home life. I myself have two young sons and it’s non-negotiable that I spend time with them and watch them grow up.
Finally, I love seeing the evolution of our Momsdish community. We’ve got some of the most active and engaged followers out there and we really focus on giving them the attention they deserve. Getting feedback that they’ve enjoyed our recipes with family and friends or learned something new from us is truly the ultimate indicator of success on our part.
What are your strategies to make room for who and what matters most?
I am the queen of planning ahead and love a good color-coated spreadsheet! But all jokes aside, I live by the rule that organization equals consideration. The more buttoned-up I am, the better I can show up for my employees, the brands I work with, and my audience. This industry can pull you in a million and one different directions daily and if I want to make room for who and what matters most, I must have strong processes in place to do so. And as a person who truly cherishes the relationships I’ve developed in the blogging industry, my worst fear is coming off flakey or unreliable. It’s just not a road I’m willing to go down.
How do you reduce or mitigate stress?
As a blogger, I spend a lot of time in front of screens. To relax, I always try to set aside time each day where I can completely unplug, spend time with my boys, and hang out in my favorite place — the kitchen! We love to gather around the counter and make Slavic classics like pelmeni and pierogi. During all the kneading and stuffing, we can catch up, joke around, and snack all at the same time. That’s my idea of heaven on earth.
In addition, I’m a big-time lover of travel. Although blogging is a very demanding job, it also gives us the flexibility to work from different places and travel on a whim. It’s also a great way for me to research new cuisines and styles of eating. That’s a real win-win in my book.
I’m going to try a few of your tips, and I’m hopeful our readers will, too. Now it’s time for the big reveal — the moment our readers have been anticipating. What are your “five strategies to cultivate a large & engaged social media community?’ Please share a story or example for each.
While there are a million different strategies you can take, I think I was able to pop the most important ones into five different buckets.
- Always, always, always put your readers first. I can’t stress just how important it is to listen to and serve your audience. In the early days, I had much more time to respond to comments and give great feedback. As we started to grow, this became harder and harder to do. This was a real inflection point for me and a reason I decided to expand the Momsdish team so I could still talk to the audience directly. I simply didn’t want this to fall to the wayside! As you scale, keep in mind that your personal touch and voice must always stay intact if you want to grow your following sustainably.
- Stay consistent. Your fans depend on you to show up consistently. When I first started blogging, I didn’t understand what it truly entailed. I would post a blog here and there whenever I felt like it and soon learned that my readers weren’t getting enough of the content they needed. This was especially true around the holidays when web traffic is at an all-time high with folks searching for recipes to build their perfect spread. To stay organized, build out content calendars months in advance and take the time to plan, strategize, and brainstorm your content.
- Maintain your authentic voice. The influencer industry is full of different personalities and specializations. Find out what works for you and stay true to yourself. For a long time, I felt like I needed to be perfect and portray a very put-together version of myself. But, the more I let reality seep into my content, the better feedback I got from my fans. They really enjoy getting to see the “behind the scenes” work that goes into what we do.
- Only partner with brands you believe in, trust, and use yourself. As you build your fan base, you must remember how important it is to protect your recommendation power. It might be tempting to take any and all sponsorships, but in the long-term, it’s best to only align yourself with brands you love. More so, it makes for much better content and relationship building that goes miles beyond a mere paycheck.
- Make time for yourself so you can show up for others. Being in front of a camera and sharing your life can get a bit exhausting. In order to bring your best self to the table, make sure you take time to recharge both your body and your creative brain. When I first entered the industry, I was working non-stop, getting very little sleep, and always felt behind. Once I set hours for myself and made it a point to cherish my downtime, I saw a noticeable uptick in the success of our blog and the quality of the content we were putting out.
What do you do to create a greater sense of connection and community among your fans?
Our fans appreciate honesty and hearing about certain aspects of our personal life. Like everyone else, things happen and we can’t always be as attentive to our followers as we wish we could be. In this past year, we’ve gone through some turbulent family deaths that have rocked our world. Instead of pretending everything is okay, we were upfront with our readers about needing to take time to be with family and gave them a heads up that we might be more silent than usual. I think this goes a long way in showing our fans that we are real people with real problems just like them.
In addition, my husband and I went through a very public weight loss and health journey. As we grew up alongside our blog, we shared ways that we stay on track and make sure we have well-balanced meals. Given that this is such a struggle for us and so many people, we love sharing what works for us with the hopes it will help someone else.
As an influencer, you are, by definition, a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would love to inspire a movement that fosters respect for culture through food. I think breaking bread with people that come from a different culture than you has a unique way of unifying people. While you can read about different cultures in books and online, nothing compares to sharing a meal and learning about who someone is by the food that they eat. Oftentimes, history is woven into the recipes we cherish and it’s important to acknowledge that legacy and never forget it.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you’d like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He, she or they might just see this. 🙂
My dream would be to sit down with the man, the myth, the legend…Gordon Ramsey! While he can be quite brutal on TV, he seems like quite a softy in real life and someone I could learn a ton from. Not to mention, he’s an amazing cook and I’m obsessed with his YouTube channel. His 10-minute recipes are so good and I love how he interacts with his family. They remind me of my very own! From a culinary standpoint, I think he can be credited with putting British food on the map and modernizing some of the most classic recipes from that region. In many ways, I would love to do the same for raising awareness around traditional Slavic cooking.
What is the best way for our readers to further follow your work online?
To browse our extensive list of recipes, you should check out our website Momsdish.com. For more day-to-day happenings, follow Momsdish on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube. In addition, you can sign up to be a part of our email newsletter to get tips, recipes, and hacks delivered straight to your inbox. We can’t wait for you to join our little corner of the internet!
Thank you for these thought provoking insights. Here’s to your continued success!
Thank you, it’s been an absolute pleasure to chat with you!