"What's Eating Paris" - and thoughts on blogging and social media

David Lebovitz, Trang Minh Lê Bozon, Elodie Fagan, Lindsey Tramuta and Ann Mah.
The guy at the back is probably tweeting about the event!

For the past week, I've been inhabiting the genteel world of Grantham Estate, where people dress for dinner and are reluctant to use that new fangled contraption, the telephone. Unable to pull myself away from the addictive British television series, Downton Abbey, I watched episode after episode in rapid succession and was struck by how many letters were written and received. Studying the characters' faces for signs of joy or grief as they opened yet another envelope, I wondered if the news was good or bad.

"What's Eating Paris", a social media and food event at the American University last night, brought me back to the fast-paced world of blogging, facebook and Twitter, where  good and bad news travels around the globe in seconds rather than weeks. Listening to the panel of well-known food bloggers, Lindsey Tramuta, David Lebovitz and Ann Mah, discuss their thoughts on blogging versus community websites, like Yelp and Trip Advisor, gave me much to think about in terms of this blog.

When asked why someone would use their blog over a community website to locate a good restaurant in Paris, all of the bloggers felt that people are looking for someone whose opinion they trust because they've developed a relationship with the blogger. David Lebovitz mentioned that readers have more confidence in someone if they know that the blogger doesn't have an agenda and doesn't write sponsored posts. In response to the question of how bloggers foster these feelings, Lindsey responded that she tries to give a little bit of herself in each post so that people know that there's a real person behind the blog. According to her, recounting personal anecdotes helps create an identifiable voice, while David revealed that his readers have even seen the inside of his bathroom.

Even though the expat bloggers and Elodie Fagan from Yelp Paris were somewhat reluctant to share statistics about the number of people who visit their websites, they all agreed that having a facebook fan page and a Twitter account help increase a blog's traffic.

It's early in the morning and I'm getting ready to head out for the day, but I'm sure that my mind will continue to process much of what I heard last night as I consider what changes I should make to this blog. From time to time, I receive emails with feedback, both positive and negative, about its content and/or layout. If you have any thoughts on something that I should do differently, please write a comment. It would be helpful to have a dialogue about what works and what doesn't  - not only about this blog but about blogs in general.

Questions I have for myself: How much do I want to share about my life on the internet? Aren't people more interested in learning about Paris than me anyway? Am I too old to blog, Tweet and have a facebook account? How can I create a sense of community? More words, fewer words? More photos, less photos? and it goes on and on...

"What's Eating Paris" Panel (from left to right):

Ann Mah - journalist, author and blogger. Ann Mah
Elodie Fagan - community manager for "Yelp Paris". Yelp Paris
David Lebovitz - pastry chef, author and blogger. David Lebovitz
Lindsey Tramuta - writer, blogger and cookie maker supreme. Lost in Cheeseland

Click here to see a video recording of the panel discussion.

Comments

  1. One thing that I think you're very good at, Mary Kay, is responding to comments. I'm not saying it needs to be done every time - some comments don't really need a response, sometimes you just forget etc. - but after a while, you do just think "why bother commenting?" if the blogger never answers anyone.

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    1. Thanks, Gwan! Responding to comments is one of my favorite parts of blogging because it's more like we're having a conversation. I'm not good at monologues! ;) I love it when other people's ideas add another dimension or make me think of something that hadn't occurred to me before.

      David Lebovitz mentioned how supportive the food blogging community was in the beginning because it was so small. I feel fortunate that we have such a supportive community of expat bloggers. Hopefully there will be a day when we can all meet in the same room, with some wine, of course!

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    2. Gwan,

      I'm so glad you wrote this because I thought that I was the only that thinks this. I get turned off from a blog if the blogger NEVER responds. The bigger bloggers who have like 200 comments, I get that they can't get to everyone...totally understandable, but the smaller blogs? Come on!

      And MK and great at responding...and so are you! xo.

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    3. Count me in as someone who likes it when bloggers respond to comments. Like Gwan, I can understand it that not every comment needs a response but I do like the interaction.

      Both of you are great about responding - which is just another one of the many reasons why I like reading and commenting on your blogs!

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  2. So glad you could join us and I'm glad the discussion got you thinking about blogging and social media!!

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    1. It most certainly did get me thinking - I'm still reflecting on many of the comments you made. Well done!

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  3. Thanks for this very interesting read ! :)

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    1. Thanks for sharing more information about Yelp last night - The reviews on Yelp are what helped me decide where to go for Valentine's Day dinner. We went to Je the...me and the restaurant was every bit as good as the reviews lead me to believe it would be!

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  4. I've bounced these questions around in my head as well because I definitely push the boundaries on sharing personal information making my blog feel more like reality tv meets Sex and the City.

    Before my current blog, I had a fashion in Paris blog that was not personal, I spent a lot of time on it, it was aesthetically pleasing but it never took off.

    So I went to the extreme and started a super personal blog about things I talk about in real life and found a community of amazing women who love to girl talk and share their experiences. I guess it depends what your goal is and who you want to reach.

    There is something organic about blogging where it just unravels. The initial idea of my blog is not at all what it turned out to be.

    ...And you are not too old to blog! : )

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    1. I really like that you push the boundaries in your blog - plus, like I've mentioned before, you allow me to have a completely different view of life in Paris than my own. But that's also what you set out to do with your second blog (I didn't know you had a first one!). I'm not quite sure what I was thinking when I started mine but I've started to realize that I do have to develop some sort of "identifiable voice" to quote Lindsey again. I just don't know how prevalent the voice should be because I've always thought of Paris as the main feature and that I should remain firmly in the background.

      It's so true that blogging evolves and we evolve as well - blogging pushes me to do things that I probably wouldn't do if I wasn't looking for something new to write about or to take pictures of. It also makes me look at the city in a completely different way. So, which comes first - us evolving or the blog?

      Thanks for saying that I'm not too old to blog - but I sure felt old at the American University last night. I can remember the days pre-internet! ;)

      We really need to get together and talk blogging...over some wine.

      You can say "blog" as many times as you want - there doesn't seem to be a synonym for this thing that we do!

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    2. I think you have an identifiable voice. Your personality certainly comes through your posts while keeping the focus on Paris. I've learned a lot about you and your sense of humor through your adventures in the city.

      I say just keep doing what you're doing because you inspire me to get out the house! You truly are out and about in Paris!

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    3. ....and yes, we'll get together soon! I'm in LA now..will be back for Fashion Week!

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    4. Thanks, Ella! Enjoy the California sunshine and best wishes for your secret project. I look forward to hearing more about it!

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  5. Mary Kay, do you know if the video of the session will be posted on the Social Media website? I was quite disappointed that I could not sneak out of the office for it yesterday, and only caught bits and pieces on livestream. Thanks!

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    1. Abby, Sorry that you weren't able to make it last night. As a new blogger, I found it to be extremely helpful. Lindsey tweeted this morning that she's going to check if they're going to post a video of the panel discussion online. I certainly hope that they do because I would like to watch it again. If they do, I'll definitely include a link for the video here.

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  6. I enjoy your blog as it is. I like the way you are open to what Paris has to offer; you get out there and experience things and report back with great photos. I think the blog reflects your personality and wide interests. There's a little personal info, which is probably the right amount.

    I discovered your blog through Tripadvisor. I'm not aware if you post on Fodor's France, but I'm pretty sure you would find new readers there if you are trying to boost traffic on your blog.

    I've been reading Out and About for a while without commenting, and there are probably lots of people like me, who enjoy the blog but don't take the time to say thanks. So I'll say "thanks!" now.

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    1. Carolyn, Many thanks for your feedback and for reading! I do know about Fodor's but only post on TA because I've been a member for quite a few years. Since the TA forum is one of my best sources for information about things to do and see in Paris, I try to do my bit by posting info that I think may be of interest to other members. One of the main reasons that I mentioned that facebook and Twitter increase a blog's traffic is because I've been resistant to the idea of getting a facebook page. I still consider that my kid's territory, plus there's a possibility that they wouldn't "friend" me! ;)

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  7. Hi Mary Kay:

    Here is more positive feedback for you.

    I discovered your blog via TripAdvisor too. It is apparent from your comments that you enjoy exploring Paris, as do I. Your photographs are excellent. I like your sense of humour and look forward to reviewing your blog daily.

    Too old? I don't think so. Keep up the great work!

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    1. Thank you for the positive feedback! Exploring Paris is indeed one of my favorite pastimes. During the panel discussion, David Lebovitz mentioned that being an expat in Paris is a full time job. If that's true, then I have one of the best "jobs" in the world.

      I'm not quite sure why I feel too old to blog. I certainly don't look at other bloggers who are my age and think that they're too old. Maybe it's just that I feel guilty that I'm having so much fun in the process. The North American work ethic is a difficult habit to break.

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  8. Mary Kay,

    I think MademoisElla Coquine nailed the answer to your question. Your personality shines through your posts. I fully endorse her position, as well.

    I think you cater very well to two target audiences: those living in Paris and appreciating your suggestions (and descriptions) of things to do, and those who wished they lived in Paris, and await the opportunity to try some of the things you've suggested or proposed on their next visit (I'm in the latter category!)

    Also, I believe it's important that you'd don;t subjugate your independence - in any way - real or perceived.

    All the Best,

    Your Friends in Boston

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    1. Dear Friends, I sincerely appreciate that you took the time to write a comment in between visiting glowworm caves and having dinner at the Moose Bar and Grill in NZ! It's good to know that you feel like trying some of the things that you've read about in Paris because I hope that it will inspire you to visit in the very near future.

      As far as subjugating my independence, do you mean with regards to sponsored posts? If so, I completely agree. I've had a few companies ask to put ads on my blog but decided against monetizing it for that very reason.

      Enjoy yours travels as you head towards Doubtful Sound!

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  9. Mary Kay: You know I love your blog and in many ways, I believe we are kindred spirits. You are always out there discovering something new, you don't dwell on the cliches, and you don't overshare. I love that when I read your blog, I am always learning and not just reliving the things I already experienced about Paris.

    Personally, I think your blog should reflect your personality, not conform to any notions about what makes a blog more readable or more popular.

    Keep up what you're doing.

    Anne

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    1. Thank you, Anne. Your comment means a great deal to me because your blog was my primary inspiration! I'm really pleased that you feel as if you're learning something from my posts because that's exactly how I always felt about yours.

      As for conforming, even though I usually tell myself that I have to do what I like, recent discussions with other bloggers and soon-to-be bloggers has had me wondering about my format, etc. Someone recently commented that she felt strongly that a blog has to be organized by topic -- Monday for movies, Tuesday for restaurants, etc. Rather than listening to them, I'll follow your advice and just keep on doing what I'm doing. Thanks. And thanks for being such a great inspiration!

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  10. Hi Mary Kay. Yes. I meant exactly that.

    Greetings from Queenstown en route to Wellington. Doubtful Sound was magical!

    Your Friends in Boston (Peter)

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    1. Peter, Thanks, once again, for taking some time out from your vacation to answer my question!

      And please tell Mike "thanks" for posting on his blog during your travels. I'm having a wonderful time following your adventures.

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  11. That must have been a brilliant evening. We're big fans of David Lebovitz in this house. I shall have to look up the other food bloggers.
    I'm not a massive Facebook fan and don't do much with it, but I love Twitter although I'm not convinced it brings much extra traffic to my blog. For what it's worth, I usually get between 130 and 200 or so hits a day, although sometimes it's only 50 or 60, and once for no obvious reason I had 342!
    I think your blog would be hard to improve. The photos are frankly stunning and your writing is humorous and amazingly interesting. I look forward to reading it every day.

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    1. I'm a big fan of David Lebovitz as well. His book, "A Sweet Life in Paris", was one of the first ones that I read after moving here and his blog introduced me to lots of interesting places.

      My feeling is that Twitter doesn't bring much traffic but it's how I "met" you, so I'm pleased with it!

      I look forward to reading your blog every day, too. It's a good reminder that there's a place where fresh air, animals and skating on lakes exists.

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  12. Mary Kay- Your blog was one of the first I started reading before we moved here and I have used it so many times for more than just an insightful and entertaining read about Paris but I come back to it to revisit information for my daily life here. Thank you so so much for your hard work and creativity in discovering Paris. You're voice is perfect (I like that you keep Paris the main feature but still show who you are here and there) and of course you're not too old. Kristen x

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    1. Thanks, Kristen! It's really good to know that the information is also helpful for someone who lives in Paris. Reading your blog is a real pleasure for me because it transports me back to the days when I was newly married and trying to create a meaningful life in my husband's country.

      I'll make an effort not too feel too old to blog and tweet, even when Ella and you are talking about bands and trends that I know nothing about! ;)

      Thanks again. x bisous x

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  13. I can only echo many of the above -- wonderful post, great comments (and your responses), and especially the admiration of your photographs and overall quality of your blog and posts.

    Hope you keep on getting out and about in Paris! Cheers.

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    1. I'll definitely keep getting out and about - I'm having too much fun to stop.

      Likewise, keep up the great work on your blog. I admire that you're able to write even in the midst of loo renovations!

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