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Do you have a blog?

Want to use your blog to inspire change?

This episode explores how a blogger followed her passion and grew a mega following in a few short years.

More About This Show

The Social Media Marketing podcast is an on-demand talk radio show from Social Media Examiner. It’s designed to help busy marketers and business owners discover what works with social media marketing.

Join me as I interview Vani Hari, who is known online as the Food Babe. Her popular blog, FoodBabe.com, focuses on healthy eating. She’s built a large platform through articles and videos that investigate unhealthy ingredients in food. Her new book is called The Food Babe Way.

In this episode Vani will share how she got started with her blog and built her following.

You’ll discover how to apply Vani’s lessons and journey to your own business blog.

podcast 148 vani hari how a blog launched a movement

Listen as Vani Hari shares how a blog launched a movement.

Share your feedback, read the show notes and get the links mentioned in this episode below.

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Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this show:

How a Blog Launched a Movement

Vani’s story

Vani’s parents were from India, and moved to the United States right after they married. The first thing Vani’s father introduced her mother to was a McDonald’s hamburger. Since cows are sacred in India, her mother had never eaten a hamburger before and it was a shock to her system. It turned out American food didn’t sit well with Vani’s mother, so she just made Indian food at home.

However, she let Vani and her brother eat whatever they wanted. Because the siblings wanted to fit in with their neighbors and peers (Indian food looked weird and smelled funny to some of the other kids), they shunned their mother’s cooking and asked for fast food and other processed foods.

As a result, Vani had a lot of health issues as a child: eczema, asthma, allergies and stomachaches. She didn’t tie them to food; she thought they were largely genetic, because her brother also had health issues. Many years later, her health issues caught up with her. Vani was working in a prestigious job for a big-six consulting firm shortly after she graduated from college. She gained over 30 pounds right away (eating catered meals brought into the office and fancy dinners out), and landed in the hospital with appendicitis. Vani didn’t look or feel well. It was a major wake-up call.

Food Babe Way Book

The Food Babe Way by Vani Hari.

After her recovery, when Vani got back to work, she started to research health and nutrition. She wanted to lose the weight and get healthy.

Vani set out to learn about what she was eating; what the ingredients were, why they were in the food and why the food companies were using them. She discovered the chemicals put in food (many of which were invented in the last 50 years or so) were there just to improve the bottom line of the food industry, to figure out how to sell food cheaper by using food-like substances and making them taste like real food. Vani realized the majority of the food she had been eating was processed and had little to no nutrients left in it.

The health incident happened 14 years ago and Vani started the blog 4 years ago. The Food Babe Way is all about adopting healthy eating habits.

Listen to the show to discover what Vani’s aunt told her cousin about Vani’s new look.

FoodBabe.com

Vani says she created the blog because her co-workers and friends asked her to.

She explains how she came up with the name. After asking her husband to register the name EatHealthlyLiveForever.com, Vani recalls him saying, “Are you crazy? That’s a horrible name. No one’s going to remember that.” She asked him to come up with something better. A few minutes later, he saw FoodBabe.com was available on auction, and suggested that.

At first Vani didn’t want to call it Food Babe because for most of her life, she was anything but a food babe. She decided she wouldn’t call herself the Food Babe, but would instead teach others to become Food Babes. She didn’t even have a photo of herself on the header of the blog for the first year and a half.

The first thing Vani blogged about was eating out while traveling, since she was doing that all the time. She shared one of her salmon recipes and posted a video about a different way to increase your heart rate while doing low-impact exercise on an elliptical.

Those are the kinds of things she blogged about in the beginning.

Listen to the show to learn how Vani found time to blog.

Food Babe’s turning point

Once Vani realized there were people beyond her friends and family who needed information about what’s in our food, she started to do investigations. Vani wanted to share new, cutting-edge information with her audience, and did research to back it up.

One investigation in 2012 was into Chipotle. Although the brand said it was “food with integrity,” they would not publicly release their ingredients. Vani was upset, so she went to every Chipotle location she could drive to and tried to convince employees to show her the back of packages with ingredients, so she could write it down and report it to the public.

When Vani released her investigation into Chipotle, and railed at them for not disclosing their ingredients, within a week, someone started a petition on her behalf, which got more than 2,000 signatures. Chipotle’s communication director Chris Arnold reached out to her, apologized and said the company would post the ingredients online. But they wanted to change some of the ingredients first.

“Six months later, he sent me an email with the words ‘ta da’ added to the list of ingredients in Chipotle food,” Vani recalls. “Not only did they list the ingredients online for the first time in history, they did something that no other food chain had ever done. They listed which ingredients were GMO and which ones weren’t. And now they’ve taken it a step further.”

Listen to the show to discover Vani’s favorite meal at Chipotle.

How Food Babe developed into the blog it is today

In Vani’s first year of blogging, she had a total of 11,000 visitors. Last year, there were 54 million visitors to the blog.

For the first year and a half of the blog, Vani did it part-time, and was making no money on it. Food Babe was purely a passion project. At the end of 2012, Vani quit her corporate job because she felt the food movement needed her more. She put her full attention on the blog and changed the look and the format of it.

In the beginning, when people went to FoodBabe.com, they saw three cartoon characters and had no idea who was writing it. The first time Vani revealed herself to her readers was on the header image that’s on her website.

“People finally could relate to who I was and what I was doing,” Vani explains. “I started to share my story in an even more personal way.”

foodbabe.com

Vani had her blog for a year and a half before she revealed herself in this banner to her audience.

Within two months, she started a petition to take on one of the largest food corporations in the world: Kraft. Vani’s efforts prevailed. They got Kraft to remove artificial food dyes from Kraft Mac & Cheese.

The Kraft campaign put Vani in the media spotlight. She was interviewed by almost every major media outlet, which was both exciting and terrifying.

That month, Vani received thousands of letters from parents across the globe who said when they removed all the artificial food dyes from their child’s diet, their child’s health and learning improved, among other things.

Listen to the show to learn more about the Kraft story, as well as the double standard for ingredients in Europe versus the United States.

How Vani uses video

Anytime Vani launches a petition, she creates a video to go along with it. The reason, she says, is because people learn differently. Some like reading, others like watching.

If you can represent your ideas in a quick video, it can be very powerful. It solidifies your message with viewers and helps people share the information with all age groups. Not everyone will read a 1,000-word blog post or a petition, but they might watch a video.

Multimedia platforms are essential in order to get your message across.

For example, Vani’s yoga mat video is one that got a lot of views. To show how absurd the amount of chemicals and additives that are being put in our food, and what the applications were outside of food, she thought it would be fun to get on a yoga mat and bite it to make a point.

Another benefit to video, Vani explains, is sometimes the media doesn’t even call you to do an interview. They just show your video. They even used the yoga mat video on Good Morning America.

Vani says the majority of videos about food are being funded by the food companies themselves. In order to level the playing field, food advocates need to use the medium of video to get the message out in a truthful and upfront way. This Doritos commercial by The Sum of Us, which talks about palm oil, is an excellent example of using video for the cause.

Listen to the show to learn more about the benefits of video.

How Vani’s built her Facebook fan base

In the beginning Vani valued Facebook marketing more than her email list, even though Internet marketers always say an email list has to be top priority. She included “Come and Like my Facebook Fan page” at the end of blog posts to build her following.

She also did guest blogging for bigger bloggers. When they shared Vani’s posts, they would mention her Facebook page and people would go like it.

“Becoming friends with other large pages, collaborating and sharing each other’s content, tends to work really well,” Vani says. “Your fan is someone else’s fan too. If your ideals and principles are the same, you are working toward the same goal.”

Food Babe Facebook

Food Babe’s Facebook page has nearly 1 million fans.

Vani likes Facebook native video, but she also suggests continuing to post to YouTube, as well.

When you write a blog post, you share it on all of your networks. It’s the same thing with video now. If you create a video, post a small clip on Instagram, and then put the full video on Facebook and YouTube. You can even put a Vine video together.

Vani’s investigations take weeks to do, so she blogs maybe once or twice a week, usually about four times a month. People need to realize the first time they share something on social media, not everybody sees it. Your audience is not waiting around for your posts because they have busy lives. Reshare your content over and over again.

“Even though I want to blog every day and share something new every day, I realized that’s not even good,” Vani believes. “It’s better to have higher-quality work and share it multiple times to get the maximum value out of the work that you do.”

Listen to the show to learn about the legwork that goes into Vani’s investigations.

What Vani has learned from her critics

Vani never sought out to be this kind of public figure in the food movement. She says a lot of people want the food system to stay the same, because there’s so much money involved.

There are two kinds of critics. Thoughtful critics make you stronger and better as a result of their criticism. There are also critics who are defamatory or want to get famous off of your name or keep the broken food system because they’re benefiting. Those critics are also part of your journey.

One of Vani’s favorite phrases, by a Buddhist monk, is: “no mud, no lotus.” Without the struggle, you can’t have progress.

You just need to accept that the struggle is going to be there. If you have a message and you know you have to get the information out, don’t be scared. Realize there’s a much bigger mission out there with people behind you. The universe has your back.

“As long as your goal is to help people, nobody can get in the way of that,” Vani says. “And if they do try, keep going and don’t let them distract you.”

Listen to the show to discover some of the companies that changed due to Vani’s efforts.

Discovery of the Week

Soovle.com is a simple service. Go to the website, type in a phrase or keyword and it will show you what comes up on Google, YouTube, Bing, Yahoo, Wikipedia, Answers.com, eBay, Weather Channel, Netflix and more.

Soovle

Use Soovle to search a bunch of specific sites at once.

Soovle is a great tool to use when you’re looking for interesting keywords to use in your blog posts or advertising. It’s also an excellent way to see how the different results look across social channels.

For example, I put in “Native Video.” On Google, I got native video advertising examples, native video and native video advertising. On YouTube, I got Native American music and Native American flute. On Yahoo, I got Native Americans and on Bing I got Native foods. So, it’s pretty obvious that Google knows what native video is, but none of the other platforms do.

Another use for Soovle is to test what the popular phrases are on the various search engines and see if there’s any consistency.

It’s a very cool, easy-to-use service, and what you do with it is up to you.

Listen to the show to learn more and let us know how Soovle works for you.

Other Show Mentions

The Social Media Marketing Society just opened. It’s a membership community for social media marketers who struggle to keep up with latest in social.

If you find yourself overwhelmed and you don’t know what to focus on, the Social Media Marketing Society is for you. It includes three original, tactical training sessions every month and a community of peers who are invested in social. There are very active forums, so people can ask and answer questions, as well as social hangouts for people to get to know each other.

There are already more than 1,200 marketers who are part of the society. Enrollment closes at the end of June and won’t reopen until 2016. If you want to get in on the Social Media Marketing Society, visit SMsociety.com and watch the behind-the-scenes tour video to see what it’s like.

Listen to the show!
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Key takeaways mentioned in this episode:

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What do you think? What are your thoughts on blogging? Please leave your comments below.

social media marketing podcast 148 vani hari

Vani Hari talks with Michael Stelzner about how her blog launched a movement.

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  • I think this is an awesome story, and I share Vani’s passion. However, I wish that she had spoken more about what the people on this platform are interested in, i.e. HOW. We really aren’t interested in what she’s promoting, we’re interested in how she started her blog and what she does/uses to make it successful. More of the how and less of the what would have been appreciated.

  • Hey Emily – Did you listen to the interview. She goes less into the tech and more into the steps she took and how she uses the various platforms.

  • Hey Michael. Yes, I did. I loved it at the end where she got more into the steps she took. I thought that part was great! She seems like a wonderful person and I’m so glad you were able to interview her and share it with us. I think I’ll be joining her following shortly. 🙂

  • Jesse Redden

    This is a paid advert.

  • Jesse Redden

    Do you mean how she manipulates people’s ignorance of chemistry to market products?

  • Jesse Redden

    Who talks like that? I really hope you allow the comments to keep open.

  • Jesse Redden

    Emily, would your position at ‘A Better Way To Buy’ have anything to do with marketing for the food babe?

  • gani000

    nowRead this examiner < Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $177 per hour. I work through this link, < w­­­w­­­w.­­­N­e­­t­­­c­a­s­h­­­­9­­.­­­C­­­o­­­m

    llllllllllllllllllllllllll

  • What a crock. Hari “built” her following with fear-mongering and lies. That isn’t something people should be wanting to emulate. You should be embarrassed promoting a charlatan like this.

  • Sorry Jesse this is not a paid advertisement and your other comments were removed because they violated our commenting policy.

  • LOVE that you shared this story. Times have changed and one person can have a voice AND start a movement – no longer do we have to be invited by the old “media” to say something, market something or have a voice or a successful business. I love this interview, both because it is a great story about how powerful blogging can be and how social and blogs can feed into each other… but also because I believe with every fibre of my being that our food industry around the world is flawed, can be improved, and we have a right to ask questions and say “what is in this food that I am eating/giving to my kids?”… it’s not surprising to me people around the world are going back to basics to eat food that our grandmother’s could grow, bake or, heck…pronounce…

    Normally I would just comment on the social content of these posts (as they are awesome and no, Social Media Examiner does not pay for content or engage in any sponsored posts) but I’m with Vani – food is medicine and I have seen too many examples of processed food impacting on health (my own children included and myself). I am excited to see a blogger make a difference like this and to see companies listening and doing the right thing. More power to her! I’m now a fan.

  • Teresa H

    I’ll take less of anything she has to say because it’s all a bunch of lies anyway. She gets paid to say what she says and when asked to back up her supposed facts with some data she will quickly block you and not allow questions. Be a lemming like the rest of her followers but don’t ever question the food boob.

  • What I got out her interview and I really feel this way, blogging and becoming a well known blogger is hard work and luck. It is like winning the lottery. There are bloggers out there who follow your advice to the “T” and work hours on their blogs but only have 1000 subscribers. I don’t think she was advertising, she really isn’t that knowledgeable about social media.

  • Very inspirational story. Foodbabe is a great name and Vani should always consult her husband for advice 😀

  • Does your commenting policy simply say, “must not say anything critical, only supporting comments allowed?” Since my comment was removed for mentioning Vani Hari’s charlatan ways, I figure that must be it. And I figure this one will be removed, too. Because that’s what social media is about – censoring disagreement.

  • Naomi Bowe

    Her method of getting to where she is today is basically fearmongering.

  • Sterling Ericsson

    Is there a reason why you’re deleting any comment critical of Hari or that are linking to the copious amount of sources by scientists and other professionals showing how she is just a pseudoscience promoter?

  • Jorge

    Food Babe is very convincing and charming. Unfortunally she uses misdirection and fear to push products she endorses and get paid to do so. Just check her website. She has no health science background but she is not shy about telling you what to eat and what is “dangerous” for you. It is all about her profits

  • Eric Tergerson

    I see that you’re aiming to showcase examples of social media, and the Food Babe has certainly been a “winning” case. -But unfortunately Vani’s message has been quite misguided. I don’t know if she knows it or not, but her nutritional advice seems to be driven more by profit, and not by good health practices.

  • David N. Andrews MEd, CPSE

    “Social Media Examiner”

    You don’t really do very thorough examinations, do you?

    You haven’t examined, for example, the capacity for damage or harm through blogs that promote quackery … such as Vani Hari’s blog. Yes, her blog launched a movement. Sadly, it was a retrograde movement in many senses: it’s taking the world a step back into situations that science had helped us to improve on.

    Whilst ever you focus on that one side of her blog, without examining the adverse effect of what she lets her ‘passion’ tell her to do, you’re not really all that credible as a ‘social media examiner’.

  • Vani Hari has no scientific training: knows no chemistry or biology, yet continues to make ridiculous fear mongering claims to get attention. She is an embarrassment.

  • Henry_Smith

    And what about all the controversy her unscientific advice has generated? Doesn’t that side of the story warrant a mention? Is she helping other people or helping herself?

  • Twinsen

    Vani Hari is a shill for pseudoscience quackery. If you want to make a quick buck selling snake oil, buy her approval. Otherwise, avoid all of her advice.

    I’m here for my ban or censoring or whatever else you people do to ensure sales.

  • Ron

    Vani Hari is nothing more than a fraud that spreads dangerous misinformation. Why would anyone want to promote that?

  • Karin

    As a social media professional myself, I disagree strongly with your presentation of Hari as a successful blogger. She represents some of the worst of blogging and social media practices by not doing any research, shamelessly misrepresenting data to sell her products (which sometimes contain the exact ingredients she advocates against) and banning any dissent, which runs contrary to all the values of social media.

  • ethrop

    On the face of it, this article seems like a promotion piece for pseudo-science and misinformation. I understand your web site is devoted to web marketing and in that sense, yes, Vani Hari has been successful. At the same time, however, it seems you are promoting this sort of “success” at the expense of the truth. It is indeed unfortunate that web sites are not subject to federal regulations on truth in advertising. Vani Hari is a charlatan. I wouldn’t be proud of heralding her dubious “achievements”.

  • Uniscorn

    Everything that comes out of this lady is hot-air & gibberish, it’s deeply saddening that she has people catering to her every whim.

  • David

    Disappointing. This could have been an opportunity to focus on the perils of how social media allows a voice to anyone, even when they are patently wrong about their assertions, as Hari is in almost every instance. Instead, it became cheerleading for even more misguided use of mass social media to point large groups of people in the wrong direction, and then exploit them for profit (no mention of the large number of instances Hari has violated Facebook policy with hidden/unannounced for-profit affiliate links?). This is exactly the opposite of the sort of social media use we should be promoting and advocating for…

  • Chuck we have a policy against defamatory language. Look around the post and you will see plenty of people posting their concerns about Vani.

  • Dissector

    I think you may have left a few words out of your title… Such as “pseudoscience” or “fear-mongering” or “charlatan.”

  • Emma P

    “Even though I want to blog every day and share something new every day, I realized that’s not even good,” Vani believes. “It’s better to have higher-quality work and share it multiple times to get the maximum value out of the work that you do.”Where is this “high quality work” she speaks of? Every one of her blog posts contains some combination of factual error, gross misinformation, spelling mistakes or Amazon affiliate links to sell product.

  • Andrew Broeker

    It’s not defamation if it’s true.

  • Mischa Ballard

    She is nothing but a shill…getting paid to push products. Products that contain things she has called for bans on. She is a snake oil salesperson of the highest caliber…

  • Mischa Ballard

    What you fail to see is that most of the comments about Vani being a shill have more likes then the ones praising her. That has to say something, right?

  • Sterling Ericsson

    Apparently my previous comment asking why you were deleting critical comments was then deleted for being “spam”. Is this appropriate social media handling to you?

  • Ben Schaefer

    This thread reads like the L!FE magazine’s facebook page.
    You disagree with me? You are a paid shill! and Now I will delete you shill comment.
    No shills here!
    Now, check out this link to foodbabe telling you which of her sponsors you can buy from….

  • Jennifer Tallon

    Vani’s co workers urged her to start a blog? If this is true it is most likely because her continuous orthorexic verbal rants in the work place were driving them crazy.
    Vani could have done well by taking organic chemistry, horticulture or a food science course before misleading millions like her whom also have no educational background on these subjects.
    Vani is a fearmongerer for profit. Her influence is an embarrassing testimony to our country’s lack of focus on science in public education. I am sorry that you have chosen this willfully ignorant promoter of misinformation for profit as your article’s subject.

  • Jennifer Tallon

    Vani’s co workers urged her to start a blog? If this is most likely because her continuous orthorexic verbal rants in the work place were driving them crazy.
    Vani could have done well by taking organic chemistry, horticulture or a food science course before misleading millions like her whom also have no educational background on these subjects.
    Vani is a fearmongerer for profit. Her influence is an embarrassing testimony to our country’s lack of focus on science in public education. I am sorry that you have chosen this willfully ignorant promoter of misinformation for profit as your subject.

  • Jennifer Tallon

    Vani’s co workers urged her to start a blog? If this is true, it is most likely because her continuous orthorexic verbal rants in the work place were driving them crazy.
    Vani could have done well by taking organic chemistry, horticulture or a food science course before misleading millions like her whom also have no educational background on these subjects.
    Vani’s influence is an embarrassing testimony to our country’s lack of focus on science in public education. I am sorry that you have chosen this willfully ignorant promoter of misinformation for profit as your subject.

  • Eric Jaquay

    This woman has no credibility whatsoever, and obscures important food issues, like feeding an ever-expanding global population with limited resources, and instead uses fear-mongering and misinformation to alarm the first world. Any story about her that does not acknowledge these facts is rubbish.

  • Social Media Examiner is a great blog, but this post is absolutely stomach-churning. “The universe has your back”?!

    Food Babe is indeed a great example of social media “success” — the kind of success that pumps out alarmist, tin-foil-hat, wilfully ignorant screeds that spread like wildfire across Facebook. The huge problem is that lots of people won’t read much else on these issues, and so frequently absorb this bilge on some level: “Hmm, I saw something on Facebook about how GMOs/fluoride/vaccines are dangerous. I’m not saying I believe it, but you have to keep an open mind!”

    As other people here have pointed out, Food Babe — along with the likes of Natural News, InfoWars and David Wolfe — just demonstrates how wildly effective social media can be in spreading quackery, and it’s very disappointing that the writer has guzzled the Food Babe Kool-Aid with such uncritical abandon.

    All that said, most of the comments on the thread have revived my faith in human nature!

  • Twinsen

    I knew you’d delete my comments. The great social media censor at work, ladies and gentlemen.

  • Twinsen

    Don’t worry, those comments have been selectively eliminated.

  • Diana Steinberg

    While this podcast clearly hones in on Vani’s opinions and activism, is in favor of
    her notion of healthy eating, and is based on her supposed findings, regardless
    of her credibility, she is an incredibly talented woman. Despite the disputed
    trustworthiness of her claims, in Vani’s first year of blogging, she had a
    total of 11,000 visitors. With 54 million visitors to the blog tabulated last
    year, she must be doing something right.

    In addition to promoting Vani’s thoughts on health and wellness, the podcast
    speculates on the process she took to amass such an immense online following. In
    lieu of solely focusing on her mission to promote healthy foods, I also paid a
    great deal of attention to these tips for successful social media marketing,
    which I deem incredibly important for any aspiring marketer, blogger, or even
    average social media user.

    I found it especially interesting how Vani uses video every time she launches a
    petition for the reason that all people learn differently. She explains that if
    ideas can be summarized and represented through a quick video, it can be a very
    powerful tool to solidify messages with viewers.

  • Iral Zetina

    I’m sorry Michael, but this was not helpful. I turned it off after about 20 minutes of listening to her talk about her personal story with food.

    This woman has been discredited countless times and continues to be because she has absolutely zero credentials. She also scares people into believing her, because they have no other knowledge.

    Honestly, I think she just got lucky with her “social media success.” She’s not a marketer and doesn’t know anything about it… or many other things, apparently.