NORWOOD, N.J. -- Easy banana pancakes, homemade taco seasoning and penne with vodka are some of the recipes you'll find at @aldentediva, an Instagram account started by Tara Ippolito-Lafontant six years ago.
"My brand is simple," says the Norwood resident. "I just want to influence and inspire people to cook; maybe introduce someone to a product or technique they never knew.
"I try to post easy recipes anyone can do that will also taste great."
It seems to be working. The 35-year-old mom of a six-week-old has 12,800 Instagram followers.
Though she's also on Facebook, Flipagram and YouTube, Instagram is the platform she's put most of her efforts into.
"Sites like Instagram have made me fall in love with social media," she said. "I get to do what I love and sample products from different companies."
She said she doesn't do it for the free products -- though she loves getting them -- but for the joy in spreading her recipes and meeting people from around the world, albeit virtually. "It's a great feeling. I could never have done that without social media," she said.
As for how she got those followers, she said it all starts with engagement. "I will always write back," she said.
"I'm in touch with every person who shows interest in my account, whether that means posting a comment or sending a Direct Message.
"I also follow back most food-related accounts and will comment and engage their pages as well because I like to see what they're creating.
"Engaging with people has not only been how I grow followers but also keep them."
It's also important to stay true to your brand. Her biggest advice? Don't chase numbers.
"Chasing numbers can have you looking at other accounts copying their style and content hoping for the same response. Keep doing your unique thing and it will pay off," she said.
"I never want to post content just for views. I'd rather have 10 people that make my recipe in a post than 100 people that 'like' it just cause.
Ippolito- Lafontan strongly believes social media is the future of business because of the trust influencers build with their audience. "If they are using something or say it's good I believe them and I want to try it too," she said.
That means being honest on her platform. "I will never post a negative review of a product. But if I love and believe in it, I'm happy to share..
"That means saying no to companies sometimes too. Which happens more then you might think," she said.
Among those she follows: BBQ_Queen, Grillseeker and Bar_N_QUE.
As for how to achieve the same social media success she's had, the Bergen resident advises experimenting. "Just mess around with it for a while. Eventually, you'll get the hang of it," she said.
"Keep in mind, we all started with zero followers."
In fact, she never thought it would benefit her that much until companies started reaching out.
"I felt so honored they thought I would be able to help them in some way," she said. "I started this as a way to simply share my recipes with whoever was interested.
"I'm proud it's done so well."
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