WEEK 5: A Conversation with Guest Speaker Babette Pepaj by Mariana Muela

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By UCLA X469.21 Student Mariana Muela 

Mariana Muela

Mariana Muela

Our Week 5 guest speaker, Babette Pepaj, gave us a glimpse of what it’s like to run an online community and publishing platform.

After working as a reality TV producer for more than 13 years, Babette launched BakeSpace.com in 2006 as the web’s first food social network. Since then, the site has evolved to include branded recipes, marketing newsletters, cooking videos and all sorts of promotions using Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Periscope, Instagram and other popular platforms.

Babette Pepaj

Babette Pepaj

One of the interesting topics Babette covered was how doing business today is different than when she launched BakeSpace in 2006. “Now you’re able to reach more people at a much larger scale across platforms, as opposed to 10 years ago when you had to convince people to come to your website,” she explained. “Today you have to go where your customers are and create experiences for platforms beyond your own site.”

Beyond its core website community and recipe swap, BakeSpace has a mobile app (Cookbook Café) for publishing and reading user and brand generated cookbooks).

Babette also covered a few tactics and best practices, such as how to create a Snapchat geofilter and link it with an event — like she did in Austin during SXSW to promote her gourmet s’mores tasting event for influencers. She also told us about how Disney-Pixar leveraged BakeSpace and the TECHmunch Food Blogger Conference to promote the movie “Inside Out.” For the Inside Out Contest, the studio created character-themed cupcakes that were a big success on social media.

Today at #techmunch food bloggers convention @pixarinsideout donuts. Thanks @imagevideo for 📷. (Not available for sale at the shop.)

A photo posted by California Donuts #21 (@californiadonuts) on

“Give people something to photograph, and they’ll get creative and share it with the world,” she added.

Babette then provided several very useful tips for dealing with critics on social media:

  • Read negative comments in their entirety and with an open mind before making any assumptions.
  • Don’t delete negative comments.
  • If an apology is in order, make sure it comes across as genuine – but avoid coming across as over-the-top nice, because it may be viewed as condescending.
  • Be helpful.

And finally, she wrapped up the discussion with a few tips for producing and promoting great content:

  • Approach online sweepstakes with caution. There are lots of people out there eager to game the system and violate whatever rules you set up.
  • Influencers want the money and power (Babette said in a voice inspired by the Tony Montana character in the film “Scarface”). Do your research. The top influencer on the totem pole isn’t always the most efficient person to reach your target audience. Those who are on the lower end of the totem pole might get you more cost-effective results.
  • Use hashtags on Instagram – they’re the key to your success.

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