How a food blog turned into Austin’s go-to restaurant recommendation

Jane Ko, more commonly known as Koko, is the voice behind Austin top food and travel blog, A Taste of Koko. At age 24, she bought her first house and made the blog her full-time job.

ZOG Digital spoke with Ko about her job as an influencer for all things food, lifestyle, and travel. She is the official restaurant expert for Visit Austin, TX, has been featured in The Huffington Post, 512 Tech, and CultureMap, and even spoken at South By Southwest (SXSW) and the Texas Conference for Women. We were able to catch some time with her to discuss her Austin appetite and passion for sharing her opinions.

ZD: You inspire so many foodies, what drove you to share your thoughts, input, and recipes?

Ko: I was in my senior year of studying my undergrad in nutrition when I realized I didn’t want to become a dietitian. This was in 2010 before blogging was the cool thing to do. I was reading some national blogs and was inspired by the brand they created for themselves, and I wanted to create one for myself.

ZD: How did you find your way to the weird place of Austin and how did you become the official restaurant expert for Visit Austin, TX?

Ko: I came to Austin to study my undergrad at the University of Texas Austin in 2007 and ended up staying in town after graduating. I’ve been writing restaurant coverage for 4 years when the Visit Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau asked me if I would be their restaurant expert.

ZD: Did you always plan on blogging and using social media? If so, when did it turn toward food, restaurants, and travel?

Ko: Not at all! I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my degree and started this blog for fun. A Taste of Koko was a recipe blog for two years – I loved making desserts in my apartment, so much that I even launched a macaron catering company for two years.

I received my first restaurant invitation in 2012 and completely switched to Austin restaurant coverage. I bought my first house when I was 24, and my blog then evolved into lifestyle and travel.

ZD: I’ve read that after a few years of successful blogging, you quit your former full-time job to pursue blogging as your full-time job. What inspired you to do this and why?

Ko: I’ve had four jobs since graduating – all of which I only stayed at for less than a year. I’ve always been an advocate of not doing something you don’t love. I wasn’t loving my last full-time job, so I quit. I was reviewing different job offers when I started receiving more and more brand collaborations. I figured I’d start job hunting once the collaborations stopped. It’s been two years since!

ZD: How do you separate your work and personal life?

Ko: Since I do my blog full-time, my work and personal life have become one now. I share pretty much my entire life with the exception of personal events on my blog and social media.

ZD: When did you notice your following (via blog/social) take off and what do you think sparked it?

Ko: The blogging industry took off in 2015 when we started consuming content through blogs, in addition to TV, and traditional print media. Instagram also helped launch the blogging industry and that’s when A Taste of Koko started growing.

ZD: What was it that made you realize, you were an influencer within the food realm?

Ko: When people started to consistently ask me where to eat in Austin. Haha!

ZD: Which platform(s) do you feel are the most impactful for you as an influencer and why?

Ko: Definitely Instagram! Instagram is a visual platform that allows influencers like myself share editorial through photography.

ZD: What opportunities has this passion and hobby of yours opened?

Ko: I’ve been so lucky to collaborate with brands like Target, IKEA, KitchenAid, Carnival Cruise Line, and PayPal. I’ve been featured in InStyle Magazine, O Magazine, and Oprah Winfrey OWN Network. More importantly, I have readers that ask me for recommendations every day and it’s very rewarded to hear people tell me that I’ve inspired them to pursue their passions.

ZD: If you had one piece of advice for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps as a food blogger and expert, what would you tell them?

Ko: Become an expert in a niche. Even if you want to be a food blogger – are you a healthy recipe blogger? Gluten-free? Vegan? Restaurant coverage? Define yourself and become an expert.

Follow Jane Ko’s passion for food, travel, and life on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

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