At Tunheim, we believe that building relationships with influencers is a vital best practice—so, we decided to sit down with our friend and expert on all things delicious, Amanda Paa of Heartbeet Kitchen. Over some delicious Friendsgiving fare, cooked by the food and lifestyle guru herself, #TeamTunheim chatted with Paa about what goes on in the complex world of a social media influencer

How did you get started in the blogging/ influencer world?
When I moved to the Twin Cities, I found a love for the farmers markets and became very inspired by the industry. The conversations that I was having with the farmers and vendors were so much more impactful than the conversations I was having in my day job. I started my blog and developing recipes back in 2011 as a creative outlet, around the same time that I found out I couldn’t eat gluten. After a couple years of balancing my day job with Heartbeet Kitchen, I realized that there really is some passion here and I was ready to take the leap. Five years ago, I made Heartbeet Kitchen my full-time job.

Influencer marketing has boomed in recent years, where do you think the future of this wide-spread tactic is headed?
I think the tides are going to turn a little bit. For one, I think reading long-form blogs is going to become popular again. And second, brands are going to start realizing that follower count is not as important as they may have thought, and that micro-influencers are a much more successful avenue to explore. It’s the people that have been around a long time and understand the influencer business that are much more valuable to partner with. These influencers have seen all these up’s and down’s and haven’t given up. There’s something to be said about staying through all those changes and still being successful.

Brand partnerships should be mutually beneficial. What requirements do you feel are necessary for this to be true?
A lot of it has to do with good communication. It’s important to be upfront on the expectations, and I think that’s typically what comes across from the brand, but as an influencer, you can and should give the brand your expectations and goals for the project. Ask them, “what do you need this content for?”, “who is your target audience?” and “where do you want to serve this content the most?” Something else that I think is important, is having a genuine support for one another. I am proud and happy to be working with you [the brand] and would hope you feel the same way about me.

For those who say the blogging/ influencer industry is becoming too saturated, what would you say?
Well, I do think that the talent on Instagram is saturated. There are few influencers that can do multiple things very well. Is the market saturated with high-quality influencers? No, I don’t think it is. Having the “whole package” is hard to come by, which is why I think it is important for brands to find well-rounded influencers to partner with.

“Authenticity” has recently become an industry buzzword in relation to the content that influencers share on social media platforms. At Tunheim, we like to use the words “real” or “human” as it relates to influencer-created content. Do you think being “real” or “human” is a crucial trait to be a successful influencer?
Yes, I do. For me, my brand is mostly food related, but I’ve never shied away from talking about normal things in my life. For instance, fostering kittens; it’s on my Instagram feed because it’s important to who I am and I want people to know that. When I see Instagram feeds that are strictly just food photos that all look the same, that’s not inspiring to me. It’s boring and I don’t really get to know the person. I think there’s a balance. I’m not afraid to share a lot of myself, but I also think there are things that should be kept private.

Do you think it is more effective when brands reach out to influencers for partnerships or vice versa? What is your approach?
It is important to do both, but I do enjoy reaching out to brands that I genuinely connect with on my own. It’s fun when I find something in stores, and I reach out and let them know how beneficial it has been for my kitchen—and to see if there is a possibility for a partnership. I think it makes the brands feel good when people are recognizing and authentically enjoying their product. It’s important to do it the other way around, too. Sometimes as influencers, we may not think we are good enough for a partnership…until a brand asks. Something that you can do, regardless of who makes the initial outreach, is to get on the phone and talk. Communicating solely on email, it can be difficult to translate personality, feeling and emotion. Speaking on the phone is much more personable, and that way the person on the other line can have a better idea of who you truly are.

Now for some fun ones! What is your number one tip for a successful Friendsgiving?
You don’t have to make a full turkey! Make the smaller bone-in turkey breast, two sides and then assign your friends to bring other items such as bread, dessert, salad or cheese. Always assign something specific, otherwise, if you just tell them to bring “something,” they will stress about it.

Favorite Friendsgiving or Thanksgiving tradition?
We always go around the table and say one thing that we are thankful for, and it really just helps everyone pause and take time to be grateful. Oh, and pumpkin pie 😊.

Amanda Paa is a Minneapolis-based food and lifestyle blogger, whose blog Heartbeet Kitchen is a celebration of delicious recipes combined with tidbits of her everyday life. Paa grew up in New Ulm, Minnesota with a family who always cooked and ate together. Her passion for sharing food stories and experiences is rooted in her overall enjoyment of cooking and the positivity that it can bring to our lives. In 2014, Paa published her first cookbook titled, Smitten by Squash. Overall, her philosophy is that the best meals are those made with fresh, local, simple ingredients, and always what’s in season. Follow along on Paa’s foodie adventures via Instagram at @heartbeetkitchen, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

Members of #TeamTunheim and Amanda Paa of Heartbeet Kitchen.

Paa in her element during a client B-roll shoot.