What’s the secret to great social media? Mecca Ibrahim, Head of Social Media at award-winning Great British Chefs, reveals all.

Winner of the Food & Drink category at The Good Web Guide’s Website of the Year Awards this year, Great British Chefs provides food lovers with great recipes, tips and how-to videos from the very best chefs in Britain. Head of Social Media at the company, Mecca Ibrahim previously worked at a number of innovative online businesses, including Yahoo, Just Giving, Moo.com and Joost. A passionate advocate and expert in social media, Mecca also hosts an annual food blogging competition called NomNomNom and runs the multi-award winning blog, London Underground Tube Diary. We caught up with her to find out more.

Great British Chefs was founded in… late 2010, although our website and apps did not come into being until mid 2011. Our founders spotted a gap in a market for people who wanted to recreate the recipes from award winning chefs. There were many sites around with every day recipes and we wanted to focus on restaurant quality dishes that could be created at home.

In the early days… we had some wags who would say that Great British cuisine is an oxymoron. We know it isn't. It's a great fusion of cultures from the great collection of nationalities that live in Great Britain.

Our main goal is… to get people talking about quality food. That might be food they've eaten in restaurants, at pop ups, at supper clubs, at pubs and also food they've made themselves. We inspire people each day with lots of mouth-watering images and want people to share those images, recipes and the stories behind them with their friends and networks. Social media allows this to happen very quickly and for the chefs to get involved in conversations around food too.

I joined the Great British Chefs in… July 2011, the day we launched our first recipe app. I've always been of the opinion that social media is changing how we buy, create and eat food, and the conversations and sharing we do around food are as important (and in some cases can be seen as more important) than the food itself. Social media has been at the heart of all of our recipes right from the start and we strive to make it as easy to share the amazing food our chefs and community produce.

I love eating and always have done… I watched cookery shows from a very early age and began cooking when I was young too. TV chefs such as Delia Smith and Keith Floyd and even silly shows such as Ready Steady Cook fascinated me and I love the alchemy involved in cookery and the magic of creating dishes out of raw ingredients.

I began blogging back in 2003… purely as a hobby and because I enjoyed reading other people's blogs. I started to blog about the Tube as everyone has an opinion on it and also because I love people watching. With 2.5 million travellers every day, you have a lot of source material.

A successful food blog has… great photography, an engaging story and passion. If you want to lick the screen when you see a food blog and also feel like you'd love to go out to dinner with the writer, then you've got a pretty successful blog.

Facebook and Twitter have been equally important to us… Our Facebook audience tends to be more consumer focused whereas our Twitter followers are more "trade" or B2B related - ie chefs, food brands, food bloggers. Twitter is great for more conversational messaging and particularly good if you are covering TV shows. Facebook allows you to show off larger imagery. The main thing to remember with the approach here is that you are in feeds where people are sharing photos of their babies, children and holidays as people are very much among people they know in real life.

The speed of social media is very powerful for chefs… We've seen people fill spare seats and tables in restaurants with a couple of Tweets. A restaurant's new menu can be shared in a matter of minutes together with behind the scenes peeks into kitchens. With bloggers and people on Twitter having audiences of tens of thousands, who can turn around blog posts and Tweets in minutes, who wouldn't want their work to be shared among these influencers?

Businesses considering launching an app should… think long and hard as the ones that stand out are expensive to create and an obvious benefit isn't income! Apps are great if you have found a true gap in the market as they allow you to talk to chefs and companies who don't have the skill set or budget to create one. However, a lot of blood, sweat and tears will go into the building of your app and you should only build one if you're convinced of its uniqueness. Finding a complementary partner can help bear the load and also help with the promotion and distribution of the app too.

My pet hate when it comes to social media is… people thinking that virals are easy or even possible to create. It's impossible to know why some cat videos go viral and some don't. Some things emotionally resonate with people and some don't. To this day, I can't predict which photos on our Facebook page will get the most likes and shares (chocolate has a better chance though - but some of our more unsavoury savoury posts about grubs on burgers have done particularly well)!

Competition has always been and always will be our greatest challenge… We pride ourselves in aiming at a premium audience or people who aspire to eat at great restaurants. However the breadth of the food world is enormous and people can be as passionate talking about a plate of fish and chips as they can be talking about a dessert with gold leaf in it. As our content comes from great chefs and great bloggers we hope to be able to cover a wide spectrum of subjects, budgets and tastes.

My advice to anyone starting a food blog today is… be passionate. Write as though you wanted to tell your best friend about the subject. Try to use as many of your senses as possible when writing about food. Visually the blog needs to look good, but if people can hear the food cooking, smell it and get a sense of touch while reading your blog, you're onto a winner.

Winning The GWG Website of the Year Awards 2013 Food & Drink category was… a true delight and a very happy surprise as we up against some amazing competition. We all remember when the site was just a couple of hundred recipes with no blog and a dozen videos. We're now at almost 2,000 recipes, over 1,000 blog posts and 150 videos and how-to articles; it feels like seeing your infant child going off to primary school.

It's hard to pick my favourite food blog or website as I look at hundreds each month… I really enjoy Sous Chef as I love hard to find ingredients and being experimental in the kitchen. Matthew Fort is one of my favourite food writers as his enjoyment of food and eating spills from his blog. I'm also a big fan of Yotam Ottolenghi - not only for his mouthwatering recipes but from the approach he's taken towards rewarding people who share his recipes or blog posts across social media.

November 2013