Going ‘Loko’

How Loko Kitchen used Instagram to win over 200K followers
Naomi Szeben
May 02, 2019
Written by
Geometric and symmetrical images show this black sesame tart with dragonfruit, kiwi and mango to their best advantage
Geometric and symmetrical images show this black sesame tart with dragonfruit, kiwi and mango to their best advantage Photos courtesy of Lauren Ko, of Loko Kitchen.
Bakers, caterers and restaurateurs are using Instagram to promote their services and show off their skills. The social media app started as a story-sharing medium in 2010, to display captioned photos from its users around the world. Today, everyone from teens to marketing executives harnesses its popularity to get their name or brand recognized globally.

The app can help your business soar into Internet fame literally overnight, as it did for Lauren Ko, better known as the name behind the stunning geometrically designed pies. Videos of her sculpting strips of dough and placing them over various fillings have earned her — to date  — 277 thousand followers.

Aside from an eye for design, what does it take to go viral? Bakers Journal spoke with Ko and asked her about her meteoric rise to Internet fame. The good news is, even if you’re not particularly tech-savvy, if you’re good with a camera, you’re halfway there.

Ko started her Instagram account in August of 2017. “It was just a fluke,” she says. “I felt like I was just becoming ‘that friend’ who puts too many Instagram pictures of food up on her page. I just wanted a bit of separation. So I started the @Lokokitchen Instagram account as a holding place for photos.”

The hobbyist-turned-pie-celebrity adds that she has no background in social media, marketing or PR. “I had no illusions that this was going to be a business, or that this is going to be big.” Ko laughs as she recalls saying to herself, “‘I’m just going to put photos here mainly for my reference.’ And the first post that I posted had 200 likes. it was mostly friends and family, that had followed me over.”

Ko shares some of the secrets to her online success with Bakers Journal readers.

Enjoy yourself
Share your pride in your baked goods: When you’ve just finished proofing a complicated loaf, iced a visually stunning cake, or finished a tricky form for icing, take several photos from different angles. This will help you choose the best one, and lets you play with light and angles. Have fun with backgrounds; don’t be shy in using a cute kid to hold up your cookie. (Always ask your clients for their permission to take photos, especially of their children.)

Ko states that she was working full time at a 50 hour job, so keeping her social media account fun was like a way to connect to people: Viewers respond
to joy.

Don’t be discouraged if your first post isn’t an overnight sensation. You don’t need fans from the other side of the hemisphere, only a few people in your immediate neighbourhood. Ko adds, “the first post that I posted had 200 likes. It was mostly friends and family who had followed me.”

Showcase your specialty, and find an influencer
You know what you do best, so share your expertise with the world. A month in to her new account, Ko posted what she calls her signature spoke design, “and in October — just two months in — an Instagram account called Design Milk reposted one of my photos, and that just kind of exploded...I gained 8000 followers in one day.”

In Ko’s case, she had a stunning photograph that grabbed the attention of a popular design blog’s Instagram site. Find one of your favourite design blogs or accounts, and take note of their preferences. Style to what you think will match. If you don’t feel like styling your tarts all morning, take shots of staff and your display window; follow your favourite blogs and mention their names in a post, like “good morning @bakers_journal_magazine: Care to start your morning with pastry?”

When you address a company directly in a friendly way, you’re likely to connect, and they’re more likely to share your posts.

“Just think about what you would personally like to see, or what kinds of things capture your attention, and play with that,” suggests Ko. “Good photography and strong subject matter are key. People are inundated with information and images. We’re all endlessly scrolling. Something that really grabs a viewer’s attention is really important for that first step of engagement.

“Good photography, good subject matter, and interesting things draw people’s eyes immediately,” stresses Ko. “I think part of my success has been the captions. It’s one thing for people to be drawn in by the photograph, but to be further engaged with interesting captions, I think that has helped.”



Find your inspiration outside of the kitchen
Ko herself found her signature spoke design by looking to inspiration found in textile design. “it’s string-art inspired. It’s a spiral with a bunch of blueberries in the middle. I’ve done it with cherries and different kinds of fruit. I used to do string art as a child, and those kind of things came back to me. I made a pie with it, thought it looked kind of cool, and it kind of became this pie that was seen around the internet.”

Think outside the pastry box for design inspiration
Look to inspiration in textiles and architecture, as Ko does, or even look at sculptures or paintings to get a sense of colour and display. Ko personally prefers geometric patterns, but she was first drawn to the images of pies that had a visual hook to them. “Initially, those pies that I saw on the Internet that inspired me were very floral. Lots of leaf cut-outs, lots of people writing funny things with letter cut-outs, and that was a little too feminine for my taste, and it just wasn’t my style.”

Beware of Trolls
Every industry has its naysayers and critics, and hard to believe, even bakers are not impervious to online monsters who spew hate. “Regardless of what you do, or who you are, people will be unhappy about something. It’s pretty remarkable, really,” Ko reflects. “Even from the beginning, I was getting messages saying I’m a terrible person, that I’m a fraud, or that I’m not good at what I do, and I don’t know anything. Or that people seem very incensed that I post pictures of my pies before I bake, even though I do post the baked shot.”

She recommends developing a thick skin and always look towards those who support your expression online. Ko suggests getting “reality-checked,” talking with someone to gain some perspective against the online trolls. “They don’t’ know me, just continuing to do what I do is probably the best that I can do. This started as a hobby because I love baking and I love design. All these interests came together and found a way for me to engage in all of them  all of them as one activity , and just remembering that this is a fun and creative outlet. I do it because I enjoy it.”

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