Running a successful food Instagram account takes more than picking the perfect filter. This week Street talked to four “insta–famous” food Instagrammers at Penn to discover the tips and tricks of the trade.

@thecuttingveg, Sarah Schutz (1st year PhD) 

“It’s a pun,” Sarah Schutz of @thecuttingveg laughs, explaining her insta handle, "Like the cutting edge but veg.”  

With over 112,000 followers, her Instagram features healthy, homemade, and plant–based recipes—think lemomy brussels sprout gnocchi or cauliflower steaks with coconut chutney. Such mouthwatering photographs are accompanied by detailed recipes on her blog, The Cutting Veg. “My goal is to make healthy eating easy and affordable,” she says.

Sarah started @thecuttingveg originally as a private food diary back in February 2015, during her senior year of undergrad at Barnard College. The account grew quickly into a full fledged blog, recipe collection and foodie Instagram. Now Sarah still finds time to balance a successful food blog with pursuing her first year as a PhD candidate in economics. 

Sarah attributes part of The Cutting Veg’s success to good timing. “Back in 2015 there were fewer food insta accounts; now the market is saturated—you have to work harder to be different," she says.

However, the real appeal is Sarah’s creativity and personality. Along with showcasing original recipes, she details her personal journey with food in funny anecdotes and snippets of student life. A pescatarian, Sarah tries to eat mainly plant–based foods and share quick, cheap recipes that don't sacrifice creativity or flavor. 

She says, “A lot of health Instagrams portray a lifestyle that many people can’t afford. So for me, my goal is to make it easy for people and accessible."

@2HungryLAGals, Megan Lipman (C ’19)

Oozing mac 'n' cheese, luscious swirls of spaghetti, crispy soup dumplings, chocolate lava cake—scrolling through @2HungryLAGals is certain to induce your cravings. 

Megan Lipman (C ’19) started the account on a whim in summer of 2017 with her friend Alex Lopes, who goes to Washington University in St. Louis. Growing a 20K account in less than a year was no easy feat, and they've adopted a business–minded approach to manage it.

“When you have 10K [followers], things start to get more serious,” says Megan. “We gain about 300 to 500 followers per week. It’s now a business account with a separate professional email. Once we realized we could monetize the account, we went for it. Businesses reach out to us to review their products or restaurants offer a free meal in exchange for a post."

Engaging with other food Instagrams helped grow their following, especially in the beginning. “We try to post two times a day, one of our own photos and one of another famous account,” says Megan. “You can pretty much repost any picture as long as you give credit to the account. That helps get followers and people to our page.” 

The timing of their posts is also critical. She says, “People engage the most around 6 p.m. when they’re out of work, and all day during the weekend. However, it’s different now with the Instagram Algorithm.” 2HungryLAGals bypasses the Instagram Algorithm by using "engagement pods"—groups of similar accounts that commit to liking and commenting on each other's posts.

Megan’s advice for new food accounts is to “keep engaging with as many accounts as you can. Don’t be afraid to randomly message accounts like ‘Hi love your account would you mind posting this?’”

And when it comes to what types of posts get lots of likes, she says, “Anything you would consider an unhealthy delicious food does well—pizza, cheeseburgers, mac 'n' cheese. People don’t go to insta for a salad." She's not wrong.

@eastcoastfoodies, Bevan Cohen (C ’20)

Running a famous account comes with perks—Bevan Cohen (C ’20) of East Coast Foodies can attest to this truth. “Best collab? Probably Ben & Jerry’s," she says. "Last year they flew us out to their factory headquarters in Burlington, Vermont. We spent three days learning about their products and tasting ice cream.” 

At 320K followers, East Coast Foodies is a food–porn paradise, featuring nachos drowning in cheese, Nutella–stuffed donuts, and forkfuls of fluffy pancakes. Bevan started @eastcoastfoodies way back in 2013, when she was in high school, with her friend Sabrina Epstein. She didn’t expect the account to grow, let alone explode with followers. Now a registered trademark, East Coast Foodies collaborates with businesses such as Oreo and Baked by Melissa. 

“We try to post once for every meal—breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert—so at least four times a day.” To keep up with this demanding schedule, they use a mix of original posts and reposts from other accounts. “Followers submit to us for a chance to featured. We like to help out accounts who are starting out, and we get content to post,” explains Bevan.

She stresses that “consistency is key when you’re starting out.” Sharing the account between two people helps break up the work and keeps it active, even during midterm season. 

To those who want to try their hand at the world of foodie Instagrams: “Try to differentiate yourself,” she advises. In keeping with their name, “We only feature food on the East Coast.”

@northeastfoodies, Natalie Weil (C ’19)

This account may not have as many followers as the others on this list, but the foodie behind it is just as passionate as the rest. Run by one of the student–chefs who produced Penn Appetite’s Whisk Cookbook, Natalie uses her account to share her love of baking. 

“During the summer I bake every other day. Now I use it to destress like when I have two midterms and just need chocolate chip cookies. I’ll bake a batch, snap a few pics when they’re hot and gooey out of the oven,” she says.

She admits that it’s easy to fall into a comparison game with other food accounts and says, “Things I post from other people tend to get more likes, which can be disheartening.”

Like Megan, Natalie uses engagement groups to maintain a constant stream of likes and follows. Her advice? “Find something you enjoy in the world of food and post it.”