Social media success
When Connie Bally founded the Facebook group Fort Worth Foodies in 2017, she was just looking for some dinner friends. But when the group attracted hundreds of members within its first few weeks, she realized it had potential for much more than restaurant dates.
Now, five years later, Bally has proven herself right. Fort Worth Foodies reached 100,000 members on September 22, making it the largest public Facebook group in North Texas. The group’s mission is to be the most reliable and dynamic source of where and what to eat in Fort Worth while increasing commerce in foodie-related stores and services. Members ask for restaurant recommendations, offer food advice, and share dining-related news articles.
Bally, 69, a Fort Worth resident since 2009, says the group reached the milestone through organic growth. Before starting Fort Worth Foodies, she had no experience in social media management, but she says she has a “really good business head” thanks to 32 years of working in finance. Now that she’s achieved this member milestone, she wants to take her group to the next level.
“We will always be where you go to get the best banana pudding,” Bally says of the group. “We will always be a good resource, but we could be so much more. And we’re ready for that next step.”
Bally says she has been able to fully monetize the group thanks to hands-on guidance and feedback from Facebook. So far, she only works with "brand partners" (similar to paid advertisers) and has held off from seeking out investors, admitting that she’s not ready for that step yet.
The group has six volunteer administrators, but Bally hopes to be able to pay them by next year.
For now, Bally is working to strengthen her startup business and increase revenue. She’s gunning to be selected for a Community Accelerator program started by Facebook to provide mentorship, training, and a $40,000 grant to the leader of a community Facebook group. Being chosen for the program would allow her to make significant headway in developing her business and strengthening city relations. Her dream is to work with the Black Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the city’s economic development department to host an expo or hiring fair focused on culinary arts and connecting community members with culinary resources and networking.
If she’s not selected for the program, Bally is confident her vision will still come to life. She says she’ll seek out sponsors independently and capitalize on opportunities like North Texas Giving Day next year to fund her plans for the group.
In the future, Bally wants to start a foundation that creates scholarships for those pursuing culinary arts. It takes half a million Facebook members for a group to start a foundation, but she’s already a fifth of the way there. She sees no reason why Fort Worth Foodies can’t make it the rest of the way.
“It sounds crazy, but who better than us?” Bally says of her goals. “Fort Worth is the 12th largest city in the nation, the DFW area is the fastest growing metroplex in the nation, we’ve got eight million people in 14 different municipalities. I am enormously proud of my 100,000, but it is just the beginning.”
Bally is developing an interactive map of Fort Worth’s restaurants called Steps and a digital directory of restaurants. She also publishes an online foodie magazine called Fort Worth Foodies Presents.
In the meantime, Bally hopes to see the group continue to grow and hopefully reach 150,000 members by next year.
To celebrate the current milestone, group members will have the chance to win one of three giveaway gift baskets filled with more than $500 worth of hotel packages, gift cards, and more. She hasn’t made any plans on how to celebrate her achievement personally, but her real prize, she says, is the community she has built.