The fifth Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting was a lively one, held at the Salt Vodka Bar, with a most entertaining Dax Villanueva of Relax-with-Dax blog, and a most informative Hein Koegelenberg of La Motte, writing the Hein on Wine blog, sharing their views on the importance of social media marketing. In talking about blog content, Hein advised bloggers to not write about themselves, but to focus on their blog topics instead.
Hein introduced the La Motte Sauvignon Blanc, and Shiraz Viognier from the Pierneef Collection, and his role at La Motte over the past eleven years. In winemaking, he said distribution and the intellectual property of the brand are key. The goal of La Motte is to focus on making excellent Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz wines, and wants the brand to be one of the Top 10 South African wine brands. The estate created a vision to meet this goal, called La Motte Redefined, which consisted of a number of elements, all working in unison to create a WOW La Motte experience: a new Tasting Room, which has a combination of wood, brickwork and glass to make it more welcoming and less intimidating; a restaurant striving to be of a top 50 international restaurant standard, focusing on traditional South African food, with a demonstration kitchen and TV cooking; to offer a “plaaswinkel”, which sells items no other farm shop does, including five styles of breads, one of them even including 2 % shiraz; to establish a gallery to present the collection of 44 Pierneef artworks which they bought from Pierneef’s daughter and brought back to South Africa from the UK; a museum in honour of Dr Anton Rupert; and to honour his wife Hanli’s musical career in a second gallery.
Hein recognises that social media marketing is the new marketing platform, and he started blogging just over a year ago. He realised that the world faces information overload, with no one having the time to go beyond the first page of Google when doing a search. This is why one must use blogs and Twitter to package one’s information in a way that meets the target market’s need. In the past the wine industry was at the mercy of the evaluation by Parker and Platter – now winemakers can talk to their market, explain the making of the wines and proactively provide information which empowers wine drinkers to drink their wines with greater knowledge about the brand and the particular variety. Hein says that we are still not using blogging to its fullest extent, and over time many blogs will fall away, and new ones will commence. He sees the decline of You Tube and videos, due to the time it takes to download them, and the increase in the use of Twitter. La Motte publishes a new blog post every 2 -3 days, and tweets 2 -3 times per day. Hein says that if one sets a frequency of communication, one must stick to this, as one’s readers expect it as one does a newspaper, because it becomes a habit for the reader. This was mentioned by Dax too. The Cape Winelands Cuisine, which is the focus of Pierneef Ã La Motte, will be brought into the blog in future.
Hein follows the late Dr Rupert’s communication mantra: simple, sincere and repetitive. This applies to social media too. Hein recognises the power of the Chinese market, and La Motte has made R 8 million in sales in its first year. Hein is now learning Mandarin, commendable for a very busy wine businessperson. La Motte wines sold 2800 cases 11 years ago – this has grown to 100 000 cases sold in 40 countries, whilst the economy brand Leopard’s Leap sells 600 000 cases annually. The distribution company Meridian Wines, founded by Hein too, delivers wines from 28 cellars to restaurants in temperature-controlled vehicles. The fellow Twitterers smiled in understanding when Hein said that he ends his day and starts the next with his iPhone, to read what has happened in the world. It is the most time-efficient way for him to stay in touch, he said.
Hein’s talk was followed by a presentation and tasting of the first South African vodka, called Primitiv, made in Wellington by Jorgensen’s Distillery. It is handcrafted, using artisanal methods, from barley and spelt, giving the vodka its unusual taste of peppery spice, floral and anise touches over a creamy grain base, with a masculine finish.
Dax impressed with his natural talent of speaking about a topic that is clearly close to his heart, and included tap dancing and being really funny, a side to him that he does not often reveal. Dax said that the frequency of blogging will influence the quality of one’s posts, and therefore the traffic to one’s blog. He advised that one’s blogging frequency should stay the same, to meet the readers’ need for consistency. In terms of content, he advised that one pace oneself, and not write all one’s content on one day, to ensure that one’s audience comes back. Writing comments on other bloggers’ blogs is important, he said, as it shows collegiality, and helps build traffic. The timing of one’s Tweets is important too, and should be when one’s followers are on Twitter. Little reading of Tweets is done at night, so tweeting then is wasteful. Hootsuite, and similar scheduling tools, allows Dax to pre-schedule 4 – 5 Tweets per day, at intervals of one hour. He advises Tweeting between 9h00 – 15h00.
Dax writes about food and wine, events in Cape Town, green issues, artisanal beers and the Cape Town lifestyle. He has been blogging for 7 years already, one of the pioneers. His blog evolved from a newsletter he created, sharing with others what wonderful things he had discovered in Cape Town, after moving here from PE, via Durban. Helping provide advice to others about where to celebrate a special event makes Dax feel good, he says. The 2010 SA Blog Awards, and its poor organisation this year compared to 2009, was discussed. In the main the comments, also from the bloggers present, were disparaging, and Dax concluded that the SA Blog Awards has devalued blogging due to the controversy associated with it, even though it was meant to achieve the opposite.
The next meeting of the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club is on Wednesday 20 October , from 6 – 8 pm, at the Rainbow Room in Mandela Rhodes Place. Simon Back from Backsberg will introduce his wines and the use of social media in making his family wine estate one of the most environmentally-friendly in the country, and Tom Robbins from Eat Cape Town will talk about Restaurant Reviewing and Blogger Ethics. Contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org to book.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com