Tag Archives: social media marketing

New City of Cape Town Place Marketing Director Rory Viljoen to put Cape Town on the map!

While many in the Cape Town tourism industry are shaking their heads about yet another change at Cape Town Tourism, the City of Cape Town taking away the role of Destination Marketing from Cape Town Tourism four years after having given it to the tourism body, one can be grateful for two things: that a change can only be better than the little and ineffectual marketing being done by Cape Town Tourism, and that one could not wish for a better Marketing Director for brand ‘Cape Town’ than Rory Viljoen, Place Marketing Director in the new Tourism, Events and Marketing (TEAM) Directorate of the City of Cape Town.

It was a bumpy start to meeting Rory, who has only been working for the City for ten weeks, and is still suffering temporary staff in setting up his appointments.  It was third time lucky, despite a time error, to finally meet him and Daylin Mitchell, the Executive Support Officer for Councillor Grant Pascoe, the Mayoral Committee member for Tourism, Events, and Marketing, in Rory’s office in the TELKOM Tower adjacent to the Civic Centre.

Rory gave little away in the interview, instead turning the tables by asking what should be done in marketing Cape Town.  We discussed the impact of Seasonality on our businesses, and how we have been made promises in this regard by both Cape Town Tourism and the ex-Cape Town Routes Unlimited (now amalgamated into Wesgro); sharing information with the industry; generating coverage in traditional media locally and internationally with Social Media support (and not the other way around, as practised by Cape Town Tourism); Events in the winter months; addressing the lack of airline seats from Johannesburg to Cape Town on Fridays; the extreme airfares to get to Cape Town from international destinations; the confusion that has resulted amongst the tourism industry about the City’s new destination marketing directorate which some mistakenly seeing it to be Wesgro’s new marketing department; the reduced bookings via Cape Town Tourism’s tourism bureaus as tourists are booking most requirements on-line, before they leave or on their iPads; the ‘Mommy’ Tweeting by Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold; the role of the V&A Waterfront in the tourism portfolio of Cape Town; the controversial trip by ten Cape Town Tourism and City of Cape Town executives to Turkey (clearly a sensitive issue, judging by Rory’s body language when the topic arose – he was not part of the delegation); the renewal of Mrs Helmbold’s contract as CEO next year; and much more.

While Rory has chosen to call his portfolio ‘Place Marketing’, he said it is just another name for Destination Marketing.   His private sector experience in marketing Distell’s brands in Africa and Europe, as well as having been South African Marketing Director of Coca Cola during the 2006 and 2010 World Cup soccer championships, shadowing the Beijing and Vancouver World Cups, and his involvement in the European Championships played in Germany and Switzerland, gives him an excellent insight in hosting events, and in creating marketing linkages.  He said that he does not know the Marketing Budget yet (we have seen that the Tourism, Events and Marketing Directorate, headed by Anton Groenewald, has a budget of R500 million per annum!), as he needs to finalise his Strategic Plan, translate that into the Marketing Budget, and then appoint the staff to execute his Marketing Strategy.  He said that he likes to work in an organised manner, step by step, ‘every chapter must stand like a book’, he said.  His biggest challenge is to find a measurement of success for his department, currently believing that arrivals at Cape Town International would be the most reliable measurement of marketing success at this stage, despite Cape Town International Service Standards Manager and outgoing Cape Town Tourism Chairman Ian Bartes warning that there would be no growth in tourism arrivals via our local airport in the next two years.

While Daylin is active on Twitter, Rory and Mr Groenewald are not.  Currently Digital and Social Media Marketing of Cape Town rests with Cape Town Tourism in their new mandate of only focusing on Tourism Marketing (with Visitor Services), but Rory indicated that they are looking to appoint a strong Media person, who will be responsible for Media Relations, Digital Marketing, Social Media Marketing, and the writing of Speeches.  One can assume that the Digital Marketing of Cape Town will move from Cape Town Tourism to the City of Cape Town once the position has been filled.

It will be interesting to see how brand ‘Cape Town’ will be packaged, with a new logo, a pay-off line, and an extensive communication campaign to support new events, the focus being to make the Cape Town Stadium commercially viable by hosting more events there, and ultimately to attract more visitors to Cape Town.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: WhaleCottage

Woolworths: Social Media case study on how to build and break customer relationships!

Woolworths is a leading retailer, that attracts a shopper profile at the LSM 7 – 9 level, and has always stood for quality.  Its CEO Ian Moir has had a bad year to date, having experienced the negative power of Social Media three times this year already, the latest furore no doubt given him the biggest headache. There is no doubt that the furore that its employment advertising has created will become an important case study in Social Media Marketing, and will guide many other corporates in how to deal with negative sentiment expressed in Tweets, on Blogs, and in Facebook comments.

My attention to the issue was first attracted when I read a Tweet by Woolworths’ Digital Editor, highly regarded Sam Wilson, who previously was the editor of Food24, Parent24, and Women24, writing as follows: ‘Guys, I am white. I am currently interviewing white people. This @WOOLWORTHS_SA white racism thing because we comply with BEE? Weird’. It came across as a Tweet expressing her displeasure at her employer’s employment policy, and it only made sense when the story broke about Woolworth’s recruitment advertisements specifying population group requirements for the positions it was advertising. The story was launched last week on Facebook and thereafter on the blog of Justin Harrison, who calls himself an ‘Internet entrepreneurial pioneer’ on his Blog, but who has not been heard of by most local social media folk, maybe because he operates from Durban.  It got so bad on Woolworths’ Facebook page that it removed the comments containing ‘hate speech’. Last Thursday Woolworths posted a note on its Facebook wall, announcing that it was closing it down due to the overwhelmingly negative and unbelievably harsh vitriol posted, a move supported by more than 2500 likes (out of 204000 ‘likers’):

Woolies fans,

Disabling our wall was not a decision we took lightly and not one we’re particularly happy about. But when your page becomes little more than a platform for a well-orchestrated campaign of hate speech, we owe it to our customers not to subject them to such vitriol in our own house.

We have, in a variety of channels, repeatedly refuted the claims being made against us. We have also allowed thousands of comments on our Facebook page, debating the pro’s and con’s of Employment Equity as a national debate… deleting only overt hate speech and comments inciting violence.

However we’ve always put our customers first… and many, many customers have asked us to stop hosting this vitriol. We will re-open our page as soon as we think we can resume reasonable discussion”.

Yesterday the wall was re-opened, and new negative comments have been posted on the Facebook page, where most of the debate appears to be concentrated, with little mention of the issue on Twitter.  Interesting is the vast number of (mainly negative) comments about the Woolworths debacle on a new Facebook page called AAA Anti-Affirmative Action, with close to 3500 likes, reported on by The South African Newspaper published in London, which referred to Woolworths’ and SAA’s employment policy problems. The newspaper also reported in the same article that the ‘National Chairman of the Australian Protectionist Party, Andrew Phillips called upon both the Federal Labor government and the Opposition to unanimously support the introduction of sanctions upon South Africa’.   The sanctions are motivated by Mr Phillips, whom most Australians who posted comments about this story say they have never heard of, on the grounds of the government not having created an ‘equal opportunity’ society in this country.

Earlier this year Woolworths was embroiled in a Social Media war about its vintage soft drink range bearing a close resemblance to Frankie’s, which Woolworths was forced to remove from its shelves after the Advertising Standards Authority found that the retailer’s ‘Good Old Fashioned’ pay-off line was too similar to that of Frankies. Initially Woolworths denied copying any aspects of Frankies’ drinks.  In a third incident, Woolworths was criticised for launching Halaal hot cross buns over Easter, which caused a furore too. The sponsorship by the retailer of MasterChef SA was said to erase the damage which the two earlier Social Media disasters had caused, but Woolworths did not come out of the reality TV series unscathed, its Woolworths Pantry guest food blogger recipes causing controversy initially.

Woolworths reaction to the employment advertising furore, which has led to a call by trade union Solidarity for customers to boycott Woolworths, and which was echoed in the thousands of Facebook comments, smacks of old world corporate disaster management PR spin, rather than being Social Media driven:

*  Posted its employment policy, in accordance with the Employment Equity Act, which applies to all companies with 50+ employees, on its Facebook page on the same day:

Over the past few days, we’ve been accused of racist employment practices. We’d like to state the facts:

Like all South African companies, Woolworths has a role to play in transformation. For this reason, SOME positions (where there is under-representation) are designated for EE groups.
• The designated groups are Blacks, Coloureds, Indians, women and people with disability.
• As per the Emplo
yment Equity Act of 1998, Woolworths is expected, like all SA companies with more than 50 employees, to plan our workforce by race, gender and disability.

• Our workforce is diverse and includes people of all races (Black, White, Coloured, Indian), gender and disability.

We appreciate the value diversity brings to our business and the need to contribute to levelling the playing fields for certain groups of South Africa’s population”.
*   Sent a personalised e-mail entitled ‘The difference between Rumour and Fact’ to its cardholders, with a similar content, and an sms to those customers who are not on e-mail.
*   Placed an advertisement in the Sunday Times, Rapport and City Press on Sunday, with a similar message.
*   Wrote an expanded version of the content as a letter to the ‘Readers’ Forum’ of Business Report, an odd platform to use to address his ‘Dear Woolworths customer‘, when it was possibly the shareholders he was trying to placate, given the knock that the Woolworths share price has taken in the past week (the letter is the same as the one sent to its customers by e-mail)!
*   Received public media support from Labour Minister  Mildred Oliphant for its ‘unwavering effort to genuinely address transformation in the workplace through the implementation of employment equity’.

In our opinion, the response by Woolworths has been very corporate, very reserved, very defensive, and not in keeping with Social Media marketing principles of engagement and two-way communication, a similar reaction it delivered in the Frankies affair.  One wonders how one Facebook post and subsequent blogpost by Harrison could have unleashed such a storm, his message obviously touching a raw South African nerve amongst the shoppers that make up the bulk of Woolworths’ target market.   Surprising was the blogpost written on the 2oceansvibe blog, which lambasted Harrison for using the Woolworths issue as a means to gain more Followers on Twitter and other Social Media platforms, and writing in detail how Harrison had allegedly bought Followers some years ago. This led to a strong outburst of comments against 2oceansvibe, accusing it of being linked to Woolworths and/or Woolworths’ digital media agency Quirk, defending the Woolworths brand (denied by owner Seth Rotherham), and criticising 2Oceansvibe for pointing a finger at a Social Media player when it itself had been criticised for selling advertising for its radio station on the basis of highly inflated listenership fingers, forcing Rotherham to deny the allegations contained in the close to 200 comments received to the blogpost!

The Woolworths’ website does not explain its BEE employment policy, nor does it contain the public statements made in the media by its CEO in its Careers section or elsewhere on the website.  It clearly has been edited, as its introduction page invites one to click onto a link to see the career opportunities, but when does so, no jobs are listed. Now one is invited to call the retailer to check out its employment opportunities!   Woolworths should use its website proactively to communicate with its staff, potential staff, and customers!

Seemingly sensible advice to Woolworths comes from Harrison: ‘Woolworths is clearly in a spin over how to deal with this issue and they would do well to learn from SAA’s mistake. Issue a public apology and revert back to the hiring policies to be fully inclusive and based purely on experience and ability‘.

For Woolworths specifically, a platform such as Twitter should be used for engagement.  The retailer has become very poor at acknowledging any feedback about in-store problems, expressed by its Tweeting customers.  There is no apology if there is communication, and there is no follow up to communicate with the customer telephonically after the Tweet, as Pick ‘n Pay has become reasonably good at.  A company that once had the Social Media lead has become reactive and defensive, and has lost its standing due to the Social Media wars, rather than walking tall and engaging with its customers in a credible and warm manner. This is a surprise, as its Head of Online Nikki Cockcroft has an impressive background, including CEO of Primedia Online, 365 Digital, and Prezence Digital before she started at Woolworths just over a year ago, and given Sam Wilson’s experience in engaging with a similar target audience at Media24 previously.

Woolworths needs to go back to basics to better understand how to maintain customer relationships via Social Media.  Successfully building up a large army of Twitter Followers and Facebook Likers is no guarantee that the same seemingly loyal customer audience will not turn against the retailer if it is not in touch enough with its customers, and offends them, as the past ten days has shown!

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

Is Business blogging going bust?

A study conducted by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth has found that company blogging is at its lowest level, with only 37 % of American companies maintaining their blogs last year, down from 50 % on 2010, reports USAToday.com.  This finding coincides with our finding of Blogging Burnout, seeing the decline in local food blogging frequency, which we wrote about last year.

The USA study says that due to the time required to blog, having to find new content, as well as the liability and legal risks involved in its content and comments received, Social Media Marketing via Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr are gaining ground.  Only 23% of the Fortune 500 companies still have an active blog.  The benefit of a blog is that the company owns the content. Twitter has a downside though, says the article, in having ‘a lot of noise’. The Bank of America closed its blog, wanting to ‘be where our customers are‘, a spokesperson said.

One reason for the failure of corporate blogging is that it is too hard-sell and company focused, instead of being informational. “Companies don’t understand that the content of a blog shouldn’t be ‘about me’. Such content tends to be dull”, said a PR company CEO. If handled correctly, blogs are an important means of asserting industry leadership through its content about industry issues, and are inexpensive compared to advertising costs.  Blogging also reflects the corporate personality via its content.

We have seen few corporate blogs in South Africa to date, with only a few players in the hospitality industry writing blogs for their restaurants and accommodation establishments.  We believe that a Social Media strategy should contain a mix of Blogging, Twitter, and Facebook, and it should not be a case of choosing one or the other.  They are not interchangeable, and attract very different audiences.  At Whale Cottage Portfolio we write a regular WhaleTales newsletter too, to reach our guests and industry colleagues who have not yet embraced Social Media, of which there are great numbers.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage

Social Media getting too hot for MasterChef SA sponsor Robertsons?

I have watched with amusement how new Robertson’s Social Media Manager Sonia Cabano has been going about her new job in the past ten days, one she has never done before, given that brand diplomacy would be expected of her at all times. Twice last week she demonstrated that she is too political to do this job without damaging the Robertson’s brand reputation.

The word ‘Masterclass’ caught my eye in the Robertson’s TV commercial during the MasterChef SA broadcast last week, and since then I have been trying to understand what it means in its use as a pay-off line for this MasterChef SA sponsor.  I requested an explanation via e-mail of the claim on Twitter, and in reply was referred to the very slow to open website developed by digital agency Liquorice, and was told that Robertson’s does not send e-mails to its customers. On Friday late afternoon I called the Unilever Consumer Centre helpline number (0860331441) on the Robertson’s website, and had to listen to an abrupt unfriendly male voice giving the operating hours of the helpline, being Monday – Friday from 8h00 – 16h00! That was amusing in itself, in that most cooking is done at night, and if Robertson’s is spending millions on its MasterChef SA sponsorship and advertising, why would it not have a helpline with customer-friendly hours! I wanted to share this on Twitter, and noticed with surprise that we had been blocked on Twitter by Robertson’s, which means that we no longer receive their Tweets.  In Social Media terms this is extreme censure. One could sense how Sonia Cabano had to contain her sharpness she is known for on her personal Twitter account (@SoniaCabano2), one on which she regularly blocks followers for ‘trolling’ her, she writes, yet she runs anonymous Twitter accounts with Skye Grove, disparaging other Tweeters, including ourselves.  Sonia Cabano is unknown as a ‘chef’, having never cooked in a South African restaurant kitchen, but has written three cookbooks, and presented a TV cooking programme ‘Pampoen tot Perlemoen’ many years ago.  In an interview in Rapport’s ‘My Tyd’ ten days ago, she trod on bloggers’ toes by disparaging them: ‘…enigiemand wat al ooit ‘n houtlepel vasgehou het, deesdae ‘n blogger of koskenner is’. One would have thought that, as the new Social Media Manager for Robertson’s, she would recognise bloggers as one of her key target markets, in creating exposure for and encouraging the use of her client’s brand and products!

On the Robertson’s Twitter account Sonia Cabano’s output has been admirable, with just over 300 Tweets and 280 followers in just ten days, but the frequency of Tweeting has slowed down, and they do not appear to Tweet on Sundays! The Twitter volume was extremely low yesterday. Interesting was her ‘interview’ with top 50 ‘bootcamp’ finalist Jade de Waal via Twitter last week, the only contestant that she has interviewed on behalf of Robertson’s to date, showing favouritism towards her (commendably declared) friend and relative (De Waal was her maiden name). She may also be ‘communicating’ that this contestant has won MasterChef SA, something the rest of us will only know in 17 weeks!

Given that I was not getting any joy from the Robertson’s Twitter account, I looked for ‘Masterclass’ on the Robertson’s website, one which is not the easiest to navigate, as it does not show the pages on the site.  It was when I clicked on to ‘Competitons’ (sic), that I found a sub-page entitled ‘Masterclass’, being a video of Chef and Robertson’s endorser Reuben Riffel making a ‘Cheesy garlic bread with home-made herbed butter’! I had double-checked the term ‘Masterclass’ earlier in the week, when I had written about the Robertson’s ‘Masterclass’ pay-off line, and had found it to be a term used in the field of music in the main, denoting a revered person giving a class.  A chef told me that it could relate to cooking too, and used Chef Liam Tomlin giving a cooking class at Liam Tomlin Foods as an example.  The term has two parts – it implies that the person giving the class is recognised as an ‘expert’ in his field.  One can question whether Chef Reuben still has this status, not having made the Top 20 shortlist for the latest Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards, and (ironically) for having damaged his reputation by lending his name to Robertson’s in radio and

TV ads, which have been running for months. Serious food lovers say Chef Reuben has sold out to Robertson’s, and are horrified that he could be using Robertson’s products in his Reuben’s restaurant kitchens!  Secondly, the term implies that one would be taught serious dishes, and a simple garlic bread probably has been made by every houseperson, not requiring any explanation or education. No other recipes are on this page yet, disappointing if there is an expectation to learn something new to cook every day, especially over the 18 week duration of MasterChef SA.  Odd is the description ‘Chef’s Camp Classes’ on the same page, an alliteration that can be badly misinterpreted! It may have been intended to refer to the ‘bootcamp’ for the 50 MasterChef SA finalists. There is no information yet to show that Chef Reuben was involved with MasterChef SA.  On registering on the Robertson’s website, one receives an e-mail, welcoming one to the ‘Robertson’s Masterclass’, and inviting one to ‘Put on your apron, fire up your frying pan and get ready for a delicious journey into the world of Robertsons herbs and spices. As a student of Robertsons Masterclass, you have the chance to craft your everyday culinary skills in your own home. Fill your kitchen with the exotic aromas of nature’s finest flavours as we show you how to use these wonderful ingredients to add vibrancy and fragrance to all your favourite dishes’. Misleading is the claim that one will learn the ‘tricks of the trade from one of South Africa’s best chefs’!

Yesterday I spoke to co-Managing Partner Jay Thomson of Liquorish, the Social Media Marketing agency handling the Robertson’s digital account, to check the company’s policy about blocking Twitter accounts. While not working on this account, he spontaneously said that blocking anyone on a client’s Twitter account is not their agency policy.  He took action immediately, and reinforced agency procedures and approval processes, which had not been followed, he shared with me.  He apologised personally, and so did the brand on Twitter, honestly admitting its mistake, and Robertson’s reversed the blocking: “Apologies&welcome back guys! Unfortunately processes weren’t followed on our side. Really do value fdback of SAs top foodies!”. Robertson’s Liquorish Account Director Chris Jones also called with an apology. The company did not Tweet anything further for the rest of the day.

Robertson’s will become an interesting FMCG case-study in how not to apply Social Media Marketing in a consumer brand marketing mix. Personal politics do not belong in a business application for a brand, and will do Robertson’s serious harm if its Social Media Manager is allowed to express her personal dislikes and vendettas.  I have been assured by Liquorish that this will not happen again, yet cannot be sure if this promise will be honoured, given the Twitter tirade on Ms Cabano’s personal account last night, as well as on her anonymous Twitter account, which was been downright disparaging of her client Robertson’s.

POSTSCRIPT 7/4: Reuben Riffel, Robertsons’ advertising endorser, has presented three more ‘Masterclass’ videos on the Robertsons’ website. A very simple ‘Chocolate Banana’ (but the video is called ‘Braaied Bananas’) ‘Masterclass’ was lightweight, and did not tell one how to make the chocolate sauce, only giving instructions of how to cut the banana and caramelise the sugar sprinkled over it.  Another ‘Masterclass’ is for making ‘Cinnamon Crepes’, thinner French-style pancakes Chef Reuben said.  A third ‘Masterclass’ video is for ‘Cracked Rosemary and Paprika Potatoes’, the video called ‘Twist’.  Interesting is the viewership of the ‘Masterclass’ videos, at 449 views for the ‘Crepes’ video, 195 views for the banana video, 33 views for the potato video, and 559 views for the garlic bread one, which was the first ‘Masterclass’ by Chef Reuben. The viewership statistics must be frustratingly low to Robertsons, given what it must be spending on advertising and its sponsorship of MasterChef SA.  The typing error on the Robertsons’ website, identified in this blogpost, has been corrected, but the double-meaning alliterated ‘Chef’s Camp Classes’ has been retained!

POSTSCRIPT 20/4: The link to Another Damned Food Blog, which in October last year wrote a parody about Chef Reuben Riffel’s endorsement of Robertsons, is circulating again.  Now that MasterChef SA has started, it is even funnier to read now!

Robertson’s, www.robertsons.co.za Twitter: @RobertsonsSpice (Monday – Saturday only).  Episode 2 of MasterChef SA will be broadcast on M-Net at 19h30 this evening.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage

Wine and crayfish to blame for Cape Tourism Crisis!

When the ‘Clown Prince’ of Labour opens his mouth, one is bound to have a good laugh at his absurd views.  Yesterday the Southern African Tourism Update reported on the latest absurdity to come from the Provincial Secretary of COSATU (The Congress of South African Trade Unions), Tony Ehrenreich, City of Cape Town councillor, and the city’s failed mayoral candidate for the ANC.

Mr Ehrenreich blames the ‘crisis in tourism’ on overcharging international tourists: “The exorbitant prices for wines and crayfish are contributing to visitors feeling ripped off.  And so the important word of mouth that underlies a tourist destination’s success is not assisting the South African industry.”

Mr Ehrenreich also attacks provincial Minister of Tourism, Alan Winde, in excluding workers from the recently elected board of Cape Town Routes Unlimited: “As Cosatu we will insist that the workers’ interests be directly represented by a labour representative, before the funding to support the industry is released. We will further call for an independent body to examine the crisis, as the industrial players have been colluding with government at a local level.  This collusion is demonstrated by the City Council giving the tourism industry R40 million to spend on themselves”!  Mr Ehrenreich seems to have lost the plot in what he is stating, in mixing up the roles of Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited:

*   Cape Town Tourism received R40 million from the City of Cape Town last month, for marketing Cape Town for the next twelve months.  We do share Mr Ehrenreich’s concern about how this money will be spent, given that Cape Town Tourism does not appear to understand that the city’s tourism industry is in crisis.  The organisation is also without a Marketing Manager at a time when marketing is needed most.  It has been criticised for choosing the positioning of ‘Inspirational’ for Cape Town, when it is not unique to the city, having been previously claimed by Edinburgh and Korea!  Mr Ehrenreich is a Councillor of the City of Cape Town, and he could have voiced his dissatisfaction with the Cape Town Tourism budget at the time it was debated in Council. 

   *   Minister Winde recently handpicked the Cape Town Routes Unlimited board, without advertising for nominations.  It appears that the Minister chose largely the same directors, with the exception of the FEDHASA Cape representative now being Rey Franco, the hotel association’s Deputy Chairman.  Mr Ehrenreich served on the Cape Town Routes Unlimited Board for two years until two years ago, and embarrassed the tourism industry as well as Cape Town Routes Unlimited when he made inappropriate and widely reported media statements, claiming that the Waterfront was charging rip-off prices, referring to the cost of crayfish at Panama Jack, which is not even located in the V&A Waterfront!  He had to be silenced during the remainder of his term as director, due to the damage he caused the tourism industry.  Minister Winde has no say over the City of Cape Town’s R40 million allocation to Cape Town Tourism.

*   Cape Town Tourism will have presented a budget to the City of Cape Town, and it will have included continuing the PR and trade marketing for Cape Town in the UK, Germany, Holland, and in the USA, despite the national Minister of Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, advising regional and local tourism bodies to leave international marketing to SA Tourism.  Social media marketing is part of the budget too. Unfortunately Cape Town Tourism has not shared its marketing plan and R40 million budget allocation with its members to date.

*   If the Tourism Crisis would be so easy to attribute to wine and crayfish pricing, one could do something about it.  Being’ ripped of’ for these delicacies is the least of the worries of potential tourists – rather it is being ‘ripped off’ by the airlines in terms of their fares that is their real concern. It shows that Mr Ehrenreich is completely out of touch with the reasons for the current crisis in the Tourism industry – high domestic and international airfares, the strong Rand, severe economic recession in the UK (Cape Town’s major international source market), future uncertainty about Greece’s ability to repay its debt and other European countries experiencing similar problem, the current financial crisis of the USA, the oversupply of accommodation, and crippling cost increases whilst rates have remained the same or are being slashed!

It will be interesting to see how Mr Ehrenreich will get shot down in flames by the tourism industry, for his ridiculous claims!  However, he is a determined man, and will not easily give up on his mission, to stay in the news!

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter: @WhaleCottage

Social Media vital tourism communication and information source, also for Cape Town

Social Media marketing is one of the most important means of communication with potential tourists, in planning their trips, and these media are also used by them to share their holiday information experiences during and after their holidays.   This is one of the trends that Cape Town Tourism reported on its return from the “Future Day” Convention held in Berlin last week, running in conjunction with ITB (Internationale Tourismusbörse), the world’s largest travel trade fair.

The internet in general is the most important source of travel information, with 95 % of travellers searching for information on-line, and more than half booking on-line, up by 10 percentage points from 45 % in just two years.   In the USA just more than half of travellers use social media to research travel destinations and to make online bookings.  Travel tips from friends, interactive bookings and mobile travel guides are some of the social media travel applications that influence travel by travellers.  

Mobile phones play a vital part in this travel communication, because they are easily portable and accessible, unlike laptops, which are dependent on wifi access.   While on holiday or on a business trip, travellers can use their iPhones, Blackberries and other phones to find and share information about the destination.   With large increases in tourists coming from Asian countries, and China in particular (46 million travellers in 2010, and 155 million mobile Internet subscribers), and another 127 million in India, it is vital that tourism destinations such as Cape Town reach tourists via mobile phones, and smart phones in particular.   The World Travel Monitor has found that 40 % of international travellers travel with a smart  phone with internet, e-mail and other functions, with the balance holding a conventional mobile phone.   Of the smart phone users, 40 % use them to obtain destination information, and 26 % of leisure travellers and 34% of business travellers use them to change bookings while travelling.   Just more than a third of international travellers use their smart phones to access mobile social networks.   This leads to tourists posting content to their Facebook pages or Blogs, or photographs on Twitter or Flickr, whilst they are still at the destination.   In future it is likely to see that photographs and information posted will have GPS information, with screens providing travel information.

The travel and tourism trends which Cape Town Tourism brought back from ITB are the following:

*   Globalisation, demographic change and climate change are the three most important trends affecting tourism.  Climate change has created a moral debate amongst travellers about the effect of a long haul flight to a city like Cape Town on the carbon footprint, a potential threat to tourism to our country, if the local tourism industry cannot find ways to communicate to these travellers how they can offset their long-haul travel whilst in the country.  The Convention predicted that “individual carbon budgets could be in the pipeline”.  

*   The largest tourism growth has come from Asia and South America.   This year international travel is expected to grow by 3 – 4 %.  Cape Town Tourism is confident about the benefit of the massive Asian travel market, and our suitable weather in the low season to accommodate these travellers.  

*   Tourism marketing is no longer about the destination, but about the customer.  The traveller can be segmented as follows:

    *   the “too busy to care” traveller, who can not be bothered to give destination or product feedback

    *   Travellers leading complex lives and whose finances are under pressure, working harder and their leisure time reducing.

    *   Travellers looking for simplicity and a return to basics.   Their mantra is : “Slow living, slow food and slow travel”

    *   Wealthy travellers are harder to please, and set higher demands from the destinations they visit. 

*   Sustainability is now vital, and no longer a ‘nice to have’.  All elements in the tourism cycle need to be environmentally sustainable.

*   Despite an improvement in the economic well-being of the world since the recession struck three years ago, tourists are still being careful with their money.  Tourism spend is expected to increase by 7 % this year.  

*   The tourism businesses that can understand what makes their “customers tick” will be the ones that will “lead the way to prosperity”.

*   Neuromarketing is the new ‘science’ of communication, and is a recognition that up to 95 % of all decisions are made subconsciously.   Marketing communication is moving toward imagery and language that can influence the subconscious decision-making of travellers.   Four types of customers are identified:

   *   The Economical Customer relates to data, facts and efficiency

   *   The Relationship Customer relates to harmony, partnership, trust and a personal approach

   *   The Trendsetter Customer relates to opportunities, gut feeling and creativity

   *   The Exclusive Customer relates to aesthetics, quality and vision.

*   Finally, the ability to communicate in an instant is the “most interesting innovation in tourism marketing”, writes Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold.   Social Media is the communication tool which allows information to be personalised to travellers, and shared with them instantly.

To market a city brand such a Cape Town effectively, it must be authentic, it must appeal to locals first, it must have emotional pull, and must have real stories to tell, said Mrs Helmbold.   She also said that travellers spend the most time of their holiday experience in the “planning and memory phase of their holidays and sharing their experiences now takes place on Facebook and Twitter”, the holiday album becoming something of the past.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio:  www.whalecottage.com   Twitter: @WhaleCottage

Restaurant Trends: Which USA trends apply to South Africa?

Local restaurant consultant Michael Said has evaluated the potential impact of eleven international restaurant trends on restaurants in our country, writing for www.bizcommunity.com.  The trends were documented by Technomic Inc, an American market research company.

1.   More ordering of “retro cocktails and high-end spirits” and craft beers, away from mass-produced alternatives, at fine-dining restaurants, as restaurant patrons want to celebrate their increasing confidence in the year.   Said’s reaction is that the stricter ‘drink/driving’ legislation may counter this trend locally, and predicts a greater focus on non-alcoholic cocktails in general, and cocktails for designated drivers in particular.

2.   Restaurants are becoming mobile, moving location, without a fixed abode.  Said says that rent-free location is attractive, but is still too large a leap for South African restaurants.

3.   A move away from a celebrity chef to the celebrity farmer, who supplied the ingredients, in marketing communication.  Said is sceptical of seeing “Farmer Brown” style advertising in South Africa.

4.   Technology in restaurants, to gain a competitive edge, including iPads with menus and winelists, and hand-held devices for payment at the table, will grow.  Said says that social media marketing, location-based advertising and online reputation management will certainly be replicated in South Africa.   He is however sceptical about the widespread use of iPads, with the danger of them disappearing with the cutlery and condiments!

5.   The ‘Korean Influence’ is forecast for the USA, resulting from immigration, but is discounted by Said for South Africa.

6.   The trend of ‘Tired of being poor’ could see restaurant patrons spoiling themselves with indulgences on higher-priced menu items.  Said says this could apply locally, given that interest rate decreases have put more Rands into customers’ pockets.

7.  Contradicting the previous trend, but not mutually exclusive, is that customers are demanding even greater value for money, and restaurants will have permanent value offers on their menus, a trend Said agrees will apply locally too.   I would like to add that Cape restaurants have recognised the value of value-offerings, and 37 Cape Town restaurants are offering summer specials, a commendable business policy.

8.  Restaurant chains will reinvent themselves with new branding and looks, as customers look for “new and exciting places to celebrate the new found financial freedom”.   Said recommends that restaurants reinvest their greater income back into their businesses.

9.   Comfort food will remain in demand, as will traditional dishes, either as they are, or with a modern interpretation.   Said questions this trend forecast, as he doubts that patrons want to eat more of the same ‘home food’ at restaurants.  He recommends that they be enticed back to restaurants with ‘old favourites, new experiences and plenty of “love”‘.

10.  Supermarkets are increasingly competing against restaurants, offering their customers family value-for-money eat-in ideas and products.   Locally, Pick ‘n Pay and Woolworths “are taking customers out of restaurants and into the aisle”.  Said recommends that ‘warmth and hospitality’ cannot be bought in a supermarket, and are points of difference for restaurants.

11.   Restaurant menus will see a balance of healthy (starters) and indulgent (desserts) items.  Said sees challenges for restaurants caused by menu-labelling requirements, and the Consumer Protection Act, said to be effective from April.   I would like to add my own note to this trend, and call on restaurants to specify the fat content per 100g portion, and the carbohydrate content per serving for diabetics, as it is done on all Woolworths packaging – diabetes is a ‘price’ that is paid by restaurant lovers, and diabetics should be encouraged to eat out healthily without feeling that they are losing out.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.comj   Twitter: @WhaleCottage

Bloggers’ Code of Conduct called for by wine blogger Emile Joubert

The current social media “wars” taking place both in the food and wine arena should be a reason for bloggers to get together, and to write a Code of Conduct for blogging.  This serious call came from Emile Joubert, a PR consultant to the wine industry, and writer of the Wine Goggle Blog, when he addressed the final and best attended meeting for this year of the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club at the Grand Daddy Hotel in the Cape Town city centre.

Emile was a most entertaining speaker, and challenged wine bloggers in improving their ‘game’.  He had brought along two De Wetshof wines from Robertson-based winemaker Danie de Wet, the Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, as well as Kanonkop Pinotage, the only South African wine in a recent list of “100 most exciting wines in the world”, and a magnum of Glen Carlou Pinot Noir, which were tasted by the bloggers.   Emile praised the initiative of the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club, which was established in May this year.  He has seen the benefit that his wine clients have enjoyed through the increasing number of bloggers, all wine lovers with an opinion, he said.   Social media is a perfect platform for wine promotion.   Every wine has a story, he said, making it eminently ‘blogable”, unlike spirits or beer, which are more generic beverage categories.   Wines have a brand name, a culture and a personality, and these characteristics can be used to good advantage by wine bloggers.   Emile acknowledged the leadership of Mike Ratcliffe in being the first wine blogger ever, for Vilafonte, about six years ago.  

Emile was critical of wineries embracing social media by opening a Facebook page, and paying lip service to social media through poor writing on their blogs and in their Tweets, which give the wine industry a poor image, he said. He said that many wine bloggers “are more enthusiastic than talented in writing” about wine, wasting the time and space for serious wine lovers.  They are boring, he said, and if they contain spelling errors, they are an embarrassment.  He said that many bloggers are too obsessed with readership numbers, using links non-stop, no use he says if their blogs are lousy!    He encouraged bloggers to develop their “own voice”, and to create their own ‘blog brand’.   “Speak your own voice clearly, succinctly and passionately”, he urged.

Most social media programs of wineries lack a strategy, in his opinion.  He recommended that a 1/3 each of one’s action should be focused on SOCIAL, MEDIA and MARKETING.  He described the wine industry as ‘ego-sodden’ terrain, with over-intellectualisation of wines, for example, referring to wine tasting of “tar” and “figpaste”, having run out of new adjectives to describe the taste of wine!   Emile feels that bloggers will make traditional mainstream media wine writers obsolete, and that is why Neil Pendock too has taken to blogging.   He mentioned that the recent ‘Swartland Revolution’, a marketing activity by a number of Swartland wine producers in Riebeeck Kasteel to make their wine region “sexy” via social media marketing, had made TIME magazine.  

In developing a Bloggers’ Code of Conduct, Emile called firstly for anonymous comments to be disallowed, saying that this would never be allowed on a letters’ page in a newspaper.  He also called for a boycott of restaurants that ban writers!   When asked, he explained the split in the wine industry, based on wine writers being pro- or anti-Platter.   The anti-Platter writers are unhappy with sighted tastings to judge the stars awarded to each wine, as they can influence the livelihoods of those affected by lower star ratings.  He called Platter “the best phone book” for the wine industry.  It would appear that this group of writers is also critical of Wines of South Africa (WOSA), in that they feel that the monies spent on marketing South African wines is not effectively spent.  Accepting ‘freebies’, including airline tickets and more, is frowned upon, and leads the anti-Platter faction to expose their ‘colleagues’ guilty of this practice without disclosure.  This leads to backstabbing, infantile behaviour, and persons dishing out insults without being able to take them in turn. 

The Food Blogger Marisa Hendricks from The Creative Pot blog praised her Twitter and blogging friends for their friendly support and ‘chattiness’, which makes Social Media enjoyable to her. She was honest in saying that she is a ‘messy’ cook, that her family does not eat fancy food every night, and that there are irregular meal times in her household.   She focused on three aspects of a blog, in making it more successful. The design of the blog is paramount, as it expresses one’s personality. 

Secondly, food photography needs attention.  In her household photography is mainly done at night, which is complicated as far as lighting is concerned, making dishes look too yellow.  She says that cellphones are not made to give good photograph quality, and that one should choose the right camera (she uses a Cannon), read the manual that comes with the camera, and experiment with the camera settings.  Natural light is best, and it can be softened by gauze, she said.  Food should also be lit from the side, and not directly from above.   Food styling is equally important for successful photography, creating a desire of “I want to lick my screen”, she said!   Styling can be enhanced through the use of cutlery, glasses, doilies, napkins, etc.   White plates are classic in food styling, but bright plates offer a contrast for a one-colour food dish.   The styling should be natural, in how one would eat the dish.  This helps one when one submits one’s food photographs to what she called ‘foodporn” sites such as Foodgawker!  Thirdly Marisa spoke about advertising, and she only allows text-based ads.  She does not want her blog to look like a “billboard”.   She knows that advertising could be off-putting to her readers.  She also discussed affiliate links, to cookery books sold by Amazon, for example, which can work well if used properly.

In discussion it was mentioned that bloggers’ “user-generated content” is becoming more trusted for recipes and information than are recipe books and magazines.  Marisa called for better hardware to read blogs.   Disclosure of receiving free products is paramount, it was said, and PR companies should not expect bloggers to write about the products they have handed out, much like a print journalist will not guarantee that he/she will accept a media release. It was felt that one should not write about something one did not like.  

A competition amongst attendees to find the most frequent Tweeter during the two-hour Bloggers’ Club meeting led to a flood of Tweets.  Hila Jonker (who Tweets as @LadyRaven) won the prize of a bundle of fresh greens from the gardens of the wonderful new restaurant Babel at Babylonstoren.

The 2011 programme for the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club will be announced closer to the start of the new year.  The first meeting of the year will be hosted by Pigalle on 26 January.   More information is available from info@whalecottage.com.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com   Twitter: @WhaleCottage

Social Media: The Whale War and Freedom of Speech

Whale Cottage and I have been the subject of a most vicious defamatory and destructive Twitter campaign in the past week, with unsubstantiated untruthful allegations made, aimed at damaging the reputation of our company and of myself.   The Twitter campaign fabricated information for the benefit of causing a sensation.  Initially the account was set up as an impersonation of myself, by appearing to be my personal Twitter account.  Twitter closed the account down temporarily last Friday, until the perpetrator changed the Biography on the Twitter page.  Not only was it malicious in content and libelous, but it was also threatening in its aggressive tone.

I have written this blogpost with the purpose of acknowledging that we are aware of the campaign, that we know who drove it, and that we believe in what we do and what we stand for.   We do not want to signal through silence that the abusive campaign contained any truth, other than the colour of my jacket that I wore at the OYO lunch on Friday, referred to in one of the Tweets, bringing the perpetrator and his companion into the foodie blogging community!

So how did this campaign arise?  About 2 weeks ago I wrote a review about Crush!3, as I have also done about the first two issues of the Crush! digital food and wine magazines, of which Michael Olivier is the editor.  A number of food bloggers and our readers posted comments on the Blog, the majority being in agreement with our point of view.  We have regularly requested input from Olivier in response to our reviews, but have received none.  In fact, his reaction has been to block us on Twitter, to not respond at all to communication, and to not acknowledge my presence at a recent industry function, even though we have been acquainted for many years.   On Saturday 16 October, the Crush! team of editor Olivier, and contributors Sophia Lindop, Andy Fenner (JamieWho?) and David Cope (of The Foodie blog) , who also owns the PR company called Established & Partners, with Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School as sole client, it would appear, and Caveau/HQ/Gourmet Burger, Rudera Wines, Cape Classics and Hippo Hotel as ex-clients) had dinner at Lindop’s house to celebrate Crush!3.  On Twitter one was informed about the dinner through the attendees’ Tweets.  A Tweet by Fenner “Having a whale of a time with the @Crush_Online team” first caught my eye that evening,  which was reTweeted by Cope (but since removed), and echoed by the Crush! designers on the @Crush_Online Twitter account “also having a whale of a time. Flap Flap”, a few minutes later.  

An hour later a full-scale campaign began, with a total of 99 disparaging Tweets sent over the period of a week, one more demeaning than another.   A number of clues allowed us to link the campaign to Cope, information which we have handed to the police.   An abusive collection of e-mails was received from Cope as well, and there were clear parallels in what he wrote by e-mail and in the Tweets of the abusive Twitter account.  When we alluded on our blog to the Crush! team, and Cope in particular, being responsible for this childish campaign, there was no response from Olivier to deny it, and thereby he has condoned it.  We invited him to comment on our exposure in this blog post, and were surprised to receive a response from him for the first time since Crush! was published (we are delighted that Olivier acknowledges our input, but surprised to read that he values it, given his reaction to it, as detailed above): “I am not aware of any campaign, by any member of the Crush team, to defame you or Whale Cottage.  We would not embark on a defamation campaign when we are trying to build an online community willing to engage with us in an open, honest and constructive manner.   At Crush we value all constructive feedback and the fact that you have taken the time to read Crush and to make suggestions.  Crush magazine is in its third edition and determined to establish itself in a new market.  Needless to say, the Crush team would not like its brand linked to campaigns that aim to defame. I would therefore appreciate it, if you could forward any material that uses the Crush brand without our permission”.

Our Whale Cottage Blog has been controversial (no surprise that we were nominated and voted a Top 10 finalist in the Most Controversial Blog category in the recent 2010 SA Blog Awards).  We have exposed the dishonest claim by Carne restaurant that all its meat is organic (claim since removed from their website); we have awarded Sour Service Awards every Friday, never popular amongst its recipients; we have exposed the conflict of interest in the running of tourism matters in Hermanus; we have been critical of many restaurants that we have reviewed; and we have been critical of Crush!, but have acknowledged that it is improving.  This does not always make us popular amongst those businesses that we have written about.   We are proud of this Blog, and present the truth as we experience and see it.  We are not afraid to tackle any topic. Our reward is the 40000 unique readers reading our Blog every month, and our more than 1300 Twitter followers.

I have asked myself whether one changes tack in the face of such an abusive and emotionally violent and terrorising Twitter campaign.  Some people I spoke to used the PR adage that all publicity is good publicity.  Others said that social media memory is short, and that Cope would run out of things to fabricate, which is what happened.    But the overwhelming response was that I should change nothing about this Blog, and that I should continue with what we do.  This is wonderful support.   Some very special readers and followers were brave enough to react to the campaign publicly, and I am most grateful to all of them.  We are also grateful to our Twitter followers who saw the petty campaign for what it was, and unfollowed or blocked the abusive Twitter account. 

One of the characteristics of social media is that the boundaries of what one can say are blurred, with no clear guidelines of what is acceptable, and what is not.   There is no consistency in the different social media platforms and their codes of conduct.  Freedom of speech seems to be the overwhelming principle of this new method of communication, often at the expense of the truth.

Freedom of speech brings with it responsibilities, and cannot ignore the law, which dictates that one cannot disparage and defame others.  Good journalistic practice – yes, Bloggers, Facebookers and Twitterers are “New Age” journalists – is that information presented must be checked for accuracy, and that one cannot make statements about others unless they are proven.  The word “alleged” should precede any label one would give the action of any other person one is writing about, unless they have been convicted of the action they have been accused of.

This raises the question as to what the limits are for social media users, and what responsibility sits with Social Media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Blogging.

Blogging seems to have few restrictions, as there are numerous blogging platforms.  Many bloggers use WordPress, but the company does not specify a Code of Conduct.  The servers hosting the blogs may have a code of conduct, but these are not normally visible to the blogger, especially if one works via a webmaster.

Facebook’s Code of Conduct is lengthy, and appears to be the most protective against disparagement and defamation.  It is also very reactive to complaints in taking action immediately, not a surprise when one sees ‘The Social Network’ movie about the establishment of Facebook.  It states the following in respect of protecting one’s rights, the closest it gets to addressing what one may or not say:

“1.     Protecting Other People’s Rights

We respect other people’s rights, and expect you to do the same.     

1.     You will not post content or take any action on Facebook that infringes or violates someone else’s rights or otherwise violates the law.

2.     We can remove any content or information you post on Facebook if we believe that it violates this Statement.

3.     We will provide you with tools to help you protect your intellectual property rights. To learn more, visit our How to Report Claims of Intellectual Property Infringement page.

4.     If we remove your content for infringing someone else’s copyright, and you believe we removed it by mistake, we will provide you with an opportunity to appeal.

5.     If you repeatedly infringe other people’s intellectual property rights, we will disable your account when appropriate.

6.     You will not use our copyrights or trademarks (including Facebook, the Facebook and F Logos, FB, Face, Poke, Wall and 32665), or any confusingly similar marks, without our written permission.

7.     If you collect information from users, you will: obtain their consent, make it clear you (and not Facebook) are the one collecting their information, and post a privacy policy explaining what information you collect and how you will use it.

8.     You will not post anyone’s identification documents or sensitive financial information on Facebook.

9.     You will not tag users or send email invitations to non-users without their consent.”

Twitter has a Code of Conduct too, but seems very loath to take action against Twitter abuse, believing in freedom of speech, and Twitterers’ rights to expression.  It does not disallow disparagement, a major weakness of its Code.  It also does not demand honesty in Twittering, which means that anyone can say anything about anyone else on Twitter, without it necessarily being truthful.  It abdicates its legal liability in any dispute between Twitterers, yet does call for local country laws to be respected: 

·         Impersonation: You may not impersonate others through the Twitter service in a manner that does or is intended to mislead, confuse, or deceive others

·         Trademark: We reserve the right to reclaim user names on behalf of businesses or individuals that hold legal claim or trademark on those user names. Accounts using business names and/or logos to mislead others will be permanently suspended.

·         Privacy: You may not publish or post other people’s private and confidential information, such as credit card numbers, street address or Social Security/National Identity numbers, without their express authorization and permission.

·         Violence and Threats: You may not publish or post direct, specific threats of violence against others.

·         Copyright: We will respond to clear and complete notices of alleged copyright infringement. Our copyright procedures are set forth in the Terms of Service.

·         Unlawful Use: You may not use our service for any unlawful purposes or for promotion of illegal activities. International users agree to comply with all local laws regarding online conduct and acceptable content.

·         Verified accounts: You may not use the Verified Account badge unless it is provided by Twitter. Accounts using the badge as part of profile pictures, background images, or in a way that falsely implies verification will be suspended” 

      The abusive campaign has created food for thought for many Bloggers and Twitterers, many wondering how they would react if they were targeted by such a 140-character onslaught on a daily basis.   There are no clear rules.  There also is no precedent in South African law as to any Blog post, Tweet or Facebook entry having been the cause of a defamation claim to date. In the USA, a young Twitter user last year sent a disparaging comment about an apartment rental agency to her 20 followers, and she was sued for $50 000 by the agency.

We welcome your point of view on Freedom of Speech in Social Media Marketing.

POSTSCRIPT 27/10:   The abusive campaign recommenced this morning, the first Tweet denying David Cope’s involvement, a little too obvious!   Another Tweet refers to a lunch I have booked at Tokara this weekend, a violation of my privacy relative to the restaurant, meaning that this information has been leaked by a staff member of the restaurant.

POSTSCRIPT 12/11:   We have established that food blogger Clare Mc Keon/McLoughlin from Spill Blog is passing on information to David Cope for the abusive Twitter campaign.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter @WhaleCottage

Bloggers should not blog about themselves, bloggers told!

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 info@whalecottage.com to book.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com