Social Media Club: Food, Wine and Social Media, 2 August 2011

An interesting thing happens when the speakers at Social Media Club don’t hit their mark. The speakers were talking about engagement but they weren’t getting any. The error they made was misjudging their audience as amateurs who needed to be shown how it’s done. They should have known that this is an audience of social media marketers and consultants with years of experience under their belts.

Somehow the disappointment was energising. The speakers showcased relatively intimate projects. The conversations amongst the crowd, many of whom work for advertising and digital agencies were pointing out the difference of executing a social media campaign for a small boutique client versus a big brand. People were talking about dollars, and where budgets for this work should come from when companies don’t devote staff to voice and participate in campaigns. What the crowd had questions about, and what they wanted to hear were the lessons learned. Before a palette of wine was sold off the back of one tweet-up how many mistakes were made and what were they? Endless success stories and figures about the application of social media just didn’t ring true without the war stories.

The three speakers all showcased their experience as food and wine social media pundits. The first as a chef turned blogger and consultant, the second as friend turned publisher, the third (and the most well received speaker) as consultant turned wine event organiser. Although I didn’t learn anything new I (for one at least) was engaged by the achievements made. The speakers also demonstrated three principles of social media which I took to be:

  • Authenticity
  • Consistency
  • Voice

“You are what you engage” – Bridget Davis

After a successful career as a chef, that included a stint as head chef at Bills, Bridget Davis found a voice and a profile as @bridget_cooks. The twitter profile lead to “The Internet Chef” and the trajectory really is quite remarkable:

  • After 6 weeks on twitter Bridget was featured on SMH as a top tweeting chef
  • After 3 months she was featured on the Huffington Post as one of the top 10 chefs on Twitter
  • After 1 year she co-launched the event Media 140 for Foodies
  • And after 2 years she has been acknowledged (I’m not sure by who, but I’ll run with it) as the most influential food tweeter in Australia and in the top 10 most influential food tweeters in the world.

This influence is achieved with just under 15,000 followers who “amplify” the missives. Bridget Davis has been able to build a business off her social media presence. One that includes: cooking demonstrations, corporate events, degustation menus, consultancy for cafe upstarts and even a social media agency (iconic 88 media).

“No one publishes us!” – Chef friends to Denea Buckingham aka The Gourmet Rabbit

The seeds of Gourmet Rabbit were launched when a group of chefs were bemoaning the latest bad review and the fact they didn’t have a voice. Denea encouraged them to write and with 100 pages of content and no publishing experience she started a presence on Facebook, Twitter and Four Square that became a print magazine dedicated to assisting and benefiting the food industry. This is another example of monetizing social media through publications, events and a consultancy.

Helping wineries find a voice

Trish Barry helps small wineries connect directly with their customers online. Big brands dominate sales, but the biggest brand has no more than 10% market share. In a category where recommendations are a primary influence on buying choices social media is an opportunity to craft a brand message, directly engage, gather feedback and connect. Again the benefit of the conversation is had in events coordinated through tweet-ups. This isn’t just brands advertising, but brands cooperating to celebrate and promote categories through events like “Chardonnay Day” and “Pinot Day”.

What the three speakers demonstrated is the effectiveness of a finely tuned online brand and message. Clearly the message that comes through communications by experts is gladly received by an audience hungry for authenticity and advice. Not all of the audience may have felt that they learnt anything new but the speakers did spark interesting discussions and it goes to show that Social Media Club is still one of the most fun events around.

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