Lunch with the Weekend FT was titled “The anti-Twitter.” The subject was US talking head Charlie Rose famous for lengthy “conversational arcs” and took place in a Manhattan munchhaus called Michael’s. The title is well made when the restaurant tweets the world that Chas and the FT interviewer are “in the house.” An unwelcome bit of electronic snooping in which patrons get swept up into restaurant marketing strategies. Outrageous, and surely the next trick for hard-pressed, publicity dry SA restaurants.
I wrote about the local deployment of twitter in the spittoon in the Sunday Times yesterday and was later phoned by one of SA’s premier food and wine bloggers who announced “twitter is for losers!” My Sunday sermon:
South Africa is the continent’s largest economy with a GDP of $354 bn – almost exactly the market capitalization of Apple ($303 bn) and Facebook ($50 bn). While Apple makes handy gadgets like iPhones, iPods and iPads (scandalously not yet for sale in SA) I’d always thought Facebook was a bunch of pimply faced teenagers sending each other Justin Bieber e-mails. Turns out that Facebook is one leg of the new marketing tripod for wine called social media. The others legs being Twitter and blogs.
One Friday evening earlier this month, Haskell Vineyards tasting manager Werner Els invited a dozen Cape Town tweeple (as Twitter aficionados tweely refer to themselves, rather than the more obvious “twits”) with exotic handles like Black Delilah and Batonage, to a tweet-up on the Heldberg.
He even sent a kombi to fetch them from the Waterfront to avoid seasonal roadblocks. Soon the twitosphere was filled with urgent bursts about a) the lack of wind b) how lekker was the food c) how lekker was the wine and d) who posted the first blog. This is the seventies C-B Radio craze revisited, for nerds. At least you don’t need those big aerials on your car boot.
So is this a paradigm shift for wine writing? Unlikely, as it’s tricky to get many flowery adjectives into 140 characters and most of the followers of food and wine tweeters are other food and wine tweeters. Cape Town is tweet central while Jo’burg is ground zero for blogs. Probably something to do with attention spans.
My favourite tweets are from those not invited, bemoaning their fate and wishing everyone a happy tweet-up! As one stay-at-home confided “I turned them down. I’ve got better things to do on a Friday night. Tweeting is for people with no real life – they live vicariously through their tweets. It’s so sad.” Some producers even hire people to tweet on their behalf, which leads to much confusion when you meet them and discuss recent tweets – they often have no idea what they said.
Blogging is the next step up the social media ladder and in December, Oak Valley invited 100 bloggers to Gugulethu township braai house Mzoli’s for the launch of a brace of second label wines called Rawbones. After an initial tweet blizzard, traffic settled down to some blurry postings of photos of aging wine identities bopping with the locals, followed over the next couple of days by 100 postings of the same press release about the wines.
Net etiquette expects bloggers to link to the Oak Valley site containing the said press release, but bloggers, desperate to maximize hits on their own sites with a view to attracting ads at a later date, cut and paste worse than learners with a school project to hand in.
As traditional media shed lifestyle pages faster than a jockey in a sweatbox loses weight before a big race, social media is the only way to relieve pent-up PR pressure. Of course, PR’s aren’t complaining as some bill the client for each blog post and tweet. This is a pyramid scheme Kubus king Adriaan Nieuwoudt would have been proud of.
A very entertaining and interesting article.
The world seems to have gone ‘gaga’ for twits or tweeple and it is merely the mention of a twitter handle that will see invitations rolling in to functions to which (most) tweeps would not ordinarily come close to cracking the nod for. The wine industry is, as always, about a year behind when it comes to introspection on the best way to get their message out.
On your comment about tweeple tweeting to other tweeple – It is interesting that many of the most interesting and most followed SA wine industry folk are actually producers and not commentators. Producers like @BubblesFerreira and @HeinWine are infinitely more interesting than many of the people tweeting about the industry. But when last where Bubbles and Hein invited to the launch of a new winery/wine/label/restaurant? I would argue that their view-point is at least as relevant, but probably more interesting than the army of tweeps roaming the freebie landscape.
A common gripe about Twitter is that it is a conduit for repackaging existing content. You will agree that few twits are actually posting original content and are actually just pointing their followers to things on the internet that interest them – and then offering an opinion. Is this so bad? What is it that followers are looking for? If you don’t like what someone says, then un-follow them. Twitter is my most valuable source or real-time news.
A rambling comment – yes, but an original comment nonetheless.
Worth noting that this has been your most ‘retweeted’ post of late…
How weird that these twits you mention are just normal wine consumers. Working 9-5 and drink wine 5-9, love it and write about it. So why should producers not be excited by the fact that they can now communicate directly with some of their clientele?
Wineries see Twitter as a two-way newsletter. They can broadcast their news while getting immediate feedback.
Personally I think you should get more involve with twitter instead of just tweeting your articles. We would love to see some of these b*tch fights on the twitterphere. It will be highly entertaining and who knows you might get a few extra hits as well. Lets Social! Come and have a glass of tipple with us on the Tweeter.
Fair comment, but I update my blog quite frequently (three times today) and find I need more space than 140 characters. Heck, even this comment won’t work as a tweet!
Not to worry, we will keep your spot in the meanwhile. ( 88 characters
I agree with Mike’s point which I think comes down to how the medium is used.
If a magazine is published whose only content is the poorly written dietary and ablutionary schedule of the editor, it will not last very long.
The difference with online mediums such as blogs, facebook and twitter (which are really extensions of bulletin boards and email) is that your content can be banal but you get to carry on. This is one of the downsides of self-publishing, but it is a necessary pain because amongst all the rubbish there is a rich, and valuable source of independent content.
The trick for producers when hosting events aimed at those who publish online is to include the ones who will broadcast a message to a large group of people, and that the message will be well made. Obviously they hope the message will be positive, hence good (free) food and wine, and that the message has the ability to influence those reading it.
A large audience reached by a talented commentator with influence is the ideal. If it ends up simply being the circle-jerk you describe, then I agree it is not really helpful.
I think Twitter has its benefits, as do blogs, websites, books, and newspapers etc. It is not the medium that is important, but the execution of the message. Unfortunately there is a lot of sloppy content around, and a lot of sloppy users.
By the way, no one I know who seriously uses twitter uses ‘tweeple’, and most that I know cringe at the use of tweetup. The need to add ‘tw’ to words associated with twitter is rather facile and detracts from how useful the service is. It is rather frustrating to hear Twitter disparaged because of the assumed use of silly words.
“oh ho ho, tweeple, how silly, what twits.”
I have never enjoyed the term ‘bookworm’ but that hasn’t led me to think any differently about books.
And, if you like, here is my comment in a tweet:
@neilpendock I agree with Mike. Twitter works for those who use it well. Content is King, whether the medium be email, poetry, or opera.
A very interesting Sectional Title case @ Durban High Court 07/02/11 08h30 – Application brought by Administrator A Grundler – MJ Rambhadursing
heartly loving good friendship circle