Twitter Backlash

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.

t12 Twitter Backlash

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.