SF Chefs 2010: The Future of Food Media

Apart from the gustatorial explorations at SF Chefs 2010, there were, as I mentioned in my last post, a myriad of demonstrations and industry seminars. You could learn everything from butchering a whole pig to the art of hospitality and fine service. I was given…

SF Chefs 2010: The Future of Food Media

Apart from the gustatorial explorations at SF Chefs 2010, there were, as I mentioned in my last post, a myriad of demonstrations and industry seminars. You could learn everything from butchering a whole pig to the art of hospitality and fine service. I was given the wonderful opportunity to cover The Future of Food Media industry seminar for Foodbuzz.

The seminar title was fairly general, so I instinctively developed my own notions of what the discussion should cover. With clear shifts in consumer media preferences from print to online, the continued decline in magazine sales, and Gourmet Magazine’s demise in print but resurrection online and on its soon-to-be-released device application, I thought that this aspect of food media should be on the table.

And naturally, as someone who attempts to capture the beauty of food through writing and photographs on a blog, I was eager to hear opinions on this dimension of food media, and how PR firms and marketers have been harnessing this segment of their audience.

Well, perhaps next year.

The focus of the seminar was on social media, and ways those in the food industry can and should utilize social media platforms such as Facebook, Yelp, and Twitter. Admittedly, I long resisted the world of Twitter – the only reason I started a Twitter account was because of my blog, but I will be the first to concede that this platform can be extremely powerful. And fun. To me, my presence on Twitter and Facebook is an extension of my site. I was curious to learn the food industry’s perspective.

Moderated by San Francisco Chronicle Inside Scoop’s Paolo Lucchesi, the panel included Andrew Freeman (Andrew Freeman & Co.), Chef Robbie Lewis (Bon Appetit Management Co.), Ruggy Joesten (Yelp) and restaurateur Anna Weinberg (from the restaurant Marlowe).

The seminar was probably most beneficial to restaurateurs and chefs (and their PR firms) who want to find ways to hone their brand. But there were several key points that are useful to entrepreneurs or anyone involved in social media. Certainly, fellow bloggers can find the takeaways valuable, too.

Leverage the Power of Social Media

Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook allow you to (with minimal effort):

  • share information immediately
  • reach a specific segment of the population
  • obtain feedback & gauge performance if you provide a service
  • identify trends
  • data mine

You must understand, I come from a background in market research, so buzzwords such as “segmentation” and “trends” set off my nerdy side. The idea of Twitter as a “free 24-hour focus group” was fascinating. I know many bloggers are very in tune with their site statistics and SEO, so these concepts are not too different. As a blogger, it is always interesting to see what readers find interesting – sometimes feedback on Twitter or Facebook surprise me. I may post a recipe on something I fear may be very mundane, only to find it become a popular post. Responses on these platforms can help me better understand what types of topics engage readers, and learn more about them, too. Granted, most of the people on my Facebook page for this blog are mostly friends, but once in a while it’s nice to take a peek at the analytics.

Be Engaging but Responsible

  • Engage your audience
  • Exercise discretion with postings
  • Beware who is posting for you

Social media platforms are great ways to have a dialogue with an audience of like-minded people. But it’s important to consider discretion and who is actually posting. There was discussion on how the popularity of reality TV influences foodies to follow celebrity chefs for that glamorous look — or Twit Pic — of life behind the velvet ropes. And there was also a conversation about genuine dialogue, especially for known food personalities and brands. It is almost always ideal for the actual personality to post to Twitter, rather than a representative.

And it is absolutely crucial for brands to consider who they hire to manage their company’s Tweets. I couldn’t agree more. I have certainly encountered Facebook status postings for certain merchants that made me think, If the CEO of XYZ Company saw this, surely she wouldn’t be pleased!

Likewise, we “normal tweeters” should take care when posting. Needless to say, it’s not wise to drunk dial – for goodness sake, don’t Tweet in a stupor, either.

If You’ve Read This Far…

…thank you! I know this is a departure from my normal types of posts, and I apologize for the lack of pretty food pictures. It was an interesting seminar, though I would love for future conversations to go beyond social media and include other forms of online media. My sense from some comments during the seminar was that blogs are not considered legitimate forms of food media, however, it is known that those in PR and marketing are certainly harnessing blog readership. I think this is an area that should definitely be explored.

With that, I hope to connect with you on Twitter or on Facebook! And if you see a post that is suspicious of a little too much wine…uh…that was my assistant posting for me. Shame on them.

Comments

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  1. Tracey@TangledNoodle

    Although I am in now way blogging as a business, I still pay attention to suggested strategies for using social media to extend my reach to readers. Like you, it took some time before I engaged Twitter and I can honestly say that it has been a tremendous factor in exposing to new friends and opportunities – including you! 8-D Thanks so much for sharing these experiences at SF Chefs 2010.

    Reply
  2. Christine @ Fresh Local and Best

    This is an interesting discussion on leveraging other multiple forms of social media. I’m not sure how effective each are, but I know the more people participate the more powerful these platforms become, so we may just be at a tipping point.

    It’s a shame they thing that they don’t think blogs are a legit source of food media. I think it’s too early to make that call, but then again I’m biased. :)

    Reply
  3. Chef Dennis

    thanks for all the great information! I do wish we had something like this going on in the Philly area, I have so much to learn!

    Reply
    • Kim @ Simply Starving

      I know! I am from Iowa and we don’t have tons of events like this. Sure, we get some, but compared to San Fran and other big cities we are out of the loop.

      Reply
  4. Jean

    Great post, Liren. Nice to know that you and some of your readers shared my initial resistance to Twitter. Now, however, I’m glad I joined. As you mentioned, with responsible Tweeting, it can be quite a fun way to interact with fellow foodies. :-)

    Reply
    • Liren

      Yes, I really resisted it at first because I was fearful that it would be yet another time sucker. And in some ways, it is, but it has really been useful and fun!

      Reply
  5. norma

    Thanks for the tips. I only use Twitter to post. Will have to start really checking this out.

    Reply
    • Liren

      Ease into it :) Twitter definitely takes some getting used to!

      Reply
    • Liren

      LOL, yes, it is! My dad is too, but I actually don’t think he’s following my blog. Little steps…

      Reply
  6. Monet

    Thank you for sharing. I’m still trying to navigate through the blog/social media world, and this was a helpful post. I wish I could have attended!

    Reply
    • Liren

      Hi Monet! I’m glad this was helpful! And glad to have connected with you on Twitter, too!

      Reply
  7. Evan @swEEts

    Thanks so much for posting this! I just signed up for Twitter a few weeks ago and I’m still having a hard time making good use of it.. I don’t know what Im really doing ha but I am following you :) If you have any advice on how to make my twittering more helpful PLEASE let me know!!

    Reply
    • Liren

      One thing I really recommend, if you haven’t already, is to use a service such as Tweetdeck, and organize people you follow into lists. It really helps me sort through all the tweets! And thank you so much for the follow! :)

      Reply
  8. Chefs Resources

    I am another person who has resisted Twitter but recently signed-up. Still learning how to use but not abuse it. As well as how to choose who to follow and how much information/socializing I can afford to spend time on. Thanks for the sharing what you learned. Regarding Facebook, I have have seen it deliver a good amount of referrals to my website and find it very useful for attracting new readers.

    Reply
    • Liren

      Glad to hear that facebook is working for you! I know for myself, I’ve seen more loyal referrals from facebook over Twitter, though Twitter can be great for reaching a larger mass of people. Still figuring it all out myself!

      Reply
  9. Lisa { AuthenticSuburbanGourmet }

    Liren – great post and very informative! Love these types of seminars – I always seem to take away a helpful nugget or two. I too resisted twitter but got on the bandwagon actually due to a social media presentation I did for my job related to recruiting/HR and social media. I too have found it to be a great medium and helps to get the word out for my blog. You meet great folks along the way too. :-)

    Reply
    • Liren

      Hi Lisa, glad you liked the post! I couldn’t agree with you more- you really do meet a lot of great people, and it is such a nice complement to the blog. Twitter continually surprises me.

      Reply
  10. Speakeasy Kitchen

    Thanks for this post! Like some of the other commenters, I was wary of some of these tools like twitter, but am finding them increasingly useful and easy to use!

    Reply
    • Liren

      It takes some getting used to, but twitter can be so useful and lots of fun. It does enhance blogging!

      Reply
    • Liren

      You’re welcome, Joy! I hope it helped you make a decision!

      Reply
  11. Baking Barrister

    I found this interesting. I, too, resisted Twitter and only signed up for my blog. I find it to be a powerful tool–it allows me to connect with other food bloggers, answer reader questions, throw out ideas about what to post (and consequently learn what readers prefer), and also share a bit more about myself. I think perhaps the most important aspect thus far is the mutual food blogger love going on—it’s really nice how everyone seems to share other blogs and posts they find their readers might be interested in.

    But yes, It’s VERY important to manage your twitter presence. I’m constantly stopping myself and asking whether those 140 characters are TMI or potentially offensive to those who don’t know me personally. It may go on my personal facebook wall, but that doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for my blog’s twitter.

    BTW, was there a consensus as to whether twitter is more beneficial than facebook? My FB seems to be mostly friends, and I feel like with the cluttering up of FB people are trying to pare down their news feeds.

    Reply
    • Liren

      Twitter has really proven to be such a powerful tool – you can learn so much and so quickly from fellow bloggers and readers! And yes, it’s also a great way to learn about people personally – I know I almost always double check myself whenever I tweet – I consider whether the post is appropriate for Twitter, FB, or perhaps not at all. I think the general consensus was that Twitter is considered less personal than FB, but that also makes it extremely powerful when it comes to gathering information that you may need. I tend to find that most people like to follow on Twitter more!

      Reply
  12. bunkycooks

    This was a great post. It is always interesting to hear opinions on this topic because it is so much of the time we spend along with our blogs.

    Reply
    • Liren

      I’m glad you enjoyed it- I think this would make a great topic for events like your Atlanta food blog forum!

      Reply
    • Liren

      So true – it makes me wonder what is in store for the future? I wonder if we’ll still be tweeting in five years?

      Reply
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