So Saturday rose bright and glorious and it was the day of The SA Food and Wine Blogger Indaba – “Teaching good blogging ethics, writing skills, social media, SEO skills, food styling, photography and wine knowledge.”
Think an entire day to learning more about blogging and add fine food and friends and you will have a good idea of exactly what went on… but I thought I would share the details, so that next time this lands on the calendar you won’t be able to help yourself – you will just have to join in.
So on an extremely blustery Saturday I headed for the city and straight away got chatting with so many friends that I met at the last Food Blogger Indaba… and that folks is why blogger conferences and meet ups are the best thing for on earth for your blogging, you make friends… you meet the bloggers behind the screens. You discover new work that inspires you and you have to follow – you become fans of new friends and in turn you will discover new followers of your work and there is nothing like a real live supporter to encourage the blogging that you do.
Se7en + 1 Events at The Food Blogger Indaba
- Panel Discussion: Working with Brands, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
- Introduction to SEO for bloggers by Neil Pursey of WebGrowth:
- How to be Likeable: Social Media Strategy and Community Building by Marina Pape of Yuppie Chef.
- The Meaning behind Google Analytics by Iaan Van Niekerk of PlusPlusMinus.
- Panel Discussion: From Blog to Book:
- A Creative Writing Workshop by Jane-Anne Hobbs from Scrumptious.
- Light Up Your Life: Tips and Tricks to Light Up Your Food Photography by Carmen DaVila:
- On to the Auction and the Incredible and Famous Goodie Bag:
The question was not so much “If bloggers and brands should work together?” Since they do… but more about the ethics of working together. The key is to know your readers, and to be aware, or beware of PR drops that “spray and pray” as a blogger you will lose your uniqueness if everyone is blogging about the same thing. They all felt that bloggers should charge for their brand related work as a it indicates that their work is worthy. And the key point was: Should a blogger disclose that they are working with a brand – and I have to say, why on earth wouldn’t they? My readers are intelligent enough to know when I am working with a brand and any brand would just get a little more milage if I then disclose it. It was a very interesting discussion, folks are really opinionated about this – even I am!!!
Well SEO is not exactly something I think about too much it just feels a bit to me like a lot of jargon being tossed around and really I love my readers – the more the merrier, but I am so happy with the ones I have. Enter great big words: keyword clouds and even buckets of keywords… and social media tracking – really interesting stuff. Anyway he had a whole lot to say and he said it fast, my pen was literally blazing across the page. And he very kindly put together a post full of all his tips, his talk and a whole lot more. I think the biggest epiphany for me was, and it may be slightly off topic, but why have I never thought of looking for a recipe card plugin… so that is my next project… just making recipes easier for our readers to read sounds like a totally fab idea to me.
And on to Yuppie Chef and you know how we love and adore Yuppie Chef, it was brilliant to get a look behind the scenes at the inner workings of one of South Africa’s favourite brands. First things first and why they are so likeable: Sales are not at the heart of their strategy, they are always sitting around the table and thinking: How can they enrich lives, how can they add value… They claim to have had lucky beginnings – being in the right place at the right time – early adopters can’t break the rules, they have to create them. This you have to love… and think of it in terms of your own blog, or brand: “If Yuppie Chef were a person, who would they be?” what movies would they enjoy, what holidays would they celebrate, what stuff would they love… I have often created a mental image and a detailed one at that about what our readers look like… but it is interesting to turn it around and say: “What does our brand look like?”
Otherwise they consider their brand a community… if folk come over for a tea party, they aren’t just coming over for the cake. They are hoping for genuine and transparent friendship… and always top of their minds delivering great content without a hidden agenda, after all nobody wants to come over for dinner and discover that they are now part of a pyramid scheme. The top tip was consider your platforms – and for us that would be twitter, instagram and pinterest… and don’t sink all your material to each one – because their will always be super fans (oh please can we be yuppie chef super fans) who are following on every platform and you will bore them to death and chase them away. Very good point!!! And another pearl of wisdom, that tons of brands should be listening for: Offering freebies doesn’t win dedicated fans for your brand… they do bring fly-by-night folk who like to win freebies – that is a good point. Remember your followers are smart and treat them with integrity.
This was such a good presentation – who thought google analytics could be fun and engaging!!! Really dry old stats be gone… clearly our speaker loves what he is doing and was very good at bringing the topic to us. He started his talk by asking a couple of leading questions and they helped him to direct his talk towards his audience… you have see where this is going… what questions you should ask of your google analytics in order to direct your blog posts and strategy towards your readers. Here is a top tip: if you don’t know the meaning of one of a word on your google analytics page then google it – someone, somewhere will have written about it and explained it. Otherwise use your analytics to find out where your readers are coming from and what they are looking for. If you find that someone is sending you traffic, then head over and personally say thank-you, it is the right thing to do. Your blog is really all about the people you serve, learn from your stats, even test your stats and then use those results to serve your readers more of what they are after. Loved this talk, it gave me a totally new enthusiasm for looking at my google analytics and how they could be useful… rather than numbers on a screen that I watch scrolling by.
Here was an interesting Panel discussion – it is no secret that I would love to write a book one day, not that I am a writer, but the thought of holding a real live book. So of course I wanted to learn more… turns out they have all used their blogs as a platform to get somewhere else – two have published books and one is hoping to head into television – interesting times. They all said that if you are going into food blogging for money then think again but if you are using your blog to launch your brand then carry right on. Sam Linsell self-published her own book, and it is a beautiful book… she learnt so much, an incredible learning curve… and she just wouldn’t recommend that as the route to go… it was really hard work. Jane-Anne Hobbs has published her book through a publisher and her royalties remain fairly small… simply because the volume of South African readers is fairly small – 10 000 buyers is a best seller in our country. And then, and this makes sense… just like all your media platforms… your book audience and your blog audience are totally different – ha, never thought of that. (Note to self: I have grown a blog audience that will most likely not read the book I write – whatever I write about – gasp… then again, I read tons of books written by my blog friends so there is something to think about…). Another interesting point is that when you sell a cookbook you are selling a lifestyle, most people only try one recipe – what have I been doing all these years… we always try at least se7en+1 recipes!!! Clearly I need to change a few lifestyle habits of our own over here!!!
With a view to that eventual book… and I know my writing skills are close to zero, I am definitely a blogger and not a writer, I was really quite excited to see a creative writing workshop on the cards. It was very hands on and practical and a whole lot of fun. You would be amazed at the writing skills of folk sitting around you – amazed, at a writing workshop. I wasn’t intimidated so much as awed by their skills, and clearly I need to do a lot of practicing before I even think about a whole book. I loved her writing exercises and I think I will have a lot of fun with them with my kids: take a word and write about it for four minutes. I tell you the truth… you work a lot harder on what you are writing when you might be sprung on to read it out to a class of folk you don’t know than when you are idly writing in your journal. She had a lot of fab tips on getting your writing going and keeping going and I think I am going to be adding a lot more fun creative writing assignments to our typical school weeks. Honestly I just loved how she spoke, her words were richer than mine and I enjoyed it: “Avoid cliches, find vivid, interesting, startling word combinations…” Yes, I loved this workshop, it inspired me more than I could ever have predicted, if nothing else comes of it she has got me back into messing around with words and writing a little something in my journal everyday.
Well this was an interesting presentation… simply because as you all know my photography skills are somewhat limited… but here is a little secret… I took a mini blog break over the holidays and discovered a whole lot of free and wonderful resources for learning more about photography, but that is a whole ‘nother blog post. Meanwhile, she confirmed what I have learnt about painting with light… She showed us heaps of scenarios where she had just experimented and pushed the extremes… a photograph in front of a window and without. A photograph with a reflector and without… her “lighting gone totally wrong scenarios” were probably the best teachers ever… and yes it is quite possible to learn from other folks mistakes… even if the mistakes were totally on purpose. She went on and explained a little bit about editing using photoshop… and again I liked her extreme examples. I always fiddle – a little to the left or right… and she was: what happens if you turn this feature off and on again and off… great way to learn. I definitely have a whole lot of new things to try – that’s what I love about blogging, there is always so much to learn!!! And then if you want to see something totally cool then head over to her website to see how to make a DIY reflector, and I love and adore her cheat sheet, that you can download for free.
And the Se7en + 1th…
And after that long day of fun and excitement we headed for the auction, where money raised was donated to the South African Guide Dog Association for the Blind. Well there were the most fantastic products on auction and heaps of fantastic GiveAways thrown in… they managed to raise R30000.00, which is a phenomenal amount and I was thrilled to be a very small part of it. And if that wasn’t enough there is always a galaticaly huge goodie bag – full of fantastic sponsored gifts… from heaps of different brands. Packed with lots of ideas and places we would like to visit… lots of brands we would like to meet and chat about their products… it is all good. If I list them all, I am bound to omit someone important… but I have to say there is a VISI magazine that I totally intend to spend Friday evening with. Not to mention wine farms to visit – we haven’t really touched on that on our blog yet, and how about a trip to the Spice Route… sounds simply amazing!!! And I think we may well have to make a visit to Cecilia’s farm one day – anyone who makes the sweetest dried apricots on earth deserves a visit from the gang. Treats galore and we will be enjoying them for a good while to come…
So that was this year’s SA Food and Wine Blogger Indaba – “Teaching good blogging ethics, writing skills, social media, SEO skills, food styling, photography and wine knowledge,” and hopefully there will be many more to come. You can follow them on twitter, and there is a Pinterest board over here as well.
I really want to thank the organisers, Colleen Grove and Jeanne Horak-Druiff for organising and co-ordinating this fabulous event again. And thank you especially to Colleen for once again sponsoring my ticket – I really can’t thank you enough.