Why should foodies bother with Twitter?
I really don't have an addictive personality and consider myself a surprise convert to this most compelling and aptly friendly social media. Yet, I confess, it was difficult the other night to tear myself away from tweeting the editor of the UK's top catering magazine what I'd recommend eating at Jason Atherton's Pollen Street Social; talking with fellow food and travel journalists about the new Mandarin Oriental Paris and my interview with its outspoken modernist chef Thierry Marx; and gleaning culinary gossip on new London restaurant openings. In a nutshell, this explains what makes a proudly traditional print media journalist such an enthralled advocate of social media and especially Twitter. Even though it does mean I often burn the midnight oil finishing deadlines.
True die-hard tweeters were already at it back in 2009. Twitter seemed merely an indulgent and often frivolous way of legitimately eavesdropping on what others were up to, which often turned out to be rather mundane. But like any relationship, it needed working at.
It's clear now that it's a very valuable research and communication tool. As with wider current affairs, it is where most news stories are broken now. Thanks to key tweeters such as Richard Vines of Bloomberg (previously an international print journalist of 16 years) just this week, I heard details about Delauney, London restaurant The Wolseley’s new opening; Tom Aiken closing to refurbish his Chelsea restaurant and an unrepeatable deal on wine at another top restaurant. Vine says, “once a story is confirmed, I like to tweet within a minute; it's that instant, great for the adrenalin and so democratic.” And it is truly intriguing who’s tweeting now. Only the other week, legendary chef Alice Waters alerted me to a controversial article published in the US on forgotten vegetables.
Essentially, it's all about sharing. As Emma Jane Clark, who runs courses for Twitter newbies says, “that's the real buzz, simply write 140 words [characters] and press the share button.” For a journalist to be instantly able to share opinions, comment on trends, offer advice and respond directly to those who comment on tweets, and encourage “followers” to get involved is akin to having a furiously interactive column.
For a food writer, as for a food company, self-editing is important in keeping tweets compelling. Whilst some may have a passing curiosity as to what I've eaten for supper or where I've dined out, I really don't assume anyone wants to know every day of the week. Similarly, a pithy, quizzical comment by Rude Health on the latest nutritional findings on spelt or Davidstow Cheddar announcing that their Cornish neighbour Nathan Outlaw has created a peerless cheese scone recipe is far more interesting and likely to be picked up than a bakery store announcing what's on the menu - unless it is something truly unusual. Canny tweeters, baking guru Dan Lepard is one, are encouraging traction and loyalty by tweeting ahead the ingredients to buy for their weekly print cookery columns.
Contrary to what many doomsayer may assume, Twitter is as social in the real world as its name suggests. Tellingly Twitter's greatest density of users is in London. Thanks to Twitter, I've met fascinating ’Young Turk’ culinary talents like James Lowe ex-St. John's Bread & Wine chef and member of The Clove Club, and ex model agent Kay Plunkett-Hogge who runs a brilliant first pop-up Thai dinner.
Looking ahead - and I hope it is not wishful thinking - I don't see Twitter and the whole digital world eclipsing print media, merely that the two should become more integrated and continue to complement and, in the best possible sense, feed on each other.
So let us know what you think. Do you think Twitter and other social media have changed the face of food media for the better? Do you use Twitter to market a food business? Or do you think there’s a point in tweeting what you’ve just eaten? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on @BBCFood.
Sudi Pigott is a food writer and keen tweeter.