Stormhoek Blog Review

Mack Collier created the Company Blog Checkup series that critiques a different company’s blogging efforts each week. Building on the lessons he’s learned from his own blogging experience, he helps and advises companies of all sizes on their social media strategies, from startups to companies as large as Dell and Nettwerk Music. According to Mack the companies that are successful in their blogging and social media efforts aren’t the ones that view these tools as new selling channels, but rather as ways to offer value and utility to their customers.

Stormhoek is a South African winery that has done an excellent job of leveraging blogs to promote its brand. In 2005, the winery began working with blogger Hugh MacLeod of GapingVoid fame, and later launched a promotion where bloggers received a free bottle of Stormhoek, with no strings attached. The idea created quite a buzz in the blogosphere, and it resulted in the company’s sales doubling in less than 12 months. Then the company followed that promotion in 2006 with a ‘100 geek dinners in 100 days’ idea. Both ideas were great examples of a company utilizing social media in its marketing efforts. So of course when I started the Company Blog Checkup series, I knew that I wanted to review Stormhoek’s blog.

First, let’s start with content. You would expect that a blog about a winery would likely cover their offerings, as well as coverage of the wine industry. Mission accomplished here. But where the blog shines is in leveraging the blog itself as a promotional tool, as well as other sites. For example, Hugh links to pics of Stormhoek wine on Flickr, and then builds an impromptu promotion around it. He states on the blog that readers can get either free wine, or vouchers for cash off Stormhoek, if they will post pictures of themselves in the Tesco chain with Stormhoek. Then Stormhoek makes a point to post some of the pictures that readers have sent them, as well as posting an email from a customer. Great way to let the customers have a sense of input into the blog, and it also lets Stormhoek show pictures of their customers with their products. Very smart move.

But as with a few of the other blogs I have profiled so far, posting is sporadic. Stormhoek has only posted 4 entries so far this month, with the last one being on the 9th. A reader even left a comment to the most recent post asking why no one was posting. Yikes. There appears to be at least 3 writers for the blog, so I’d try to get each writer to commit to one post a week. It’s very hard to develop a community for a blog without regular posts.

One final point on content, note that in this post, Hugh adds a link to the reader’s site. Remember how I keep stressing about the need for companies to promote their readers, and link to them if they have a blog/site? This is a great example of what I am talking about.

Now let’s turn to comments. Stormhoek probably does the best job of replying to comments of any of the companies that I have profiled so far. And I noticed that at least three different writers had left comments. This is so simple to do, and for some reason most companies miss the importance of comments, but Stormhoek is all over it.

Finally, let’s move to the sidebar. The usual suspects are there, as well as links to…..non-company blogs! Ok not many, but some is better than none. Complete contact info is there, but I would really like to see a section clearly identifying who the writers are, and their bios, along with pics. And a link to some sort of page/site that tells customers where they can buy Stormhoek would be good too.
Overall, I think Stormhoek’s blog is pretty stout. I’d like to see 3 posts minimum a week, and a section for the writers on the sidebar. Those tweaks alone would make the blog exceptional. Even so, the blog is already a great example of writers that are properly utilizing comments from readers, as well as promoting them via pics and links. Great stuff.

By Mack Collier.