How a consistent tone and a mission to translate wine guff helped Vinomofo turn its blog into a marketing powerhouse.

There are many writers out there that would give anything to muse about wine as a day job.

So it may come as a surprise to many that Vinomofo’s content strategist Rosa Nguyen says she knew little about the drink when she started at the company in 2013. Like most of her former content roles, she expected to learn on the job – albeit one glass at a time.

Bottles later, she rose to the challenge. Over five years, Nguyen not only became a wine nut, but a key figure in managing the personality of one of Australia’s most memorable startup brands.

Now, leading a team of three, Nguyen’s maintains the company’s social channels and nurtures them with up to five pieces of insightful, no-nonsense wine-related content a week. While maintaining utmost respect for senior wine writers out there, Nguyen says that part of her job is “translating” tomes of wine guff that make no sense to the average Australian.

“I’m sure you’ve heard our slogan, ‘no bowties and no bullshit’,” Nguyen says, explaining her role.

“We want to break down the barriers and show the world that you can be a wine pro and not be uppity about it. We tell you about the wine like it is, without the embellishments.”

Her work has seen Vinomofo gain a remarkable audience for its content and social channels, and placed it as a leader in its category. It promotes its offers and advice to an audience of over 130,000 users on Facebook, 30,000 on Instagram and 15,000 on Twitter. The blog itself -– the heart of the strategy – averages over 10,000 page views per month. Crucially, the work of Nguyen’s team has been linked to wine sales and conversions in the business -- overcoming the common hurdle most founders face when deciding to invest in content.

Her results to date really came about as a result of the evolution of her role. Nguyen joined Vinomofo at an interesting turning point for the company, months before its well-documented split from CatchOfTheDay Group. At first, she had little to do with its blog.

“I was hired as a Content Coordinator,” Nguyen explains.

“Which meant that I was creating all of the social media content – managing the community – managing the website, looking after emails and also assisting with copywriting for product deals.””

She adds that at this point in the company’s growth, the marketing 'team' was actually Vinomofo’s CEO and Co-Founder, Justin Dry.

The ‘Mofo’ tone – that the company is known for – was baked into the content from the beginning. Nguyen says it was started by the founders, but reinforced through hiring the right people to manage their communications and encouraging them to ply their own style to the brand.

A shift in SEO and social media algorithms ultimately led Vinomofo to refocus Nguyen’s role. Vinomofo was pumping out wine deals through social and email. But with fewer eyeballs on them saw diminishing returns.

“The best advice I was given when I first started (and was very nervous about making mistakes and pretending to be something I wasn't, a wine expert) was to write the way I spoke with my friends and that's advice I still use today,” she says.

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Lonelyplanet

Rosa Nguyen

Nguyen’s new role was to take control of its blog, the Vinofiles, and create content that would help build an audience for the brand. She says they were the first to do so among wine retailing brands – largely because it’s a saturated space covered by plenty of blogs and the media.

On an average week, half of Vinomofo’s social media posts are planned out using quotes, material and other points of interest from the blog.The other half is left open for spur of the moment tweets, Instagram snaps or Facebook musings, things that Nguyen and the team believe will catch their audience's interests.

Nguyen separates content into three main pillars: Food and wine, education and finally, fun and adventure. Its content is roughly a split of 20 per cent news or information about Vinomofo (such as a post about its office dog policy), and 80 per cent content offering genuine advice or interesting articles to onlookers. Little on the blog is to do with directly selling the product or promoting Vinomofo as a market leader.

Nguyen helms the operation but is supported by an in-house copywriter (who also writes for the entire website in addition to the blog) an in-house photographer and an in-house videographer. The former two are recent hires, as Nguyen and Vinomofo start to explore the benefits of using their own multimedia content on the website, blog and on social media.

Another recent development is the hiring of several freelance writers to increase the blog’s output and frees up Nguyen to coordinate other elements of the strategy. Nguyen manages four of them, who submit articles on a regular basis and are paid by the article. The pieces range anywhere from 500 words to over 1000 words and more recently, they’ve started including a picture every 200 words or so.

The introduction of freelancers has added another challenge in maintaining the ‘mofo’ tone of the writing. That tone, which was once was just a product of Nguyen and her team’s personality, has now been writing out as a list of principals in a style guide to help maintain consistency in the prose.

Her writers are welcome to suggest ideas, but ultimately topics for the blog are also decided on by Nguyen, who uses data from previous posts to determine what her audience wants. If a post like, ‘The Ultimate Guide to Red Wine’ rates well, Nguyen will develop a new angle into the topic to attempt to drill down on the topic and maintain reader interest.

An unexpected benefit of the reach of Vinomofo’s blog has also turned it into a target for marketing partnerships. A recent partnership with Lonely Planet saw Nguyen and the team on two trips to taste wine and document it. One to Otago, New Zealand and another to Tamar Valley, Tasmania.

For those looking to follow in Nguyen’s footsteps, she recommends brands discover and invest in video from the get-go. Noting Cisco’s latest Visual Index, which found that 82 per cent of all consumer web traffic will be directed to online video, she reckons that video content will become the next key driver for growth in her audience and Vinomofo’s brand.

When you dissect Vinomofo’s content strategy, it all really comes down to consistency. There’s a consistency in articles and crucially a consistency in tone that’s helped it stand out and grow over time.

“Authenticity here is key,” Nguyen says.

“We’re not afraid to be ourselves in the office and online - keeping it real is actually a part of our Mofo Credo so the sass that you see, is actually us being ourselves.”

Tips for hiring freelance writers:

  1. Do your research. Read past and current work, look at their social media presence and identify whether or not they're aligned with your brand.
  2. Use your connections to find the right fit and use your social media platforms to find your superstar writer.
  3. Make sure their tone of voice complements your brand voice and that they are passionate about the industry you're in - authenticity and knowledge always cuts through.

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