My friend Paul Mabray, of Vintank, recently gave a keynote address at an event held in Dijon, France, called “The Perfect Storm: How digital tools are forever changing the way we sell and market wine.”
I didn’t attend (alas), and I’ve no affiliation with the event apart from a random one: its organizer (another friend, Eve Resnick), showed a photo of me when presenting her findings from a recent study of U.S. and Chinese wine bloggers (see inset below – ironically, that picture was presented adjacent to text describing the average wine blogger, and apart from being male I don’t actually meet the rest of the criteria on that slide!).
Anyway, I’ve been beating a similarly-toned drum to the one that Paul has been sounding when it comes to how to approach wine online, so it’s nice to see that Paul’s keynote struck a resonant chord with the attendees in Dijon (with a few tweeting that the figures and ideas Paul presented “blew my mind”).
What I sincerely hope is that Paul’s slide deck strikes a similar chord with wine brands here in the U.S., because the fact is if Paul’s presentation doesn’t blow your mind, then you are not paying enough f*cking attention to what is going on in and around the wine business right now.
Mind-blowingness embedded below for your enjoyment – and if you’re in the wine biz, please do yourself a favor and read EVERY slide; then go out and be awesome. Paul’s deck clearly demonstrates in the included figures alone that the time to debate whether or not your online social presence is important is long, long past. That time is much better spent on testing those online waters, connecting with your consumers, and finding out what does -and doesn’t – work online for you and your brand.
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Make that, your Somm is under fire.
Last week I was guest on the Keeper Collective’s weekly twitter guest Q&A wine event, called #SommChat, part of their Somms Under Fire wine competition brand umbrella. This prompted quite a comments coming my way, most of which can be summed up in the following imaginary-but-wholly-representative re-enactment style on-line conversation:
Peeps: Joe, I didn’t know you were a Somm??
Me: I’m not!
Despite the fact that I am one of the few non-Sommelier guests to appear on #SommChat, I had a fantastic time fielding the questions from those who tuned in to attend last week, some of which were provocative and really got me thinking, particularly those that asked about recommendations for building up a palate, and learning more about wine.
The results of the reflective thinking? The deeper I’ve gone into the pro wine world, the less important I feel palate-building and wine appreciation tips really are, which I suppose on some level seems ironic but as we gain experience in any area, one likes to think that we can come back to basics having turned that into a modicum of wisdom, and wisdom seems to be telling me that it’s far, far more important for people to learn deeply what it is about a wine that really turns them on or off, and focus on learning their own palates and preferences first before thinking about developing a palate that would be used for critical assessment. The former opens the door to the wonder and magic and pleasure of wine; the latter is work, a job, often fun but sometimes a real working-stiff-like slog.
Anyway… You can check out the entire #SommChat convo from the twitter feed last week at http://sommsunderfire.com/sommchat/, and I recommend tuning in to their future events (they’ve got a couple of Master Somms lined up for the next series, which should be fun) on Wednesdays at 11AM Central Time.
[ UPDATED: embed of the hangout vid is after the jump below ]
A quick blurb here to tell you that I’m going to be a guest on Plus Real Time tomorrow at 10AM EDT.
Plus Real Time is headed up by Randy Resnick, who is on the leading (bleeding?) edge of getting the wine world involved and engaged on Google+.
So far, I’m not yet one of the 100% converted.
I’ve been a bit of a hopeful skeptic when it comes to Google+. I love the idea of creating video hang-outs, mostly because it seems a great way to interview people (a notion I suppose we will be putting fully to the test tomorrow morning!), but I’ve just seen so little traction with Google+ in the wine world to date.
In terms of critical mass within wine on-line, Google+ seems to pale in comparison to simpler (and, notably, older) platforms like Facebook and twitter. Even Pinterest seems to have an edge on Google+ when it comes to wine (though it’s still way early days for Pinterest – Gary V. is leading the charge in some ways there, and even he has yet to crack 5K followers).
Of course, you can only ever really get out of social media what you invest into it, and very few of us wine geeks have invested much time into Google+… yet…
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Actually, it’s not social media and wine that I’m going to be talking about here – it’s social media and engagement. Engagement with actual people who actually spend their actual hard-earned cash for the purpose of drinking actual wine…
It’s taken a while for me to respond to this plea for me to lighten up when it comes to social media’s place in the wine world. The delay is mostly due to me having been on the road, and otherwise waiting for the Universe to present a pertinent example of what I was talking about (it didn’t take long – more on that in a minute or two).
I’m not lightening up. If anything, I think we all should be making more of a fuss over this stuff, not less.
The best responses I can give to any challenge on the power of engagement in the wine world come from my own experiences. So let me talk to wine producers directly here for a minute or two (…or fifty), and share some of those experiences with them. It will sound harsh at times, but that’s because I keep hearing arguments that are the equivalent of telling me that my experiences didn’t happen, and I’m not a psychotic (at least, not yet) so there’s definitely something a bit screwed up here. And most of what I’m saying is not unique – it’s been said by others, I’m just culling many of the points together.
For those that don’t want to wade through the damn-near 1800 words that follow, the bottom line is this: if you are producing wine, and in this day and age you are letting someone like me (or any critic) dictate the majority of your brand message to current and potential customers in online engagement channels (twitter, facebook, etc.), then you need to audition for a Jim Henson Company project, because you’re acting like a Muppet…
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