Archive for October, 2008

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This last weekend’s Wine Bloggers Conference has opened the door and shed light on the state of the wine industry when it comes to connecting with wine lovers, consumers, wineries and their marketing approach.  As the few major wine publications writhe through the disintegration of their influence on the wine industry and it’s consumers, the blogosphere is abuzz with possibility, opportunity and , well, wine love.

There is not a tremendous amount of research for online wine buying practices  and the online wine-community, (it is growing, but lagging behind other industries) but the fact is online buying trends have been growing at an impressive pace, and I think it is fair to say that buying wine online is also growing in popularity, accessibility and reliability.  The challenges for some states (and therefore wine buyers and wineries), include state laws that limit quantity or don’t allow any wine to be shipped across their borders, shipping costs, and the consumer’s ability to connect with a product or brand to be able to trust their purchase.  Buying towels, computers, flowers, etc. online is one thing, but without the ability to taste a wine or know more about this intricate product, terroir, winemakers, wine & food pairing, etc…what is a wine lovers to do?  Let’s face it, for some, buying wine online is a risk.

Enter the wine blogger:  Like Siskel and Ebert, or the Rolling Stone for music, or your local newspaper for  performances, the wine-blogosphere has great value to offer to the serious and the casual wine drinker alike.  You can take a couple of minutes to see what Gary Vaynerchuk is enjoying today for under $20, or you can subscribe to any of the wine bloggers in the right column of this blog (and there are hundreds more!) and find a voice that speaks to you, your tastes, your style.  The knowledge, experience, stories and humor these passionate wine lovers have to offers is unparalleled.  It is free and the range of focus is as varied as the 900+ wine bloggers internationally.

Which brings me to the shift in influence:  Thus far, wine bloggers have been left to their own devices.  That is, until the Wine Bloggers Conference, the WITS (Wine Industry Technology Symposium), the OWC (Open Wine Consortium)  and Wine 2.0. These organizations have worked to connect people in the wine world, both trade and consumer, online, in person and in conference and event settings.  The results are exciting and the possibilities are great.  The bloggers are a critical, influential thread that connects wineries, wine tech companies and the consumers.  With so much to navigate through (the complexities of wine, buying wine online, a wine club, wait!  Now there are wine social sites too!?)  it can be overwhelming for your average wine lover.  The wine bloggers, fortunately, spend a good deal of their time sifting through the online wine world and then blog, review and write about, i.e. filter what they experience.

For wineries, this means their possibilities for communicating and connecting with wine consumers has opened up exponentially. How can wine bloggers, wineries and consumers connect through this network to increase value/experience for all?  While (many of ) the wineries have been around for a long time,and have traditional marketing programs, the wine bloggers have been doing their own thing on the side, or rather, online without much interference, interaction, inspiration even, from the established wine industry for some years now.  The wine bloggers also have a serious concern with maintaining integrity and credibility with their readership.   However, I think there is a possibility for a collective, or a loose affiliation of wine bloggers that wineries can learn from and seek to open a conversation with as wineries look toward increasing their online presence.  Remember the old fashioned model for TV stations?  Their commercials are neither an endorsement of the station’s programming nor is the product necessarily endorsed by the TV show during which it runs.  I think there is opportunity for bloggers and wineries to support each other with respect and without compromising any values or integrity.

Ultimately we all share a common passion for wine.  And maybe similar goals:  increased connectivity, better wine, for more people, at great prices, and more conversation about it.  The tubes of the internets are only getting bigger 😉 The number of wine bloggers grows weekly if not daily.  Our experiences online: purchasing, connecting and researching wine are bringing more value to our lives and we’re spending more time and money doing it.  I see only amazing opportunity for making all those experiences more meaningful by connecting a few more dots.   What do you think?

Images courtesy of e-commerce.com & PhotogDan on Flickr User Group

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The Wine World had better get ready.  This weekend (October 24-26, 2008) a gathering of assorted wine lovers, wineries, wine tech companies and wine bloggers all gathered in honor of Wine Bloggers.  No, it wasn’t an awards show, but we enjoyed plenty of celebrating and acknowledgments all the way around.  The collective influence of this assortment of wine bloggers is something to be reckoned with .  Forget those last generation men from the days of the Paris Tasting.  Meet the Wine Bloggers.  They are some mix of: independent, quirky, brilliant, humorous, hilarious, friendly, international, dedicated, decent, sharp, passionate, energetic, writing, winos.  And they will not be tamed.

Consider them alpha-wine consumers.  They know most of what there is to know before the main-stream picks it up when it comes to wine.  They also relay that news back out to their readers and fellow wine bloggers.  It is a network with their collective ear to the ground.  And since many of them do this because they love it, aka, not paid to write about their wine love, they will say exactly what they think, uncensored, uninhibited.  Wine bloggers will also work to back up their assertions and news with facts and supporting materials.  Rest assured, ethics and credibility is in the forefront of their minds.

Additionally, they have gathered and connected.  Maybe not organized, but that may not be necessary.  As part of an online community, their collective influence must not be underestimated.  And wine bloggers are just getting started.  I’ve said it before, and I will say it again:  the consumer has much to gain from this online community.  A free resource for consumers to navigate the myriad ways, web sites, stores and wineries selling wine and wine gadgets!  See the list to the right to find the right set of Wine Blogs for your personal tastes.  And subscribe.

The wine world is just coming to grips with it’s technological transformation and what the www will mean in wine sales to the consumer.   Though wine clubs are not new, the way people will interact with them and connect with wineries, winemakers, and the variety of brands out there is still being imagined and pursued by start ups world wide.  Imagine a wine club akin to Netflix.  Voila, WineQ.    And discover Cruvee, the social site for wine lovers that recommends wine based on your preferences.  The wineries that have the foresight to invest time, $ and relationships will have a tremendous foothold in the online wine culture.  There is a wide open field for participation that adds value.  Leaders, step up.

Photos, Courtesy of my new WBC Wine Blogger Friend: www.dirtysouthwine.com, Hardy Wallace)

Cartoon courtesy of Google Images

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From the Wine Blogger’s Conference in Santa Rosa, CA, I think any one of us can say that we’ve just made 175 new friends and associates.  We have come together courtesy of Joel Vincent and fellow organizers to talk about the state of wine blogging, but that may not be the most interesting aspect of what’s happening.  At least for the purposes of this post.  Here are nearly 200 people, from far flung states across the US, and possibly beyond.  I’d bet there isn’t even 3 degrees of separation among the crowd.  And social media, blogging, twitter, linked in, facebook, etc, have done that.

Not only are we brought together via these tech tools, but time and space have already been folded up to almost nothing.  The connections we’ve made in the recent past online, even before meeting each other in person, have dissolved a majority of the preliminary “getting to know you” dance.  I think that’s good.  At least in most cases.  So now these connections are converting into friends, allies, colleagues, and partners with tremendous potential for both business and personal relationships.  There’s something about the like-mindedness that in this case brings the tech/wine lovers together and springboards us toward our goals in giant leaps.

Bottom line:  Social Media has cleared a path and shortened it as well as energized, cultivated and inspired a subset of techie/wine lovers to contribute to their part of the world.  And again I say that everyone benefits;  the wine industry, bloggers, the online community, wine consumers, and as far as we can possibly reach.  Fascinating what passion and focus can do together.

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A sample of the speed dating format for wine tasting frenzy.  Here with Jeff Stai for Twisted Oak WInery.

Super Yummy, the Spaniard.

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Folding time and space, making connections, defining what a wine blogger is, what we are not, and what it means to the wine business:  That’s why we’re all here.  Joel Vincent kick’s off the Conference today with those thoughts.  It is an exciting time for the wine blogging world, the wine drinking world and the wine business world.

Un-like any conference you’ve ever seen before, think of it kind of like a speed dating session between wineries and bloggers.  Yeah, kinda crazy, but really a blast!  We now have 5 minutes to taste the wine and live blog about it.  I may have to go to twitter next, as this format likely will better serve for summaries at the end of they day (yes, I’ll be spitting as I taste!).

Rest assured, there is LOADS of wine love coming from the Santa Rosa, first ever Wine Bloggers Conference at the Flamingo Hilton Hotel.

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Marketing = Making Connections


Get to know Twitter: And then get to know AllTop.  These two alone can catapult you into a Web 2.0 savvy very quickly.  What’s that?  You don’t have time?  I hear you.  I didn’t think I could squeeze anything else into my life either.  Squeezing more into your life is not what this is about.  This is a way to reformat and re-organize your life;  more efficient, more connected, more productive, more Web 2.0.  And if you don’t, you’ll soon have plenty of time as you get left behind, and I mean in a big way.  Put it this way, staying in the Web 1.0 world will be like still using hand written letters instead of e-mail for all of your business communication.

You can use and shape twitter any way you like.  It can be all social, all business or some of each.  Jim’s Marketing Blog (link above) demonstrated to me in a couple of hours how whip smart and lightning quick of a tool twitter and twitter users are.  Instant value add. Make sure you follow @NPR, @CNN and whatever news organizations you prefer on twitter when you get there as well.

Other folks who talk about Twitter used professionally: Wired PR Works, JuliaRoy;  And by the way, women are totally rockin’ in the Social Media world.  Get Twitterized.

AllTop is even simpler.  Ahhh the beauty and elegance:

They call themselves “an online magazine rack” … but they are blogs arranged in a spacious, clean, intuitive format.  Find a blog alphabetically and/or by topic.  Research quickly, or browse for pleasure.  This is the latest news, humor, entertainment and editorials on the web.  And scanning is made even easier by offering a clip from the blog in a pop up window when you scroll over the title.

If you aren’t already subscribed to a handfull of your favorite business blogs and a handfull of your favorite personal/entertainment blogs go to AllTop and find some now.  I’ll wait here…no really, go now, please.  And yes, you can find me there as well.  Or just subscribe at the RSS feed on the top right column of my blog here.  I’ll do my best to keep you current, wine soaked and entertained.

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