Archive for November, 2008

2986846355_e3b8d8f2c6_bThe Wine World is not quite all in on the 2.0 part of social networking, connecting and the blogosphere.  But soon, they will be.  No, I don’t have a date for when that will happen.  I have heard respected wine industry professionals suggest that when it comes to online technology, the wine industry is anywhere from 2 years to 10 years behind the rest of businesses.  So we watch and learn what the tech pioneers do in this space as we position ourselves to engage and develop the community for the wine world 2.0.

Technology and communication online are not the slam dunk tools or obvious replacements for anything in our industry, yet.  I frequently forget, (operating in this space for hours a day) that many people are only answering e-mail and maybe making purchases online and that’s it …so far.  And this time lag (between industry scouts and the general public)  is what gives us an opportunity to define best practices, connections and modus operandi.  Meanwhile, I have been suggesting wineries take advantage of the bloggosphere, the talent and passion of the people writing here and listen and learn from them.  I believe there is a valuable exchange between the wineries and bloggers for the benefit of consumers; Brian Solis articulates why this may be applied to the wine industry here: Monologue has given way to dialog. Social media has created a new layer of influencers. It is the understanding of the role people play in the process of not only reading and disseminating information, but also how they in turn, share and also create content for others to participate. This, and only this, allows us to truly grasp the future of communications.”1111734161_beadef031a_o

So what might that look like?  I think it looks like bridging the connection between wineries and the average consumer, personalizing the wine experience, including MORE people in the conversations we have.  I think that bloggers can help wineries do that so that a majority of the wine drinking public have that bottle of wine every night, share wine by bringing it to their friends’ or neighbors’ homes for dinner and talk about the experience that brings us together.  We want them to think of wine as a primary part of their dining experience, not an afterthought.  I think that means engaging them.  I think bloggers do that.  Whatever your style or content preferences, wine bloggers offer a variety of humor, entertainment, education, information, reviews, opinions, etc.

That’s why I think starting with conversations with bloggers, listening, and looking for ways beyond old media to reach out to the consumers is of tremendous value to wineries, consumers and the bloggosphere.  It’s not as great a leap as some make it out to be.  It is happening in business and across industries now, as reported by Guy Kawasaki in the Razorfish Report, posted on the OWC page by Joel Vincent.

Heck, even beyond the savvy wineries with blogs, web sites, and twitter accounts who are listening (or engaging their community), including Twisted Oak, Michel Schlumberger, Sacre Bleu, St. Supery, the most exciting thing I find from these wineries is that there are people who care behind the technology.  And let’s not forget, that more than anything, whatever the technology, social media, i-phones, BlackBerries,  or whatever comes along, it is about connecting …authentically.


Web 2.0 photo from my flickr photostream.

Additional photos courtesy of Dan Wharmby.

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I’ve made some assumptions lately about this space: the blogosphere, the “internets” and social networks.  Those assumptions were that if you are here, you inherently “get” something about their value, their longevity and their impact on the paradigm shift that information, socializing and all media are currently going through right now.  I was wrong.  There are people in this space who are clearly confused, dabbling or deconstructing the value system we in this space are creating.

Social Media/Networks as applied to the wine industry have been my focus for nearly 18 months.  Essential facts and stats to base your pursuit of online presence for the wine industry (blogging, marketing or any other industry you enjoy) follow here:

There are over 200,000,000 blogs.  According to Time Magazine (Oct 13, 2007, yeah, that printed news source), social networking sites are officially more popular than porn sites.  And according to Brian Solis, Social Media “is only going to become more pervasive and as such become a critical factor in the success or failure of any business.” from The Social Media Manifesto.

Traditional Advertising and Media are enduring either a long slow death or an increasingly short, quick one.  They have been for awhile.  If you don’t already know this, you are stuck in the 20th century and haven’t been introduced to TiVo, PayPal, or facebook. Either way, traditional advertising is going the way of the dodo bird.  Whatever takes its place will be…different.

ascii-blogger-portraitsThe Blogosphere:  Blogs are becoming (and replacing) a significant portion, though not all, of our favorite printed materials including magazines, periodicals, tabloids, pamphlets, catalogs, fliers, books, letters, etc.  As such, they also have a similar range in scope, authorship, quality, purpose and audience.  Tom Wark offers an insightful statement about the status of blogging, “What once was legitimately considered a fringe endeavor should really be understood as mainstream today.”  Likewise, Steve Heimoff agrees: “But I do believe that WineDiverGirl is on to something when she says “wine bloggers are here to stay” and wineries need to engage them.”

Word of Mouth (aka WOM):  “‘Word-of-mouth’ the most powerful selling tool…78% of consumers say they trust the recommendation of other consumers.” – Nielsen, Trust in Advertising, 2007 Global Consumer Survey Report. Bloggers are part of the WOM chain online who like to talk about what they learn, what they like and what they love.

The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow. ” Bill Gates

Lenn Thompson offers a spark of insight here with “…just remember that every blogger blogs for a different reason. That’s their choice.” (from the comments section here.)  I don’t expect that there will be a guidebook of rules for (wine) bloggers, nor do I believe there needs to be.  The debate and conversation is healthy for our new and quickly growing industry.  And I am sure that bloggers who offer content of value (intellectual, entertainment, information or otherwise) will find readership if they choose.

I write this blog from my own independent perspective.  I currently work at a wine sales and marketing company.  I am not, however, paid or influenced in any way in regards to the content of this blog or to write this blog.  I like wine, beer, vodka and an occasional Pimm’s cup.  I am female, a mom, caucasian and have a whole slew of other influences from the Doors to Keith Olberman.  You can find out more about those influencecs here.

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We (as in bloggers and whom ever wishes to join us), are hosting conversations.  Some of those topics include wine preferences, wine making practices, sustainability, sales & marketing, industry trends, Web 2.0 wine start-ups, …you get the idea.  The scope of topics and writers run far and wide. The blogs I’ve read are pretty clear who they are, what they are about and where they are coming from.  I appreciate transparency.  For example, I work for Hahn Family Wines as the New Media Marketing Director.  And this blog is NOT part of that purview.  Is there overlap, yes.  But ultimately, I say exactly what I think, believe and know to be true from my perspective to engage and have a conversation.  The purpose of this conversation is to connect bloggers, wineries and consumers in new, beneficial ways for all wine lovers.  (ok, fine, I live in my own little wine-soaked utopia, cheers.)

2daysperbottleI love this blog: 2 Days Per Bottle.  Just the wooden man, pics, review policy and music make me smile.  But my favorite is his recommendation for Thanksgiving wine: “ Step One- DRINK WHAT YOU LIKE AND STOP MAKING SUCH A BIG DEAL ABOUT IT!!! FOR PETE’S SAKE, IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE FUN!!!”  Yup.  So you know when people start getting too serious about this stuff they either need to take a step back or find a good shag.  Honestly, it’s wine.

So what?  So I’m interested in bring new ideas, engaging experiments and thoughtful progress to the conversation.  Currently I think most of the printed establishment on wine is stilted, overly serious and pompous.  Let’s put it this way: Most Wine Bloggers are not press or journalists (let’s go with in the traditional sense).  Wine bloggers journal their OWN perspective.  There’s nothing objective about it.  Ok, some try to offer objectivity, but you’ll have to figure out what that means to each individual blogger, IF that’s important to you. Some have clearly defined policies or ethics guidelines.  Great, it is always valuable to know where people are coming from and what they’re about when you engage them in the conversation.  There are some great winery blogs as well.  So SOME bloggers are press/journalists from before the era of blogging.  Some bloggers consider themselves journalists online and adhere to the same ethics as traditional print/TV journalists, and some bloggers are “*other*” as 1WineDude says.

winesherpaSo my point is that there is no one point.  Bloggers, wine-bloggers are basically wineophile anarchist writers.  They have passion, brains, joie de vivre, and a direction if not a calling to talk to people about this passion via their blog, but they are not a homogenized bunch.  And they don’t have to do anything they don’t want to.  That independence is a beautiful thing.  Applause for the wild, forward thinking, experimental, wine loving population and all their drive to journal, blog and post about it.  They add value to the conversation, the wine world, and to wine consumers savvy enough to find their unique voices.

Not all of my ideas are great, but idea generating is essential.  I’m going out on a limb and agreeing with Seth Godin on this one.   Ideas=fuel for the conversation.  Glad to have you all part of it.  Particularly if you can add something.

Wooden Men image courtesy of 2 Days Per Bottle

Wine Sherpa image courtesy of The Winehiker: Russ Beebe

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I believe wineries and bloggers have a LOT to offer each other.  And together they have so much to offer consumers.  So I’m looking for all the ways wineries and bloggers are currently connected (if at all) and new and improved ways for them to evangelize the beautiful power of wine.  2984691767_d77379b462_m

There are bloggers who are paid to write for wineries.  Many wineries are savvy enough to reach out to bloggers and invite them for tastings or send them wine samples to review and blog about.  Some event producers are offering dramatically reduced rates for bloggers to participate;  sometimes it is the wineries’ sponsorships that afford that economic arrangement (think Wine Bloggers Conference or Wine 2.0 events).  And I’m just starting to hear about (and host) Bloggers Tasting Forums with wineries.

The Bloggers Tasting Forum is an opportunity for bloggers and wineries to sit down together, taste wines, get access to vineyard managers and winemakers and have conversation about, well, wine, the industry and the passions they share.  I’m hosting one such event in early December (DM/e-mail  me if you’d like to come and are a food or wine blogger) looking for opportunities to work together and add value to our wine experience and share that with (nay, convert others) who are interested in wine.wine_small_2

Other possibilities I see for wineries and bloggers to come together?  Host a guest blogger for a month: either pay them or the charity of their choice for them to write about your winery, winemaker, wine, vineyards, etc.  Events:  sponsor or offer scholarships to various wine tasting events to help bloggers get there.  Host a guest blogger to pour in your tasting room for a day.  Ok, this may be a strange one, but especially if there are winery tours available, what an amazing way for a blogger to learn and connect with the company/family and your consumers for a day.  Kind of like an exchange program. (no, you wouldn’t write for their blog 🙂  Include bloggers in focused research or think-tank like conversations about planning your year, events, marketing.  Again, maybe a stretch, but I think they offer expertise in areas we can lose sight of from inside the winery operations.  And they will know consumers better than almost anyone…because they are the wine industry’s BEST consumers.


Wineries are already jumping in, but we’re at the beginning of the Wine/Web 2.0 Convergence.

What do you think?

How do you see wineries and bloggers working together for everyone’s benefit?

People Photos courtesy of Russ Beebe THE WineHiker

Wine photo from Google Images

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Who wants to read a blog that sucks? No one!  But you’ve heard that “you’ve gotta be on line or your business will fail!”  Possibly, but here are some essentials to know before you start a corporate blog (or please go back and fix the one you have).  Please pay attention so you don’t join the ranks that suck:writing2

  • Who is it for?  Your company?  Your family?  Or your consumer?
  • Who is writing it? A sterile, objective, company-speak clone is boring.  Who cares!?
  • What is it’s purpose?  Conversation? Selling? (ick!)  Caring? Sleep inducement?  What’s the point?
  • (How) Do you actively connect people with your blog?
  • Censorship sucks.  Don’t do it.

Connect with the people who care:  Some corporate blogs I’ve seen are more for their employees than for the general public.  That’s a great use for blogs, connecting large company workers with each other via news, events, related resources, etc.   The Cisco blog seems to be aimed directly at it’s detainees, I mean employees.  From a source that used to work there and write for the blog, emphasis was on quantity, not quality;  there is also a “…Corp Editing group [to] look over posts and stuff.” (said a nex-employee/blog writer from Cisco)  We all need a great editor, but when they end up scrubbing content clean of any personality, controversy or interest, why bother writing at all?

The voice of the writer(s) is critical.  On line social networking, (of which blogging is one tool) requires the person (that’s the social part) to engage and be engaged in the conversation.  All parts of that person, engaged.  No, they don’t have to go offending or picking fights everywhere they write, but can you imagine Mark Twain with an editor like you’d find at a corporate blog?  You won’t engage readers at all without questioning: who they are, how things are done, what comes next or without going out on a limb. And certainly if you’re not interested in what you’re writing, no one else will be either.  Get some grit, character, humor, opinions and style.

Purpose is always an obvious stop before doing anything, but easy to skip over if you don’t actually DO it.  I don’t recommend that a blog’s purpose be to sell anything.  It is a place for conversation, to engage your audience, learn about them, find out what they think and communicate the back story, the interesting pieces about your world that you can’t get out there in other ways.  The more you engage them the more meaningful your blog will be.

Comments:  Who is commenting and how often?  Comments are like air for many bloggers.  It is that exchange that brings meaning to the writing.  Otherwise, who cares?   Yes, there are hundreds or thousands of readers who never comment.  But the ones that do engage are like gold.  They are your barometer helping you measure your audience, your content and your direction.  We’re not yodeling on a mountain top for our own pleasure.  We’re engaging the smart and savvy participant with the content we are passionate about. Get the word out, share your content and seek others who are excited about the same topics you are excited about.  They are your community.

Finally, without being overdramatic, if you can’t write about what you care about, if you can’t write what you really think, then don’t write at all.  Restricting the subjects you can talk about I believe contradict the whole point of engaging. Sometimes I think that corporate blogs are an oxymoron…and can’t really be interesting and engaging.  Feer free to prove me wrong.

A couple good corporate blogs (no, they’re NOT easy to find):


GooseCross Cellars

There are too many to list that don’t provide anything interesting or worth the paper they aren’t printed on.  Besides, I fell asleep perusing them and drooled into my keyboard and short it out.  (ok, not really).  But I couldn’t resist these few blogs that suck below:


One blog I was so hopeful about when I found it was Guinness.  But it gets a FAIL from me because you have to lie and say you’re from the UK just to get in! Otherwise, I’d subscribe.

And GM continues to have conversation but NOT about anything current, pressing, or truly urgent!  Like their own bailout.

Comcast gets a FAIL! for not having a blog.  They seem to need one.  Not that that would actually help.

I admit I have an affinity for independent bloggers.  At the same time, I’d like to see them (us) achieve a level of readership, acknowledgement and participation in our industries rivaling the rest of the press.  No, we’re not exactly press, but as influence shifts to include bloggers and online social media sources, we’d like to see businesses react accordingly.  Many are.  It is exciting to watch communities connect and more communities create themselves based on shared passions and interests.

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You can’t explain social media, twitter, networking or online connecting to someone who has never done it and expect them to get it.  It is an experience,  kinda like a Grateful Dead concert.  (Ok, that was a strange comparison, but still apt).

Fundamentally, these are the basic principals I’ve experienced while connecting online:


  • Be there
  • Care about your community (an idea from Gary Vaynerchuk)
  • Selling CAN NOT be your priority.
  • Participate as a real, 3-D human.  That must be your priority.
  • Don’t BS or lie: You can be clear about who you represent, but please don’t make that the only reason you are there.

You can’t just show up and tweet or blog about something you have to sell.  Just like commericals on TiVo, we’ll fast forward through those and continue on with our conversations about wine, bacon, NPR, technology, Sonoma County chocolates, …you get the idea.  Join the conversation.

Care. So many options here.  Participate in the conversation, add something interesting, valuable, conversational.  Research your community: what do they care about? What do they talk about? Caveman Wines recently posted an elegantly simple reminder to people pitching to bloggers: know your audience!  That’s caring.  Humanitas Wines cares by giving back to communities where their wine is purchased.  That’s caring.  Forget about selling and invest your time, energy and $ into caring.  That may seem counter-intuitive, but I’m telling you, it is the social business model for the 21st century.

Selling is so out.  But buying is still in…we just don’t trust advertisers any more!  Really, at all!  Reuters posted this article this week about tech companies turning to social media to reach consumers.  It said “These social networking sites harness the age-old power of the word-of-mouth recommendation and can be potent marketing tools. If nothing else, they demand a higher level of consumer engagement than conventional ads.”  Recommendations from people we know and trust is how 78% of us connect with a product we’re looking for. (from What the F**K is Social Media)  No more billboard, shouting, passive audience selling.  That’s so 20th Century.  That’s so over.

Instead, participate, have conversations, engage with groups, connect.  It will take longer, metrics may be more difficult to accumulate and measure, but you will have impact.  You will garner trust.  You will cultivate a groundswell of support for a brand that will then sell itself.  That is of course assuming you have something of high quality for a low price and more to contribute to making the world a better place.

Don’t lie.  You can’t fake this.  The scrutiny of the clan will uncover any disingenuous participants.  And they will talk about you, honestly, ruthlessly to everyone.  Ask Motrin about the internet wildfire it started with a bad idea.  Really, the internet community is savvy, meticulous, and VERY interested in the truth.  The best part is, you’ll get honesty in return.  So I hope you want to know the truth.  Either way, you’ll get it.  You’re better off if you give it.  People appreciate honesty.


Let’s put it this way, you really aren’t in charge of your message that much any more. Reuters had this to say: “”Historically, companies have been really focused on controlling the information they disseminate … and the fact is that’s dying…“.  What that means to me is that you’d better have a great product at a great price (period)  We LOVE great stuff at great prices…and we’ll tell everyone we’re connected to about it!  And with the help of blogging, twitter, facebook, etc, that is literally hundreds of thousands of people, instantly.  The rewards will be well beyond what you imagined.

Being a fan of simple elegance, I had to offer this video in the post as well.  It is the best tool out there that comes even close to explaining twitter to someone who has no idea what the online social thing is about.  Still, I’d say just do it.

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I can’t think of a more exciting time to be alive and working in the US than right now.  Technology, politics, sustainable practices, social networking, progressive businesses, they are all heading for not just change, but the Responsibility Revolution.  It is a dramatic paradigm shift.   We’ve watched the decades long and constant drip of this movement intensify and come to a head, I believe, first with An Inconvenient Truth and second with the election of Barak Obama to the Presidency.  It is finally here.  Call me naive, but I believe in a big picture, forward thinking way of doing business that gives more than it takes in the community and operates on integrity.  According to CNBC “…consumers increasingly prioritize accountability and integrity from companies, it is clear that the social responsibility movement is here to stay.”  But if you’re not already convinced, your business will be left behind very quickly.


So what does that mean to you?  A couple things:  I imagine you work with people who are looking for ways to grow and change their business to keep up with at least the competition.  I also imagine you are a person with vision, integrity and a bold sense of style. (I can tell that about you.)  So how can your department, company or industry contribute to and be part of the Responsibility Revolution?  Many businesses are starting with Green practices.  But it doesn’t have to start or stop there.  What is meaningful, connected to your business and the most obvious, local place to start?

One of my favorite approaches from a blogger (The Secret Diary of a Bonafide Marketing Genius) asked businesses who were pitching products to her to donate $100 to Doctors Without Borders in exchange for her writing about the product.   She talked about why this organization was important to her, briefly offering information about the group and insight into what motivates her, then made it VERY easy to donate.  Other companies, like Xerox and Target, have made it part of the way they do business, either by pioneering greener, cleaner ways to operate or by giving back to local communities over $3 million…per week.


And saving the best for last:  Since this blog is about marketing and the convergence of the wine industry and social networking, allow me to share with you about Humanitas.  Owner and Thought Leader Judd Wallenbrock wrote, “I’ve embraced the message of giving directly from my revenue line and am working off of giving 7% of my revenues to charity.”  To so many of us, the solution is an obvious, elegant, timely one.  Wallenbrock provides yet another example for all businesses.  Contributing to your community is not just a good idea; it is essential to an integrated, progressive, successful business plan.

This Friday, November 21, wine lovers world wide will join Twitter Taste Live and Humanitas to “Drink Charitably”.  Now there’s a holiday present that will be on MY gift giving list.  “A Better World, One Sip At a Time”  Yes, please.


Hahn Vineyards were recently certified Sustainable in Practice.  And, through the magic of Twitter, I posted about trying to get Humanitas wine in time for this Friday’s tasting.  Multiple strokes of good fortunate brought Judd Wallenbrock to my office with the wines for the tasting.  I had already started this post, and synchronously, absolutely had to include Humanitas and what they do.  Leaders in any industry are rarely appreciated for the challenging path of pioneering a new way of thinking, being and doing business.  Thank you.

How do you give back?

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