I want to change the way winemakers think about participation in social media. I want them to stop treating twitter and facebook like some alien ritual that just goes against the grain of their character. I need them to start thinking about social media the same way they think about every other kind of social interaction.
If you drop in on an independent winemaker, they will generally greet you and offer a tasting of their wines. I’m pretty sure this is standard expectation. When somebody calls you because they read about your wine somewhere, you are expected to do a tasting with them. And you don’t just quietly pour. Most winemakers who acknowledge this expectation to a tasting will also take the time to talk about who they are, why they make wine, and so on. If I’m way off base, let me know in the comments. But I’m pretty sure this is standard fare. If one or two people drop by the winery while the winemaker is there, a large majority of winemakers will take some time with those visitors.
How much time? Even if a single person comes by, I’ll often spend over an hour with them showing the winery, the vines, and talking about winemaking. Even the speedy “gift shop tour” where I just taste bottled wines with them will generally take a good half hour. And I think most independent winemakers are happy to spend this time. 30 minutes for one dude.
Having a little facebook fan page that you update a few times a week will also take about 30 minutes here and there. But a well-groomed fan page will receive hundreds of visitors per week. You see where I’m going with this?
This O’Vineyards website, which consists of a few photos and some sporadic thoughts from the winemaker probably takes me a solid four hours per week. It received 1461 unique visitors in the last 30 days. So for about 16 hours of work, I got to communicate my message to 1400+ people.
Now a significant difference is that these web visitors aren’t necessarily buying wine. The normal expectation is that when you spend 30 minutes with “avertis” wine lovers who swing by the vineyard, they will buy some wine and make it “worth your time”.
But it doesn’t make sense to give up 30 minutes just for a few small 6-bottle sales. Our time is worth more than that! The real benefit of those people who take the time to visit us is that they go home and tell everybody else how wonderful their visit was. It’s good old fashioned social networking. Sans internet.
Some winemakers are shocked at the amount of time and energy I put into the Love That Languedoc wine blog (and to an extent this website). I sometimes spend whole days traveling and filming. And even the off days, I frequently spend 1-2 hours reading other cool stuff on the Internet to be on top of the buzz. It’s a huge time commitment. So why do it?
Because people want me to and it’s pretty fun.
We all have a chance to get thousands of people to visit our websites and facebook pages and twitter accounts and everything else. That’s an amazing opportunity. If I called a winemaker in the region and told him I had a group of 150 people who want to visit tomorrow, that winemaker should naturally want to make some time for them. The Internet is no different. 150 visitors deserve your time. Hell, 10 visitors deserve your time.
So stop saying that the Internet is not for you! Get typing. A few minutes per day just sharing your thoughts and developments around the vineyard might get you a steady flow of visitors. And that has a lot of value.
Agree or disagree? Please feel free (obliged to?) comment!
This post is going to sound a little strange to people who know me and realize how much time I spend trying to get more and more winemakers online. But I recently read an article and heard a flurry of tweets that have me thinking about an interesting double standard that exists in a lot of people’s minds.
I was following @vintuition and he linked to this article full of generalizations like “Old World winemakers prefer to stay offline” and “New World winemakers may not tweet much, but they do read wine blogs.” While parts of the article address a survey of 500+ winemakers and a small congregation of winemakers at an unnamed Moet-Hennessy gathering, most of it feels like a conclusion that the entire old world has flat out rejected social media.
Now a lot of you might be thinking “Ryan, this is exactly what you say all the time.” But I should clarify. It’s true that we need more winemakers online. But you have to admit, there are some winemakers already using social media. Heck, there are a lot when you stop and think about it. Winemaking is an agricultural profession so let’s stop and think about how many agriculteurs in general have adopted social media. How many corn huskers, cereal growers, and catfish farmers are out there tweeting about the daily grind? On the other hand, you’ve got lots of Languedoc Roussillon winemakers on Facebook, Twitter and Blogs.
I mentioned this on Twitter and @blogyourwine correctly pointed out that winemakers deal with the public much more frequently than those other agricultural fields. But I guess that’s kind of my point. Winemakers are already hugely interested in dealing with the public. And if you say that winemakers don’t deal enough with the public through social media considering how much they sell direct to the public, I think that’s a double standard. And it’s not just between winemakers and farmers. Pick another industry that deals direct with consumers like restauration. What percentage of mom and pop restaurants are on Twitter? They exclusively deal in direct sales, and yet…
Setting the bar higher for winemakers than for other professions is nothing new. Nobody walks into an auto shop and asks for a tour or a detailed explanation of how they work on cars. Or goes to a pharmacy/drug store/chemist and asks to sample the product. Wine is just different. And I mean, hey, that’s cool. I’m glad that wine is generally perceived to be so special. It is special. And I do have a certain amount of time to share with other wine lovers whether they drop by the winery unannounced or read this blog. But I think that when we evaluate the entire profession’s willingness to spend time with its customers, we might remember that winemakers are already some of the most active agricultural producers out there.
Do we need to get more winemakers online? Yes!
Should we let journalists get away with saying things like “Winemakers shun social media”? No. It’s demoralizing, generalized and sort of misleading.
I can’t deny that 80% of the winemakers in this study said social media doesn’t matter to them. Even in an area like the Languedoc Roussillon where we have a lot of people active, these are just a small percentage of the total winemakers. But at the same time, we can relativize this data and say “Oh hey, winemakers shun social media less than restraunteurs, mechanics, dairy farmers, and so on.”
So I set up Wine Everybody as my home page for a week. Wine Everybody is a feed aggregator and social media platform specifically oriented toward wine. It takes all the feeds from good wine blogs, tweets related to wine, message boards, etc. and puts them in one place. It is currently in beta.
The Short version:
- no bugs
- responsive design team
- flexible search parameters
- highly customizable
- winnows out affiliate marketers and spam
- does everything you expect (e.g. link to facebook and twitter accounts, one click publishing)
- doesn’t track what I’ve already read
- I personally dislike some of the CSS (buttons pop up when you point your cursor at a block of text. it moves everything in the column downward and disorients me)
- goofy name (I’m one to talk, right?)
- Add a “follow this person on twitter” button
- Add a “rss url” field so that I can add good feeds to other aggregators I use
- Find out if I’m the only person who hates the popup buttons
The Long Version:
I wanted to give it an honest try to see if it would become a permanent part of my life or not. My impression is that it’s an overall worthwhile website that works remarkably well considering it’s only in beta.
Now, technically, I set up a specific search query as my homepage. Rather than loading the generic “Tons of articles about wine” page, I load specifically to a narrowed down search for the term “Languedoc” or “Roussillon”. This is more pertinent to my work so I said to myself it would be more useful. And it’s a better point of comparison to the tools I already use (like google alerts for the phrases “Languedoc vin” “Languedoc wine” “Roussillon vin” and “Roussillon wine”).
Immediately, I have to say it’s pretty cool that I don’t need FOUR separate search queries on Wine Everybody. They have a really simple interface that lets me search for articles with Languedoc or Roussillon and then the entire website only reads stuff about wine and vin, so I get all four of my usual feeds in one little bundle.
Also, it’s pretty admirable that most of the content from my google alerts also pops up in the Wine Everybody interface. I was worried that some news feeds like local Languedoc papers might not be included in their feed, but I generally saw the same stories published in both Wine Everybody and my google alerts. Wine Everybody runs a lot faster than Google Reader too.
The only real downside is that Wine Everybody doesn’t track which articles I’ve read quite as clearly as Reader does. . . but that might just be because I haven’t explored the site enough. Plus the site designers at Vinternet are pretty savvy, so there is still time for them to add features like this one.
While I haven’t fully explored it, I also enjoy Wine Everybody’s level of interaction with message boards. Internet forums often get overlooked by the feeds I currently have aggregated. I think a lot of the time new posts don’t have all the same keywords in them and that’s how they get ignored.
Anyway, I’m kind of rambling. But I wanted to write up a little review of my first experiences with Wine Everybody. I think the name is sort of goofy. But I like what the website does. Will it stay as my homepage? For now, yes. On one of my computers. Although I feel bad because this experiment is adding like ten minutes to my dad’s computer time each morning as he struggles to type G-O-O-G-L-E-.-C-O-M every time he opens a new window. Bless him.