I’m astonished at how much has changed in the past two years. One particularly conspicuous example is twitter use in and around Vinisud, a big wine fair that happens every two years.
Twitter at Vinisud
Two years ago, there were a handful of people tweeting at Vinisud. I actually got multiple journalists to visit the O’Vineyards stand just because we answered their tweets and invited them to come by. That’s a pretty big score for less than 140 characters. 🙂
This year, in the days leading up to the event, there is a massive flow of tweets about Vinisud, including the tweets of winemakers, interprofessions, syndicates, and the official @vinisud twitter account. Six people have tweeted about the wine fair in the time it has taken me to write the first three paragraphs of the post you’re reading. That’s a big change in just two years!
That’s incredible growth. It also explains why there’s so much more chatter this year. There are 40 times as many people to do the chattering. Plus when you think about it, the first 127,000 to adopt are generally in the tech & communications field. There are 700,000 informaticiens in France. So the odds are the winemakers don’t really join the conversation until those guys all do it. ;D
How useful is twitter at Vinisud?
And we come to the question, what use is tweeting for winemakers or anybody else at Vinisud? It’s not Fukushima. It’s not Arabian Spring. It’s a wine fair. Who cares what you’re drinking right now?
Well, two years ago, it was exceptionally useful. As I mentioned above, we got tasted by the Wine Enthusiast and several blogs solely because of a tweet. We were on the Cité de Carcassonne’s communal stand and all the other producers were shocked at how busy we were. We were also rather shocked! In 2008, before social media (and before we had developed much of a reputation at all), we had virtually nobody come by the stand.
So Twitter was useful for drawing attention back then. It was pretty easy. Look who is talking about vinisud. Tweet them an invitation to taste your wines. The end.
But now that there are more of us, it’s harder to stand out from the crowd. Is this the point of diminishing returns?
The point of increasing returns?
Interestingly, more users also means more listeners! Sure it takes more time to stand out of the crowd. But the crowd is bigger so you get more return for your work too.
So all we have to do is figure out how to stand out from the crowd. So let’s take a look at the crowd.
Promotion of a group – A lot of the tweets are coming from organized groups like AOC syndicates, winemaker collectives, and PR agencies.
This strategy commonly involves tweeting out the stand of the collective group or the stands of individuals who belong to the group.
For example, the AOC Saint Chinian account seems to have been created very recently and specifically for the purpose of tweeting about their presence at Vinisud and similar events. There are only a few tweets and they’re generally self-promotional invitations. They only have a handful of followers, so logically they are not tweeting to those few who already follow them.
They are probably hoping to get the attention of folks who don’t already follow them on Twitter. And to the extent that they’re mentioned here, I guess that works.
This strategy is relatively common. You can find it again in the AOC Limoux, Groupe UVAL, and others. Limoux is notable for being more about social interaction most of the time (but they do this “list every winemaker routine” at conferences like Vinisud and Millesime Bio).
While I think a minority of people use this strategy, it tends to be highly visible because it fills the entire vinisud stream with short bursts of messages from the same people. As seen in the screenshot to the left.
Some groups like the Outsiders (which I belong to) separate these messages by several hours so that they don’t look quite as spammy.
Conversational Use – I think a lot of people are having simple conversations on Twitter. Like a form of broadcast text messages. It can be pretty hard to follow the stream of conversation, especially when multiple people get involved. But it does allow lots of people to get involved in the same discussion, and that is nice. Much of the conversation at this point is just “@soandso Are you coming to vinisud?” But there are more intricate dialogues too.
During the event, I anticipate this form of use will increase as Twitter just becomes an effective way to communicate with large groups (largely thanks to Twitter’s tiny data burden). This is often the kind of use you hear about in the news whether it’s in the context of vapid “I’m eating a muffin” posts or natural disaster and political upheaval articles. People use the tool for first hand communication/conversation.
Curatorial Use – Curators use Twitter to present things that they find elsewhere on the Internet. Obviously I am a big fan of this school (as should be apparent since we’re getting to the end of a lengthy listing of different uses of Twitter at wine conferences). For an idea of what this looks like, you can look at Andy Abramson, a blogger who is visiting the region in the time leading up to the conference.
I should note that there is a fine line (or no line?) between curatorial use and the group use mentioned above. In fact, groups are trying to curate their group members. But it just feels different. I can’t really put my finger on it. Maybe some other day.
If you want to stand out from this crowd, you’re going to need to do something eye-catching and different. Be the best curator, the most entertaining conversationalist, the coolest group, or invent a new use!
At the European Wine Bloggers Conference (EWBC), Ryan Opaz talked about new web tools that allow people to tell stories more effectively online. I’ve embedded the video of his presentation below, his slideshow, a list of all the tools he mentioned, and then a couple attempts to use the tools.
WordPress.org – self-hosted blog with wordpress content management system. This is how I publish the blog you are currently reading.
Tumblr – Perfect for telling short stories with quick uploads or highlighting links/photos/media in an easy, aesthetic way. Might belong in the microblogging category.
Posterous Spaces– One post here and posterous will turn around and post your update everywhere (ie any blog you set up, any social media account, etc.)
Squarespace – A premium website creator that is apparently pretty intricate. For your typical 1000 € website that lots of wineries make, this makes just as much sense (if you have decent design sense) as hiring an outside contractor. Never used it myself though.
Facebook – duh.
Twitter – duh.
Linkedin – why?
Alternativeto.net – Alternativesto totally doesn’t belong in the middle of the microblogging slides, but SUCH is life. It’s awesome for finding new tools in any of these categories.
Google+ – awesome?
RSS/Podcasting explanation – Really Simple Syndication is a system that lets people know when you’ve updated your website. Podcasts are audio recordings that use RSS to appear in your mailbox or mp3 player or whatever everytime they’re released.
AudioBoo – ultra easy way to record audio and immediately publish it
vocaroo – quick audio recordings; sort of a poor man’s audioboo
viadeo – billing themselves as something like the French LinkedIn, it’s not surprising Ryan Opaz glossed over them. It’s very French and very business-y. But a lot of people swear by it.
adegga, vinogusto, winedemon – Ryan didn’t really talk about social media sites devoted to wine but these can be an important stomping ground for wineries to tell their stories. some sites like cellartracker really don’t offer that opportunity to winemakers, but others like Adegga allow for a lot of interaction and “ownership” on the part of producers.
Effort to use the tools
Animoto – I made an animated slideshow for my B&B with animoto. It was pretty painless but the free version is pretty amateur. It beats most of the ridiculously boring slideshow software I’ve seen, but it’s a far cry from the quality level I like. It’s great for a little slideshow for fun. I wouldn’t be proud enough to put it permanently on the landing page of my website. I bet the premium version is awesome though and it only costs like 5 bucks to do an unlimited number of videos for a month.
Dipity – I used this timeline tool and I think I should have used it for something else. I decided to start compiling a history of wines of carcassonne (upcoming book project), but I realize now that I missed the mark. This tool is really designed for contemporary, breaking news events. Or personal uploads. Regardless, here’s my first work in progress on the site.
Bundlr – I started using bundlr for an upcoming Carcassonne audio guide project which also ties into the geolocation presentation I’ll be giving at Vin 2.0 in Paris this December.
Storify – I tried to use storify to make something about the EWBC but it was already November and most of the tweets from the EWBC were already buried in the archives. Unless I’m missing something, storify is really meant to be used AS the event is unfolding. So I missed the opportunity to do one for the EWBC. But Wine Future Hong Kong was happening that day so I made a storify for it. The interface was very easy to learn and I’d say this whole experience was good. I like it. The finished product looked professional and was easy to read. And people loved my summary. It got a lot of retweets and attention. And it just involved me picking out my favorite tweets, photos and links (and I mostly pulled these photos and links from tweets too). And then it serves as link bait because everybody mentioned in your storify is proud that you cited them. Plus sometimes you get the opportunity to be pretty funny. One complaint: I didn’t realize that the URL wasn’t customizable so my hong kong wine future storify still has a soave italy url. Ooops.
I want to present at SXSW in Austin next year on the topic of non-verbal wine communication. I think there’s a great deal to be said about visual storytelling, infographics, and non verbal ways of describing certain subjects (especially inherently sensory experiences like food and wine).
As I researched my first few posts about the words we use to describe wine, I worried that my topic was too weird and esoteric. But SXSW has just revealed the full list of 3,266 panel proposals and an astounding number are about similar topics of non-verbal communication!
So I’ve rounded up some panels that look very interesting and talk about a similar topic of post-verbal or non-verbal data. I hope to get in touch with all these presenters eventually because I think we have a lot to discuss.
A presentation about live visual annotation of lectures/speeches/etc. One can also imagine this being applied to wine tastings and tutored tastings? Imagine live tasting notes being drawn by the audience as they learn about wines of Languedoc and our sunshine, winds and mountains. The final result could be more interesting than any list of words!
This is crazy. Another wine guy actually proposed a panel about semantics and language just like I did! This group in South Africa has banned a list of the silliest words that turn up in tasting notes and is crowdsourcing wine reviews to develop a new language to describe wine. Pretty cool idea.
Cell phones are reshaping how people think about content creation. Oftentimes, a quick snap or video recording on the fly made at the moment will be more important than a well-written article that takes hours and hours of research and editing.
An interesting and ambitious panel that wants to visualize data over time and “change the way we do data visualization forever”. I’ve often considered writing a blog aggregator for winemakers that just scrapes all of our photos and posts them on a timeline. And maybe then doing a sort by hue if photos land on the same date. I expect this would create a sort of wave that moves from green to red/brown over the course of the calendar year (assuming we stick to all northern hemisphere or all southern hemisphere vineyards).
This presentation proposal seems a bit vague at first, promising to deliver social media tools that educators can use to assist visual learning. The powerpoint attached has a lot more detail, including a list of simple tools like wordle, many eyes, twitterfall, and so on. Potentially an interesting topic.
It was a lot of fun presenting at last year’s event, but the audience was pretty limited at the Access Zone (an area focused on the Internet’s role in the wine trade). 2011 was totally different. The area was bigger and it was full of people at every presentation. It’s obvious that the wine trade is catching up to what Vrazon and its members have been saying for a long time. The Internet is playing a crucial role in wine communication, wine sales, and so on. It cannot be ignored!
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.”
The presentation is a little dry if you’re not in the biz, but I think Rick has some very interesting experience and he shares some truly outstanding numbers. In a time when everybody in California was hurting, St. Supery saw some impressive numbers, retaining their wine club members and increasing direct sales despite the fact that the economy is hurting. And without pitching the wine directly!
There’s also an interesting moment where Rick talks about catering to a client who didn’t like the bottle (way beyond the call of duty) and then it turns out that she’s a writer for the New York Times. While the story sort of enforces the idea that a traditional journalist is way more important than a normal consumer and he lucked out, there’s also this theme that you should treat everybody like an important journalist. Customer is king. And sometimes, it turns out they are actually secret journalists or Zeus disguised as a swan.
But beside the risk that every client is Zeus disguised as a swan, you just have to be nice to wine drinkers because they are people and you should be nice to everybody.
There’s another moment of VinoCamp Paris where Vicky Wine said something very nice about my wines (or about me).
She said that it is very important for winemakers to connect with wine drinkers. Because when she drinks a wine, she makes judgements about the winemaker or the label or other things that float around outside the bottle. And one of the reasons she likes my wine is because she knows all the stuff I’m doing online, and all the tastings I do, and (as somebody in the group quips) because we are buddies. But there is no shame in being buddies!
And I don’t have video of it, but Emmanuel Delmas said something to the same effect. It’s unavoidable that once he meets me or sees my videos online, my wine will have a sort of exuberant, energetic feeling. It’s a happy wine! And then we’re left wondering if the wine truly resembles the winemaker or if it’s just that we’re influenced by our perceptions of the artist. . . . interesting questions! And all arguments for the winemaker to make themselves visible online (when time permits).
It’s been a week or so now and I watched a great video recap of what went down in the Access Zone at the London International Wine Fair. As you can see, I’m not the only one talking about social media and new technology. Quite the contrary, I was just a small part of a huge new space at the LIWF and I’m really proud to have been surrounded by so much innovation, excellence and friendliness.
So this video from the LIWF will give you a little taste of the events that were programmed in the space and if you want more information about anything, you’ll likely find it on Catavino’s site.
That screenshot from Upcoming makes me so freaking sad. “Sorry, there are no popular events in your area!” I even lied about my area and made it the biggest city near here. 🙁 Which brings up another problem. If web services don’t cater to rural areas, countries that are predominantly rural (eg France and Spain) might experience stalled adoption rates, even in moderately sized cities.
For those who have no idea what “where 2.0” is about: the Internet is getting really interested in location location location.
YouTube, Twitter, and the usual suspects all want to know if you’ll please enter geographical data along with every new upload. Sites like Gowalla and Foursquare are putting big money on geographic location-based gadgets. And for a while, sites have been finding ways to get people away from the desktop and into the street to meet up for flashmobs, dance parties and massive group discounts.
But these sites have largely focused on big metropolitan areas. And that’s understandable. These are businesses and they figure the easiest way to get clients is to focus on places with high adoption rates and a big potential consumer base. Not a lot of winemakers prune with their iPhone handy waiting to hear about a discount on designer jeans.
And I’m wondering if California winemakers are going to be reaping the profits of proximity to major tech hubs like San Fran while poor old Languedoc hangs high and dry.
Is it part of our job as winemakers in a rural area to assess the current Internet landscape and retool some of the services out their to serve our needs? I’m working on this idea and I’ll keep coming back to it. For sure, there are ways that social media can sell wine like when Twitter-ers bid on wine at a Toques et Clochers auction in rural France. But we might have to actively study these examples if we want to replicate their success.
“The web is theoretically infinite; readers value blogs that sort through the confusion to find things of interest. Some of the highest-traffic blogs provide nothing but links.”
While Tom’s article picks on wine reviewers and wine bloggers in general, I deal specifically with wineMAKER blogs and I think we have some additional psychological baggage.
Winemakers feel like running a vineyard blog means talking about yourself all the time. And it’s cool to do that sometimes. As the Hosemaster of Wine once said, it’s hard to find a blog that primarily focuses on a topic other than the blogger. But don’t spend all your time doing that.
Unless you’re already insanely famous, very few people will devote time to you on a regular basis just to find out what the weather is like on YOUR vineyard. And while it’s fun to drum up support for real world wine tastings, only a small geographical area can show up to your tasting. The Internet gets read by everybody!
“So what do we blog about!?” You blog about everything. Writing a good wine blog is probably 90% reading. You read newspapers and other blogs and then you blog about the most interesting stuff. But winemakers have an edge. We are uniquely positioned to hear stuff firsthand instead of discovering them through traditional wine press. So keep your ear to the ground and talk about things that you find out about in the wine world. Talk about everybody.
If you spend all day pruning, it’s likely you didn’t get exposed to any cool ideas to put in the blog. But on a day where you see other people, keep your eyes open and think “would this be interesting to wine drinkers?”
How to find us
Domaine O’Vineyards, located in the North Arrondissement of Carcassonne, is just minutes from the Carcassonne train station, the Medieval City, and the Carcassonne Airport.
GPS coordinates: 43.259622, 2.340387
Wine, Dine, Relax at our Boutique Vineyard
Unique thing to do in Carcassonne
Wine Cellar. Winery Visits. Wine Tasting.
Wine & Food Pairing
North Arrondissement of Carcassonne
885 Avenue de la Montagne Noire
11620 Villemoustaussou, France
Tel: +33(0) 630 189 910
Best by GPS.
Follow the signs to Mazamet/ Villemoustaussou using the D118. At the end of the last straight part of D118, you will come to a roundabout with the Dyneff gas station.
Take the exit towards Pennautier. Continue 500m to a small roundabout and go straight over.
Look out for the second road on your right, Avenue des Cévennes which curves up hill (about 1km) to Avenue de la Montagne Noire on the left.
At the last juction, bear left. the road sign “Ave de la Montagne Noire” (confusing as it seems to show a right turn)
After another 500m you will see our red brick color building in the middle of the vines.