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!
More Twitter Users at Vinisud
In fact, this shouldn’t be surprising at all. In January 2010, there were an estimated 127.4K twitter users in France based on a study conducted by Sysomos. By October of 2010, that number had almost doubled. And in January 2012, we’re seeing about 5.2 million twitter accounts in France.
- January 2010 – 127,400
- October 2010 – 225,000
- January 2012 – 5,200,000
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!
A lot of you probably don’t know this, but my internet handle is mroconnell. Like Mister O’Connell. This is an old nickname that goes back to when I was a teenager. A lot of my friends teased me for acting like an 80 year old man so often. I had business meetings, taxes, crazy stories about my adventurous youth, and I had a tendency to fall asleep really early.
So shortly after discovering that Google released GMail and Odeo released Twitter, I was there with my handle “mroconnell“. In some ways, it was a crappy choice. Most people don’t read it as MISTER and that makes it hard to remember. A lot of people type oconnell with one L. Anyway, I could have made a better choice. But I don’t mind it horribly. And it would be silly to try to start a new account now that I’ve entered the community as mroconnell.
So what do I do about all the mistypes? Well I have two suggestions.
Get additional twitter names. It costs just a couple minutes to expand your Twitter realestate. Just make a new account and claim the name with the typo. I just started up @mroconnel where I can politely redirect folks to the correct spelling. If people consistently mistype your name on twitter, try to reserve the alternate spellings.
The second bit of advice is to post your twitter name clearly in places that people might look for it. I used to have a link on this page that said Tweeeet. While humorous, it was pretty inconvenient for folks who wanted to find my twitter name. They had to see that link and click it. I’ve now replaced it with a @mroconnell which is much more recognizable to twitter users. Saving them some precious seconds and also catching their eyes more easily. Or so I hope.
I guess my point is that you don’t need to have a PERFECT twitter name. But you should try to make life easy for people who want to talk to you on twitter. That goes for any site you’re fond of.
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.”
When I first heard about Cabernet Day, my immediate reaction was to jump on board. And I kind of assumed that everybody would follow me unquestioningly… but there have been some questions, rightfully posed, as to why exactly I’m hosting a Cab Day event in the Languedoc. I want to take a moment to explain what Cabernet Day is and why I want lots of people to participate.
Here is the facebook event page for Cabernet Day at O’Vineyards
What the heck is Cab Day?
On September 2nd, a bunch of people around the world will drink Cabernet Sauvignon and talk about it online. A lot of the talking will happen in real life too at special events organized in wineries around the world. But a lot MORE of the talking will be happening online.
Some will blog, and even more will casually tweet with the hashtag #Cabernet. It’s called a tweetup (twitter meetup … I really hate web-related portmanteaus). And while I personally wanted to have a real-life party, the success of Cab Day will largely be measured by the participation on Twitter and the rest of the online chatter channels.
So that’s basically what Cabernet Day is. In all transparency it is organized by Rick Bakas, “social media director” for St. Supery in Napa Valley.
Does there need to be a Cab Day?
Cab Day is about celebrating the grape varietal Cabernet Sauvignon, a varietal that is so popular it seems like it doesn’t really need to have a party. So I guess that’s why some people are asking me “Do we need a Cab Day?” and “Why are we doing Cabernet?”
I’m gonna answer these questions in two parts. Part 1, since when do we have to attach moral imperatives to wine parties? Part 2, I need to communicate how awesome Languedoc Cabernet is.
Why people want crazy moral imperatives to party? – A lot of the people who are really into tweetups are also into promoting obscure varietals and communicating on more esoteric themes than Cabernet Sauvignon. I like talking about rare grape varietals too, which lets you communicate on themes like authenticity, local culture, history, etc. But I also realize that a mainstream subject can be just as interesting as an obscure one. And more mainstream topics can bring more people into the fold while very obsucre topics can sometimes alienate people who don’t feel “initiated”.
The interesting mainstream topic – The Languedoc is not known for it’s Cabernet Sauvignon. We’re a Mediterranean region and you can’t grow Cabernet just anywhere around here. So the few parts of the Languedoc that do make great Cabernet Sauvignon absolutely must communicate on that. So I’ll try to round up some Cabs from the Malpere, Cabardes, Aniane and so on. Cab Day is going to get a lot of people online who are interested in the grape varietal and we’ll be able to talk about how certain parts of the Languedoc make really great Cab. Sounds like a great opportunity!
And I hope other winemakers and Languedoc fans will take up the banner with me. Come visit on September 2nd or send your friends. We’re gonna drink great wine, have a blast, and it should be a lot of fun!
I feel really good when my wines receive positive comments and I brag about them in this blog. However, I still feel strange bragging about nice things that get said about me. But my parents assure me that the Internet exists in large part to brag about your exploits.
So uhm Robert Joseph, who wrote/edited a lot of the reference materials we used long before we ever owned a vineyard, was contributing to the Grenache Symposium. And then we met again at a Sud de France event. And he said something very nice about me on Twitter. So I’m going to use this space to blush and say thank you to him and that I’m very flattered.
And maybe this is a place to mention that I am only interesting in this region thanks to the support of my friends and community that allow me to get their message out on the web. In a way, this is about how cool YOU all are.
Here’s to discovering many others of greater import to this beautiful region! 🙂
And follow Robert Joseph on twitter or follow some of the projects he’s involved in like DoILikeIt. I swear that he’s interesting when he’s not talking about me.
I’ve been reading about some of the cool stuff going on at Where 2.0, but I’ve got this funny feeling in the back of my head that Where 2.0 might be forgetting the farmers.
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.
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.