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!