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Telling it like it is

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Remember the Rockaway brouhaha? That was last summer, when some bloggers were given samples of a wine, before the traditional critics got it, but only on the condition that they write about it.

When I suggested there might be something manipulative about this, I got jumped on, and the blogosphere ignited into the equivalent of a California wildfire. If I can characterize the bloggers’ defense, it was: “Hey, as long as we’re transparent, we’re above suspicion. And besides, it’s a new media world out there, and blogs are going to take over from magazines.”

I had to admit the issues were, and are, very complex in my mind, and I still get a little perplexed when I try to sort out all the various factors involved, including transparency. So this morning, when I came across this post on an Australian blog called Zakazukha Zoo, it just about blew my mind. Talk about transparency! The blogger, Matt Granfield, comes right out and says he “made a deal with Kirrihill Wines” (a Clare Valley producer) which he describes as “a social media marketing pact.” Matt gets 12 free bottles of Kirrihill wine because he’s “an influencer.” In return, Kerrihill gets the opportunity to get mentioned on his blog. Who reads Matt’s blog? He tells us: “at least 30 people.” He also has “177 friends on Facebook…34 Twitter followers [and] 30 connections on LinkedIn.”

Matt has a proper sense of proportion. “I’m clearly not James Halliday,” he writes, but he is someone a winery such as Kirrihill might “think would be handy to have on their side.” He’s a clever fellow. Using a mathematical formula based on the value of his “Industry Authority Score,” “Social Authority,” Industry Reach” and “Social Reach,” he calculates that he will bring a return on investment (ROI) of $248.25 this year to Kirrihill. “That’s not too bad really,” Matt concludes.

I take my hat off to young Matt Granfield. In the blog’s “About Us” tab he writes “Matt Granfield’s online marketing career began at age 11 when he wrote a computer program on an Amstrad CPC to track inventory of Christmas trees…”. There’s something garagiste about what he calls his “career trajectory,” and I mean that both in the sense of a garagiste winery and the garage in which Hewlett and Packard started their little company (and, later, Jobs and Wozniak). From little acorns do giant trees grow. I have seen the future of online wine marketing and its name is Matt Granfield.

  1. Too funny.

    Your prose is cutting and incisive to be sure, but at the end of the day we have a regular dude who decided to start a blog being treated to free wine. He acknowledges the fact, hell he celebrates it, and the wine blogging world reads his post and moves on.

    Any metric trying to capture influence is inherently flawed, no argument there. But I think this is pretty amazing. A guy with no credentials, no stated expertise, and no clout other than his modest readership is being wined by a producer. This is remarkable!

    Apple, Zappos and countless other forward thinking companies have become successful by doing exactly what Kirrihill is doing: treating their customers so well as to defy all reasonable and rational expectation. If they can institutionalize this level of customer service, they’ll

  2. ugh. Premature submission!

    …they’ll be well on their way to market success.

    The folks who think these types of people are any threat to critics, with years of expertise and mountains of credibility, are utterly missing the point. The point, I think, is that the time money and attention that once showered (even deservedly) solely on the media and other privileged folks is now trickling all the way down to the consumer level. Good times.

    Critics who have worked to establish their reputations in the industry add value, help make sense of a chaotic market, add needed clarity, and advocate and criticize in equal measure. It’s a crucial role you and others play, and it’s one you fill extremely well. The choice isn’t one or the other. Those that argue that it is just have a rusty axe to grind. :-)

  3. Dr. Horowitz says:

    Yeah, but at what point do Matt’s friends realize that Matt’s becoming more of an ad than a friend, and stop following him on twitter and remove him as a friend on facebook? It seems like with everyone using social networking to promote their personal brands or corporate interests, there gets to be a point where you as yourself “Is this person really a friend?”

    I have 144 friends on facebook, please send me wine.

  4. “I have seen the future of online wine marketing and its name is Matt Granfield.”

    I notice you are talking about the future of wine *marketing* not wine writing, wine journalism or wine blogging. Is that intentional?

  5. Very clever stuff from this Matt fellow.

    By my calculation (which I think is very, very conservative), using the same formula as Matt, Rockaway is looking at an ROI of $4162.50 USD for the ONE BOTTLE of wine that they sent to me from the infamous incident that you described in your opening.

    I think you’ve also seen the future of online winery marketing, and it’s name is Rockaway…

  6. Nice little blog . . . and a story that has been and will be repeated again and again. I remember the Rockaway story well, and I too see ‘both sides’ of the issue. I also see that wineries are trying ‘outside the box’ ways of reaching out to consumers, and this certainly involved ‘viral marketing’ in its various forms.

    I wish Matt and all who aspire to ‘be heard’ the best of luck!

    Cheers!

  7. Wow, thanks Steve, it’s nice to know people are listening. Josh has hit the nail on the head with his comments, but Dr Horowitz has clearly not read my article! You all might be interested in this article about the duty of disclosure for bloggers: http://www.e-cbd.com/zakazukhazoo/duty-of-disclosure-for-bloggers-on-the-payroll/

    If I can chime in on the discussion, a wine critic these days is anyone with an opinion about wine that people trust. I’m a wine critic amongst my circle of friends, but I not in the blogosphere.

    I have no clout in the wine industry and Kirrihill took a punt on me that, as a social media commentator, I would like their campaign enough to talk about it, and presumably share the wine with my friends, which I have done. As a result I’m calculating the return on their investment as fairly meagre.

  8. Dr. Horowitz says:

    Oy! Matt, I just read your article.

    That’s sweet that you got a free case of wine, I hope you enjoy it.

    As a social media critic, do you have any criticism to offer about my opinion that social media is being increasingly used by people who want to promote themselves or their corporate interests?

    Check out Buying In by Walker and his blog http://www.murketing.com/journal/ if you have a chance.

  9. Dr. Horowitz, the wine was OK, but nothing to write home about :) I agree with you wholeheartedly that social media is increasingly being used as a marketing tool by people who care about little else than pushing a product onto whoever will listen. It’s not a new concept though, the people doing a poor job of using social media as a marketing tool now are just the great great great great great great grandchildren of the people who did a poor job of using the letterbox as a marketing tool when it was first invented. The beauty of social media is that it’s actually a brilliant tool for allowing companies to really engage their customers in dialogue and actually create meaningful relationships in ways that technology didn’t allow for in the past. (eg. Barack Obama might be able to get 100,000 people to a town hall meeting at the peak of an election campaign, but he can reach more than that with one little Twitter message whenever he likes).

    Thanks for the tip on the Murketing blog, I’ve added it to my feeds.

    Matt

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