Do it urself
On my way home from Dry Creek Valley I made a stop in Santa Rosa, where I’d agreed to speak for an hour to a group of winery officials at a wine industry event. It was held in the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, and the hallway convention space was filled with entrepreneurs and vendors selling everything from cork jewelry and crystal stemware to T-shirts with funny wine slogans. At one booth, there was even a guy you could hire to do all your social media for you, if you don’t know how to do it yourself.
Which brings up the subject of this post. I’d been told by the event’s organizers that, although the official subject matter was improving tasting room profitability, I could talk about other things — since tasting room profitability is not something I know very much about. The attendees, I was told, would be interested in my perspective as a traditional, print-based wine journalist who also happens to be doing a little non-traditional social media, mainly through this blog. So I began my talk by citing some facts and statistics, all of which were pretty gloomy, and underscored the fact that the wine market is in dismal shape. That makes it all the more important to figure out how to sell wine, I continued; and while that’s a complicated topic, there are certain steps vintners can take to foster sales. Certainly, improving the tasting room experience is one. But another, I told them, is to get involved in social media.
(I know I’ve said in the past that you can’t sell wine through social media. It’s best used for branding. But I’ve also said that you may be able to sell wine, someday; so you might as well jump in now, given how inexpensive SM is.)
I could see a certain number of faces express dismay when I said they should do SM. Lots of people really, really don’t want to get engaged in it, especially older ones. That’s why the guy in the hall who was selling his services as an external SM manager was there. But I’m afraid I did his business no good by telling the audience that, IMHO, nobody needs to hire a SM manager. (Hardy Wallace had spoken to the group the day before, but I don’t know what he told them.) Social media is not hard. It doesn’t require a “strategy.” I used this analogy. Let’s say you’re a winemaker. You get up very early every morning and, as a routine, you hit the local breakfast joint for your scrambled eggs and cuppa joe. (The Boon Fly Café, at the Carneros Inn, is the perfect such place.) You see a bunch of the guys sitting at the corner table. (They can be gals, too. No gender test anymore to be a winemaker.) As usual, you head over to sit with them. You don’t plan a “strategy” on how to interact with them. You don’t think in your head, “I’m going to sit with the guys, so I need to figure out what I’m going to say in advance, and how I’ll say it, hmmm,” etc. etc. (At least, I hope you don’t think like that.) No, you just sit down, say “Mornin’, guys,” and jump into the conversation.
That’s social media engagement. Simple, unplanned, more or less spontaneous, friendly, engaged and engaging, human, sometimes inartful and inarticulate, but always sincere. Sincere: from the Latin: without deceit.
I had talked to the guy in the hall and asked him a typical service he could provide a client. He began by saying he would write the winery’s blog. Well, maybe it’s just me, but I couldn’t imagine hiring someone to write my blog for me. How would they know what to say? How could they know what I’m thinking and feeling? Could I trust someone to put words in my mouth that reflect what’s actually happening in my head and in my heart? I don’t think so. (It would be even worse if the guy who wrote the blog wasn’t even physically present at the winery.) If I were the winery owner and I hired somebody to blog for me, I’d have to take the time to check what the guy wrote. If I’m going to take that time, I might as well take the same time and write it myself.
If you let someone else write your blog for you, it seems to me it’s the opposite of sincere. It’s “cere”: deceitful. Am I going too far with that one?
I told the group that in a blog you just say whatever’s on your mind, no matter how dumb or trivial it may be. Not every day offers a big, fat, juicy topic to write about, like the death of a beloved icon or the absorption of a big winery by a bigger one. Sometimes, you just write about what happened to you yesterday.