Wineries and social media: the inauthenticity trap
On the surface it looks like the subject of this post is politics and Meg Whitman, but it’s not. It’s really a lesson for wineries about social media.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with our recent election in California, Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay, spent $160 million on her campaign for Governor, $142 million of it out of her own pocket. That was a record amount for any individual statewide race in the nation’s history, and many tens of millions of dollars more than her opponent, Jerry Brown, spent. Believe me, we voters were subjected to a barrage of robocalls, mailers, TV and radio commercials and signs urging us to vote for “Meg.”
Her campaign also heavily invested in social media. She had a Facebook page with 75,000 more fans than Jerry Brown, was active on twitter, and had more online comments, or “chatter,” than any other gubernatorial candidate in the nation — even more than Carl Paladino or Andrew Cuomo in New York.
Yet even with all that going for her, Whitman lost, and lost big.
As the San Francisco Chronicle says, she “failed to seal the deal” despite the huge influx of cash, for a simple reason: her “seemingly bottomless pocketbook couldn’t buy likeability or authenticity.” Added a fellow Republican campaign manager, “With Meg, nobody believed anything she said. She was a person who was willing to say or do anything to win…”.
This ridiculous sample of Meg’s tweets shows the turnoff factor she gave. As if I’d be likely to run into her at Pea Soup Anderson’s.
Like I said, I don’t mean to dump on Whitman or have this posting turn into an online political debate in the comments section, as one did last week did. Instead, I want to make a couple points that are directly transferable to winerys’ use of social media. The number one takehome message from Whitman’s failed campaign is that money doesn’t matter. It can buy a lot, but it can’t turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.
What this means for wineries who are hiring social media managers and investing a lot of cash into that effort is this: there’s nothing wrong with what you’re doing. It can work. And, most likely, you can’t win without investing money and time in social media. But — and it’s a big “but” — beware the inauthenticity trap. Whitman lost because she either couldn’t present, or doesn’t actually possess, an authentic personality, the kind that people like and are willing to bond with.
“She never consolidated her base, even on simple stuff – mostly because of the arrogance of her personality,” said a former Republican Party state chair in California. Whitman presented herself as folksy and likeable, a matronly, aging soccer mom with a big toothy smile and a pull-up-a-chair-and-let’s-chat approachability. But that was utterly at odds with what came across everytime she appeared on TV: a cold, aloof and rather mean uber-billionaire with zero understanding of real people, and even fewer ideas of how to address our problems. So even in this Republican tidal wave, Whitman went down to defeat.
The message for wineries is: if you’re playing in social media, you have to be real. If you don’t know what “real” means, you’re probably not. If you have to hire someone to tell you how to be real, you won’t be. “Real” doesn’t mean buttoned up and on message all the time. It doesn’t mean posting something some P.R. flack penned for you. It means you have to convey your heart and soul as well as your mind to the people you’re trying to get to. If there’s a revolution social media has wrought, it’s precisely that: be real.