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Asking questions about social media is not “bashing”

11 comments

For some reason I’ve been tagged as a social media basher. Every time I turn around, somebody, somewhere, is blogging or tweeting or something that Heimoff hates social media, Heimoff can’t stand social media, Heimoff doesn’t “get” social media, Heimoff’s afraid of social media. But the most common characterization is that I’m a basher.

“Bash.” Pretty strong word. A verb, apparently derived from the Old Norse, meaning “to strike with a violent blow; to smash.” (Those old Norsemen were a pretty violent bunch, I’ve read, Vikings whom TIME magazine once called “Ravagers, despoilers, pagans, heathens” who would “sweep in from the sea to kill, plunder and destroy” their hapless victims, who had no effective means of resisting.

Does that sound like me? Little old me, as peaceable as a songbird, as unaggressive as a daisy? Of course not. Why would anyone call me a “basher”?

To answer that, let’s take a step back and see what I’ve actually said. All that I’ve ever written about social media is to point out that it has limitations. In one form or another, I’ve said that

- social media isn’t the be all and end all of selling wine
- wineries should have social media as part of their marketing mix but not bet the farm on it
- social media has yet to prove itself across the board when it comes to ROI
- some people with a vested financial interest in promoting social media tend to talk it up
- consumers should examine statements made in social media carefully to make sure they’re truthful
- the ease of publishing in social media means that some people with few credentials can make sweeping judgments

Now, could anyone object to any of that? I don’t see how they could. Each statement is patently true.

It is fair to say that I haven’t jumped on the “social media is the greatest thing for wineries since the invention of barrels” train. If you believe that it is, fine. Tweet away. I don’t think most winery owners believe it, though. If they can afford to, they’ll hire someone to run their social media programs, and if they can’t, they won’t. I don’t think there’s any proof that not having a social media campaign equates to economic failure for a winery. As a matter of fact, I’ve told dozens of winery proprietors (including Bill Harlan) who don’t have a social media footprint, or who have only a small one, to get on with it already. I think every winery ought to have a blog (well maintained), a Facebook page and a Twitter account, at the very least.

Is that bashing? I don’t think so. I myself spend a lot of time on social media, either managing my own sites or visiting others (although I’ll confess to not being as interactively chatty as some people). If I was really bashing social media, I’d write stuff like “Twitter is a stupid waste of time. So is Facebook. Don’t get me started on Google+. Blogging is digital masturbation. Get away from your @#%*& computer, tablet or smart phone, haul your butt into the gym and lose some weight!”

But I’m not saying that. So I really think it’s time to stop the “Steve is a social media basher” thing.

The deeper question is, Why have some people taken such offense? They seem to get genuinely upset by my writing, centrist and tempered as it is. Are they so deeply committed to social media, ideologically, intellectually, physically, emotionally and financially, that they can’t bear to have its limitations pointed out? Can they not bear a little constructive criticism? It’s like the Taliban. Tell them they should be nicer to their women, and all of a sudden they’re planting IEDs under your car.

So look, my critics: Find another word for “basher.” Or better yet, understand that complex issues can’t be reduced to a single word. Instead of calling me a “basher,” deal with my specific statements. I think you’ll find we’re more in agreement than you think.

  1. Steve,
    the veil is being lifted;
    I see a hand holding a Riedel,
    a renaissance man with NO plan to bash.
    So, please hold the accusations today,
    stash the vitriol,
    Let us ruminate how to untie the Gordian knot.
    Shush! Cash is the sharpest knife!
    Somebody lied and another took a life.
    Shush! Are we not a band of brothers?
    Just a thought in the night.

  2. I love the comparison of your critics to the Taliban! Just great. . . buck the politically correct bandwagon! I do have to say though that I agree with you in that I have never felt that you had any sort of vendetta against social media, just that you refuse to drink the Kool-Aid over it. It seems to me that 90% or better of the social media “campaigns” put on my companies are extremely superficial anyway, the equivalent of elevator small talk, and certainly don’t drive my purchasing decisions (at least to my knowledge).

  3. Dennis, you are a poet! Thanks.

  4. GrapesRGreat, thanks for the remark.

  5. I believe social media has a place in the wine industry, it’s not going to sell many fine wines even RPjr (or whoever writes his wines bits, I believe he writes his book and other bits himself) totes $18-20 wines because twitter’s market is not the fine wine market. I follow twitter to find more informative articles, 18-28 year olds find the 144 characters all the info they want.
    You are right social media can be mishandled and be misrepresented by many of the “new media” PR companies that have sprung up like grass in spring, bombing twitter with ads for a wine is stupid and would simple get an unfollow from me. Some MWs I follow have someone handling their twitter accounts because I don’t think they really would announce their participation in a forum 6-7 times a day for 5 days in a row, or I hope they wouldn’t, but some button pusher at a PR firm that handles their account has it on their job list, then I don’t see a tweet from said MW for weeks, it’s an unfollow situation.

    I don’t see anything on your list that is not correct and it not bashing if it’s true.

  6. @Lee Newby, thanks for the comment!

  7. Steve,
    No one that sees what you post of Facebook would dare accuse you of not believing in the influence or potential marketing of social media.

    You hit on social media’s main problem in an earlier post, that of credibility. I think you’ll see this election year challenge that credibility as political marketing pushes social media into the factually (see footnote). This is bad news for those of us who use social media, more or less effectively, for wine marketing. The credibility issue cast a long shadow over social media’s marketing potential. The benefits have been tempered and will continue to be more tempered as time goes on and more is exposed.
    As a winery owner, I have yet to hear the glories of social media touted by anyone whom it was not to their direct financial advantage to do so. From anyone else, social media marketing is met with moderate skepticism.

    Footnote: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2012/jun/22/Political-messages-proliferate-on-Facebook/

  8. I’ve heard a lot of hyperbole from both sides of the argument. While social medial is not some panacea that will allow mediocre wineries to sell wines at ridiculous prices, it does work as a really excellent form of advertisement.
    My winery has placed ads in the local wine press, been written-up by local papers and national magazines, and has participated in various trade shows and ‘meet the public’ events. But social media is still the second most common reason people visit our tasting room. The most common? The sign on the road. Maybe winery road-signs will become the next hot topic of debate…

  9. Steve … never thought of your blogs as “bashing”..more like you were blogging “from Missouri” (meaning you were looking for more proof points before blessing). Perhaps some of the push back is from those who are working hard to make a living at selling SM services to wineries …you’re trending on their profit potential:-)

    In any case, you’re right …. SM today is an important part of the marketing mix that deserves attention, but it’s not nirvana, and no amount of SM will make up for shoddy product, poor customer service, badly managed tasting room, self gratifying newsletter, etc.

  10. @Richard, thank you.

  11. SM is as important as anything that is out there nowadays. And asking questions is important. You’re living in a world that is dominated by social media. So you should be asking questions about it.

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