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What’s the different between “developing a strategy” for social media, versus just having fun?

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Every social media advice book or article tells wineries to “develop a strategy” but nobody ever explains what a strategy is, or why you need one. So thousands of responsible winery personnel are left scratching their heads wondering if their “strategy” really is a strategy, or just a tactic.

Tactics, as we know from war, can be successful, but are relatively mundane efforts which may not affect the war’s outcome. Strategies, on the other hand, are game-changers. In World War Two, the U.S. had many tactical victories in the Asian-Pacific theatre, but the strategical importance of the atomic bomb meant winning the war against Japan, not losing it.

I was never big on the concept of developing a strategy for social media because it seemed to me an exercise in silliness. What does it mean, anyway? How would you develop goals? And if you do, how do you measure them? How can you show the relationship between a desired outcome and any particular social media tactic? So I’m not sure that the use of these war metaphors, including strategies and tactics, is even appropriate. It makes social media seem so grim, which in reality social media should be fun and light-hearted.

This article, which reports that winemakers interviewed for a study “were not really sure what their strategy was,” comes, then, as no surprise. Winemakers are not trained to look at things that way; besides, they’re too busy to be developing strategies not directly tied to their main job, winemaking. The entire notion of a “strategy” implies grand, sweeping things, but few of us actually live our lives consciously planning grand, sweeping strategies. Mostly we hope for things, cross our fingers and do our best to make them come about.

The other thing the study, out of Australia, suggests is that consumers don’t want to feel like they’re the objects of some winery’s strategy, anyway. It makes them feel like laboratory rats or guinea pigs, just some subservient factor in a grand strategist’s game. That’s not how people want to feel. They want to feel cherished—as the article states, when they go to a winery’s social media, they want “something more personal and human, not a mass marketing message about buying the wine.”

Ever since the whole social media phenomenon gained traction in the wine world as a possible way of driving sales and customer loyalty, I’ve been in the same position as Queen Elizabeth, whose role in Britain’s political life is restricted to only three areas: “to be consulted, to encourage and to warn her ministers.” I’ve tried to warn wineries not to be heavy-handed online, not to rush the consumer and clobber her over the head with a blatant sales pitch, not to view social media as the digital equivalent of a cash register—a tool only for venal ends. My attitude has been, your first duty in using social media is to have fun and enjoy yourself. If that somehow leads to more loyal customers and increased sales, it’s frosting on the cake. But even if it doesn’t, it’s still cake.

I’ve also said that posts don’t even have to be about wine. “[Consumers] are actually quite comfortable with seeing posts that might not necessarily be related to their wine or wine in general,” the study’s author concluded. What social media has enabled is a general de-mobilization of humankind. This is a grandiose statement but what I mean is that it is smashing down the barriers (nationality, age, physical location, etc.) that historically always divided us and is instead emphasizing our shared human-ness. It is almost a betrayal of trust to use social media in an insincere way. It’s also a losing proposition, because insincerity comes across really clearly on social media.

But so does a good attitude. It may be odd that we’ve reached a point where people are more willing to buy things from people they like and trust but whom they know only online. In fact, it is odd, if you think about it. But it’s also what it is: so my two cents remains what it always has been: Don’t overthink social media. Don’t be persuaded by “experts” that you need a “strategy” or otherwise it’s all a big waste of time. The worst way to waste your time is to spend it on doing social media things you personally don’t care for. Is that why you got into the wine business?

  1. KCPhillips says:

    Couldn’t agree more. I think of Lynmar and their online blog, where their approach is to converse about wine in a more casual manner, relate how their vineyards develop through the seasons, how their culinary garden develops and supports their food program. It’s all very soft and fuzzy. They’re developing a specific kinds of relationship through the blog.(It’s also a bit too country club-ish for my taste, but I suspect their approach works for their targeted customers.) Another well-regarded winery I deal with has recently turned to cold call wine sales. That’s a huge turnoff, given that they also promote through email blasts. I’m ready to drop them. Other wineries, oddly, just sell wine off their mailing lists with minimal or no contact with customers (life must be good) – that’s shortsighted, since they need to develop long term relationships with customers if they’re to minimize sales and promotional costs. If I were in the wine business, I would ditch the social media marketing experts in favor of listening to what my customers are already telling me . . . .

  2. Too often the response to reading and hearing exhortations to engage in social media marketing is:

    “Build it [website, blog, Facebook, Twitter] and they [the public] will come.”

    A classic case of “Ready, Fire, Aim.”

    And “If you don’t know where [strategy] you’re going . . . any road will take you there.”

    My advice to wineries: contact your local college or university’s business school, inquire if they have a paid internship program, and bring on some “digital generation” marketing major students to extend you a helping hand.

    And on the subject of the young teaching the old a few new tricks, see these articles:

    “Reverse Mentoring Cracks Workplace;
    Top Managers Get Advice on Social Media, Workplace Issues From Young Workers”

    Link: http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970203764804577060051461094004

    — and —

    “Pairing Up With a Younger Mentor;
    In ‘Reverse Mentoring,’ Tech-Savvy Twentysomethings Help Older Managers”

    Link: http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303903304579588122552355480

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