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March 11, 2009

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I have no doubt that all who attended went home with a much better grip on social media. You're a dynamo, Melissa. Keep up the wonderful work!

Social media is the new buzz word in marketing and PR, especially in a recession where businesses are looking for platforms to spread their marketing messages more cost efficiently. The New York wine industry has an amazing opportunity to leverage social media and put itself on equal footing with other more established wine regions. Even though the Finger Lakes might appear to be a little slow out of the gate compared to other regions, I think there is an immense amount of groundswell and interest building around social media and alternative ways to spread the word about the region and its wines. Thanks to Melissa for being persistent and having a long term vision for the region. Thanks to Lenn for being part of the Twitter exercise during the workshop and doing what he does everyday promoting New York wines. Thanks to the wineries that are embracing Facebook, Twitter, and the blogs. We are all integral parts of a new media revolution and there hasn't been a more exciting time to be part of the New York wine industry.

Like all big trends, the growing amount of noise out there might cancel out some of the novelty of using social media to promote a single winery versus another. However, the low-cost of using such technology means that virtually every winery can have a presence, and the quality of the message will equal the amount of time and talent put into the venture. No winery can afford not to take this opportunity seriously, even if just to get themselves on the "list" for consumers to reference online.

These new platforms are great. But are they great for business? The jury is still out.

The issue, as always, is content. It's never enough to just have a presence; you have to have something to say. And that something needs to be different, relevant, engaging, actionable, etc.

This is the terrain of branding. Of standing for something and communicating it in fresh and memorable ways. And no, I don't mean making claims of Quality or Authenticity or Excellence. Those attributes belong to pretty much every winery. They do not differentiate. And that is the single greatest problem in wine marketing.

Absolutely right, Fred. I'm amazed at how many businesses are trying to use Facebook for advertising alone. There are wineries that love to post in the status update, "New X wine on sale now! Only $15!" Whom do they think they're reaching with that blunt an approach?

Interestingly enough, many businesses think they're supposed to have a blog now, but they don't know how to grow an audience. Either they're not familiar with the format and the frequency, or they give up a short term after the launch because they're not getting feedback. It's hard for some people to understand, but before there's an audience, there simply must be a consisently excellent and unique product.

No one knows the single silver bullet answer with these platforms, but it's easy to spot the mistakes. And there are many, many mistakes being made.

That's the beauty of social media platforms. They work best if wineries show off their true best assets, most likely the people behind the label. Where does their passion come from? What are their dreams and visions? What really sets them apart?

Sure it's great to showcase your best wines, your view, etc. but I feel that interest and continued connection to the winery comes from telling people stories. Winemakers, staff, customers, winemakers and staff with customers. Unique,intimate special events.
Personalized messages, not mass emails.

A separate strategy involves getting the individuals behind the winery to embrace and engage in social media platforms in an authentic way. Help others, get to know each other and bounce ideas off of each other, show that you're not only in it for yourself. That builds loyalty. It never hurts to show the human face behind a winery brand.

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