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January 06, 2010

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Interesting article, I think that is something that many offline businesses struggle with. I work with a small restaurant and sometimes using Twitter and Facebook is simply too time consuming for small business. A good place to start can be email marketing, simply having a list of customers, or in the case of a winery, having email for anyone who has come in and tasted...makes a ton of sense.

As per your article, I don't see why Twitter and FB need to take more then 20 minutes a day for one member of the staff.

Mark -

Good points. Regarding Twitter and FB, as Lisa Hallgren says, it's probably much easier for wineries that have at least some marketing staff. Ravines, for example, is run almost entirely by the couple that owns it. They hardly have days off, let alone much daily time for social media. But your point is well taken.

Another challenge is finding the right balance to a persona. Wineries have found that they can't jump on Twitter and just sell constantly. It doesn't work like that. The most successful Twitter profiles are the ones where the users interact and be, well, social. The genuine personalities get more attention and feedback. The obvious sellers get shut out.

A well-conceived post, Evan. This is something that wineries across the country are battling with I'm sure. The good news is that the Finger Lakes community is at least dipping their toes into the social media pond.

On Long Island, few even have their swimsuits on yet.

On another note, I wanted to let all of our readers know that our reviews do (and will continue to) appear on CellarTracker: http://bit.ly/8BfiXm

Right now it's all still branded as LENNDEVOURS, but I'm working with Eric to have that updated and once we have our new logo, that'll be complete.

Evan,

As we've discussed before, my (very) limited experience in Upstate NY showed very little support for the local product from nearby restaurants. Granted, one restaurant doesn't a good sample set make, but my first impression (as a business traveler to the Binghamton-Endicott area...45 minutes or so from the Finger Lakes) is that the local hospitality industry is not behind the FL wines. That sent a bad message, and I was disappointed, as a wine lover who was eager to try more of the 3rd largest producing state's juice. Furthermore, distribution is very poor in Atlanta (not exactly a one-horse town), so we don't get many opportunities to whet our appetites for NY wine.

It's nice to hear things may be on the upswing.

Most businesses, small and large, see marketing as a one to many game with success being measured by how many people they reach and close. Social media is complementary to traditional channels of marketing in that respect, and the leverage from social media comes from what that first cadre of contacts says about you on social media to their friends - and so on. It's as if your contacts took up your marketing campaign and rebroadcast it to their friends. Social media costs you time and the leverage is free. Of course it also makes you pay attention because a screw up is just as quickly reported and re-reported. With social media monitoring even the screw ups are opportunities for a company to immediately fix a problem.

Heron Hill has a pretty aggressive social media campaign. It will be interesting to see how that plays out for them in relation to others.

The kicker is: your business is already on social media whether or not you have an account at Twitter or Facebook. Do you want to hear what people are saying and shape your brand, or just hope it turns out OK. Hope is not a good marketing strategy.

David, you bring up a key point. A couple actually.

One, I think you need to be involved in social media without any question. Why? Because, as you said, conversations are already going on about you. Better that you're there to reap the benefit (and mitigate the risks)

Two, other than time...social media marketing is FREE. Small businesses with small marketing budgets CAN make an impact here with a great ROI.

Twitter? Facebook? CellarTracker Last year I suggested to my winery trail “association” here in Massachusetts that we could benefit from having a group blog for the trail with one weekly post. The reply was in the order of “Oh no, then they’ll make comments like... your wine sucks”. Because I was new to the group I did not feel in the position to insist. Besides, the response was so far off, that it would have been too difficult to explain.

Marco,

I can't speak for ALL of the wines up MA way, but I've had your steel chard and several wines from Westport Rivers...and none of them "suck" by a long stretch.

I think that many new or emerging wine regions fear those sorts of comments, but if you're not making wines that you believe in, why are you in the business? Seems silly to me to make wine but NOT want people to know and talk about it!

Having been in the Finger Lakes for 27 years, I no longer view it as an emerging wine region. The vinifera revolution here, as well as the small winery revolution here erupted at the same time that Napa emerged into America's consciousness. Just that the Finger Lakes wasn't lucky enough to gain from a tasting in Paris...

Still, over those 27 years, the region never seemed to emerge from a marketing malaise--it's mostly due to money, but there are other factors involved; Joe from Atlanta brings up two of them, but only two.

While I believe that all consumer products businesses need to take notice regarding social media, with the track record of this region, I doubt that taking notice of social media's promise will be the solution.

Thomas, with all due respect, I think you're crazy to not see the Finger Lakes region as emerging. Either that or we're talking about it in different ways.

I'm talking about emerging on the U.S. and world wine stages. Only now are the world-class wines starting to get real attention.

Perhaps you are talking about the wines hitting their stride, which has certainly already started to happen.

Lenn,

Being called crazy confirms that I am doing something right ;)

We are talking about it in different ways.

In any case, the general wine consumer does not think region--he/she thinks brands. You've got to know your target market to make marketing headway.

Thomas,

I've been called much worse than crazy...and often it's justified.

I'm not sure that I agree with you on region vs. brands. Partly, it's difficult to define "general wine consumer" but I can speak for myself, back before I really got into wine.

In grad school, I used to drink Australian chardonnay and shiraz. I didn't have particular brands that I bought a lot, but I always stood in front of those sections of the shop and buy the most expensive I could afford at the time!

Lenn,

To you, Australian Chardonnay and Australian Shiraz was the brand. Did you know or care about where in Australia the wines came from and what made the differences among them? Not likely. And look at how well Australia did marketing to you and thousands like you.

Plus, how many specific wines did Australia market and promote to you? You thought Australia and Shiraz came to mind.

The Finger Lakes region, as a brand, offers a confused message and that's not a good thing to do.

The many wine geeks that trash the region on bulletin boards are red wine drinkers and they don't find in the Finger Lakes the goop that they like. There was a time when they would have had little choice but to taste the fabulous whites and go home with that impression alone--you know, sort of like Australia/Shiraz; Finger Lakes/Riesling...it's called branding and isn't branding all the rage in the social media set?

I found this post of course quite interesting given my position in the industry. So I took the Cellar Tracker question to our Facebook fanpage tonight (over 12,000 fans but who is counting) and asked about its use among our fans. The comments are interesting and quite telling. http://www.facebook.com/fingerlakeswinecountry

Can't easily measure ROI on the use of Facebook? Of course you can. Last month, outside of paid and organic search, Facebook helped us increase our website traffic by 86% over the same period in 2008. Web traffic leads to inquires and the more the better. Inquires turn into visits which turn into sales.

In addition, Twitter was in the top ten for referring sites to our website last month.

What's planned in 2010 for us? 100,000 fans on Facebook and a smart phone app with integrated social media components including unique Twitter hashtags for every tourism business in the region.

And all of this new media work benefits every winery and tourism business in the Finger Lakes. That seems pretty progressive to me.

Morgen,

Great ideas, all...really, really great.

Being able to tie in those multiple sources should help ROI as well, but yes traffic to a site is vitally important, perhaps more important long term then actual sales because conversion rates can often be improved.

Thanks for the comment back Evan-there is nothing more annoying on Twitter then a business that just tweets out their website 3-5 times a day. I had a Napa hotel tell me to check rates I had to go to their website and put in my dates so I think many of the companies need a reality check about why people would use social media....it's the interaction, or at least the coupons.

A key term in this conversation is engagement. Vinography's Alder Yarrow recently wrote in his post "How Wineries Will Fail in the 21st Century" http://www.vinography.com/archives/2010/01/how_wineries_will_fail_in_the.html

"The way to sell wine in the 21st Century will be to build relationships (and a lot of them) with end consumers. The customers of the 21st Century are the Millennials. They're young, they're wired, and they're used to getting what they want, when they want it online, and that includes communicating with the people, and yes the brands, they care about."

Social media blogger Janet Fouts' presentation "Social Media ROI or Is It ROE?" http://www.brighttalk.com/webcasts/4800/attend
emphasizes that when we consider the return on social media efforts, we need to look beyond web traffic (although that's important), that intangible benefits such as improved customer relations via responding to issues and complaints builds trust and cannot be measured. This ties into Alder's points about the benefits of building relationships in a more immediate, direct and authentic way. I look at Facebook fan pages as a fun, interactive newsletter and Twitter as a never-ending cocktail party you can pop in and out of to tweet about your passions and everyday life. If well tended to, the fan page and tweets can extend conversations and awareness beyond the tasting room or winery website visit and eventually lead to conversions. There's no doubt that this is very time-consuming. But solid social relationships can also save time in the long run by providing resources and helping winery personalities to stand out by showing up, helping out and contributing to conversations both with their customers and fellow industry professionals who love to buy wine too.

When a business has to justify its marketing efforts to investors and/or a board of directors they want to see tangible ROI numbers. In these cases web traffic, conversion, and sales matter most. Relationship building, regardless of platform, has always been integral to all successful companies and brands. We just have more tools now...

Great thread and I applaud the success that Morgen McLaughlin described above with inroads in social networking.

This raises a larger question which has to do with the image of NY Wine. In a survey just released by the Wine Market Council, page 62, New York wines have the lowest perception of quality among US wines.

What is the position of our industry regarding this state of affairs? What are we doing about it? That debate is not taking place unfortunately. Instead we are getting good at playing victim as we complain about perceived mistreatments of our wines.

I was impressed last month to read that the wines of the Loire have dedicated between 2 to 3 million Euros for a campaign to further promote their wines in the NYC/US. In NY we have abdicated our efforts to the NYW&GF. It has done what it could with the little money that it could raise. But as the referenced report shows after 20 years we have little to show for it. We cannot blame our image on the NYW&GF. It is up to the industry to decide to take ownership of its problem and do , or not do, something about it.

We certainly do not have to apologize for NY Wine and individually there are many success stories that we are proud of. Last month I initiated a dialogue with a few industry members to determine the level of interest in starting an industry initiative. Any one reading this who is an industry participant is welcome to contact me to be included in this dialogue.

Hear, hear, Charles.

This conversation prompted my latest entry on my vinofictions blog on the subject of the Finger Lakes as an "emerging" wine region.

I agree with what you've posted, but I also think there is a definite resistance to NY wine that runs through the geek and critic world, as they seem to maintain the image that built the industry in the 129th century, and have little interest in learning about what has transpired during the 20th and now 21st centuries.

Plus, as you make it plainly clear, all the talent in this world gets most of us only as far as we can pay the entry fee for club membership. It's always about money.

Well, of course, that's the 19th not the 129th century...

Tom,

You stated: "but I also think there is a definite resistance to NY wine that runs through the geek and critic world, as they seem to maintain the image that built the industry".

Well that is part of what a negative image is.

And we cannot blame but ourselves for allowing it to go on because we are not doing a good job at representing ourselves at a state level. Yet many of us are doing an excellent job at the winery level and being rewarded for it. However our collective success will continue to be stunted as long as we allow that negative NY image to fester.

I believe the money is there if you factor in the budgets of the NYW&GF and all the trails. If however we insist on keeping every little program then of course we do not have enough money. But if the industry decides to reallocate all it currently spends on advertizing ( which is very expensive and ineffective as it is done), on dues and other such marketing and PR expenses, I am confident that we can generate more than $1 million a year to fund a credible image building campaign.

It has to start with an awakening first and then a dialogue to create consensus, drive and motivation.
You may say I'am a dreamer, but we have to start somewhere.


So, you are quoting John Lennon, now???

Charles, the way I see it these days is that the industry needs to identify what it wants, what it is, and then find a way to buy exposure. As you already know, just talking about the wine industry as a unit is a monumental dream. Unfortunately, unless that dream is realized (or until some NY winery with a lot of cash does its own blitz) unity and message are always at risk. Lack of unity and conflicting message creates problems with both consumers and those who have too much power to make or break a wine industry on the say-so of their personal aesthetic sensibility.

I've wanted to get into this act for decades, but my outspokenness always gets me into trouble. I simply hate to see waste, and a lot of it has transpired. Having said that, I don't know of any person or organization powerful enough to bring the varying interests of individualists such as winery owners into a herd with a single purpose. That takes a hell of a lot of subjugation on the part of participants--and I don't use that word much when describing wine industry people, except for the ones that deal with a big distributor...;)

I believe that there can not be one message from the New York wine industry that makes sense to the consumer. The industry is simply too diverse with quality “vinifera” producers that tries to reach outside distribution/consumers and “labrusca” producers that sell large amounts to visiting customers. One type of producer is not better than the other, simply they cannot coexist in the same marketing message. As long as these two types of wines is part of the same message, which NYW&GF insists of doing, it will fail. I have always wondered why there are not two separate trade organizations, one for vinifera producers and one for labrusca/NY grapes? (This should really be taken a step further and have regional trade organizations as well.) Several wineries produce both types of wine and I understand why. However, the image for the wine consumer of these wineries will always be that they are a native grape producer.
Also, check the link to the facebook page on the post “Congrats to the New York Cork Report 2009 Readers Choice Winners”. Pretty telling on the comments in regards to Cellartracker and how the consumer view New York wine. It will be a huge task to get it from “party wine” region to “quality wine” region.

Carl and Tom,

You may both be right. It is not easy. The Foundation has an impossible charter having to support vinifera, labrusca as well as fruit wine. It was ridiculous in 2008 that the wine that won the Cup was a fruit wine.

On the other hand look how many other countries or regions have been able to make a name for their diverse wines. And look at the "I Love NY" campaign: they focused on the big picture first and then occasionally would barrel down to a locality.

PR being what it is, we need a highly creative agency that would take a fesh look at NY Wine. The task is very difficult because we first have to overcome a negative image and then we have to position ourselves in a positive territory. The diversity that make it look difficult, may very well be an asset to a clever PR campaign. However without unity and commitment by the industry nothing will get done and we will only get better at playing victim. But then we will only have ourselves to blame.

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