Where do we go from here?

I’m a wine blogger.  I’m a wine writer.  I’m a wine lover.  All of these things are true.  As a wine blogger, I sometimes become discouraged with the lack of traffic, and total death of the comment as interaction.  Recently, however, I have been reframing this doomsday mentality with the new social media.  is it true that my traffic has fallen off?  Or is it more true that my traffic has changed, and the expressway of my primary URL has migrated to local access roads of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other outlets?

I think both are true.  Yesterday I was reading a post on WineZag in which the author points out that a massive ~80% of blogs (in thise case, design blogs) have less than 10,000 visitors each month.  Personally, i’d like to see this statistic broken down further in to smaller increments, because how many of you have less than 1000 visitors each month?

I have seem my blog traffic steadily decline over the last year, and at first I blamed myself for my lack of posts and interaction.  But rethinking that a bit, my blog persona hasn’t shied away, it’s just changed.

Is traffic really the most important thing? Or is engaging with your audience – whether that’s on twitter, the blog, facebook, pinterest, google plus, or via smoke signals the most important goal?  With the plethora of social media tools out there, how do you accurately gauge the true reach of your blog community?  It’s difficult.  I haven’t quite figured out how to do that myself.

One thing that is important, is having a consistent message.  I have an online identity.  My twitter name, Instagram user ID, and Facebook page are the same name.  Consistant messaging is critical to maintain your audience.  Blogging is morphing in to another beast – no longer is the “blog at least xxx times a week” measure treu.  Do you blog?  Do you Pinterest?  Do you have an engaged community on Facebook?  Do you tweet?  in my mind, all of these things add to your true social reach and contribute to your brand.    While my blogging has certainly fallen off over the last year, my activity in social media has increased.

Taking my cue from other successful bloggers, it’s not the measure of quanitty, it’s the quallity.  So please, stay tuned to Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter (@Luscious_Lushes for pure blog love, @winebratsf for everything else), Facebook,a nd this page.  Blink and you might miss it!  Social media is a spider web, interconnecting users, and it grows and changes as we grow and change.

What’s your preferred social media method?  How do you measure your engagement?



Putting the PLUS in Google

Recently, while at the 4th Annual Wine Bloggers Conference in Charlottesville, VA – a discussion on wine and technology was moderated by John Meyer who started 9 Clouds, Paul Mabray of Vintank, and Philip James from Lot 18 and Snooth.

Part way through the session, which included a lively discussion on flash sale sites like Lot18 and whether harm or help the wine industry, a vibrant discussion (ok fine it was me) erupted about Facebook, Twitter, and various forms of Google.  Currently, the latest hot button platform is Google+.   What is Google+ you ask?  Like it’s predecessors Google Wave and Google Buzz (which are both alive but atrophied), Google+ promises to be the next social media flashmob trigger.  Basically, I call it Twitter on steroids, with a dash of Facebook thrown in for good measure.

Essentially, on Google+ you friend up people by adding them to Circles.  Circles are groups of people you are following, and can be defined any way you want.  Social media experts advise creating as many circles as possible, so you can slice and dice your followees and folowers; I might have gone a tad overboard on this but it will shake it self out. Based on your circles, you will have a stream.  Wait, isnt’ that Twitter?  Or Facebook?  Sort of.  The cool thing about Google+ is that you can target your stream, based on circles.  So I can see just my wine circle or just my friend circle in my stream.  This is simliar functionality to twitter lists, but where you get the power of google+ is that you can now target your posts to specific people, and specific circles.  This functionality currently exists in Facebook via Lists, so it’s not news to those of us who like to keep grandma out of my morning rants on The ‘Book.

One thing that Google+ is lacking however is the ability to expressly BLOCK peole from reading a post.  This can be helpful if you don’t want someone who might be in a group to see a post.  Say you’re planning a surprise party for Joe, and you want all the Wine Bloggers to plan but dont’ want Joe to know.  you’d hav eto create a new group with everyone except Joe.

A feature that that G+ has already proved to add great value and provide content is the Hangout.  This weekend, at the WBC, our illustrious leader Joel Vincent started a Hangout – or group chat room basically – to broadcast WBC news and keynote videos to people not in attendance.  As I was stuck in my room in the depths of some nasty bug, I would have loved to watch via the stream.  It’s my own fault I didn’t know the hangout existed, but bloggers who weren’t’ at WBC were able to watch Eric Asimov’s speech real time, via G+.  Pretty powerful!  Yes you can accomplish this with WebEx or a recorded video, but this allows you to share LIVE data in a real time stream. The only thing that Hangouts don’t do is save content.

A feature that is NOT available on the web platform (wtf?  Come on people, that is stupid) but IS available on the mobile app is the Huddle.  A huddle is another group chat, which allows you to have text conversations with a group of folks on the go.  You simply start a Huddle and add a circle or individuals.  We had a mini WBC huddle going pre-conference, and it was a very effective way to community pop up parties and meetups to a small group quickly.

Are you looking for more blogs to follow?  Maybe more information about a specific subject to augment your already overflowing knowledge stream?  Sparks are great to augment your information stream.  Enter a few sparks in the search box, and you will get a ton of posts and data that you can read, share, and contemplate.  This is a great way to discover new blogs, and in turn. have your blog discovered.  Type in wine.  Type in a specific wine.  Go ahead!  See what happens! If it works well, then it could be a invaluable service that means you’ve always got something cool to check out – if not, there’s a danger that it could become a very annoying form of spam. You can delete interests from your list if they begin to bore you and we would expect that they’ll be a few other ways of tweaking the settings, too.

The real power of Google+ comes when you use extended sharing or public sharing to post links, information, content, pictures, and whatever else you want.  If I post a blog to Google+ and select all of my wine circles, and use extended sharing, then that post will be visible to everyone that is in a circle of a person in my circles.  Capice? Additionally, if you enable Public sharing, your post is in the public stream and is visible to everyone.  If you are trying to get more traffic to you site, this is a great way to be picked up on the Spark stream and broadcast your message.

So why is Google+ better than Twitter or Facebook? I don’t want to say better, I want to say different.  I am one of the few people that do NOT think that Twitter has jumped the shark. I love twitter.  not only for my personal snipes, rants, and chirps, but also – as a wine blogger, there is a vibrant community of wine writers, lovers, and business people on twitter.  You can cast a wide net.  If you’re account is open and you use hashtags that are relevant, you can reach a targeted audience.  It’s the most effective crowd sourcing, and information gathering tool I use.  I can generally get an answer to a question with a few tweets, retweets, and please helps.  Google+ has the potential to be better at this.  Twitter also ha sa list ability.  While you cannot compartmentalize your tweets by list, you CAN follow people by lists.  Because i have 4000 followers, I can’t possibly follow the primary stream on a regular basis.  To streamline the info that I want, I rely heavily on lists.  Lists in twitter allow you to add people (even without following them) to your stream.  I have Friends, Wine Bloggers, WIne Biz, and many more lists that make up my Seesmic dashboard.  Occasionally, I also look at the main stream, if I neglected to add someone to a list.  This helps manage the constant influx of tweets at a reasonable speed.  Facebook is aslo becoming an important tool in social media reach.  My blog page gets readers on Facebook that I dont’ garner from any other source.  For that reason alone, Facebook matters.  I can also talk to my best friend from high school.  There is a powerful tool in Facebook with Lists; you can compartmentalize your posts.  When I talk about makeup, I don’t think my wine friends care.  So I don’t share it with them.

Bottom line, Google+ has the POTENTIAL for being ANOTHER great resrouce.  It is not the end all be all, because as most Google products go, early adopters and tech geeks are there first and in depth.  If you don’t use Chrome, you run at a deficit because many of the tools that make Google+ more useful are Chrome extensions.  If you don’t use Google email, you are also at a deficit because Google integrates email, chat, and all other tools seamlessly. What I need to make Google+ part of my overall social media strategy, for persona and for my blog, is a social media desktop application that allows posting and streaming.  With multiple twitter accounts for different purposes, facebook pages for blogs and work, and Google+, I need a single sign on platform mission control. Now, as I prepare for both the next WBC Scholarship fundraising campaign, as well as the 5th Annual Wine Bloggers Conferecne in Portland, Oregon I will be mining Google+ for new resources and people.  Information is my diesel baby!

Are you on Google+?  Add me to a circle.  Need an invite?  Let me know!

Pop! Goes the tweet

The other day, I was sitting at home after a typically whacky day at work, trying to decompress, when the nice UPS driver popped by.  After I got over my shock and amazement at the fact i was actually HOME at the time, since this is against UPS edict in my world, I was pleasantly surprised to find a “tweet” of Zonin Prosecco waiting for me.

What is a tweet of Prosecco you ask?  In this case, is it a 187ml bottle of Zonin Prosecco, packed up by an enterprising creative team at Benson Marketing Group.  my happenstance, and happy coincidence, the sender was actually another Thea, which makes this bubbles from Thea to Thea.

Prosecco is one of the Italian sparkling wines, which has grown over 15% in market share since 2009.  At $4 for the split, and $15 for the bottle, this is a great alternative to champagne in these budget conscience times.

The Prosecco OG Brut is the palest of straw colored, and is 100% Prosecco.  This is one of several Italian sparklers, and is the best selling sparkling wine in Europe.  Prosecco is typically off-dry, so it a great brunch wine, aperitif, or anytime treat when you don’t care for the Extra Brut offerings elsewhere.  This wine was made in the Charmat method.  This is the typical Italian way of making sparking wine, in which the wine undergoes its secondary fermentation in tanks, instead of in the bottle.  the resulting sparkling wine is then bottled under pressure.

On the palate, I taste brioche grand marnier french toast, apples, and marzipan, while I smelled apple blossoms and ginger.  Considering that this is only $15, my Prosecco snobbery has been broken.  Gone are my thoughts of sweet, cheap sparkling wine, and in are my mm mm good tweets!  You can follow Zonin at @zoninprosecco.

The importance of being…

As I expand my circle of friends in the wine business, I am often asked what is a wine blog, or what is Twitter, and why should I care.  As I sit here and read the newsletter from one of my favorite wineries, Manzanita Creek, I am struck by the call to action they put forth in the closing paragraph which sums up the most important reason:

Blogging has become and important marketing tool.  It is a win-win for the consumers and wineries.  The consumers gain knowledge and spread the word to other wine lovers with results in sales.  In this economy, we are all struggling.  We need our members support within the bloggersphere!

This in a nutshell is why wineries should blog and engage in new media, why wineries should encourage their patrons to blog, and why bloggers are so powerful.  As a winery or retailer, there are several reasons why you should join the social media revolution.  The first and foremost reason that comes to my mind is that you are missing out on a huge audience that is sitting there waiting to communicate with you.  Social media and online resources are essentially free to you, with the exception of your time.

  • Wine Bloggers are the new way of providing word of mouth marketing .  Anyone who has ever worked in a retail environment, including software sales, knows that WOM marketing is the single most effective way to generate new sales.
  • The new generation of wine drinkers is more media savvy and more wired than ever before.  They are reaching the age of majority in record numbers, and are a mostly untapped market segment.  These are the generation that crosses Gen X, Gen Y and Gen Whatever, born between 1979 and 2002, otherwise known as Millennials.  These consumers aren’t looking to build a cellar or impress their friends.  They want instant gratification and they want gloss.  They are looking for inexpensive but tasty beverages.  They don’t care about Parker, they don’t’ care about shelf talkers.  They are more likely than any other consumer to mak etheir wine purchases based on something written online.  They buy things online in record numbers.
  • We get more of our news online than from any other soruce.  This also pertains ot wine news.  Blogs and e-newsletters are free or next to free tools to spread news and information about your brand to a mass audience easiily
  • Microblogging platforms such as Twitter provide you with a large community of wine bloggers and wine lovers who have formed an online family.  Get ot know a few of them, and they can introduce you to the rest of the wine community.  I liken it to instant messaging a large auidence of like minded people at once.  Twitter is a powerful broadcast media tool and some of the things that I think are great uses of the tool are:
    • Twitter only discounts.  A great example of a retail that does this are The Wine Spies.
    • News & blog post announcements to encourage readers to click through to your website or blog.
    • Participate in online events such as Twitter Taste Live
    • Interaction with consumers with specific questions

Some examaples of good winery Twitterers are:

Additionally, there are literally hundreds of wine bloggers on Twitter.  There is a great list at Wine Twitters. As Michael Wangblicker of Caveman wines wrote,

I use Twitter to connect with wine bloggers, wine enthusiasts, and social media junkies like myself. Recently, I used Twitter and my blog to promote my client’s new harvest intern blog. Along with email, this was a great method of getting the word out. It worked because I am a member of the community and peopl know who I am. Another great application for a microblog would be an online tasting. Bin Ends Wine, an online retailer, conducts monthly “Twitter Taste Live” seminars where a special guest “tweeter” conducts a tasting all over Twitter. I also forsee this working for a winery media tasting.

So what can a winery do to encourage this new media marketing?  COMMUNICATE with the bloggesphere!   There are few key ways that I see this in action:

  • Create Google Alerts to notify your marketing team (or yourself!) when a blogger has written about your winery.  This is a simple and effective tool that emails you when a blogger talks about your winery, effectively giving you free marketing
  • Host Blogger Tasting Forums.  The first of these was held at Hahn Estates recently, and included several bloggers as well as the Hahn team and other winery participants.  This kind of cross dialogue gets people talking.  These are a great opportunity for bloggers and wineries to sit down together, where the host winery is highlighted, and we as bloggers can learn more about your wine while talking to our fellow bloggers and including additional wineries.
  • Participate in a blogger sample program.  Be sure to ask a blogger if they are open to this first, as some bloggers do not wish to receive samples.  This is a very powerful way to get the word out about a new product, which might not be readily accessible.  If you are trying to luanch a mailing list only brand, having a blogger who had 1000 readers a month read about is a huge viral marketing tool.
  • Participate in event s like Twitter Taste Live. Twitter Taste Live is an online tasting forum where participants taste the same thing at the same time across the country (and sometimes across the world).  Dpeending on the focus, you are increasing sales both during the event itself, and after – as blog posts are completed.
  • Come to the WBC! The Wine Bloggers Conference is in its infancy but it was a truely amazing event.  There were many wineries that participated, not just in tastings, and as a direct result we were exposed to them.
  • Exposure is key.  There are over 700 wineries in California ALONE.  How many do you realistically thing we actually know about?  taking that a step further, accessibility can be challenging.  If we can’t get a wine easily than we won’t know about it and you are missing out on sales.

These are just some of my ideas.  There are many more posted over HERE, and I encourage you to cehck it out!

Traditional print media is being weeded down.  As newspapers file for Chapter 11, and the new geneation doesn’t subscribe to traditional wine journals, online media is becoming increasingly important.  Bloggers often have a more distinct connection with the wine buying audience, since we are writing about what we enjoy, what are expereinces are, and what our passions are.  This differs from traditional wine writing since – in my opion – they are talking about the wine in a technical way, without the passion or love that I feel many wine bloggers have.

In Vino Veritas!