A Little More Conversation, A Little Less Advertising Please

With apologies to Elvis.

I really didn’t want to think this post was needed. There are plenty of people doing social media guidelines, and instructive blogs.

But it might be time for an intervention.

Perceived risk is a term used in marketing analysis. And I believe it applies here. Every time you look at posting something as a brand identity, you must identify, and eliminate or minimise risk in order to be appealing in a sea of brands. Your post will be viewed by other people. It no longer belongs to you. And people bring their own interpretation and bias to their view of the world.

At the end of the day, as a brand, social media is not about you at all. Much like the wine we make is not so much about us, as it is about the person paying money to drink it.

And as social media has so many pitfalls, let’s just start with some basic risks.

1. Have a care.
Essentially, don’t be silly. Don’t post drunk. And remember that posts are read without your voice reading them. Irony is often lost. Tone is at the behest of the reader. If the reader knows you exceptionally well, they might get that tone, but will EVERYONE reading your public post? You are talking to the world. Not all of them are paying attention, but you could be surprised by what is noticed, reposted, taken exception to, or filed away as an excuse to buy or not buy your wine.

2. Remember which world you are posting into.
Twitter and Facebook are different media. Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram and whatever else is out there – they each have a use. But the people using them, use them for different things. Most of us have a facebook account, for better or worse. Many of us are also on twitter. The majority of people use these two media for different things. I use fb to check up on friends and godkids. Not much else. I use twitter to talk to people. Even people I know on fb, I prefer to talk to on twitter, because twitter is a conversation, and fb is a giant wall full of people posting what interests them most that very second. Not many conversations. Very little engagement on the part of brands.

A brand can engage on each, but I would advocate using a different approach for each. As a conversation (twitter) you need to spark interest or ask a question to engage. As a giant wall (fb) you just add something to the collage, and kinda hope someone notices. Or you post a competition, which might get you a few likes, but how many of these people are actually engaging with you as a brand?

And so we come to my personal bugbear: cross-posting. Linking fb and twitter is difficult.

Ok, no. It’s easy. You press a button and the same posting goes up on multiple platforms.

Except – if people follow you on twitter, and like you on fb (and Pinterest and Instagram etc etc), they get the message multiple times. Which is not so much communicating, as it is letter-bombing in the digital age.

If you don’t, you run into the problem of linking posts to a different medium. So, you post a bundle of photos (say, 14?) in a row on fb. And because you have clicked the twitter cross-post button, someone following you gets fourteen messages in a row saying: I posted a new photo to facebook fb.linkpic.whatever. Which essentially looks like spam. It is annoying. It is pointless, because if someone wanted to be following your brand on facebook, they would be. Maybe use one media to remind people occasionally that you also have a YouTube channel. Or whatever. And then let them come to you.

It’s like…. Well, it’s kinda like this (run with me here): you go to get your favourite magazine from the newsagent. You hand money over for say, Wheels Magazine, and open to the story on this spanking new muffler you have been hanging out to read. And you start reading. And then, at the end of the first page, it says “Now, go back to the newsagent, and pay for a copy of the latest Barbie Doll Weekly, and we will continue the story there.” Which you do, and read all about the new muffler being discussed in Barbie terminology.*

But you don’t, do you? And they don’t do that to you. Because they respect their readership.

So, have some respect, take a few moments, and post the same pics to twitter. Or different pics, but maybe not all at once, or post a link to where there lovely pics are a pretty slideshow on your website. Take a few extra seconds to add a message, and engage. Because telling us you are posting to fb does not engage us. Post a  pic, ask a question, start a conversation.

3. Hey – can I get some service here?
Twitter seems to be about a lot of brands and wine people talking to each other. Remember you have consumers out there as well, and don’t just talk in industry terms. Ask them questions.  Learn from them.

Which means you need an identity. Put a name to your social media person. It might be @vineyardX, but Joan/John Smith tweeting. Post from fb and tell people who you are every now and again.

People engage better with a brand if the brand has a (virtual) face. People like talking to people, not companies. They trust people more than they trust companies. Particularly if they are only just getting to know you. A bit of reassurance never hurt anyone.

4. Look at me look at me look at me!
Ugh. No. Don’t tell me how people at some tasting you did loved your wines and raved about them.

Get the people at the tasting to post. And you can retweet, repost, regram. Don’t do it all at once or to those following you, it will look like self-aggrandising spam. Do it with humility. Say thanks. Post from the event how much you are enjoying it, but puffing your virtual chest up gets you nowhere. A little genuine delight can read really well on social media.

5. Who am I, again?
Understand the tone of the brand. Suddenly appearing on social media after doing very little with a bunch of tweets posting about your pretty new Pinterest page and how happy you all are and so very many exclamation marks? Might not fit the mood for a respected brand, with a generally reserved tone, and a reputation for poise.

Whoever you get posting for you (if it isn’t yourself, and if it is, well, do this anyway), sit down with them and discuss the voice of this brand. Not the words necessarily, and not a script, but a tone, and how this brand wishes to be represented out there in the world. Sometimes the posts are so jarring that those who know the brand will feel the fracture, and those who don’t might just get the wrong idea about the brand as a whole. This might be the first time someone encounters your brand, here on social media. How do you want them to see you?

6. Don’t be a tool.
Really. Just don’t.

If you don’t like sauv blanc, or shiraz or Yarra Valley Cabernet, fine. Don’t harp on about it. No-one cares and you just look like an egotistical twerp.

7. Have a thick skin.
Social media is an open forum. People are not all sunshine and kittens. Complaints? Handle with grace, and a measured tone. Snark? Don’t even respond. Compliments? Proffer thanks, and a genuine sentiment. Having a shit day? Not someone else’s problem. If you would not say something to their face, don’t say it in social media-land. Even if you would say it to their face but there is ANY doubt in your mind – stop. Leave it as a draft. Return to it after sleep/food/rest. And think about whether this statement makes you – and your business – proud.

8. Take advantage
Social media is a great way to have a conversation with someone who might never get to your cellar door. It is partially a sales tool, but this is one tiny facet of the opportunity here. If you are using social media purely to advertise, you have missed the point. It is a conversation. It is engagement. It is opportunity. Talk about things other than your brand. Talk about the cricket or tennis, the weather, the vineyard dog. Probably stay away from polarising topics like politics and religion, though… There are a lot of brands out there on social media. Be one of the ones doing it right.

And if you are not sure? Ask someone. Ask someone who knows.

Treat every post as a conversation opener, with all the opportunity in the world just waiting there. Sometimes you get a response. Sometimes you don’t. Leave the hungry desperation for a sale at home. This is not advertising. This is engagement. Play the long game, identify and minimise the risks, and reap the rewards.

*Apologies to those who love Wheels magazine and mufflers, and Barbie Doll Weekly equally. I expect you are in the minority, but would love to meet you for a drink one day.