Paying attention

So, the Plonk phenomenon. Great presentation last night with Wine Communicators, oodles of fun and some giggles.

And at the post-presentation drinkies afterwards, hijinks, catch-ups, and general fun was had.

Except. Except for the person who said that the guys could have been ‘nicer’ about the wine industry. Or the other one who was quite irked that Semillon as a variety was only maligned, and that they did not take the chance to explain the wonders of Semillon.

I think they missed the point. Plonk is not about fixing the wine industry or explaining our plethora of wine styles. They are not spruiking brands, nor even regions, but more having some fun with us, and themselves, and reminding the world that wine is, simply, FUN.

They are not responsible for the future of the wine industry any more than Game of Thrones is for promoting the sales of fur coats and broadswords.

This is a tv programme. It is entertainment. They are not responsible for your brand success.

And the boys raised some interesting points. Particularly toward the end, with a bemused Chris wondering why we make it so very difficult to buy our product, when people WANT it.

And this is a rabid simplification, but it aligns with a bigger industry issue. Wine is fun. But it is layered, esoteric, diverse, and it mostly requires some explanation in order to stand out from the crowd. But the consumers rarely want to be lectured. They just wanna have fun (sorry Cyndi).

And there is so much diversity that the message can blur. Choose by region, style, producer and back in the day, you could reasonably approximate what might end up in your glass. These days, the lines are more blurred, and so definition is required. But I have a sneaking suspicion that this is where we can fall down at times.

In screaming to stand out from the wine crowd, we can drive people away from the choice and toward the regular, everyday selection. It is easy to pick up the familiar. It is less easy to make a choice of something new. Particularly when we as an industry tie them up in SO MUCH guff.

GUFF (def): nonsense, generally specific to a small sector of the community; irrelevant, and often infuriating to the general populace.

Yep. I’m making up definitions now. But really, the industry can do with a little simplification. I generally talk about wines in everyday terms. Not rocket science, really. Or is it?

So, is it time to start weeding out the nonsense? Does this tie in with the ‘natural wine’ movement? That longing to just be wine, sans guff? Or do people just want simplicity, and we keep talking detail in order to stand out?

Has “standing out” now made those clamouring to be heard just a wall of noise to the consumer? How can we stand out AND be readily attainable?

The wine world fractured into cheap and cheerful vs venerated and respectable generations ago. And more recently into quaffing vs value/quality vs conventional/esteemed vs left field vs cheeky vs ‘natural’ vs esoteric. Where does the consumer wanting to learn, understand, and develop their palate and tastes actually fit in? Wine dinners were once the go, but that is an EXPENSIVE night out. Wine events? Can easily become a swim-through to the less practiced palate. Cellar door? Sure. Absolutely. But often utterly bound up in sycophantic sales-talk, and the language we have built around wine. However, it is an absolutely brilliant way to understand a winery ‘style’ or voice.

Asking people what they like to drink at home, and then taking them on a step to the left is a great way to start. Just asking them what they like to drink. Full stop. Surely the choice of a bottle of wine is about the person who forks out money for it? NOT the person spruiking it. A great somm pays attention, understands food and humanity as well as mere wine. They listen. They know when to give a person exactly what they want and when to diverge, and explore.

Wineries, however. Wineries are not sommeliers. They have made a product and are in the business of selling said product. They talk exclusively about that product range. They spruik. Sometimes? Just sometimes it pays to listen.

The good sales reps, cd staff and spruikers? They pay attention. They listen. They do not put their own expectations on a customer/visitor/trade buyer. They adapt to the person before them, and provide an experience. Not just a wine.

And you know thing about experiences? Good experiences stay with people for a lot longer than a sales pitch. No-one, not one person, enjoys being the subject of a blatant sales pitch. I don’t. You don’t. So why force it upon people?

I get it. We need to sell to make enough cash to do it all again next year. But there is more than one way to skin a cat, I’m told. Learning about your potential customer? Priceless. Giving them something they will like BECAUSE you listened to them? Golden.

Acknowledging that maybe the wines you have today don’t quite fit? ABSOLUTELY FINE. Because simply by giving them a bit more confidence, and giving their view credence, we are all better. Their palate is not my palate. And not liking something is 100% ok. We can educate our people, our potential customers, without being professors. We are not on high, lecturing about the wonders of our nectar. It is just wine. It is fun. It is decadent. It is joy. It is absolutely a good thing to acknowledge that you don’t like something and to pick an alternative.

And people want to buy it. So why do we make it so hard sometimes?

Because tricking it up as an elitist treat denigrates our audience. It’s just wine. We are just people. It is good, or not, or it is something in between. It is bought and it is sold, and sometimes it is a raging success. And sometimes it is not. But maybe we could start paying attention to the people actually drinking the stuff.

Smashable wine? My favourite kind. Wine that makes my world a little better.

Listen. Engage. Find the fun again.


A kind of follow on from the last post, again aiming at the wonderful, frustrating world of social media:

If it were up to the app developers, we would all spend every second of every day facebooking, tweeting, instagramming, pinterest-ing (really? Are we still doing that?), snapchatting and whatever comes next.

But from the point of view of a business, just downloading the app, and popping up a couple of posts barely touches the sides of social media.

So, via social media (how meta!) I asked about topics people may find to be of interest for this blog. And @vineyardpaul asked about Snapchat as a social media channel for wineries.

I use social media a LOT. I personally see little value in Snapchat. It seems like a version of Instagram targeted at kids sending vaguely not-safe-for-school pictures.  In terms of branding, or marketing, it seems like it may have applications for large commercial ventures with huge existing market presence – post a deal, or a limited offer to those already following you to get a bonus something. Immediate, onsite rewards.

But the pictures disappear. And if you are using a social media channel purely to give bonuses/discounts/freebies, then I think this would count most wineries out of the picture. Pun intended.

And, the pictures disappear. Even if the business is using the Stories feature, they still disappear in 24 hours.

So, the application must be treated as one-off, opportunistic marketing. And unless the wines are already in front of the targeted Snapchat user. Which means a representative of the brand is likely nearby. Who could be talking and engaging rather than using an app to sell a freebie.

It feels like there may be opportunities at large events. Maybe. One day. But the majority of the users are:

A. In America; and
B. Underage.

Around fifty percent of users are under the legal age to purchase alcohol in most countries.

So, back to the really basic question when it comes to social media: what do you, as a business, expect your time spent on social media to generate? What is this target worth to you – financially? And is the time spent on it worth the reward to the business?

I do not see Snapchat to be of any value now, and due to its current demographics, do not expect that to change. Current users are mostly in the 13-17 age bracket. As they grow up, I’m not entirely sure I see Snapchat growing with them. New apps are coming, and unless Snapchat and the multitudes of other apps can evolve past its current teeny-bopper fixation, the kids will move on too. Adults rarely look to teenagers to find the next social media channel for them – personally, or as a business.

I think Snapchat may fall victim to its own marketing and targeted channels as they grow up and move on. Unless – and this is very possible – the app developers can evolve.

But when it comes to social media, the key warning is to value the effort. It takes time. Time to understand the medium, and optimise your time spent on it. Time to gain followers or likes until they reach tipping point, and the time spent actually earns a return for the business.

Time wasted, often.

If you value your business, you must value yourself as an employee. And your time spent – even on free social media apps – comes at a cost. Either a dollar figure (always viable), or as the opportunity cost of using that time on more tangible tasks.

So as you work within social media, give this time a value. File it as ‘marketing’. But assess it. Pay attention. Note where you get likes and responses. Use the information. It is right in front of you. And if it works in the SocMed universe, it has a human application. People who respond to “X” in the virtual worlds will likely respond to it in the real world. Pay attention, listen to the people trying to tell you what they want from their wine. Some of this information will apply to you and your business. Some will not. But information is power, and this is just waiting for you to pay attention. Se what people like. What they dislike. Ask for feedback. Interact. Be brave.

We won’t bite. I promise….

A buzz about your business can be a great thing. Turning it into income, however, must be the goal.


It has been a while. I have written plenty, and published none since Christmas.

But I think it is time I published and be damned. Some might not like what I have to say, but there is nothing new there.

A small incident of nearly dying (am fine now – promise) is a great way to restore clarity. And so I set my fingers to typing again, and hopefully should have some new bits and bobs sorted for you fairly quickly. And I shall be starting with some social media etiquette. Because some things bear repeating.

• Never link your accounts. If someone is following you on multiple platforms, they are receiving the same message multiple times, in succession. It is lazy, and infuriating. People will unfollow, and the business looks unprofessional.
• Post occasionally – not incessantly. Be interesting, but not begging for attention.
• Treat the people you cannot see as you would someone in the cellar door – if they ask a question, answer. These means having someone responsible for social media, with it linked to their email, so they can see an interaction, and answer relatively quickly. SocMed often occurs outside of business hours.
• Engage. Retweet/Like other brands. Promote events in the region. Be a little silly sometimes – eg: posts about needing a coffee, or about forgetting gloves on a freezing day, or something HUMAN. People want to know that they are interacting with a person, not just a brand.
• Be cheery – but not irritatingly so.
• NEVER get angry with people. This is a business. You behave politely, just in case. If you don’t like someone, unfollow/un-like them. If you REALLY don’t like them, block them. DO NOT ENGAGE. It only damages you.
• These are advertising media – which people see as a social landscape. No-one LIKES being advertised at, so treat it more as a conversation. Engage – don’t yell at the ether and expect to be liked. Ask questions. Interact.

Facebook/Insta/Twitter all have different uses. LinkedIn is a different entity, and as much as it likes to think it has a social media application, it really doesn’t. People use it to find out who works/worked where. And that is about it. Obviously Insta is more photo/video-based, but these can also be posted to FB and Twitter. So, what do you put where?

Insta – photo based. Post images of vineyards, vintage, wineries, winery dogs (always guaranteed likes). Post images of the line-up of wines – but only occasionally. Silly things, events, fun, new labels, food – all guaranteed likes. DO – always put a website link in your Instagram bio, and it is best to put a name. Again – the human element.

FB – Facebook can be a good way to get third party endorsements. LIKE US ON FB! Only a few ever do, but you can make liking the brand a way to go in the draw to win something – and then you will pop up in the feeds of their friends. All the potential in the world, but limited real-world effect. Brands almost outnumber people on FB, and they are now mostly an accepted evil. Less chance to engage here, but a bigger space. Insta is pics, Twitter has limited space, but you can post longer bits to FB AND add pics. Careful of length – no-one wants to be lectured.

Twitter – where the wine world mostly talks to itself… But, still interesting, and a number of really interested consumers are based there. They follow wine writers, and follow their recommendations. They engage more here than on FB and Insta – where you are more likely to get a tick, or a like, and they just move on. Twitter you can like or reply. More reply than just like. The crux is length – twitter is 140 characters per message only. You need to be brief, and engage. Reviews are often posted here, and restaurants/wine trade/reviewers pretty much ALL use it heavily. It is a great way to engage with existing customers, and make new ones. And due to length, it is brief. You need to be pithy, concise, and fun. Again – put a name to the account in the bio.

Social media is NOT advertising. At least, not in the accepted sense. If you DO persistently advertise on SocMed, you will lose followers. The occasional link to an event or a wine on the site is great, but balance that with chatter, fun pics, and even some self-deprecating humour. Engage your neighbours – the Clare, for example, is stronger as a region with more people advocating for it. Offer regional advice to people. Post about not just you as a producer, but also the local businesses – best coffee, new restaurants, best dog-walker. Congratulate people in the region on their “insert event here”, and they will engage with you. More people will see this. More people in the region. More potential people through your doors.

Never use social media as an incentive: follow us, get this! People do not like being bribed or manipulated into things. If they like you, they will follow you. If they don’t, they won’t. People who do not like you have no value – even if you bribe them TO like you. People who do of their own accord like/follow/whatever are basically ambassadors for your business. You do not need the former. You can’t live without the latter.

Essentially social media is all about an intangible cellar door. Engage as you would there, be human and interactive, and understand that you are presenting as a brand, but engaging as people. Talk to other businesses. Talk to people. And one day, they might rock up on your doorstep and buy a container of wine… (I am an optimistic soul!)

Have a clear sense of the identity behind posts before you start. Put a social media policy in place – no posting whilst pissy, no personal pics, careful of language etc.

Careful of what you ‘like’ and respond to – there are trolls and twerps all across social media. Stay away from politics, race, religion – unless there is already a company policy in place regarding this. If so, post accordingly. But even so – be careful. If unsure, do not interact. You can block people.
Don’t stress about people not responding. You don’t know what is going on in their world. Maybe, if you consistently get a lack of interest, you might need to change things up, but sitting and waiting for likes is pointless.

Hashtags – mean that people can search by, for example, #wine, and see the tweets referencing this. You can put as MANY hashtags as you like in a post (Insta/Twitter/FB) and people might find you because they have searched for #fiano. But limit your hashtags. Do you really want to read a post that has a couple of words and fourteen searchable tags in it? No. Nor does anyone else. They click to find a message or a picture or something with a point of interest. Just being a post with a squillion tags is of no interest to anyone much.

There are ways of having your accounts hacked. Change your passwords semi-regularly. I have a rotating group of three I use for everything, but switched every quarter or so, and all used for different accounts at different times.

OK – so which social medium is best for you and your business? Probably all of them to a certain extent, but we only have so many hours in the day, and most of us would prefer to spend them not staring at a screen.

So, think of the varying social media as orbits around your world.

Twitter – people you know, at least by reputation, and the people they know. Generally within the sphere of your working orbit. And mostly people who understand the game of wine to at least a certain extent. The nearest moon, if you will.

Facebook – the people you went to school/university/kindy with and their families. Potentially a goldmine if worked correctly, but best utilised to get interest, and then move into emails/direct sales contacts. A meteor – still there, but not as engaged to your orbit as it may have been once.

Instagram – a great big pretty pin-up board for all your pictures there for the world to see. But with a network of followers likely drawn from both sides represented by the TwitBook dichotomy. This is where people go to say “OOOH, PRETTY”, and not much else. But pictures engage on a level where words do not. And lord knows, if nothing else, vineyards are pretty. And those vineyard dogs are always endearing… A comet, possibly. A little random, but still in your galaxy.

Hmm. That ‘orbit’ bit did not quite have the clarity I expected it to, but you get where I was going.

Sure – there is Pinterest, and SnapChat, and probably a million more under development, but these are the key players at the moment. And if you are not here with your brand, and someone else is saying, “Sure, here is where you can buy in Mt Gravatt, and thanks for asking”, there lies a lost opportunity.
And yes. It takes time. And yes, you can pay an agency to do this for you, but this is your story, and your business. We would rather speak to you than a paid agency which has no real connection to your brand, or your identity.

There is nothing better than connecting with a consumer who wants to know more about you and your brand. Do you really want to pay an advertising agency intern to post meaningless “Look at me” style messages? Or do you want to build your business? If you do pay someone to manage this, make sure they understand your world. Make sure they understand the voice of your brand, and how to communicate with this voice. Make sure they have an up-to-date stockist list. Make sure they reply to replies.

Wine is about people. Engage. Interact. Develop.

(Ok, yes, ephemeral at times, and over the interwebs, but this is just a tool. Tools are to be used.)

A starting point. Go out there. Post something. Ask a question. Reply to someone. Engage.