Social Media 101

I am not afraid to try new things.  In fact, I started swimming just a few years ago and completed a mini triathlon on a borrowed bike.  I like new things - new shoes, new clothes, new baby smell.  And of course I love to try new wines.  However, I’ve been uncharacteristically reluctant to embrace social media as a wine marketing tool, even though I know it’s the hottest, newest thing.  Facebook actually isn’t even new anymore.  It’s de rigueur, although I’ve politely declined to spawn a personal page.  At the risk of sounding like curmudgeon Andy Rooney, I’ve seen too many friends grow addicted to the frenzied schedule of updates and posts.  They dole out the mundane fragments of their daily life carelessly and relentlessly.  Wiping puppy pee off the tile?  Not interesting.  Frankly, most of my friends shouldn’t be updating their personal status more than once or twice a lifetime.  And Twitter is its own media beast.  Since I’m not characteristically either pithy or concise with my verbal saber, my expressive, rambling thoughts escape from the 140 character prepackaged box like an… (accidental hiccup, but you’d have never known the punch line if this had been Tweeted). My personal reticence to adopt social media leaves me squarely in the minority.  Consider Gary Vaynerchuk of WineLibrary TV and nascent media corporation VaynerMedia.  He launched his brand creating irreverent online wine videos that he has parlayed into a $60 million a year internet wine business.  Today he splits his time between wine sales and acting social media consultant to various mega corporations.  Mr. V claims to have once spent 12 hours Tweeting and engages his online audience as soon as he wakes up - at 7 am.  Let’s be honest here.  Nothing I do at 7 am is worth a Tweet.  My morning routine sucks as much as anyone’s with elementary-aged kids.  And since this is not a “mommy blog,” I’ll spare you the mind-numbing details.  If something cool happens, I’ll write about it.  Otherwise grocery runs and Costco visits are on a need-to-know basis between me and Bank of America.  Plus, I’m just not cut out for Twitter.  My compulsive attention to grammatical perfection is lost on the 20-somethings. U C 4 millennials, social media is Queen B.

Twenty-five year old sommelier Jessica Altieri is the founder of Wine Channel TV which specifically targets her demographic.  She produces spunky video segments aimed to demystify the voodoo of wine.  While data suggests Ms. Altieri’s 21-34 year old contemporaries are buying more wine, my trouble is how to reach them.  One social media expert has suggested I plug into Facebook and Twitter more aggressively, following popular Tweeters (Ashton Kutcher?  Kim Kardashian?) with hopes they will reciprocally rebroadcast my Bruliam bits to their crowd.  That’d be appropriate since Twitter just seems to rehash the same information from person to person.  Then again, if it’s my Bruliam logo that’s continually re-Tweeted in a perpetual loop, I wouldn’t complain. 

Even the Sonoma County Vintners Association grapples with wine marketing and social media.  Slower to adopt change, most of their constituents needed more “how to” advice than an expert opinion panel.   Despite being (marginally) older than a traditional millennial, I absolutely recognize that social media can expose your brand to a wider audience and forge connections with target consumers.  It’s akin to viral marketing.  You compound exponential exposure with each Tweet and re-Tweet.  The momentum could be huge, so long as I don’t bombard you with virtual noise every time I use the loo.

Just a few days ago, the trade magazine Wine Business Daily offered a summary of apps, smart phone technology, and Facebooks strategies currently employed by California wineries.  Many of the profiled wineries are Sonoma-based, like we.  Some are integrating smart phone compatible digital bar codes into labels while others commandeer iPads for food-wine pairings or sending training videos to restaurant staff.  The most egregious misuse of social media is a gem from world-renowned Jordan Winery.   “Jordan is putting the QR code on tasting notes that can be picked up at an event or, if there is a winemaker dinner, the thank you note could have a barcode that goes to a video of a personal thank you.”  Now wouldn’t you rather receive a hand written thank you note from Tom Jordan himself?  Even amortized over 100 years, the cost of a thank you video eclipses the Forever stamp.  

My greatest obstacle to implementing more dynamic social media is non-degree of separation between me and the Bruliam brand.  Brian and I are the winemaking, marketing, branding, financial, and corporate team.  While we maintain a Facebook and Twitter account for Bruliam, there’s nobody to update our status or click the “like” button but us – which is why it happens infrequently at best.  As a mom-and-pop operation, we’re lean.  But it also means that I bring the winemaking expertise to everything we do.  For instance, I’m available to personally train restaurant staff about our wines, like I did last week at San Diego hot spot Quality Social.  Now if I could just convince one of those adorably hot, 20-something waitresses to Tweet about it…