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I am writing this blog post from the Rennaissance hotel in Vienna. I am here to attend the European wine Bloggers conference and to extend my network with like-minded people:).

Whilst I know that attending a conference is a  more classical way of networking, I want to share that I already have connected with quite a few of the other participants via the web (Facebook, Twitter) before ever meeting them in person. Reaching out and communicating with others via the internet is one way of defining Social Media.  The reason social media is social is that it is two way. E.g. I post something on the internet, and others replies, leave comment or post something else in relation to my post.

Why do I think networking via social media really can make a difference for your wine business?

Well first and foremost it’s a direct communication between you and your consumers, distributors, distributors sales reps, store owners selling your wine and sommeliers and waiting staff pushing it on-trade. By reaching out and connecting with these people  you can transfer your knowledge (eg what is going on at the vineyard and winery, what events you are attending, accolades you have received etc etc) and  educate the people in your network. This will make it easier for them to push your wine (if they are in the trade) or feel more connected to your winery and hence make it their wine of choice (for consumers).

Further more social media updates can be read by people who had never heard of you before, so it is a great opportunity to extend your network and consumer base.

There are indeed many advantages to be had by social media networking, but how should you go about it and is it going to be expensive?

There are many different types of media out there that you can use to connect and communicate with people which are free eg Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Bloggers, Youtube and Flickr. All you need is a little time to invest in communication to your network. Remember you need to be willing to take the initiative here time after time.

An easy way to start is to create an account in Facebook and Twitter. Spend a little time setting up your profile – because this is where it all begins. Your profile is your personal billboard – give a short overview of your business – be concise and direct when doing so! Remember, your profile is what will attract followers and friends -adding your website address here is also a must as once people are intrigued they will want to find out more about you:)

Updates in both these media are generally short and do not require a lot of time. Both media actively encourage and support the ability to connect to all your email contacts. Do invite all of your existing contacts to connect with you here as well, and once you are connected reach out to them to spread the word about your winery.

Both media also allow you to post links to other sites, use this ability if it will further promote your winery – eg a glorious review by a wine writer -(NZ winegrowers and wineries Man o’War and Misha’s Vineyard are very good at this!) or a youtube video of harvest in progress – this was done by Huegel very successfully last month.

I will post some more examples of wineries and wine related businesses using Social Media during the conference and hope their success will rub off on you!

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As I am getting more and more excited to meet fellow wine bloggers at the European Wine Bloggers Conference (http://winebloggersconference.org/europe/) in Vienna on Thursday I was pondering the power of networking.

Networking – i.e any activity designed to create, maintain and utilize interpersonal connections –  is one of my favourite pastimes! I really love it as it allows me to connect to like minded people and learn from them.

Networking is also an essential business skill as it allows you to make the vital connections that your wine business needs to survive and prosper in today’s super-connected economy.  Effective networking consists of preparation, delivery and follow through.

So how can you build  a successful network for your winery? Let me take your through the 3 steps and give some examples along the way

Preparation:

Prepare the famous elevator speech! When someone asks you what you do, you are being given a golden, but brief, opportunity to knock his or her socks of. Make sure you grab this opportunity! In order to effectively do so prepare a 15-30 second speech in which you articulate your skill set and business focus in a clear and concise manner – and make sure you can deliver it in a compelling way.

Part of the preparation is also to set your networking goals – what do you want to achieve from this network. If you haven’t taken the time to determine what your goals are for the encounters ahead, you will have a hard time meeting them. Some winery goals could be share knowledge, look for a distributor, market knowledge or check out the competition and see how good your wine stands up to the rest of the wines at the  event.

Lastly, make sure you have everything you need to successfully connect – eg business cards, the correct attire for the event and a positive and confident attitude!

Delivery:

One great advantage of good preparation is that the delivery generally is pretty smooth. You feel confident as you know what you want from the network, have honed your elevator pitch and have everything you need to be successful at your finger tips. This confidence will shine through in your delivery with a high success rate as a direct result.

Follow up

The most important part of networking happens after the initial contact. I can highly recommend following up promptly in a way designed to strengthen the relationship and add value for the other person. When you make contact shortly after meeting someone you would like to add to your network, you reinforce your initial contact and carry through a scent of enthusiasm about your common interests. A follow up call/email also lays the grounds for further contacts in the future. A perfect example of a follow up email is a thank you note for the time invested and knowledge shared. And as thank you notes are a dying breed these days this will definitely make you stand out in a good way:)

Well yes networking takes time, dedication and attention but it’s a truly enriching experience and therefore I feel it’s time very well spent! In the next few posts I will talk more about networking but focussing on the social media networks.

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