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Today I would like to share the presentation Ryan O’Connell from O Vineyards gave at le #levin20 – I found a video of his presentation last week and I have been thinking about what he was saying ever since.

First let me explain a little more about LE VIN 2.0 – it’s an event which was organised for wine professionals in Paris on 8th December of which the purpose was to gain a better understanding of the web.02 and use it to add value to your wines and gain access to new markets. Unfortunately yours truly unable to attend, but live stream coverage and twitter and blog post have enabled me to just about recreate the day:-)

LEVIN 2.0 (or #levin20 on Twitter) was in my opinion a very important event and evidence of this can be seen in the list of important wine web people who shared their experiences. These include amongst others Gary Vaynerchuk from Winelibrary TV, Philippe Hugon from vinternet, Marc Roisin of vinogusto.com , Yair Haidu of Haidu.net and Rowan Gormley of nakedwines .

Back to Ryan O’Connell – Ryan is a talented young winemaker who owns a vineyard and winery together with his family in Carcassone in the Languedoc. Besides making wine Ryan is quite active in Social Media – and actually although he says that girls don’t stop him in the streets (yet!) he’s quite a well known web02 wine character. In his presentation he talks about how Social Media networking has changed his marketing strategy. He compares Social Media to the more traditional way of marketing, ie wine shows. The shows is where you network and expand your professional relationships as well as try and form customer relationships. This is both possible in Social Media as well says Ryan, and in a less competitive and crowded space. At the wine shows, as a small producer on a very small stand, it is very hard to take the attention away from the larger producers who often invest in a fancy stand that draws the (professional and consumer) crowds. However, a lot of them haven’t made a similar investment in Social Media yet, so it is possible and actually very feasible for a smaller producer to steal the lime light here;-) However, fame and stardom never come easy – and so to get anywhere in Social Media a company needs to do more than just have a blog on their website, open a Facebook page and Tweet occasionally. No to make it one has to actively engage and look for relationships – both on a professional and consumer level.

As said on several occasions by Gary Vaynerchuck you have to be willing to give a lot, help people out and really work at communicating with similar minded people before things start to pay off. However if you do invest the time and effort you can and will meet awesome people online, either fans of your wine – they have had it somewhere before, and by engaging personally with these people you will create the very sought after brand loyalty. And by communicating and sharing ideas with other professionals they will open their network to you, and it is very likely that you will be introduced to someone who can and wants to sell your wine.

And as Ryan pointed out – it does help to talk about more than just your brand.. Ryan set up a regional body – Love that Languedoc – and shared that he has created a lot more interest for his wines by promoting his region rather than just the wines – it gives him a point of difference and adds more value for anybody wanting to understand Languedoc wines.

Whilst I do believe that social media is no replacement for a wine show, I know that whilst the area is not overly crowded yet, it’s a great networking tool which I highly recommend using.
I also recommend following Ryan’s example and share information on your region or country; I know from experience that if you are willing to share knowledge on more than just your vineyard you draw people to you and they will remember you for it – on or off line!

From 22-26 October 2010 I participated in the #EWBC (Eureopean Wine Bloggers Conference)  – a fantastic international event organized by Gabriella and Ryan Opaz of Catavino, and Robert McIntosh of Thirst for Wine. The #EWBC was in its third year and was attended by 200 people from over 30 countries.

Now why do I want to share this experience with you? Besides learning a lot about social media and tasting some fabulous Austrian wines this event in my eyes was also a great  illustration of how you can expand your brand presence online! How I can hear you whisper…

Well Elin McCoy, the famous wine journalist and author, addressed future of wine criticism in the opening Keynote. She raised a whole lot of questions about whom the wine critics of tomorrow would be and introduced the term “citizen wine critic”. She argued that because of the diversification of the wine world – the traditional wine critics at an established organisations (eg Robert Parker – or the guys at the Wine Spectator) are struggling to keep up with the new trends in the wine world. (new varieties, terroirs, vineyard and winemaking techniques) This diversification hence creates a need for local experts – often in the form of wine bloggers & wine lovers who are passionate about a specific region/variety – to share their knowledge and in this way help educate the consumer.

In my opinion, Elin was not saying that the traditional wine critics were not important anymore, but rather that the fast evolving wine world and the rise of social media has created other opportunities for wineries to gain brand awareness.

I would strongly advise you to create a winery blog on your website, and encourage your customers to leave comments here. Add a FB and Twitter share button, so that they can share their comments with their friends. I would also actively encourage people to leave a wine review on one of the many user generated content sites out there (eg like www.cellartracker.comadegga.com or ablegrape.com). You can do this either on the label (for instance by using the avin system or adding a link to one of these sites) or encourage customers at tastings or at the cellar door. Cellartracker has more than 5 million reviews alone, and getting your customers in the habit to use these sites will make you less dependent on scores from the traditional wine critics. And best of all it’s free and is shared by thousands!

In the closing Keynote, by Evan Schnittman of Bloomsbury Publishing, spoke about how the rise of the internet has changed the world of publishing. More and more people reading books, articles etc are doing this today on a Kindle, iPads and other internet connected devices, which means they can reference and comment directly on what they are reading. And by doing this they will have the opportunity to reference blogs, social media channels and topic related websites.

Again I truly believe that this development allows you increased direct communication with your customers> However, in order to effectively do so,  you will need to make sure your website is up to date and has tasting notes for all your wines in the market, as well as bottleshots, vineyard and winery  images and the latest news  readily available.

However maybe the most important lesson I learned from the #EWBC is that wineries actively involved in Social Media and attending these events will see an immediate increase in exposure. At these events you have a captive audience of international writers -who will feel privileged by you taking the time to taste them through your wines and as a result will happily share this experience with the rest of their online community. They will often write blog posts about you, or at least promote you on Twitter and Facebook. And again all this extra exposure only requires a few sample bottles and your presence at the event – a real bargain if you ask me:-)

To finish off this article I just would like to mention that a lot of my fellow wine bloggers have been a lot less slack that I have and have written some beautiful stories about the conference in the past few months.

Here are the links to some of my favourite stories:
EWBC – ongoing stories by Ryan O’connel
EWBC by Lucia Barzanò
EWBC through the eyes of Ignacio Segovia
Enjoy an Austrian Wine Holiday at the Loisium Wine and Spa Resort by Diane Letulle
Where some stories start and many go – by MissVickyWine
Exploring the art of Lunch in Vienna by Jim Budd
Listz in the Cellar by the Winesleuth
Gemütlichkeit: The Ideal Descriptor of Austrian Gastronomy by Gabriella Opaz

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!

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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