by Steve Wagner
Sometimes it seems like social media has been with us forever and that life is governed by hash tags. Chris Chislett, a speaker at the Eastern Wine Expo, told attendees that his blog, which covers wine news and views, was a creative outlet for him. “I focus specifically on website design and concept creation,” he said.
The way people use Facebook has changed, Chislett went on to say. “It used to be friends having conversations and posting photos. People using Facebook today use it almost as a search engine. Communication channels are changing.”
Many pieces of advice and questions about your involvement with viticulture call for an answer to the question, “What do you want to do?” Decide that and you can then decide how to use social media effectively.
“Social media, after all,” said Chislett, “is just a long-term strategy.”
Pinterest is relatively new as a social media tool. You log on and find something that might interest you, then pin it to your computer Pinterest bulletin board for later pursuit. “The success of Pinterest is actually determined by the quality of your images,” Chislett says, “and the quality of your content. Pinterest is actually one of the easiest social media channels to get involved with and sign up for. You can be started in 10 minutes.”
“If you don’t have quality stuff to share, people are going to ignore you,” according to Doniella Winchell, director of Ohio Wine Producers. “Content is true information, great information, information that is quality. Millenials are molding their decision-making for the long run now and they have a very sensitive ear for what they think is BS.” Therefore, she advises that you make sure whatever you are doing is authentic. Millenials could be a large part of your marketing in years to come.
Winchell referenced Google working with key words. If you wrote “wine wine wine wine wine”, or a similar string of words, it would move to the top of that Google listing. Google figured out that people were abusing this key word philosophy and adopted a new algorithm pattern called Hummingbird. Researching Hummingbird online finds varying assessments of what this technology is all about.
Gianluca Fiorelli, SEO manager at Emagister in Valencia, Spain says Hummingbird “is about synonyms but also about context.Google always had synonyms, but with Hummingbird it is also able to judge context — thereby judging the intent of a person carrying out a search, to determine what they are trying to find out.”
Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land, says “Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query — the whole sentence or conversation or meaning — is taken into account.” Steve Masters of Red Rocket Media wrote, “The Hummingbird approach should be inspirational to anyone managing and planning content — if you aren’t already thinking like Hummingbird, you should be. In a nutshell, think about why people are looking for something rather than what they are looking for. A content strategy should be designed to answer their needs, not just provide them with facts.”
Winchell adds that Hummingbird is all about videos, podcasts, checking YouTube traffic, and they also check life on social media. “The single question you need to ask yourself,” she says, is “Why would a potential customer give up very valuable time to look at your material?” If you can figure that out, chances are you will move up. Who are you marketing to? Marketing to a millennial is different from marketing to a more mature person.
Kristin Heydt has spent the better part of a decade in the Virginia Wine and Hospitality industries, and she has experience in designing corporate identities, organizational branding, product labels and winery logos. “Our industry is a dream in the lives of some others. Networking is very important. You could lose a customer right at the point of conversion,” says Heydt, “and they may not return. Therefore, it is imperative that branding carry all the way through the customer experience, the purchase experience.”
Product value, work quality over cost and caliber of experience should all be apparent online  — and do not be afraid to plan ahead.
“If you win an award,” Heydt says, “it might feel funky to you to shout it from the rooftops, but your super-fans want to cheer you on. They want to have an ownership like, ‘I knew it about this winery!’”
“Remain true to your brand,” Heydt continued. Her background in copywriting has helped her to recognize when a logo could stand to be tightened up or modernized. If you have a 1980s-looking logo, qualified designers can bring you into this century. If your logo is outdated by 20 years, you will find yourself marketing only to a certain number of people. Logos can stand to be freshened up every five years or so, maybe with tweaks to typography. If you have a winning slogan, don’t mess with it. Make all visual aspects of your product promotion the best possible for your budget.
“When somebody blogs about you,” Heydt reminded attendees, “however short or long, as long as the message is positive, thank them publicly” via Twitter or Facebook. “Make sure that your audience knows that their audience knows how much you appreciate that they took time out of their schedule to come visit you.” She added that you need to know what you’re doing six months at a time.
People are becoming completely inundated with marketing data. What used to be hounding via direct mail has largely shifted now to social media. “The best way to engage potential customers is to inform, persuade and remind,” says Heydt, “and you can’t do it in a sales-y way. You need to introduce dialogue, content, recipes and quizzes.” Heydt says she used to share old pictures from back in the day. They were posts that people shared, one of them 70 times. Every single one of your employees needs to be aware of what your brand is, who you are as a company, and aim for how to graciously express that to the customer. This is important because it is where your context is built.
Listen to your employees! Heydt says, “When your employees come to you and say, ‘You know, a lot of people are saying that this particular style of tasting wafer is really not our customer’s favorite. Is there a way we can work out something a little better, looks better, and is better with the wine?’ make sure it is a two-way conversation with your employees. It will make them feel like they have the freedom to give you feedback.”
• Have an instantly recognizable brand logo. Do not be afraid to modernize. Even global brands refresh their look every five years or so.
• Be sure your logo is used consistently with proper resolution, in scale, following graphic standard.
• Use the best quality packaging presentation possible.
• Use high-quality photography and videography.
• Be sure to have attractive customer interfaces, including your tasting room, cash-wrap and website.
• Hashtags: Get familiar with industry-related hashtags and how this powerful search feature works. Don’t be afraid to innovate your own, but don’t overload posts with hashtags.
• Associate and network: How many area businesses has your business page “liked”? Do so, and build a virtual specialized “Chamber of Commerce” of potential lead referrals through social sharing.
• Use social listening. Find out when your brand is being shared and by whom. Re-loop those findings into your marketing goals.
• Does this blog fit with my customer archetype/branding? Qualifying networked blogs can be difficult. Dedicated writers will be willing and able to share these metrics with you.
• Do not feel pressured to give bloggers freebies, but consider qualifying a small group of bloggers/media that fit your archetype for a special media day. Advanced planning and strategy helps.
• Remember to amplify the blogging message over social media via shares and link ports. Always include graphics when possible.
• Communicate. Persuade, inform, remind! Refine your brand by engaging the customer with ongoing dialogue…not “sales-y” but with one core brand always in mind. Conversations are uniquely possible with social media.
Employee Training
• Consistency with brand imaging and personality is key. There is no quick fix. There are no short cuts, and it is a discipline more than a singular act.
• In order to engineer an environment of conversion, every member of staff, including owners and investors, must understand and believe in the brand. For that to happen, all brand communication from ownership must be clear and consistent.
• Advocacy from staff becomes consumer advocacy, which is viral, and priceless. This concept should play into every single customer experience.
Brand Amplification
• Capitalize on your best conversion to grow the social circle wider.
• Pull together a list of sustainable best practices that fit with your brand. Execute that list everyday. This takes some time to develop as your brand evolves and new ways to leverage social media are evolved.
• Choreograph your communication with the movers and shakers on your contact list. Which correspondents or audience members post the most consistently about your product, or products in your category? Who has conversations about your product outside of your circle?