Thursday, October 3, 2013

Using social media to get laid.... or something like that!

People who use social media to make sales are like people who go to bars to get laid. It's a crude picture, but you probably aren't going to have a great experience. You may, but basically in both cases actually starting a relationship is what it's about. What social media is about is starting relationships, long-term ideally, with consumers who are actually going to listen to you and you're going to listen to them. - Robert Joseph during "The role of social media and traditional communication" at Savour Australia 2013.

As I watched the Savour Australia 2013 panel discussion (here), I was struck by a few statements that could bring an end to the "you're either for social media or against is" theme continually proclaimed by a well-known wine critic and blogger. In a recent blog post, the same writer ranted about storytelling as a marketing myth. He wrote, "it’s hard for me to put my finger on exactly what I find so cynical or off-putting about using stories to sell products." Guess what? I know why he finds it off-putting! Storytelling minimizes his influence. Critics are the distributors of the wine relationship world. For the past 30 years they have been the arbiters of what wine people should buy. 93 points for only $12, Editor's Choice! Buy it up! But Social Media allows wineries to communicate directly with consumer and provide more information than a label or a shelftalker can.

The quote from Robert Joseph above could qualify on its own as a poignant blog post. I want to use it to illustrate the divide amongst the winery-consumer relations paradigms. The blogger to which I refer above has, many times, questioned the use of Social Media in "driving wine sales," or its ability to "solve your sales problems," or "to lead to an explosion of sales." Owning a winery is about sales. Social Media is not about sales!!

He also seems to think there is some sort of "us versus them" mentality when it comes to different generations of wine writers and wine consumers. There is no divide amongst the Millennials and the Baby Boomers. This is not a generational issue. There are plenty of Boomers that are thoroughly embracing the changing tides in how (and why) wine marketing has changed. There are just as many Millennials that just want to buy >96-pt wines. They don't care where they come from or who had a hand in making (crafting or mass-producing). They just want to get laid (metaphorically speaking ... or, maybe not...)!

If more people (and they are, but are still a minority of consumers) start wanting a relationship with the companies whose products they buy, they are more likely to stop using points as a crutch for decision making. Hearing a story is one way to start a meaningful relationship. Consumers can identify with stories. Points and critics aren't going away as people will still use them. But just like a crack dealer doesn't want you to start using crystal meth (I'm taking a guess here as I've never used either substance), point-dealers want you to use their product and not go directly to the people who make the wine. Sure, a critic's opinion can be valuable and this theme of relationships is why all the major wine critics are using blogs, twitter and videos. They need to have relationships with their consumers, just as most wineries need to have relationship with their customers. That's what the "social" in Social Media means.

I don't know which is worse, and one of these two scenarios must be reality: 1) this critic really does not see the reasons for starting long-term relationships via storytelling, or 2) this critic keeps setting up straw men to push his and his employer's agenda. I know he is conflicted. He continuously bashes wealthy vintners and expensive wines as a group, while bestowing praise and points on them individually. He questions Social Media's ability to create buzz, but his blog was probably the single best thing to ever happen to Wine Enthusiast. The stories he tells are why people read his blog! I know he says he doesn't deliberately try to stir up controversy on his blog, but come on, everyone tries to write about things they know people want to read! What's better than controversial topics?

I really don't like writing about this person and I didn't want this post to be about him, but I do think topic needs attention. I think the ways in which wineries market themselves is important to both the winery and the consumer. Just as knowing where your food comes from is important, I think knowing something about the wine you're drinking may be as equally important. Knowing the story of your local politician, your new used car or even your significant other are even more important. Stories can be meaningful to making important decisions. Not everyone cares about all of those things, and nor should they have to. But for someone to say that stories aren't important is just ignorant. I do find it pertinent what other people think about a wine, but I find it more useful to know the how and why of a wine's production than what some guy in his Oakland apartment thinks the wine tastes like.


  1. Good point! While the critics, ratings, and medals won't go away as a way of marketing wine, social media and peer recommendations are bound to take a bigger and bigger share of influence, especially in regard to millennials.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Kim! Social interaction will be a bigger part of buying influence for all generations, not just Millennials. If you noticed, 4 of the 5 panelists were definitely older than Gen Y (and I'd bet that Leslie is older than I and probably not a true Millennial...). But yes, communicating 24/7 with everyone from their parents, friends and favorite brands all across the world is more natural to the younger generations than it was to even people a few years older than I!

  3. Kyle, Did you really just reference Leslie as being 'older'? Everyone who knows Leslie thinks she is 34 or 35. :)

  4. Doug, I said older than I am... which I am guessing she (barely) is. If Leslie was born in the 80s, then she can self-identify as a Millennial, if not...

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