Why Social Media Matters. No, Really.

Hey, I thought this was a wine blog?  WTF?

Yeah, well, hang on.  This does relate to wine - at least the business of wine - and the overall experience of wine.  Here goes:

Up until more recently than I'm willing to admit, the whole social media thing seemed a trumped up effort to legitimize a flash-in-the-pan marketing idea.  By thing, I mean the dozens of suddenly expert social media advocates popping up proclaiming that business not leveraging Twitter and Facebook will soon be extinct.  Oh, please. 

How could social media be so important when the vast majority of stuff being published via outlets like Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc. is self-interested stream of consciousness crapProof?  Some examples from Twitter and Facebook this morning:
  • "Good morning everybody!! Not liking this weather whatsoever....Blaaaaaah :-("
  • "Somebody come drag me out of bed."
  • "Off to get the car worked on!"
  • "For future reference, it is not ok to pee on people while standing at the bar."

Penetrating stuff, indeed.

But before we throw the baby out with the bath water, let's recognize that, despite the heaps of aforementioned garbage, social media - as a platform - does have some pretty profound implications as it relates to business opportunities.  This is what has social media proponents excited. But what has been sorely missing from this "You gotta do this" chorus is the nuts and bolts of why it matters. Sure, everyone is doing it, but why the hell is everyone doing it? 

Here you go:  engagement.

Engagement works in a couple of ways:  First, social media gives companies a way to build brand equity and recognition by delivering channel-specific promotions to consumers.  In English, that means that people who "like" Cameron Hughes Wine, for example, on Facebook, get Facebook-only sales/coupon offers.  Same goes for Twitter.  In exchange, Cameron gets all those eyeballs.  Almost daily those people see a post of some kind from Cameron - sometimes it's a coupon and sometimes it's an anecdotal tidbit.  Think of it as targeted advertising on a shoestring budget.  At a minimum, it's brand presence in front of eyeballs - and that's valuable.

Second, engagement is actually dialoguing with your customers.  Tools like SocialOomph and others allow you to filter through 99% of the crap out there and see what corresponds to you (or your competition).  So, let's say that when someone on Twitter tweets that they had a kick-ass bottle of Andrew Murray's Grenache, Andrew can reply directly to that person saying something like, "Wow, thanks, @CuteSoccerMom!  Really glad you liked it.  Have you tried my Sanglier? I'm really proud of it this year. Send you a 25% coupon?"

Some very cool things result from that simple exchange: 
  1. First, and most importantly, @CuteSoccerMom just had a one-on-one interaction with a winemaker (giggle!).  Even though Andrew is a super approachable, low key guy, his name is on wine bottles and to her, he is a celebrity.  Who doesn't feel special when being "spoken to" directly by a celebrity?  This is the spark for what follows.
  2. @CuteSoccerMom is going to tell ALL of her friends about it.  She'll do this by re-tweeting (forwarding) the message, posting it to her Facebook page, and telling everybody in her book club about it.  This multiplier effect has potential repercussions on product demand.
  3. She will make sure she has a bottle of Andrew Murray Grenache in hand whenever she tells the story.  Repeat business, thank you very much.
  4. There is an associative effect at play, making @CuteSoccerMom feel special every time she drinks his wine.  Social media is enhancing the experience of drinking wine.  Think about that for a minute.  Wow.
  5. The network effect will kick in as her Twitter followers, Facebook friends, and betties from book club go out and repeat the same process (starting with a purchase) all over again. 

Andrew's time invested in that exchange?  30 seconds.  What did he get for it?  Repeat business, customer loyalty, zero cost viral exposure to a new group of like-minded consumers in his target market, increased reputation quotient, and a warm, fuzzy feeling knowing that there's a cute soccer mom out there with a wine crush on him.  Now are you seeing why people think this is such hot shit?

Not only that, but it's scalable, and can be used as an incredibly effective feedback mechanism, customer satisfaction monitoring tool, super-focused marketing outlet, and more. 

So, will wine businesses not leveraging Twitter and Facebook soon be extinct?  Nah.  Bottom line is that delivering a quality experience is still the the prize and likely always will be.  Social media just allows companies, wineries included, to enhance that experience.

Expect to see more and more coming from wineries of all sizes as recognition of this rather simple concept continues to catch on.