Social media must be accompanied by offline events…

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I’m a huge fan of niche social networks.  I think Facebook is nearing complete uselessness unless it is the center of you and all your friends’ social lives.  Why?  Too general.

On the other hand, Ning.com has taken the tact of making really good social networks easy to put up.  Effectively commoditizing the social network (as it should be) and forcing there to be a real purpose for the social network.  Families, Alumni groups, soccer teams, music lovers, fan pages, you name it and Ning probably has network for it.

This is actually the ideal model.  Niche social networks mimic real life more closely.  You don’t have 1 social group do you?  You have work people, college buddies, soccer team friends, neighbors, and only sometimes so these lives intersect.  So why would there be only one social network?

I created OWC as a way to redefine a trade organization.  Update it.  Rather than a stuffy, meet once a year/quarter and have a newsletter organization, I wanted the wine world to benefit from meeting each other 24x7x365.  I wanted to have an organization that could teach and evangelize and lead by example.

What I’m learning is that there is no replacement for offline meetups.  Thats not to say new connections aren’t being made and value isn’t being created.  On the contrary, that is happening in a big way!  What I’m saying is that even with an online community there is great benefit to getting together on a regular basis.  Just being out and giving a couple of presentations over the last couple of weeks helped me put faces to names and voice to faces.  Not only that, the online community benefits as well – there was a huge traffic increase since my talks and a pretty big membership serge.

So, I wouldn’t say this is a surprise but a confirmation.  Social networks are a compliment to organizations, not a replacement for interaction.

By the way, Social Networks are a feature, not a business.  Much like I said about tasting note sites…but thats for another post…

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Evangelizing Social Media and trying to get back to the grind

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This weekend was the Inertia Beverage “Direct to Consumer” Symposium. I had the pleasure of presenting one of the larger sessions called “Marketing on Social Networks” and basically took it a little more horizontal and spoke more on “Marketing in Social Media”.

I think the presentation went well but a few things we are very certain in my mind as I start to evangelize and encourage people to participate via the OpenWine Consortium social network – since marketing in social media is a sociology problem and not a technology problem, wine companies have more of a head start then they think. Sure there are a blizzard of tools out there, but what is happening is that these technologies are moving in a direction that allows the skills that every wine brand already has offline – building a community around their product and getting to know their customers – to leverage the Internet to build that community on a much larger scale. Thats the basic synergy with Inertia’s business model. Once that broader community is established beyond just the tasting room, the final step is translating the connections made into a wine sale. Without the technology to do that, a winery is pretty screwed.

I really wanted to wineries to feel a little more comfort then they seem to be. Two main reasons – 1) online social stuff is happening and fast, but its not replacing everything tomorrow and 2) There are ways for wineries to benefit even though they are wearing many different hats already (and many don’t involve sitting in front of a computer 25 hours a day). This is where my talk and my co-presenter – Gary Vaynerchuk – differ. Always one for a bit of hyperbole (go figure) Gary says – email is dead (for some and many millenials, yes, but not completely), you have to be on every network all the time, and you can’t control your brand (which I agree with but influence is different from control). Ah yes, and he believes that there is no role for PR anymore with the new technologies – a point we differ on, its changing but PR doesn’t stand for Press Release so having built billion-dollar brands I can tell you PR is vital to a strong brand. Without PR there would be no Gary Vaynerchuk. PR is the art of image shaping and influence and there is alway a role for that. Most people have to outsource it, but others control it themselves (GV obviously controls his own PR). Anyway, long discussion.

Overall it was a good talk and hopefully we can get calmer heads to prevail and really help wineries to move forward with online strategies rather then just use “the sky is falling” discussions.

Well, now the in-laws are gone, daycare is back on (they had a week off for vacation after the 4th), so I have to try to get back into the groove!

Cheers!

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