Don’t call it a wrap-up, just a point in time…

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WBC 08 in Sonoma CA

The Wine Bloggers Conference (WBC) in Sonoma has come and gone.  I’ve been toiling around with so many things to write about that I hardly know where to start.  So I’m going to have to write a series of posts about different things.

First, there will be no “wrap-up” post.  The concept of the WBC was to take our online conversations and meet face to face, as a community, to get a better understanding of the issues and each other.  Then we need to talk more about the issues back online again.  So I have always viewed the WBC as another element like our comments, tweets, forum posts, etc.  We need to keep this conversation going and evolve the medium as a community.  Its exciting when you think about it.  Like I mentioned, technology has once again taken an industry status quo and turned it upside-down.  The game has changed and we can influence how things pan out in the future.  Already, as noted by Alice Feiring in her keynote speech at dinner on Saturday, there has never been a community of wine writers and now, if you felt the energy in the room at the conference, clearly there is.  Guess what – thats new.

As a co-producer with so many new friends let me say a thanks and an apology.

First the apology:

While its necessary to get sponsors to pull something like this together on this scale and make sure we’re not just gathering in a park drinking from the water fountains, we tried very hard to make this a re-imagining of a wine conference.  All bloggers welcome and the community is there to interact with each other first and foremost.  We attempted to dedicate an entire morning to the Unconference – a free-flowing session with ad-hoc topics, no sponsors, no pitches, only bloggers.  I personally communicated to everyone that we would have at least that much time to do something completely unscripted because thats what we as bloggers are about really – going off-script, something completely different.  I took my time getting to the Unconference and when I arrived there was already a session about Wine2.0 and getting bloggers involved.  So after all my talk of unscripted, unsponsored, hippy-blogger-love day, a brand ran a session anyway which changed the tenor of the Unconference.  I didn’t take that lightly and I do apologize to the community for it.  We hadn’t intended for there to be any corporate presence in that session and I should’ve paid a little closer attention to what was going on.  I wanted to get that out because its been toiling in my head for days.

Now the thanks.

I’ve been getting alot of kudos, which I do appreciate and I do my best to say so even though I’m not the best at taking compliments, but really Allan Wright of Zephyr Adventures turned out to be the perfect partner to pull this off.  I know a few of us had been kicking around the idea of a conference for a while but knowing what it takes to pull off a conference, my hesitation was basically I knew what I didn’t know and that was very daunting.  Allan approached me in April and after talking over what he thought he could do for a conference like this it was pretty clear he had alot of experience and skills in areas I didn’t and THAT is what makes teams, companies, ideas, etc. work!  The success we had was not only fast (April to October – 6 months) but we were able to take care of what we needed efficiently as if we worked together for a long time when in reality we were going basically “site unseen”.  So MANY thanks to Allan, the perfect partner to making this come to fruition.

Next post…the anatomy of a conference – the snafus you DIDN’T see even if you thought it went smoothly!

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Track the global conversation around your brand…

Quick note to help folks (even those unfamiliar with Twitter) track what is being said about your brand.

To view this in “Full Screen” mode, click the  4-arrow button in the lower right corner of the video!

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Site skinned and ready for life v2.0

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Image via Wikipedia

Here it is.  Wine Life Today in all its glory.  Just spent a little time updating the look and adding “My Story” (which I happen to think summarizes whats going on here pretty well).

I like the Digg-clone for wine that was formally WLT, but I have bigger fish to fry.  I’ll soon make an announcement of what my next move is in the wine industry but I can assure you things are gonna change – there is a Vincent in the wine industry now and I intend to make that mean something.

Cubicles suck and as of July 3rd, the paperwork I handed in is my official “Hasta La Vista” to cubicle nation(hence my “fugitive of a cubicle nation” tag) but there’s no denying that we all may have to work in them some day.  My intention is to make sure that if/when I do, its on my terms.

I don’t feel like I’m going it alone though.  As word trickled out that I’ve made a move to the “free” world, friends from all over (virtual and real world) have offered me great advice, support, and love.  This is going to be fun!

Creating Value for the Wine Industry

I’m in the process of closing down Wine Life Today the social bookmarking service and making it into my personal blog so that I can dedicate my time to creating real change and real value for the entire wine industry.

WLT is a two year old project that had a decent amount of success and even generated some advertising revenue which is cool.  But I never intended it to be a revenue source as much as it was a learning experience.  I LOVE the wine community and I spend tremendous amounts of time creating and learning from my creations/experiences.  So I always thought that creating things for the wine world would be the best of all worlds – I could meet more and more people in the wine world all while having my creative outlet.

Recently, OpenWine Consortium, a brainchild of mine that was inspired by the need of some industry friends I met through my other creations (this blog and WLT), has emerged as an unmitigated success.  With really no marketing whatsoever, it has garnered attention across all corners of the world, been written up in Wines & Vines magazine, signed up nearly 1000 members in less than three months, and really become something I can spend GOBS of time working on.  Its special, it fills a need that the industry has, and most of all, its something I’m very proud of but believe it can be so much more.

I believe OpenWine Consortium is 10 times more useful at 1000 then it was at 100 in terms of affecting change in the industry.  Real business connections are being made, value is being created through the exchange of expertise and advice, and new ideas are being spawned just through the interaction.

Guess what…I also believe that is OWC were 10,000 people is would be 100 times more useful and would create 100 time the value it does today.  So I’m setting a goal for myself and the OWC community.  The industry needs this site to be at 10,000 members from every corner of the globe to make it an invaluable place to be on the Internet if you are in the wine trade.  This goal is SOOOO doable its rediculous.  There are tens of thousand of wine brands and just an un-Godly number of service businesses that work with those brands and ALL the employees/owners/proprietors of all these businesses can benefit from the OWC community – the interaction, the community, the technology exchange.

So that is my goal today.  I’m very proud that we’ve gained 1000 members.  But I’m going to dedicate the time and effort needed to really move the needle in the industry and I hope others in the community who see the value will do the same.

I’ll start with something simple – a Logo that others can get behind.  Some good friends have put time into creating a logo and I”ll get it out there soon.  Look for the preview here.

What are some other things I can do?  Partnerships with others in the trade, training to properly use OWC as a tool for trade associations, implementing the changes that the membership wants to see on the network.

Me and about 1000 of my industry friends should be able to make a difference so lets see where this takes us!

Cheers!

(almost makes me want to say “To infinity and beyond!”…but I’ll refrain)

The problem with online marketing in a 2.0 world…

Quick post on the Idea…

Marketing, the life I live outside of wine, is an interesting beast. And right now I’m speaking of the segment of marketing that inspires people and creates brands. In a traditional world, you have magazines or publications with editorial calendars and predictable subject matter. When the Web1.0 world came along, things were basically the same, predictable order of operations but with a much lower barrier to entry creating a flood of information. Search engines and intelligent algorithms began indexing this information and added a way to generate leads for business by setting up Ads based on the content. The theory goes if you’re searching for the content you might be interested some related products and/or services so here they are right next to your information. That’s great for lead generation. Interestingly enough, that has minimal branding value. You can ask anyone doing search engine marketing, paid ads are great for lead generation but they work fairly similarly to how stores are merchandised – similar items are next to each other so that you generate sales. It works, everyone’s happy in Web1.0 and the world creates a multi-billion dollar online advertising industry.

In comes “Web2.0” where there is a shift. Really the type of fundamental shift that creates markets. It was subtle and natural evolution to end users but a disruptive shift for marketeers. This new e-commerce and publishing platform suddenly became less about broadcast and more about conversations. Less about a hyper-advanced information source and catalog and more about meeting people with common interests and creating “social” groups.

Robert at WineCulture blog pointed me to an article that talks about this quite succinctly:

When people are on MySpace, the activity they’re doing isn’t search. It’s something akin to “hanging out” or “networking”. Their task is almost the opposite of search. They are already on the site they want to be on. They don’t need to click on links to take them where they want to go.

In other words, the context is entirely different. When you’re in search mode, you are playing by different rules.

Social ads don’t work as well because people are being social, not searching for something.

What the Author is saying is that in the world of conversations, social networking that happens to be online, and interaction, understanding context of the situation is king. Automating the placement of a static ad based on certain keyword matches has modest success on blogs (but the blog has to be very popular because its only those doing some searching that will be interested in the ads) and much less success on an actual social platform. Ads based on keywords in content are worthwhile if the activity the “clickee” is engaged in is searching for information (Web1.0). But if the published word that is triggering the static ad is part of a conversation that Richard and I are having on his blog about the Wine.com direct shipping whistle blowing debacle…er…debate (hypothetically), then that ad won’t be of interest to me.

Additionally, straight forward ad networks won’t help either. They just lump conversations into categories (either Tags or worse), match advertisers with categories they want to serve ads to in an automated fashion, and then serve away. Its arguable that this is even MORE Web1.0 than keyword advertising.

Marketing is being disrupted and its going to take a disruption to this market, not just in the technology but in the approach to marketing, to make online marketing effective in a Web 2.0 world.

Cheers!

What inspires you?

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There are lots of things going on in my life these days. Very busy times. But for now, its a good busy…

My second daughter is due any week now (officially March 4th, but the last Dr visit said the baby was already 6 lbs and Kelly is petite so she won’t be in there too much longer…).

In my life I find I draw inspiration from many places. Usually my family and friends. A few weeks ago the wine community inspired me. I’m hatching an idea. I’ve spoken to a few of you about it and I’ll more than likely speak to a few more. But for now, I’ll use the pages of WLT to chronicle what I’m doing with my idea and its evolution.

Its amazing the what the meshing of a passion with a profession can accomplish. Its a powerful thing when that gets match with inspiration.

I have an idea…