I’ll stand up and say it right away – I’m a fan of Social Media …. how sad is that? Sadder still perhaps is my personal conviction that I should try to convince friends, colleagues or those few people reading this blog who might not be as enamoured with Social Media as I am – or even downright sceptics – that for anyone in business for themselves or simply freelance, Social Media should be part of your business day.
If you are working in wine or travel in any way whatsoever, or if you are simply a keen consumer of wine or enjoy travel, then these sites offer a wonderful way to network, to gather new ideas and to discover new wines or places around the world. On the purely business front, my chosen social media websites – Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – all provide huge opportunities to make new contacts in the industry, at home or around the world. By their very nature, travel and wine demand to be chatted about and shared, but I think this can be applied to almost any industry given some imagination.
There are thousands of articles, specific websites (try HubSpot), blogs and even books devoted to how to use and make the most of Social Media, so the only thing I want to offer and share are some random, personal, positive and/or interesting recent experiences.
Facebook is the largest social networking site and the one that I liked least the beginning – it seemed so childish. However, after watching how a few key friends and colleagues use it, (and watching others is how you learn, remember?) I’ve got used to it. I even enjoy it most of the time and now have not only a personal page, but a business page for Wine Travel Guides.
Recently in our wine world, there has been an interesting Facebook success – that of the ‘Save the Wine Column’ Group. Started by a young British wine writer Rebecca Gibb in response to the cutting of the Observer’s wine critic Tim Atkin’s column from a full length piece into a simple two wine recommendation slot, Save the Wine Column rose quickly to over 1,000 members in just a couple of weeks. When those of us who had promoted the group learned that Tim had been offered a new wine column in the Times prompted in part by the editor seeing the support he had from the Facebook Group, it felt in a way like a real Facebook coup. After a little personal promotion of this group, I realized I wasn’t blowing my own trumpet enough – and there’s no question, you have to do this very non-British thing to be successsful with social media. I contacted about 200+ ‘friends’ on my personal Facebook page, who had not already become a ‘fan’ of my Wine Travel Guides page and sent one of those somewhat annoying ‘Please join this page’ messages. To my surprise in a few days I had increased my fans by 140 people (about a third of them friends of friends … and that’s what viral networking is about, these are strangers who had probably never before heard of me or the Wine Travel Guides website).
Incidentally, if I were recommending one sole thing for small family wineries to improve their presence on the internet, I would suggest getting one of the younger members of the family to create a FaceBook page for the winery (not a Group, rather a ‘Page’ for business, which can then be found on Google). Then attract plenty of fans and regularly post short updates plus plenty of pictures and even video. A couple of hours a week at most is all that is needed – it’s easier than keeping a blog or website up-to-date and you can ‘promote’ the winery worldwide. Ideally the winery should also have a simple up-to-date website of course.
Twitter is my personal favourite medium despite recent frustrations with so many people being hacked or phished. Tip: never, ever click on a link in a Direct Message unless you are absolutely sure why the link is being sent to you in this way. (By the way, I hate, with a vengeance, computer hackers of all sorts. My webmaster wastes hours putting in preventative code to stop their attacks after several sites he manages were victims. There is not enough done to stop these hooligans – they waste everyone’s time and resources in the same way as hooligans throwing bricks through shop windows do – can’t authorities find a better way to deal with them???).
Back to Twitter – I have made huge numbers of useful contacts, a tiny number of whom I’ve met in real life now and a slightly larger number of whom I have regular contact with either via Twitter, Facebook, email or even phone. We exchange ideas, share links, talk about and promote each others’ businesses. My biggest success is the recent partnership between Wine Travel Guides and NileGuide, the travel planning website who has licensed some of the content from my site. My first contact with NileGuide was a direct message from their content manager who had been following me on Twitter – she tweeted: “We like your content and would like to have a conversation.” As I’d received a few similar messages from other travel sites, I proceeded cautiously, suggesting she sent me an initial email (I gave her the address privately via direct message) and then checking out who they were. Without Twitter I have no idea how long it would be before I would have been approached for this sort of licensing relationship.
LinkedIn has been useful in other ways as well as making contacts. I have used it often to check out somebody’s credentials before pursuing a business conversation and I’ve used it occasionally to seek help for business or website problems – there is a vast resource out there. Like Twitter and Facebook if used correctly it is an excellent way of building up your own credibility and a free form of public relations activities, free apart from time, of course.
It’s true, I spend much too much of my time on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. However, except when I have a well-paid deadline (that’s telling isn’t it?), I just happen to be extremely bad at managing my time in any case. There are various resources out there which help you manage when to post your tweets, for example and there are plenty of other ways of automating updates without compromising the important personal approach to Social Media … there’s always much to learn.
In general, I enjoy Social Media hugely and spend time on it just as in the old days I used to go regularly to networking meetings to make local business contacts. Today, I want to be globally involved and this is what seems to work for me, however these networks have also been proven to work locally. As far as writing goes, if you have a blog (and I have both this and the Wine Travel Guides blog) then you might find it an effort having to think up yet another blog post to write …. By giving regular short, daily (if possible) tweets on Twitter or posting something short on your Facebook business page every couple of days at least you are keeping your public face ‘out there’ in this very fast moving cyber-world … there’s some discussion that blogs might even disappear in favour of just the social media sites – we’ll see. In the meantime …
See my Profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter
Become a Fan of Wine Travel Guides on Facebook
Read the Wine Travel Guides Blog
And …. use code D2BLG10 for 30% off Gold Membership on Wine Travel Guides
(Thanks to HubSpot and LookLinkLove for the cartoons)
And, a final thought – through these new media sources, some of us are learning this weekend, far quicker, in more detail and more personally than in other ways, about the devastation in the southern wine regions of Chile following the earthquake early on Saturday morning. It seems that in the wine regions there is massive damage to wineries and buildings, but as yet, thankfully no loss of life reported directly in the world of wine. Chile is a wine country I’ve visited several times and I dearly love – my thoughts are with the people there – they are strong, having been through many traumas and they will bounce back. Support Chilean wines and support them!