Thursday, June 25, 2009

VinTank - Somewhat of a grey White Paper

Back in May, VinTank, a digital media research agency that focuses specifically on the wine industry, published a white paper on Social Media and the influence of social networks and bloggers on the wine industry. When this white paper was first published I had promised to read through it and think about the effects such a report might have.

Events transpired to delay my objective of learning what these white paper had to offer, but after finally getting around to doing so, I have some comments.

There is no question that every public relations professional should read this paper. Every winery, government sponsored marketing group, and wine producing association should take what is said in this paper and find ways to adapt it to their marketing plans. I am kicking myself for having wasted an entire month without reading it, however I found myself smiling that there were tactics included in this paper that fit within what I considered to be obviously good actions to take.

Money is being freed by government groups and marketing associations to focus specifically on social media and the visible influencers in the online space. The power of advertising has diminished as new avenues to reach directly to enthusiastic wine consumers have opened up. Why would a wine region pay $30,000 to a magazine to run one advertisement when that money can be stretched much farther by doing an online program over several months?

There is no question that "how to use the modern communication tools and the online medium" is now plaguing wineries and their PR/marketing representatives. I think only recently (within the last year) has it really become the focus of the wine industry at large. The wineries and wine regions that had the courage to take the risk of jumping into this forum years ago have (I believe) recovered the most benefit. What I was hoping to find in this White Paper was just how much benefit has already been gained by this new medium. In that, I was disappointed.

After reading the first few pages, I could immediately tell that I would have a hard time with this report. I understand the desire to keep the writing style interesting and engaging, but where I was looking for serious factual information I found more of a friendly slap on the back writing approach. The paper moved away from that style once it moved into more analytical discussion, but it immediately made me distrust the findings in the paper, even if I agreed with them.

Specifically when the writer discusses the pressures of the current regulation system in the U.S., I found the discussion to be partisan without giving me the necessary background information to either agree or disagree with their position on direct shipping models. I do not work for a wine distributor and I actually have very little to do with the actual business of selling wine. While I am not unfamiliar on the whole to the regulations of the three tiered system, I found it hard to simply accept the writer's condemnation of the system without further discussion. I follow Tom Wark's interest in direct shipping for retailers and wineries, and I read his blog thoroughly. However to state such a partisan angle in a paper that had little to do with the shipping of wine caught me as odd.

Other portions of the paper that I found most interesting:

"Wine bloggers with an audience over 20 people has an influence that is relavent." - Such an observation certainly gives my own blog a more interesting perspective, as I can claim many times over that many readers.

Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as the three most influential social media networks. Something I totally agree with.

The top 20 bloggers make up an agragated higher reach than Wine Spectator. The only trick is that Wine Spectator is one entity, whereas reaching bloggers is fragmented.

I would suggest you read the paper yourself and form your own opinions. The work that went into this paper is palpable and certainly recommends VinTank as a thorough research source.
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