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A very social media

It seems I am spending more of my time socialising than writing about social media at the moment.

Last week I was off to Windsor to meet Joe Roberts and Andrew Barrow, then on Friday I met up with the “Lewisham Bloggers” (a local grouping of bloggers on a whole range of topics, living in this part of London), and last night it was the London Bloggers.

Wow! What a night for someone who spends so much of their day involved in social media sites like me (“My name is Robert, and I’m a SocialMediaChat-a-Holic“)

One of the great things about blogging, as I have mentioned before, is that you meet all sorts of different people around the world who share your interests and passions. But one of the other aspects is that, as bloggers, we are in the business of building communities, and we are therefore, it seems to me, interested in all sorts of other communities as well.

Last night I had great conversations about wine (amongst other things), but none of them with other wine bloggers. There was the digital marketing consultant, the Food & Drink Editor, the Digital PR strategist, the Underground blogger (I was particularly excited to meet Annie Mole, I must admit), the Digital Brand & Marketing Commentator, and many more.

One of the things I learned is that if you want to be taken seriously in these circles there is one “must-have” item.

Not a 3G iPhone.

It is a Moo Card.

I started picking up a few of these last night, and by the third or fourth, I felt like apologising for only having my “boring, traditional” cards to give in return. So my Moo cards are on order right now!

It was interesting to meet all sorts of people, and all levels of bloggers – from the A-listers to those starting out, and generally just have fun without having to explain (again) why I spend so much time on these sites.

A particularly big thank you to Stella Artois for sponsoring the evening, not only with some drinks for everyone, but also offering a prize in their airship.

Oh, I should mention THAT I WON A TRIP IN THE AIRSHIP!!!!!


I’ll be posting photos here after the trip, currently scheduled for this Friday.

[I wish I had an airship to use for promotions!]

Thanks to everyone for the evening, and I’ll update this post with links to other round-ups as I come across them.

Some other round-ups:
London Underground Blog

Social PRobiotic

You can’t share a bottle online

I really enjoy building online relationships and keeping in touch with a great range of people through blogs, comments, facebook, twitter, Open Wine Consortium, etc., but the ultimate goal, really, is to make ‘real’ friends.

So when I saw a ‘tweet’ by @1WineDude, otherwise known as Joe Roberts who blogs at 1winedude.blogspot.com out of Philadephia, mentioning that he would be in the UK, I jumped at the chance to meet up with him and share a glass, or two, of wine.

Andrew Barrow from Spittoon joined the party and we met up at The Two Brewers in Windsor.

We talked about wine, blogging, US vs. UK, music, food and all the sorts of stuff people who have known each other for a long time would talk about, yet we’d only met an hour beforehand.

It was fun, and if any other wine blogger out there is planning on passing through London, or its environs, do get in touch so we might arrange a get together of our own.

Two of the topics we discussed which are worth bringing up here, were:

The serving temperature of wine, particularly reds. The Two Brewers is a great place to go for wine as it has a limited, but adventurous wine list. However, the UK is not built to deal with heatwaves, and our bottle of Chateau Musar 2000 arrived too warm (as did the later bottle of Astrolabe Pinot Noir 2006). No problem! Drop them in the icebucket left over from the Rose (from Provence, but label had washed off). We did get a reputation from the staff for “liking chilled red wine”, so I had to point out we were only lowering it to where it ought to be, around 18 degrees. The idea that serving at ‘room temperature’ does not mean “whatever temperature your room happens to be” has yet to filter down properly. This is Confessions of Wino‘s personal crusade, and I’m happy to support it.

Bloggers need to work together more. This one was more controversial, and I must admit it is my own agenda. I do believe that we need to find ways of doing things together that go beyond links and comments if we are to have real impact. This is the subject for what is going to be discussed at the European Wine Bloggers Conference, as well as the North American one, so expect to see more on this.

My thanks Joe and Andrew for a great evening. Let’s do it again soon.

Interactive Wine Sites

Over the next few days, thanks to their well established brand and their PR muscle, you’ll probably see several headlines like this one:

Roederer champagne launches new interactive website

I don’t know about you, but the interaction I want with my wine involves drinking it!

I don’t understand these Flash-based websites (you might want to go off and start the page loading, then return to read the article while you wait – but remember to turn the sound off).

The vast majority of people browsing the internet for wine are looking for:

  1. background details
  2. stockist information
  3. a ‘deal’
  4. fun

(check out Able Grape’s take on this too)

Using Flash to promote your wine brand is like hiring a stand-up comedian with ADHD to be your spokesperson – however amusing he may be, he is getting in the way of the message.

Sure, with Flash you get bells and whistles. In fact, the Louis Roederer site is like a unicycling bear that is playing La Marseillaise on his bells and whistles, but what are they doing to address the needs of the customers? What is the goal of the ‘interactivity’ on this site?

(oh, and by the way, that unicycling bear keeps falling off and his bells are out of tune – the sound on the site is awful and I keep getting stuck, unable to go back)

Joel Vincent made an interesting observation on a recent post on his blog Wine Life Today:

My bottom line points are simple. I’ve written about and preached on the “Wine Life Value Chain” where I talk about how the strength of a relationship basically has direct correlation to influencing a wine buyer. The closer you are, sociallogically, to the source of a wine recommendation the faster and more likely you are to buy it. So with that theorum guiding my thoughts we look at social media.

Flash CAN be a great tool to aid this relationship, but all too often it seems to be used to create a barrier between the people behind a wine and its consumers – something akin to a prestidigitator’s distraction technique.

One might argue that this is exactly how Champagne has managed to create a strong stylish brand, separating itself from its plain and homely still wine cousins – we’re missing that ‘magic’ ingredient. Maybe that is why it was used and I’m the one who is missing the point.

In any case, my preference is for sites that engage me in a meaningful relationship, that have answers to my questions and encourage me to commit myself in some way to the brand in the way they are doing with me.

The interactivity I seek is knowing that the winery, or winemaker, cares what I think, and helps me to both taste and understand their wines. Here are a couple I have come across recently that make me feel this way.

Neither of these sites has spent anything like the amount of money Louis Roederer must have done, but I get so much more out of them because I feel I know the wine, the people and the reasons for their existence so much better and on a more personal level.

And talking of interactivity, I’d love to hear your comments on these sites as well. Have I missed the point on the Champagne site, or am I too committed to blogs? Let me know.

(Photo Let it Float, courtesy of hashmil)

Thoughts on a European community

Gabriella asked me an interesting question regarding the European Wine Bloggers’ Conference yesterday. We have focused a lot on getting bloggers excited about the opportunity of the conference, but what do our READERS think about it? Why should THEY care?

Admittedly we have not clarified that point very much, although it has always been part of our thinking.

Ryan and Gabriella were kind enough to post my response on their site, which you probably already read, but just in case, check it out here:

Why Should Readers Care About the European Wine Blogger Conference?

“In my view, the most important goal of the European Wine Bloggers’ Conference is to start a conversation between the European voices at this party. Readers in Europe, and indeed the rest of the world, want to hear a familiar perspective on wine and one that is relevant to them.”

The thoughts of a Winefarmer

I’ve been meaning to say something about a blog I found some time ago (can it really be over a year?) but somehow I never knew how to put it correctly so I didn’t, and now I feel guilty.

I feel guilty because Rob (that’s him, not me) has a unique voice in wine blogging and I think we could all do with a dose of this reality.

So many blogs, including this one, dwell only on the consumption of wine. We agonise over how to rate a wine, how to share the drinking experience, where to spend our money, and maybe a little about those trips out to vineyards and to meet winemakers.

For most of us, that is our relationship with wine – as consumers.

There is a separate breed. Blogging winemakers. They know a lot more about the process of making wine and the real effort that goes into making those bottles we gratefully, or otherwise, consume and critique. But even these blogs are often removed from the toil of the everyday effort involved in running a vineyard.

How might we ensure we do not forget that wine truly is an agricultural product, a product of nature, sweat and toil? Read this blog!

http://winefarmer.wordpress.com – Winefarmer’s Weblog

Rob manages to convey some of the reality of working in the vineyard. It isn’t a straight diary and it isn’t philosophical musings. What it is, is the honest, uninhibited thoughts of an obviously very intelligent and creative human being who likes working with nature.

I admit to not being a particularly well read individual, so I probably shouldn’t compare his style to other authors, but to me at least, there are echoes of John Steinbeck in his writing.

He covers organic farming, vineyard working practices, cultural issues he faces working alongside largely Mexican labourers, the tragedies of manual labour (some are very sad – read to the last section), and even astrology, astronomy and nature.

I urge you to take a look and subscribe. He doesn’t update it very regularly (who am I to fault that?) so it won’t overload your daily reading, but maybe help to give all the rest some context.

Thanks Rob!

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