Tag Archive - facebook

Should We All Quit Facebook? Not Yet (IMHO)

Don't quit, Mike!
Image by SuziJane via Flickr

Last week, the brilliant Josh Hermsmeyer at Capozzi Winery (also known as @PinotBlogger) posted a controversial post entitled: Why I Quit Facebook, And Why Wineries Should As Well – it is well worth a read.

Josh manages to combine a great marketing mind with a brilliant passion for making wine, great technical knowledge and an ability to communicate (yes, a bit of a hero to me). It is just a shame that I may never get a chance to taste his wines. However, his posts are always worth reading.

Having said that, I disagree with him on this one.

The conclusion of his post is summed up as:

Bottom line: Even if you never plan to advertise or otherwise leverage Facebook’s “social graph,” You do not want your brand tainted, even by association, by the sh*tstorm that is engulfing Facebook.

His argument is that the kinds of activities that Facebook has been accused of entering into should not be condoned, and that if you are a winery (or any business) on Facebook, you will be tainted by it by association:

… there can be no doubt that the risks of maintaining a presence on, and thus providing a tacit endorsement of, Facebook far outweigh any benefits you can possibly think to imagine. Act accordingly.

You can read his report and plenty other reports out there about what Facebook is accused of doing, but essentially it seems to be about breach of trust. In his view, that breach is so serious that he simply cannot be part of the network. That is his decision. It is also the conclusion of many other influential individuals such as Jason Calacanis and many thousands of others.

I respect Josh’s principled stand. In the comments he says:

Even if you are using Facebook just to have a conversation where your customers are, you are tacitly endorsing the medium. I can’t do that any longer. I owe the peeps more than just looking out for my brand’s interests.

My actions are communicating to them louder than any wall post what I value, what Capozzi values, and where we draw the line in terms of where commerce ends and a trusting, worthwhile relationship begins.

Wineries who are on Facebook may well be there simply to engage with their customers around the world. This is still one of the best places to do that, even if I do recommend that this is just a means of taking that relationship elsewhere (like a winery’s own blog).

Essentially, I don’t believe that having a business presence on Facebook “tacitly endorses” whatever may or may not be going on behind the scenes between Facebook and their advertisers with our data any more than running a local wine shop “endorses” dubious commercial property deals by banks.

Wineries NEED to communicate with their customers, and if the customers are on Facebook and are willing and eager to engage there, then wineries will have a presence there. IF there are privacy concerns, there is no “ethical duty” to disengage with the network. It is not the business’ or brands’ role to make decisions for their customers about these things. As long as they are part of the network they can & should lobby for things to change and do their best to communicate this to their friends and customers.

“The REAL issue is that this is a closed network that is trying to justify, and monetise, itself …”

As I write this I hear that new privacy arrangements are being made by Facebook. I’m dubious that this will quell the discontent fully.

The REAL issue is that this is a closed network that is trying to justify, and monetise, itself by getting bigger and offering even more options to everyone. I don’t believe it can do this without getting too complex. It is getting so big that the revenues it needs to achieve become astronomical, encouraging “extreme” behaviour. We need to keep an eye out and complain, but not necessarily run away.

There is a precent for this. AOL grew exponentially by educating millions of us about the internet. However, eventually we grew tired of the walled playground and we left it for the more exciting WWW. Facebook introduced many individuals and businesses to the Social Web. The time will come when many of them will cut the apron strings and venture off into the wider social world. But not yet.

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Please read Josh’s full post AND the comments. This is a wonderful example of what kind of conversation a blog can create. This is Josh’s topic, but anyone can respond, disagree or agree, and he engages with all of them to clarify and refine the message.

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Excuse me while I go exploring

So what do a top-class restaurant, a wine bar and a designer/bespoke tailor have in common with wine? Well, for the first two it is obvious, but the answer is not quite that simple.

If you follow me on twitter you will have seen me in conversation with @galvinatwindows, @vinoteca and @simonblaqua a fair bit recently, and you might even be forgiven for assuming I was running their PR in some way. I thought it fair, therefore, in the interests of full disclosure which I am so very keen on, to tell you a little bit more about why.

Having ‘evangelised’ about blogs, facebook and now twitter in the wine trade for several years now, it is very exciting to see so many businesses I deal with in my “day job” really beginning to listen to what Social Media can do for them. Now, instead of blank stares or laughs (or worse) when I mention what I do online, people are starting to ask my advice.

I don’t “consult” professionally about these things (although you never know what tomorrow brings) so generally speaking I’m happy to sit down with them and share my thoughts on what they could do. In most cases it is a bit of harmless chat, but in some cases these new friends jump headlong into social media and start to do really exciting things.

@galvinatwindows is the GM of a great restaurant, chic, well regarded and frequented by all sorts of celebrities, rich hotel guests and adventurous London foodies with a head for heights. He doesn’t “need” social media to make a splash, but he has embraced it wholeheartedly and is organising special tours, dinners, cocktail competitions, tastings and menus and promoting them through twitter in particular. Wow!

@vinoteca was recently voted “Wine Bar of the Year 2009″ – they too don’t need more publicity as such, but they too are embracing social media as a way to have better conversations with the kind of people who love their wine concept – which includes me.

@simonblaqua is a clothing designer who works with performers like Alabama 3 and has also designed things for rock royalty (I’m sworn to secrecy, so you’ll have to ask him). I was simply a customer, until I used his bespoke tailoring skills to create my Moocket shirt. Now he too is excited about starting a bespoke tailoring conversation with customers and those with interests in bespoke design. I will be supporting this by helping to host an evening of wine & design on 13 March (more soon) – but mainly because I’m getting excited about the idea as a consumer, not for “business” reasons.

There is a blurred line here, I admit. Some of these people I meet because I work in the wine business, and they might even be current or future customers, but I write about them now because I think that what they are doing is very brave, very exciting, and hopefully interesting – and tangentially related to wine culture for a variety of reasons specific to each one.

I hope to keep bringing you stories like these as I explore what is happening with the people and businesses I come across, and I trust you’ll find these interesting enough to bear with me here and on twitter.

If you have any interesting stories of bars, restaurants or designers using social media (bonus points for making it relevant to wine culture), please leave me a comment.

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When online friends get real

We’ve been here before, about 6 months ago, when Facebook rather exploded onto the scene (for me) and there seemed to be a collective & feverish drive to make new friends and contacts, discuss big ideas and make grand plans. It got so busy I spent ages on Facebook joining groups for Wine Bloggers, Wine 2.0, Sherry Lovers, Beards of the World United (that was just for me) and more.

The result was that I got to know a lot of new people and link up with some really interesting friends. We talked and talked and emailed and posted and … nothing really came of it.

Photo courtesy of Richard.HThe problem with Facebook is that it is a virtual “freshers fair”. It is like that first week at school/college/university, where all new arrivals feel equal and can shake off the social shackles accumulated over years at their previous school. These fresh faces desperately try to make a new circle of friends and create a new persona, meeting as many others as possible and “becoming friends”. Unfortunately it never stays that way, and by week 2 you will probably never see half those people again and you discover that the creepy guy who seemed seemed so mysterious is actually just creepy.

Facebook is good for showing your face (!) and getting snippets of information, even gathering into groups, but it does not offer the tools for in-depth discussions and planning. The serious business of making proper friendships doesn’t happen at the Freshers Fair, it happens later.

And that is what is happening right now.

At one time is seemed that all that time & effort seemed destined to be wasted, but thankfully I continued to have email conversations with Ryan and Gabriella Opaz at Catavino.net, and through them also began discussions with Joel Vincent of Wine Life Today.

This group is much more driven, and instead of just talking, we’ve started projects on the European Wine Bloggers Conference, the Open Wine Consortium and a few more things in the pipeline too exciting and confidential to mention just yet. These are some great tools for exploring and developing the Wine Conversation.

I have also met or am planning to meet up with several of these virtual friends, including Steve De Long, Emilio Saez, Jacob Gaffney as well as Ryan and Gabriella.

So, thanks Facebook for the party, I’ll be back again, but the place to hang out with friends is elsewhere.

* Photo Courtesy of Richard.H

The "its really about drinking wine" conference

OK, the cat is now out of the proverbial bag.

Ryan and Gabriella over at Catavino have just posted news of some discussions that have been going on for a few months about a Wine Bloggers’ Conference in Europe.

A few months ago a group for wine bloggers on facebook suddenly exploded with creative energy and all sorts of stuff was discussed. Conferences, dinners, tastings, “pimp my blog”, “am I sexy or not?” (OK maybe not the last one). But, just like most facebook groups, very little came of it, but at least the doors were opened.

One of the most interesting ideas was that Wine Bloggers should get together to share ideas, drink some wine, meet their peers and generally have a good time. Unfortunately we are not a rich bunch, and on top of that, there is a great difference between the state of blogging in the US and the rest of the world.

While our American cousins imagined exhibition stands, multi-track conferences, discussions on alternative platforms, revenue-generation, wine2.0, etc. those of us in Europe preferred to start with a dinner with lots of wine and friendly conversation, and maybe go from there (which I think is what is also now happening in the US).

Ryan, Gabriella and I took it upon ourselves to see that something would happen, however small, in Europe in 2008.

So, here we are. Do you blog? What are you doing the weekend of August 29-31, 2008?

Our plan is to gather in Rioja for that dinner, wine and conversation and maybe take the opportunity to visit this famous area and some of its wineries (in the interests of transparency and disclosure I would point out that I work for Dinastia Vivanco in the UK). Lots more details can be found here.

If you fancy joining us, or getting involved in any way, get in touch with me here or on Catavino.net. Although we will probably focus on European issues, this event is open to anyone who blogs about wine, however peripherally, and in whatever language.

Come and join us, it’ll be fun!

Bloggers in competition

Over on facebook, Richard Auffrey asks a pertinent question:

Are wine bloggers in competition with each other? If so, how does that affect our interaction?

As it happens, this links in to things I was considering myself. As I posted a few days ago, Wine 2.0 is about interaction, and this interaction creates (in my mind) … The Wine Conversation (see how I managed to link it back to my own subject?).

“The Wine Conversation” is about the many discussions that happen about wine because enjoying it is a common, shared experience. As the experience of wine increases in our country, hopefully so does the Conversation.

In this view of the world, bloggers are very much collaborators rather than competitors, involved in sharing information about wine and getting others involved. You can see this quite clearly in the facebook universe. Although very few, if any, of the wine bloggers have met, there is a very strong bond between them. Many have linked to each other, becoming “friends” in facebook terminology simply because of the shared interest in wine and blogging.

Before blogs, the only way to discuss wine was face-to-face, or by reading others’ words in magazines and books. The former is limited and quite daunting for some people, particularly those just learning to enjoy wine, while the latter is potentially very dry (excuse the pun), so generally reserved for the real enthusiast. How were everyday drinkers supposed to get involved with the Wine Conversation?

Blogging allows individuals to put forward their thoughts not as pronouncements (as per the magazines), but as points for discussion. Everyone can get involved as much or as little as they wish by reading, commenting, or even starting their own blog. This is the interaction that makes it different from what has come before, and bloggers are as much consumers of others’ blogs as they are publishers, so the Conversation metaphor is particularly apt.

By their nature blogs are limited in scope so we NEED more blogs and bloggers, and we need to read, share and converse on them, otherwise we either fall back on the old publishing models, or we become an irrelevance.

So what about the alternative view, that we might be in competition? What would bloggers be competing over?

  • Limited numbers of readers? I guess that the potential readership is unlimited for bloggers prepared to do something new (check out what Chateau Petrogasm are doing)
  • Limited advertising dollars? This is possible, but the vast majority of bloggers do not try and make money from the blogs, so this is currently irrelevant
  • Stories? Well, there might be some truth here, but in most cases this is not relevant to those blogging about wine as opposed to news
  • Ratings? On the contrary, as ratings are based on the numbers of links to your blog as much as readers, networking and cooperation are more important
  • Prizes? They do exist, but there aren’t many of these yet, and in theory they are based on quality rather than content, so getting help is a winning strategy

In short, wine bloggers have a shared goal and mission, to spread the love of wine and support the Wine Conversation in their country/region/business/community, and this is done by supporting others, linking to their sites, reading their stories, sharing views and, eventually, sitting down to drink a nice bottle of wine together.

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