Friday, September 10, 2010

Effective Twitter use for the Wine Retailer/Bar

As Rick Bakas points out in his book (Quick Bites: 75 Savory Tips for Social Media Success), the high-value use of social media is as a brand-building tool.  That is, brand building, rather than selling.  Far too many of you perceive Twitter as an advertising platform and spend the entire day blaring out the latest and greatest offers.  Such use of Twitter puts you at risk of being tagged a spammer, will not work to enlist anyone to assist you, and will seriously retard the quality and quantity of your followers. In this post I advance some pointers for the small wine retailer/bar on the use of Twitter to advance their business goals.

To use Twitter optimally, you will first have to understand/determine your brand and the message that it conveys.  For example, in the Orlando market, Tim's Wine Market's brand is as a scholarly, knowledge-oriented purveyor of value wines., on the other hand, is about experiences, experts, and events.  Those brands, built up in the real world, has to be leveraged into the social environment and the brand owner has to enlist other social media players to help promulgate that message.  If people are afraid to look at the embeds in your tweets, for fear that it is another hawking notice, the battle is lost.

Brand-building is targetted at the existing customer base as well as potentials.  To ensure that the message is getting to your existing customers, every effort must be made to enlist them as online "followers" (You should also be following them in order to collect information that could help focus your message.). In addition to your existing customers, you should be following your distributors, as many wineries as possible, and key wine-industry influencers on both Twitter and Facebook.  Such action will provide you with relevant, timely, and unfiltered information about events along your supply chain and the opportunity to tweet this information forward if you so desired.

As you initiate your interaction, keep in mind that you are a business and are attempting to build a business brand.  Tweeting about personal exploits and experiences do not necessarily advance your cause and, in some cases, may contribute in a negative fashion.  You should be retweeting articles, press releases, expert commentaries, and blog posts which you deem of value.  If the wine Twittersphere perceives value in your interactions, they will retweet and/or engage you in dialogue. 

You should use the vehicle to communicate important business events such as upcoming tastings, winemaker visits, winery visits, and extra-ordinary offers.  There is a lot of social interplay on Twitter.  As a business, do not get involved.  If you would like to get involved in this light-hearted banter, get a separate personal account that is unassociated with the logo and brand that you are trying to build online.

The repeated presence of your business name in the Twittersphere brings attention in and of itself and builds name recognition.  The items which you choose to put forward, and which others aid you in disseminating through their retweets, then serve as brand-builders on a go-forward basis.  Your existing customers will perceive value in having you involved in wine-related dialogue with a broad array of entities drawn from across the globe, while potentials customers are more likely to do business with you online/offline if they recognize your brand based on online views/interactions.

Keeping up with Twitter has benefits but requires a time investment.  Twitter is not your core business and, if not managed carefully, can squeeze out other tasks.  Be judicious in your use of the medium during the course of the business day and ensure that its use does not imperil the completion of core functions.  If multiple individuals are working in the business, one individual should be tasked with Twitter responsibilities in order to ensure a consistent message to the outside world.

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