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Posted on  | June 23, 2015   Bookmark and Share
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Social media is here to stay; the trick is for operators to find their digital sweet spot.

Social media “made” Pearl and Ash, says Patrick Cappiello, Partner and Wine Director at the Manhattan hotspot, as well as Rebelle. That may seem like undue praise for the raging river of posts, likes, followers, friends and hashtags that populate social media, but he means it. With the right approach, Cappiello says, “It’s like having a PR company in your back pocket.”

Cappiello, along with sommeliers like Michael Madrigale and Pascaline Lepeltier, is among a growing cadre of  somms who have developed a bona fide following online.

Madrigale embraced tweeting to promote his weekly program of pouring large-format wines by-the-glass at Bar Boulud. “I needed to get people into the restaurant, and I didn’t see wearing a sandwich board outside,” he reasons. Meanwhile, during the down time while Rouge Tomate moves from Midtown Manhattan to Chelsea, Lepeltier has been exploring the world’s wine regions and local haunts, posting her experiences on Facebook regularly.

It also works for retailers. “The shop opened in 2007, and I started tweeting in 2008,” says Christy Frank, owner of Frankly Wines in lower Manhattan. She calls Facebook “tricky” and “less useful” because the company has complex algorithms that will determine which and how many of one’s followers will see any given post—an algorithm that increasingly favors paid promotions. “As a business I like Twitter; you don’t have to spend a lot of time on it.” Apps like Tweetdeck help her feel organized: “Without Tweetdeck and lists, it can really feel like an endless stream
of garbage.”

Some wineries themselves are quite active in social media, and restaurants and retailers can interact with brands they support to reach new potential customers. Bonny Doon, for example, has a corporate account, and founder Randall Grahm is also very active on Twitter with his personal account. “One very clear, trackable benefit is the informational aspect,” says Grahm. “If I’m coming to Cincinnati I should and could let Cincinnati know that I’m coming, and it’s a reasonably efficient way of getting the word out.” Retailers can then re-tweet Grahm’s posts and send out their own to drive interest in tastings, dinners and other events.

Start Slow & Don’t Overdo It

For social media newbies, it’s hard to know where to start. “I would spend some time being a voyeur,” says Frank. “See what you find the most comfortable. It’s a personality-driven machine; if pictures and short blurbs are your thing then Instagram might be where you spend your time. Get on, follow people, and check out how it works.”

Once you’re at it, Cappiello says “Don’t oversaturate the feed.” One photo a day on Instagram, where he’s most active, may be enough; “Post seven, eight, or nine photos of some vineyard and it becomes a little too much,” and you may lose some followers. Twitter is more forgiving to frequent posting. And give some thought to the aesthetics of photos: “Posting beautiful photos is still important; it shouldn’t be just bottle shots,” so play with filters and other
photo tools.

Or if you want to keep it wine-exclusive, asserts Cappiello, “Delectable is the wave of the future for wine geekery; it does things Instagram can’t.” Launched in April 2012, Delectable combines social media with tools for keeping track of one’s own personal tasting notes, and finding places to buy wines one likes. The app uses label recognition software to identify wines—even complicated German labels, according to Julia Weinberg, Director of Creative Development.

Among other things, users can search and sort wines they’ve entered or posted, so it’s a much more useful record than the stream of photographs in your phone’s camera roll. While the app wasn’t aimed at professionals, the trade has embraced it; they even see spikes in use when trade tastings take place. Weinberg notes that the app adapted, and now identifies influential trade users as “Wine Pros,” encouraging consumers to follow them and learn from them. “You have to know Mike Madrigale to follow him on Instagram,” notes Weinberg, whereas Delectable will introduce you, so Delectable has increasingly become a place where pros can teach, influence, and interact with consumers.

Getting In On The Conversation

Once connected, on Delectable or elsewhere, there’s a conversation to be had. The key difference between social media and traditional PR is the interactivity. “It’s not a monologue, it’s a dialogue,” says Madrigale. “Respond to people that really reach out to you.” It can take a lot of time, so “keep it simple. I don’t try to sell myself or build a persona. Social media is transparent; people can see who you are very easily. So it doesn’t work for people who aren’t genuine.”

For that matter, the boss doesn’t have to do all the talking, either. “I do encourage the staff,” says Frank. “They all have personal accounts. It can make you seem a lot bigger than you are. If you have somebody on staff to do it, you have to put in some initial thinking if it’s not your normal voice—what it is you’re putting out there. Know your tone and limits. For a small shop, not doing it is missing out on a real opportunity to generate sales and PR.”


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