The skinny on SMO …

Search or Social?

If you want to get the skinny on Social Media Optimization, as it applies to winery digital marketing efforts, there is no better source than James Jory the CTO at Vintank. In addition to his role as the chief technology officer at the Napa, CA based wine industry digital think tank, James is the architect of the Cruvee Engine. James continues to craft an impressive career in software development as an agent of change. His past positions include time as the chief architect at Kurant for the StoreSense e-commerce solution for small business. Kurant was acquired by eBay in early 2005 and James transitioned to the role of architect for eBay’s ProStores e-commerce application. I’ve had the opportunity to get to know and interact with James during my tenure on the Board of Advisors at Cruvee,  dating from mid-August 2009 until mid-March 2011, when was acquired by Vintank.

My observation, over time, is that James has the ability to take seemingly complex issues and cut through the clutter and clearly communicate the key actionable points. Maybe this skill set relates back to his UCSD days studying philosophy as part of his dual major. James is one of those rare accomplished individuals who has the ability to see the big picture while doing the hundreds of small things necessary to make that vision an effective reality. James recently agreed to share his insights on SMO with the readers/viewers of the Agents of Disruption vlog.

Insights on Social Media Optimization

The new social paradigm

We’re all challenged marketing our wines in this new and rapidly evolving digital environment. Consumers now determine how and where our brand messages are accessed and received. Search has become primarily local and contextual, helping to create and drive a new sales vertical, m-commerce. Social media continues to impact buyers’ perceptions and purchase behaviors across of all categories of consumables, but in particular the most social of all CPGs, wine. In light of this new paradigm, James has some sound advice for today’s wine marketers:

SEO people typically look at SMO as another means of driving traffic to their site. The end-goal is always the same–more traffic to my site. But I think social engagement is much different than search engagement, especially when it comes to consuming content. That is, if I’m actively looking for something (i.e. searching), I’m more apt to focus attention and time on the search results I come across since I have a goal in mind. When I’m consuming social content through feeds, something may catch my interest and I may click through to it but since that wasn’t my goal my attention is limited and harder to hold. The strategies have got to be different.”

  • Consumer expectations have changed: consumers expect your brand and product information to be easily accessible on the networks and via the apps that they use.
  • Prioritizing flexibility in the design of your brand and product information platforms over presentation will maximize your brand messaging reach. 
  • A Trade section on your website is no longer adequate and provides poor visibility into how your brand and product information is actually being consumed and used.
  • The traditional web (web 1.0) is only part of an effective digital marketing strategy. Smartphones and the proliferation of apps have crated a new digital landscape with the result that websites are no longer the ‘destination.’
  • Your customers now control your brand message. Inspire them with your story and then provide them with accurate product information… turning your customers into effective digital brand ambassadors.
Copyright© 2011 Agents of Disruption Blog All rights reserved.

About Agents Of Disruption

I'm the founder & CMO at Think Wine Marketing, a one person shop that assists family winecos in developing revenue enhancing multi-platform brand marketing strategies & programs. I've written/blogged about marketing & marketers from a social journalism POV .... I'm also actively seeking new challenges and opportunities.
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8 Responses to The skinny on SMO …

  1. Beautiful James and John …!

    Loved the focus on the difference between SMO and SEO. ‘Everyone’ seems to use Twitter as ‘Broadcasting Channels’, which I think might become a rude awakening call in the near future …!!

  2. Thomas, with all the emphasis placed on your ‘ social graph,’ I often wonder if anyone is actually paying attention… are Vinge & Kurzweil right about the idea of ‘singularity’ where machines outpace human intelligence capabilities … i.e., the ability of linear individuals to absorb or be enriched by the exponential growth of information enabled by digital advances….? It seems that broadcasting on social networks is the norm, and interaction decreases over time. …. information overload?

  3. Jordan says:

    All these social media profiles expound on the effectiveness of communication through social media and brand building, but not one has been able to site a conversion of this media activity into quantifiable sales figures for the wine industry.

    Ultimately all this rhetoric is just white noise, as talking about wine and actually drinking wine do not necessarily walk hand in hand. Show me how to convert a blogger into a buyer and you will have my interest, but until that time understand that social media is not social drinking.

    • Jordan, thanks for taking the time to comment. Point well taken, as not much has been studied re conversions relating to micro or macro social media efforts by individual wineries. The same could be said about about wine dinners, receptions, newspaper reviews, etc. My experience as a marketer informs me that any effort related to effective winery marketing must have a specific achievable goal. In PR that used to be reads, and now it’s likely scores in The Wine Advocate, Although not yet written about, I am aware (based on an interview & research) of a specific case of a multi-platform approach to social media by a Napa Valley winery positively impacting National Accounts awareness, placement & sales. The winery viewed social as a part of the public relations, brand awareness effort and not sales focused, but quickly changed emphasis when the Nat’l Accts impact was reported early in the program by field sales. I can also site the example of as an example of social impacting sales of limited distribution wines. Jeff Stai at Twisted Oak near Murphy’s, CA launched his winery by building awareness via Social Networking .. “you likely wouldn’t have heard of me or bought wine from Twisted Oak if you hadn’t met me on Twitter.” Then there’s the well documented case of Gary Vaynerchuk & Wine Library TV growing sales of the Springfield NJ Wine Library store from about $4 M to more than $60 M in 5 years. So, let’s agree to disagree. Also, hopefully our targeted sales universe of buyers and ambassadors extends beyond the blogger market.

      The conversation from James, also relates to the 1-1 convos/mentions between trusted friends/contacts… even those with loose ties. The conversation here at AoD isn’t focused on social as a single tool, but as part of a multi-platform tool kit now available to wine marketers. The wine industry is highly fragmented, product saturated, channel constricted and sales focused, dominated by the few (WBM Top 30). So the industry conversation seems to be dominated by sales (scores, discounts, distribution, 3-tier, grocery, bev chains), and this seems reasonable. But wine marketing for smaller family wineries is more than great print reviews, discounts, merchandising & coupons. Family winery marketing tends to be more about ‘relationship marketing.’ In this static filled market, brand awareness does matter. It demonstrably helps to shape purchase decisions and effect consumer brand purchase behaviors. Once again, hopefully, even if you disagree with my POV, you’ll stay tuned for the 52 week season. …. Cork

  4. Mark Smith says:

    Despite a few notable examples (which are not repeatable for most wineries) – why is there no translation from social network marketing to wine sales?

    I think there are several factors.

    1. The truth of the matter is that most wineries do not have the bandwidth or know how to adequately engage in social network marketing as to be effective in engaging NEW audiences (or even often old audience). And new audiences are required to sell MORE wine.

    2. In addition, despite a historical claim as to the ‘personal’ nature of wine sales, wine sales in general are frankly no longer ‘personal’ and are more driven by economics and easy access to product. Flash sales sites, online wine stores, Costco …. why should I engage directly the winery most often to only pay more for the wine? Because I like them? Not good enough .. besides many wineries literally ‘patronize’ their club members – which memberships have fallen off a cliff.

    3. There are simply to many wineries trying to communicate to too small of a dedicated wine audience in social media. Facebook is not the virtual destination – each winery’s Facebook page is the virtual destination. There is no concentration of audience. I think this is why applications such as are Cellartracker are successful. They have capture a dedicated audience within the context of one virtual location.

    4. It is clear that what other consumers/bloggers/media say about your products is FAR more important that what you say about them. And what they say needs to be the focal point of any communication to attract new audiences.

    So what is the answer for wineries …?

    I believe that most wineries would be best served using an SEM/reputation management strategy – simply put – before worrying about ongoing audience engagement worry about getting NEW consumers to know that you even exist and do that by sharing information about what other consumers/bloggers/media are saying about you. Instead of trying to engage your embodied clique (who are not buying MORE wine btw) about the weather or your personal experience at last friday’s wine dinner with so and so (drop the name of your choice here) most wine marketers should use their limited time to repost any and all content from third parties (consumer, media, industry) about their wine or their appellation or the vineyards they purchase from – anything to tie search results back to them. This is how they can use social media to touch new audiences .. and then if they are smart about it convert a linked call to action into wine sales.

    So in our view the answer – if there is to be one – is smart social search engine marketing, period.

    • Mark, thanks for taking the time to read and provide input based on your firm’s SEM experiences. I’ll try to be somewhat Churchill like in my response (‘If I only had more time, I would have written a shorter memo). I seems that overall you’ve made some good points, but perhaps viewed through the lens of enterprise winecos. For most family wineries, it’s not about how many, but about who. On a macro scale for the WBM 30, yes the consumer is most often far removed from the winery, so interactions are motivated by availability, shelf placement, merchandising, pricing, reviews, etc. But for the majority of small family wineries, the DTC transaction occurs at the point of human contact. Loyalty is engendered through outreach relationship marketing practices which may include email, telephone calls, events and personal visits to a winery. It is more cost effective to retain your best customers/clients than it is to recreate your customer base with eaAs someone who is part of wine business technology (IMHO) the industry is missing many opportunities out in the ether, as the web, static or increasingly mobile and cloud based, pays a larger & larger role in commerce. The need for individual bandwidth has diminished w/SaaS web based interactions. But the wine business is constricted by practice, slow rates of technology adoption, protectionist legislations and the Balkinization of distribution, by a 50 different state regulatory environment.

      1. For the majority of USA winecos, which are small family wineries, customer purchase transactions are most often personal. Granted, in some case more so than in others. Most marketing, even if inbound tends to be experiential in nature. While there is churn/bleed in many US wine clubs, this relates more to focus or lack thereof than solely to economic factors.
      2. Individuals pay more at wineries all of the time. It is the most expensive channel. Engagement, service, access and personal interaction add value to the sale. Per an earlier Ipsos/American study of Affluents, price was not a prime motivator of purchase decisions; but, that personal attention and personalized service were. Also, the winery message is unfiltered, so you’re not getting the message at the end of the ‘Telephone Game’ line.
      3. Winery messaging is and should be the responsibility of the originating winery. Winery data should be clean, and product information syndication should be reliable and friction free. So, when a writer, blogger or consumer wants wine info, it should be easily findable.
      4. Yes, personal recommendations matter and shape purchase behaviors, but other factors do matter. And yes winery reputation management, and reviews and scores do act as a confirmation (Marketing 101) that the decision to purchase was sound, and help w/SEO/SEM/SMO.
      5. The wine business is an incredibly complex part of the CPG universe. The industry is looking for quick fixes and silver bullets, but do any exist? While your recommendation for SEM may be shaped by your relationship w/Seven Camp, it is my observation that there are no ‘one-solution’ or ‘one-size-fits-all’ answers.

      Once again thanks for your input…. Cork

  5. Mark Smith says:

    I acknowledge and understand your points about ‘small’ family wineries. And that there is no silver bullet. However, I think the crux of the matter is that given very limited resources (of time and money) what do they do? There is no possibility of a shotgun approach – that is a non-starter for small wineries and will not be sustainable if they try. So how can they very inexpensively use affirmative content about their product offerings (price, quality, etc.), which they have no time or ability to create and which would not be independent/credible if they created it anyway, to drive the largest amount of traffic to their products, which traffic they need to create more audience to sell more wine?

    I simply suggest that wineries, which have rightly so become quite disillusioned with the social network marketing bill of sale, try different tactics. A little google alerts and some twitter search RSS feeds can go a long way …. very cheaply. Back link every repost to yourself and see what happens.

    As an aside, I think that social network marketing is seen as a failure by the majority of wineries (big and small btw). They have been led to believe that if they just do it the right way they can sell more wine. That if they build it they will come. While that may be nirvana for a few … it is a time/money drain for most. Chatter for chatter sake does not sell wine. And many are feeling that they are expending a lot of energy for very questionable benefit. Let’s face it – if sustaining your wine sales means sustaining your social media content flow then wine marketing is very broken.

    • Mark, it’s been my observation that most wineries do not and have not developed an integrated digital marketing strategy. This is a key point in the current Silicon Valley 2011 State of the Wine Business report that pegs adoption at 8% of wineries. Social media is an important corner of winery digital marketing efforts, but by no means the centerpiece, or the most important part. Inbound marketing also is a very small part of the wine business. The failure of social media to have an industry wide impact seems to be more a lack of adoption and a lack of goal centric, objective planning by wineries; and not an intrinsic failure of SM to create deliverables. In another beverage industry example, Coke prospered while Pepsi retreated… a failure of the platform or a lack of execution by Pepsi? I sure someone at HBS, Wharton or Kellogg is writing a case study w/a cogent analysis of this question. Search is also an important part (once agin… it’s about who (targeted & qualified) and not about gross numbers). And as mobile smartphone adoption reaches an inflection point, and google continues to rewrite search algorithms (Panda aka Farmer) and as APIs become central to sharing, digital marketing skill set development will no longer be optional for those that wish to gain the competitive advantage…. have a good nights rest… Cork

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