Getting the most out of virtual wine tastings

There are 3 virtual Australian wine tastings coming up at the end of March and early April are a golden opportunity for anyone who's in the wine business.  Wineries, sommeliers, retailers, importers and restaurants can realize ROA (return on attention) by following a few steps.

If you've never participated in a virtual wine tasting, the idea is simple—get a bottle (or bottles) of wine, taste and tweet along with other people at the same time on Twitter.  The reason why you'd want to participate is to capture the attention of participants while it's happening.  If the virtual tasting is planned properly, it's possible to have significant reach.

With traditional media, ad dollars are spent on reach.  If we run an ad in a magazine, we're paying for the reach of that magazine.  If we run an ad on television, we're paying for the reach of that station.

With new media, we can create our own reach through our fans and followers.  When virtual tastings are orchestrated correctly, we can create a wide reach by bringing together an audience for a defined period of time.  For #Cabernet day we had 3,000-5,000 participants who all had their own followings.  If we average each person with a following of 300 friends/followers a conservative estimate for reach was 900,000 people (3,000 x 300).  The upside is the community can scale up to an unlimited numbers.  The downside is once the tasting is over, the community disbands.  So we have to be ready to seize the opportunity.  Here's some tips for maximizing the reach before, during and after:

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1. Search the hash tag (listen)-

Search for each hash tag while the virtual tasting is going on to "hear" what others are saying.  Use Twitter Search, TweetDeck or kurrently to track the tag.  Personally, I like Twitterfall.com to put up on a monitor for others to see or TweetDeck on my laptop.  I watch to see what others' experiences are.

2. Prepare content ahead of time (share)-

Videos, blog posts, recipes or any other educational content can be created ahead of time, then posted during the virtual tasting.  For example, during the #YarraWine virtual tasting wineries can do videos about their vineyards, soil or climate then post them during the virtual tasting.  Because people are searching the hash tag, the content is likely to be seen by someone.  You may even end up chatting with them real time during the virtual tasting to continue the conversation.

3. Share real time experiences -

What wine or wines are you drinking?  Share photos of the label, including the hash tag.  Share your impressions of the wine, including the hash tag.  For example, during the #HunterWine virtual tasting I'll be interviewing winemakers in the Hunter Valley and posting the short vids online during the tasting.

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For wineries or wine shops wanting to sell wine there are different strategies on how to make it happen before, during and after.  Before any sales, coupons or offers can be made, there must be a level of trust with the online community.  The worst thing anyone can do is start blasting out offers.  If, and only IF the winery or wine shop is engaged with their community through lots of @ replies and one-to-one communications can they even think about selling anything.

If there's a healthy level of connection, then taste packs can be sold ahead of time.  If a winery is hosting a virtual tasting, they can offer wines on-site at a promotional price.  The most powerful use of new media is what happens after the virtual tasting.  A savvy winery or wine shop will make the most of the opportunity and engage as many participants as they can.  This is a targeted community of people who are participating—the community has already told us they like wine because they opted in to the tasting.  Create Twitter lists or maintain communication with participants to grow the brand's own following.