It is hard to believe April is nearly over. Where has the year gone? Grapevine shoots are emerging in earnest and soon we will be in high gear assessing our Syrah, Pinot Noir, Grenache, Roussanne, and Chardonnay. Another item we are assessing is the success of our blogging and social media interactions.
This assessment is difficult. After all people suggest it is a long game of brand building and I am inclined to agree. While it is tempting to desire results – in terms of sales – right away, this isn’t fair or realistic. It also presumes you are using social media correctly, which may not be true! As I have stated before our goal is to use different media as tools to communicate and engage with our customers: one of Joe Donelan’s overarching passions for this business.
With all this swirling in my mind recently I read the American Association of Wine Economists working paper number 98. The thrust of the article is about personal bias in a wine guide’s quality evaluation. But what caught my eye really didn’t have anything to do with personal bias. In the introduction the authors were making a case that wine guides have arisen to act like ratings agencies aiding a buyer in sifting through the myriad of wineries: reasonable enough. In doing this they speak of “information asymmetry between the producer, who followed each step of the production process and the consumer. In extreme cases this [information asymmetry] can prevent…buying.”
Information asymmetry, what a great cryptic phrase like a good academic phrase ought to be. What exactly does it mean? As a producer I see it as an indictment on the industry’s poor ability to develop and share a story. Before the recent changes in how information spread, it was more difficult to educate every consumer on every aspect of the process. As I have noted, we relied much more heavily on retailers to do the educating, and – as the AAWE article points out – wine publications.
The comment also seems pregnant with the implication that producers take way too much for granted about what people know, and what they don’t know about the brand. We are poor educators, perhaps because we are poor learners – but that is another topic. What does all this have to do with social media and wine blogging? Well, not only do blogs and social tools help us engage in more ways than ever with our customers, but it offers the opportunity to create better symmetry of information. We have more avenues than ever before to provide our fans with information about our wine, our vineyards, and more importantly, our stories.
And the content doesn’t appear before their eyes and go away. It is searchable, reference-able, and can help you connect with the increasingly important third party validator of your great wine. It makes your story much more accessible not only for those who are using Google to discover you and wine, but it also makes your story incredibly available – and easily so – for those who influence the perception of your great stuff. Finally, it helps turn what might otherwise have been a one way street, into something more akin to a two way street. In other words, it is easier to correct information asymmetry when you are dialoguing with your customers.
Information asymmetry can be rebalanced to some degree with social media because of the easier ability to create digestible content. However one will still need to “distribute” that content much like the wine we produce. As a result, the winery blog cannot replace the need for “others” (wine publications and the newer wine multi-media members) to understand and share our story. Those relationships must be cultivated, but the internet provides a wonderful tool to define the story that is distributed.