Trial by Tweet: Enhancing the Image of Virginia Wine

We all know social media is a viral, but if you are marketing a product you should not “discount the value of the tangibles in a virtual world.”

That’s according to Annette Boyd, director of the Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office, who shared her experiences with enhancing the image of Virginia wine through social media to PR practitioners.

“Wine is very personal,” Annette told the group. “You make the product come to life.” She said it’s about tasting it, seeing it and smelling it. (To reinforce that, wine was served during the talk.)

Twitter was chosen as the platform to communicate about the Virginia wine industry because it’s for “people you want to know” as opposed to Facebook, which Annette said is for “talking to people you already know.”

Her team had to get up to speed on using Twitter, but also had to initiate Virginia wineries into its use, including registering their handles even if they weren’t ready to embark on Twitter.

The first Twitter event was for media wine bloggers in 2009. It was used to kick off Virginia Wine Month in October. Bloggers were invited as well as consumers, but the only way a consumer was invited was to tweet to get an invitation. From that one event, 600 tweets went out about Virginia Wine Month with a potential of 48,000 impressions.

“It really got us engaged with Twitter for the first time,” Annette said.

The event also was successful in terms of sales. The Virginia Wine Board reported an increase of 11 percent in sales that month.

Virginia decided to vie to host the Wine Bloggers Conference in 2011. When it was announced in California that Virginia had won, there were groans, Annette said. But Virginia knew the conference would succeed because of the strong partnerships throughout the state, including with the Virginia Tourism Board and the state wineries.

To increase enthusiasm for the conference four virtual wine tastings were held via blogging and Twitter. The conference itself featured seven mystery tours giving bloggers a taste of Virginia wineries and a firsthand look at the region’s wineries. Forty-seven wineries participated.

The conference sold out and included attendees from around the U.S. Of the 335 participants 30 percent were from California and 23 percent from Virginia. Of the 129 blogs written 61 percent were positive and 4 percent were negative, mostly about the change in venue. There were more than 15,000 tweets leadings to 43.5 million potential impressions.

The Virginia Wine industry is a good example of embracing social media while not discounting the tangible. Do any of you have other examples of such success?

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