Click Gently on the Social Media Hype

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Riaan Smit, journalist, retailer, property developer and now Elsenburg student gives his take on the Social Media phenomenon.

I am skeptical, especially when something is presented as the Next Big Thing. But I have to admit that often skepticism can be an excuse for ignorance.

Social Media is increasingly being touted as the NBT in wine marketing and, for a while, I found it hard to get excited, because I could not get a handle on what Social Media is about.
Then the wineblog, enobytes, ran an article that started as follows:

“The social media paradigm is transforming our media landscape to an unrecognizable form many are not willing to accept. Are you one of them? Then listen up because this paradigm shift is happening whether you like it or not and I have a few tips to help you transition to the new media world.

“It’s a direction that will affect everyone in the wine industry, from wine writers to wineries, magazines, newspapers and marketing folks. If you don’t jump on the social media bandwagon you might just be left in the dark. If you don’t believe me, then listen to Clay Shirky, a prescient voice on the effects of the Internet.”

The link to a 15 minute video switched the light bulbs on for me and completely shifted my paradigm of what media is today.

Shirky argues that there have only been four periods over the last five hundred years where media has changed enough to qualify for the label “Revolution” ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ printing and press; telegraph and telephone; recorded media; radio and television.
We are living in the fifth revolution with social media.

He explains that the first four are all media distributing messages to the masses along a one-way channel. There is no immediate talk-back. It may facilitate discussion among individuals, but they cannot get more information from the original source of the message.

Today, former media consumers are now the media producers, and the ability for consumers to communicate among themselves is the new media landscape. In marketing terms it means messages about your product can be produced by anyone and distributed at the press of a button. The beauty is that Social Media allows the producer of a product to initiate a conversation about a product/brand and sustain this conversation once it has started and proliferated.
Shirky argues that applications such as Facebook and Twitter allows almost limitless interactions between individuals and the source(s) of (media) messages. This breaks the talk-down mold of media and is essentially changing the way societies work.

Says enobytes: “I grew up on magazines and I have no shame admitting I still subscribe to publications like the Winespectator and Food & Wine. However, as much as I feel some regret for abandoning the old model, we need to evolve and move on because many consumers no longer identify with print. Why? The social media landscape delivers content faster and more effectively and the communication between the masses is recreating the user experience. It’s going beyond the one-to-one or one-to-many communication patterns via telephone, radio and TV and evolving to a many-to-many pattern, which instills sharing and innovation.”

Put very simply: If you think your pretty print advertisement depicting your prized Syrah grown bio-dynamically (your supposed competitive advantage ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ but who is explaining it to 95% of your consumers who does not know what the hell bio-whatever is), or running a website that is just another website, or putting a cleavage bimbo behind your tasting counter with zilch ability to have an intelligent discussion about your wines, your cellar, or terroir, if you think this is the best way of spending your marketing Rands, think again.

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