The arrival in Australia of social media guru Rick Bakas might not immediately alter the way wine is marketed locally but is a not-so-quiet revolution in the air?
Mike Bennie, a freelance wine journalist and secretary for the Wine Communicators of Australia, deciphers the buzz.
“If you participate in social media, then you should be patently aware of the Rick Bakas/Wine Communicators of Australia (WCA) online juggernaut that has rumbled through the virtual communities of Facebook and Twitter.
Bakas is a ‘social media guru’, and while guru is a tag that often irks, it is plain to see that his clout in generating interest in online presence, particularly to benefit and generate online communities and branding, has been marked.
Bakas, director of digital branding agency Bakas Media (bakasmedia.com), has over 50,000 twitter followers, 4,500 Facebook fans and calls himself the ‘1st director of social media in the wine business’ – he is an affable American whose success has largely been built on providing large businesses like Chateau Montelena (‘Bottle Shock’ the movie, anyone?) and high profile US sporting teams with online strategies and branding.
His tour of Australia does herald a shift in understanding about wine communication mediums – the online world’s relevance as a portal for further marketing and conversation is the import.
The WCA lecture series is an established event that has included wine industry luminaries – Jancis Robinson, Felicity Carter, Dan Berger, Robert Joseph, James Halliday and others.
Inviting Rick Bakas to address Australian audiences has spearheaded a tour that travels across four states visiting capital cities and regional wine areas en route. Bakas, as a commentator and marketer that lives and breathes online, announces the most significant tour of an online wine communicator that Australia has seen.
His lecture in Sydney on Tuesday night (April 29) rang loud and clear with marketing directive, evangelical musings and implorings to embrace social media. The thrust: to ‘curate’ online your business and personal ‘history’ by tweeting, videoing, posting pictures, blogging, writing and commenting for the betterment of brand and culture. The topic, a bristling invective: ‘Not in new media in 2011. Then not in business by 2016’.
The headliner, Bakas, has seen broad interest from a wide sector of the wine community, but the foreseeable detraction has been relevance of a benign interloper guiding Australian communications. This seems particularly relevant when homegrown ‘experts’ and prominent online media have an insider’s line to the wine business without the ‘Pied Piper of Twitter’ (quoted from a Bakas tweet) cringe that can be associated with ‘guru’ tours.
It’s drawing a long bow, but the frenzy and hype does need to be meted with critical appraisal of individual ability to engage in online communication, its relevance to other forms of communication and an unease about cyclical referencing and online nepotism.
That being said, the eager participation at live events, witnessed so far in the Hunter Valley, Sydney lecture and Sydney tweet and taste (loosely themed ‘Wines that Define Australia’ – other taste and tweets to follow have topics that include alternative varieties, the future of Australian wine and Australian wine gems) have characterized the willingness, and Bakas driven appeal, to engage an online audience.
For all the seeming bustle online, the experimentation with online communications heralds an unprecedented acceptance of social media’s importance as a complimentary marketing tool for wine brands.
For me personally, I participate very heavily in online conversation, enjoy it immensely, see mass potential, have had successes through it, but am wary of the silver bullet…
Insights aside, the tour has created mass concentration of commentary online; particularly during the communal tasting branded a ‘Taste and Tweet’ – an opportunity to comment on wines via Twitter from any location.
The event held post the Sydney lecture was a triumph – over 75 wines brought by close to 100 WCA lecture participants and subsequently extraordinary traffic online, including the hashtag #WCATT (used to thread the conversations in Twitter) ‘trending’ in Sydney during the event (a significant milestone).
The lecture series continued from Melbourne (March 31) to the Barossa Valley (#barossawine) for a regional taste and tweet today (April 4), to Adelaide on the April 5 for the lecture and #WCATT taste and tweet (Theme: Australian gems), then Perth on April 8 followed by the final #WCATT taste and tweet (Theme: New frontier wines).
Involvement is important for those seeking greater insights into the online world and to immerse in communal wine action. There is great consequence in participating in these events.”
- 4 April – Regional tour with taste and tweet – 9.30am – Barossa Valley (Yalumba Winery, Eden Valley Road, Angaston)
- 5 April – Lecture program – 5pm – Adelaide Venue: National Wine Centre of Australia, Corner of Botanic and Hackney Road Adelaide. ACDT lecture followed by #WCATT
- 8 April – Lecture program – 4pm – Sandalford Winery – 3210 West Swan Rd, Caversham, Swan Valley. AWST lecture followed by #WCATT
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