Strategy

We’re excited to welcome another guest post & voice to social @ edu – Denise Gardner, Penn State Extension Enologist – who offers her story about utilizing Facebook & Twitter to connect higher education to industry in her field.

I’m pretty sure that at every wine conference I attend (yes, there are such things as “wine conferences”) there are always a series of seminars/workshops on social media and how to utilize it for winery business and marketing.  However, the wine industry seems to be slightly cautious when it comes to using social media – how to use it, when to use it, why to use it.

When I started working for Penn State Extension as their state enologist, I decided immediately to implement a social media plan into my program.  Why?  Well, for one, if I was going to encourage wineries to use social media, I thought I could use my program as a firm example.  In addition, social media offers the quickest way I can reach a lot of people in a short amount of time, especially with limited resources.  And it is an amazing way to connect people.

For the most part, I use a Facebook page (“Penn State Extension Enology”) and a Twitter account (@WineNews4You) for my Extension programs.  Facebook is a great way to see what wineries throughout PA are doing on a daily or weekly basis and how they are reaching out to wine consumers.  I love the use of wine quotes, free coupons for events, competitions to enhance selling products, and updates on what is going on in the winery.  I think this really helps consumers feel like they are a “part of the brand.”  [P.S. Now is the time to go on Facebook and find your favorite wineries to follow!]

As I kind of view myself as a central hub for the wineries, linking up to all of them allows them to turn around and link to each other.  One of the greatest benefits of this process is that I think it makes businesses feel like they are a part of a greater unit – that we are all working as one team.

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A screenshot of Penn State Extension Enology Facebook Page. I use my own picture so that if people then want to link to my own Facebook account, they know I am the same person. I think this gives the program a personal touch and recognition that a person is actively involved in the program.

Additionally, Facebook allows me to send out mass messages to all of the wineries quickly.  There are now 189 wineries in Pennsylvania, so if I’m suddenly fielding 10 emails a week about the use of sulfur dioxide in the winery, I can quickly put up a post on Facebook and Twitter, and hope additional wineries will receive this important information.  I also use the Facebook page as a way to update wineries on national/global news items that I think may be of relevance to the industry here in Pennsylvania.   Additionally, it keeps wineries and consumers up-to-date on my activities – where I am in the state, what workshops I am holding, and what those workshops entail.  Furthermore, I add a lot of pictures of our research harvest project and Extension programs with hopes that this will catch interest among all the wineries.

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A screenshot of the Penn State Extension Enology Facebook Album on Harvest/Fermentation Research Project

Facebook also helps spur conversation within the industry.  For example, I’ve had several winemakers ask questions on Facebook.  While I manage the page and can correct any technical mistakes in an answer, I really enjoy the fact that other winemakers contribute their opinions and experience to the original question.  I have to agree that having more than one answer is sometimes more helpful than receiving only my answer.  And sometimes, I learn things, too.  That’s definitely a bonus!

In addition to my Facebook page, I also manage a professional Facebook account, “Denise M. Gardner.”  This is a way for me to connect to wineries, consumers, or professionals with regards to what I am tasting throughout the year.  Yes… I taste wines ALL the time.  So I use Facebook as a way to inform consumers as to what I am tasting.  Is it always Pennsylvania wine?  No.  But I do that on purpose to make sure my taste buds are fresh and avoiding palate fatigue or adaptation to Mid-Atlantic wines.  You too can befriend me today to see what it is that I am tasting.  And I promise you that you’ll be able to find some unique wine selections in all sorts of styles and price ranges!

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Consumers, wine professionals, and wineries can link up to my own personal Facebook to view my wine tastings and ratings… in addition to getting to know me a bit more!

Twitter has been helpful towards my position in that it allows me to stay readily connected to the national wine industry.  I find out a lot of west coast news through Twitter, which is essential for my position.  It gives a quick idea on what is going on out there even though I’m regionally located in the center of Pennsylvania.  If I catch a tweet that is incredibly relevant, I can then decide to invest more time into reading through an entire news article or contact some experts regarding a post.

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A screenshot of the @WineNews4You Twitter Feed that features national wine news and wine reviews. A great way to find out what is going on in the national and global wine industry.

Twitter also helped connect me to [wine] critics and wine reviewers, which has been beneficial in two ways thus far.  First, it allows me to review wines that are popular in the mass wine media.  Second, it puts more Pennsylvania wines in the critics’ Twitter streams so that they can see what we are producing here in the state.  In addition, I get opportunities to highlight Pennsylvania winery achievements that critics and “non-wine-industry-followers” get a chance to read through.  I hope these posts give them a quick reason to visit a Pennsylvania winery, try Pennsylvania wines, or at least open them up to wine tasting in general.

The key to social media, especially in a position like mine, is to get people invested in your social media programs, and this takes some real time and investment.  It can also be a real challenge for those businesses that are not in tune with social media.  How do you convince someone how useful these tools can be for their production if they hardly spend any time on the internet?  As I’m in an industry that crosses generational bridges, I often have to consider how I’m reaching my audience.  To combat this, I try advertising my Facebook and Twitter accounts on as many different media types as possible. This includes putting symbols on business cards, mass mailings, oral presentations, the Extension Enology website, and Extension Enology News ListServ.  I hope that through these outlets, more people will find the social media programs a bit more relevant to their production.

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The Penn State Extension Website featuring links to the professional Facebook and Twitter accounts. For a greater review of this website, click the image to be take to the page http://extension.psu.edu/enology

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