Why We Need to Drop The Word "Media" From The Term "Social Media"

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By Stephen Mitchell, Co-founder, Elemental Meme

Social media is the topic of many

conversations in the wine industry and the biggest question that most wine marketers want answered is, "What is the ROI of social media?” Perhaps the bigger question that needs to be asked first is whether or not wine marketing via social media is being done acceptably or well. Joe Roberts, aka 1WineDude, framed the question rather astutely in a recent blog post: "Not seeing ROI on your social media play? Riddle me this, wine-man: is it more likely that social media surely work, or could it be more likely that the story you’re telling on social media sucks and therefore it’s not selling?"

Before trying to assess social media’s contribution to the bottom line, let’s ask a different question: "Are we doing social media correctly?" When you examine most wine brands current social media efforts, you find constant streams of canned marketing content, similar messaging and a one-way flow of broadcasted pablum. This approach is a clue to the biggest problem for so many social media marketing efforts: social media platforms are not being used to be social, they're being used to proselytize brand messages. (Insert drum roll here) I have a bold proposition. Let’s drop the word "media" from the term social media and repurpose our efforts to being simply social.

Dictionary.com defines media as "the means of communication, as radio and television, newspapers, and magazines, that reach or influence people widely." The Oxford Dictionary defines media as "The main means of mass communication (especially television, radio, newspapers, and the Internet) regarded collectively. "Both definitions suggest that communications are designed to be one-way and to reach the broadest number of people possible. As a word, media has its origins in the field of advertising established over 70 year ago and is solidly associated with one-way mass communication. Social media is not about mass communication; social media is about being social.

The mass communication/marketing paradigm is predicated on the basic marketing idea of selling the most goods to the largest common denominator of customers through the tools of mass media (TV, radio, newspapers and magazines). However, as current senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Frito-Lays, Anindita Mukherjee noted in March of 2014, "Mass marketing no longer resonates with today's consumer and it must be replaced by one-on-one marketing with dedicated focus on pre-shop behavior."

The days of the one-way brand monologue are over. Enter the age of the social conversation. And yet, while marketers continue to wonder why few people engage with their content and question the ROI of social media, they fail to realize that their social media programs aren't working because they are fundamentally off track. And, they're off track because they are failing to realize that social media isn't about pumping out marketing messages. Online conversations are about creating a connection, listening to and conversing with consumers, some of whom will have the greatest propensity to become your brand advocates and share their passion with others about things that are relevant to them. That's why it's called "social".

Of course, the wine industry is not the only industry that isn't getting social media right. In June of 2014, Kevin Evers wrote in a post on the Harvard Business Review blog: "Advertisers and marketers are all over social media because they think that sites such as Facebook and Twitter provide a direct link to customers. Yet, according to a new Gallup study, social media isn’t even close to being the persuasive force that companies think it is. Get this: 62% of adults report that social media ads have zero impact on their decisions. Zero. And users who like or follow a company aren’t that engaged either. So why the low impact? Companies are doing social media wrong. Instead of connecting with people and starting conversations, a lot of companies are participating in one-way conversations — and, as the sobering Gallup numbers suggest, this a big mistake."

Clearly, the missed opportunity effects all industries trying to reach consumers. However, the wine industry is strongly impacted because wine is inherently a social product. People love to talk about wine and they're doing it online in a big way. Paul Mabray of Vintank says that his company tracks 2-2.5 million online conversations about wine every day. Those of us who spend a great deal of time monitoring or being actively involved in some of these conversations know that what can result is much more than idle brand mentions. People are passionate about wine and their passion shows in communication with others whether they buy a five-dollar bottle of white zinfandel or a $500 bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. And guess what? The online wine community is incredibly welcoming and warm to wine brands and their advocates if they engage in genuine on-line conversations and actually are social.

So, before we start asking about the ROI of social media in wine marketing, let's first drop the word "media" from our marketing vocabularies and focus on being more social. Because a discussion of the ROI of online campaigns won’t yield meaningful results until we do.

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