A few weeks ago, I was approached by Jessyca Lewis, founder of #winemktmonday, a live twitter chat on the second and fourth Monday of each month. She asked me to participate in one of the upcoming online conversations and talk about my marketing strategies and more. I was honored. Noted on her website, Jessyca shared that she is a recognized leader in the digital and social media world with an array of international clients for whom she has created, executed, and managed social media projects.
Thanks to over twenty years of experience in sales, event planning, advertising, and marketing, Jessyca speaks at universities, conferences, and events about social media, marketing, and wine. During our initial conversation, she explained how she balanced her busy schedule in order to successfully complete the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 Award.
Prior to the interview, Jessyca and I engaged in a real-life phone call (shocking!) in order to create a template for the online chat. Her energy, excitement, and expertise shone through and I’m proud to have had the opportunity to share my story with such a gregarious influencer and many others from around the world who participated in the chat.
If you have a blog (even if it’s not wine related) or if you have any endeavor for which simple marketing strategies may be necessary, I hope you find an inspirational tip or two from our conversation. Following is an edited text from our online #winemktmonday twitter chat.
Jessyca: Cindy, why did you start your wine blog?
Cindy: In the spring of 2011, I decided to learn more about wine in a systematic way. I always loved wine, but desired to explore it in more depth; I studied for and passed the WSET Level 2 classes. When a friend asked me “What’s next?” I decided to start writing about wine. Developing the style and content of Grape Experiences was a leap of faith. Who was going to read its content besides my mother? I was surprised to have a small but steady following right from the beginning. A few months after starting Grape Experiences, I decided to enroll in the WSET Level 3 program in order to enhance my wine knowledge in a more broad manner and to give my wine blog more credibility. The strategy worked. I passed the program with Merit and feel more comfortable sharing my knowledge and experiences about wine.
Jessyca: What do you generally write about and who’s your target audience?
Cindy: My target audience is those who love wine and want to learn more about it. I write about food and wine pairings, events at which I sample wine, people I meet in the wine industry, wine reviews, and my travels that pertain to wine and food. It’s exciting to have readers from around the world who appreciate my perspective. When I write a blog post, my intention is to inform, entertain, and inspire. And when someone finishes reading an article, I hope that they have at least one “take-away”, whether it’s an “ah-ha!” moment about a wine region or an “I’ve got to find this wine!” comment or “I’m going to try this recipe and wine pairing!”.
Jessyca: How do you market yourself? Do you use social media?
Cindy: Social media marketing is crucial to Grape Experiences. Twitter and Facebook are huge and effective channels for me, but Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+ deliver readers to my blog, too. Even if people aren’t clicking on the link to an article immediately, photographs and snippets of the content are visible. That “in your face” visibility is extremely important to my brand, especially a blog about wine, truly a niche subject.
Jessyca: What are your biggest successes in marketing? Who is currently reading your blog?
Cindy: I love when someone says “what’s the name of your site?” and when I tell them, the response is “I know that site” or “I’ve read it!” or, better yet, “I love reading your blog!”. I’ve won a few awards for my writing – once again, this validation of my writing from others offers a different sort of credibility and exposure. My audience is broad-based. People in the wine industry (winemakers, PR folks, sommeliers, importers, distributors, other bloggers), wine savvy consumers, wine newbies, my friends, my husband, and my mother are just a few of my consistent readers.
Jessyca: Tell us about the Wine Bloggers conference? What did you learn?
Cindy: I love going to the Wine Bloggers conference! This year it was held in Santa Rosa, California and it’s the sixth conference I’ve attended. The content was quite good this year since, among other aspects, it addressed the needs of seasoned wine writers as well as those who are just beginning their wine blogging journey. I particularly enjoyed learning about the wines of El Dorado as winemakers presented their wines at a lunch and how public relations people and wine bloggers can work effectively together at one of the seminars. The most important aspect of the conference for me, though, was beginning or solidifying my relationships with so many talented wine writers, PR people, winemakers, winery owners, and others. Putting a face with a twitter handle or email is invaluable and having a good chat with friends over a glass of wine is one of the best! Relationships matter in any successful business.
Jessyca: What is your greatest success story with wine blogging?
Cindy: Having brand recognition means so much to me. However, I love it when a winemaker or PR person compliments me on an article, tells me that the article “made a difference”, or how appreciative they are that I took the time to write such a wonderful story. This is why I try to write quality content; my blog is for people to enjoy and as I said earlier, be inspired to try a wine, visit a region, or have an “ah-ha!” moment.
Jessyca: What has been your favorite or most successful story you have written? Have you considered publishing?
Cindy: The most successful article I’ve written is one that is purely practical: storing and serving your wine. However, my readers always love stories about off-the-beaten-track wine regions such as Alentejo, Portugal, Southwestern France (the region recently won the Wine Enthusiast Wine Region of the Year for 2017), and Livermore, California (I was a finalist in the Millesima Wine Blog Awards 2017 for this article), to name just a few. Food and wine pairings are also quite successful – who doesn’t love a new recipe with a terrific wine? Publishing, however, is an exciting thought! One of my resolutions for 2018 is to pitch some article ideas to print and digital magazines…the field is chock full of talented writers, so we’ll see what happens. I’m not afraid to take another leap of faith – it certainly worked out the last time!
If interested in the topic of wine marketing, plan to check out Jessyca Lewis‘ #winemktmonday twitter chat the second and fourth Monday of each month at 9am Pacific. And Jessyca, thank you for this terrific opportunity.
Cheers! ~ Cindy