Measuring Influence in Social Media - A Case Study Women Winemakers Dinner

Metrics for Social Media is slippery business. This is the holy grail for so many trying to leverage their expertise as "Social Media Gurus". (Some people are so quick to hype themselves as "gurus", I am tempted to say SMG stands not for Social Media Guru but So Much Garbage. But that's a rant for another day.)

I don't really care about the total number of followers someone has. In fact, I think a huge number of followers is often a detriment. It all depends on your goals. I want to have connections and conversations. I want to introduce folks who might not otherwise meet. I want to invite folks to think about topics I find interesting or important. How do you converse with 2 million people? You don't.

I claim no particular higher ground in any of this, but let me offer some thoughts from a timely example. I use Twitter as a truly social tool. I try to have conversations with my followers, I don't just broadcast to them. I don't worry about the number of followers, assuming it will shake out to a reasonable number organically. I think and write and speak on a diverse number of things and love the way that Twitter has introduced me to many people with diverse interests or from a variety of walks of life. I can at any time of day or night have a conversation with someone in Australia about Japan relief efforts, or talk to a chef in California about the Mangalitza I had at Chelsea Market during D'Artganan's Duckathlon. I talk to artists about the way that Margrit Mondavi pioneered "filling those empty walls of the winery with art." I can chat up feminist friends with insights from the women winemakers I met last night and discuss the variety of career paths we have taken.

A Lovely Dinner with a Side of Missed Opportunity

Just last night I was invited to attend a Women Winemakers dinner at Rialto. At our table there were 6 guests plus one winemaker. The other tables had about 5:2 writers or industry folk to winemaker hosts. In attendance were, Margrit Mondavi from Mondavi; Susan Lueker, Senior Winemaker, Simi; Janet Myers, Dir of Winemaking, Franciscan Estate; Maureen Martin, Winemaker, Clos du Bois.

Chef Jody Adams' kitchen served up three courses and dessert paired with the wines. Passed hors d'oeuvres included focaccia with salmon and goat cheese, baccala, and fennel-scented spicy grilled shrimp. These were paired with the Franciscan Sauvignon Blanc.

First Course of Ricotta Ravioli spring peas, poppy seeds, speck.

Clos du Bois Russian River valley Calcaire Chardonnay; Franciscan Estate Cuvee Sauvage Carneros Chardonnay

Second Course: Slow roasted char farro, leeks, roasted radish.

Simi Sonoma Country Pinot Noir

Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley Pinot Noir

Entree: Tuscan style tenderloin portabella, endive, arugula salad Parmigiano Reggiano, truffle oil.

Simi Landslide Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Clos du Bois Alexander Valley Marlstone Meritage

Franciscan Estate Napa Valley Magnificat Meritage

Robert Mondavi Winery Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon

Dessert three cheeses and almond stuffed date.


The Side:

I asked immediately at the start of the program, if there were a Twitter hashtag for this event. Apparently, this had not been conveyed to the hosts or there wasn't one.

I could not stop wondering how we missed an opportunity to capitalize on this event. At our table, at least three of us were "Tweeting" instantly and throughout the dinner. Looking at the number of followers in that group alone:

Red, White, Boston (1,200); Bob Dwyer (2,600); Jonathon Alsop of Boston Wine School (400), Rich Auffrey the Passionate Foodie (3,200) and me (3,600). All told this adds up to over 10,000+ followers. Obviously there is some duplication in who we reach, but there are also unique followers to each of us. We also have unique voices and a different mix of followers giving potential in-roads and exposure to a very diverse and relevant audiences. Rialto Restaurant our host, has another 2,200 followers, one of my followers "re-tweeted" right away one of my tweets gaining exposure to another 2,100 of her followers. Another of my followers with 2,000 of her own asked if Paula from Oakville Ranch was there...

Furthermore, a hashtag (Twitter's way of marking a topic for searchability) has life beyond the duration of the event. Today, we might be Tweeting using the hashtag about last night's event. Followers who didn't see our tweets last night could find an intriguing tweet then search on that hashtagged term to see what else was being discussed, discovered, enjoyed during that meal, who was in attendance, what was served, how the pairings worked, etc.

Here's what happened, three of us Tweeted from our table. No hashtag. I got a couple of retweets, I'm sure the others did, too. Now, it's done. Over. Gone. Except for posts like this.

How it Could have Worked

Let's look at an alternative scenario.

Invitations to the evening go out. Once confirmed, the hashtag for the evening is sent in the confirmation email. Let's say we chose #WomenWine. I would immediately Tweet "So excited to attend #WomenWine event at Rialto on May 2. Who else is going?"

Others would start tweeting using that hashtag #WomenWine. A follower of mine might ask "what winemakers will be attending #WomenWine?" We would start tweeting about the wineries coming. Someone not even in this town might see it and jump into the conversation. "Oh! Had that #Simi Landslide just yesterday and LOVED it! So jealous. Tell me how you like the wine at #womenwine."

And so you see that opportunity to start a conversation that would have picked up eyeballs would have gotten rolling even before the dinner! It could leverage the money spent flying the winemakers to Boston, Chicago and where ever else they are going to capitalize on that investment and extend the reach and impact WELL beyond the few dozen diners in each city.

There are numerous ways others could have stumbled on the hashtag and topic and joined in. Maybe they are a wine blogger that none of us yet know and they posted on one of the featured wines. They might jump in and share their post.

Maybe someone is standing in their local wineshop and looking at a bottle of say, Franciscan Sauvignon Blanc so they search Twitter to see what someone might have tweeted about it. Someone in the #WomenWine conversation could well have tweeted all the wineries that might be coming, adding a hashtag for each. "excited to meet #Francisican #Simi #Mondavi #ClosduBois wine makers at #WomenWine" and then someone else could start a thread on #Franciscan.

Maybe someone else is interested in the food at Rialto, the pairings. Maybe one of my followers who knows about my newly discovered food allergies could be interested in what food was served. We could have a discussion about how well Rialto handled that issue; about the pairing of artichokes with the wine (some say it's a problematic pairing, none of us thought it was).

Some of my followers are interested in what I say about women and might've asked about THAT aspect. In fact, there was a tremendously wide-ranging discussion at our table from the demographics of wine lovers, wine buyers, wine sellers to the potential to make good wines in Massachusetts, to womens' career paths, and more. Any of those topics might've picked up additional tweets, and followers who may they have heard about the great wines we enjoyed and their histories.

A Wonderful Wine-soaked Evening

I don't wish to denigrate the fine folks who put this dinner together. I loved it! We were all very grateful for the winemakers to have made the journey East. It was a gift to enjoy these wines, in this company, to meet these winemakers and to hear their inspiring words. I was delighted to meet and chat briefly with Margrit Biever Mondavi who was SO charming and had tremendous insights and historical context for the growth of women in the business. She was enchanting.

Just this morning I was ruminating on these thoughts when I saw another conversation on Twitter bemoaning the lack of proper tools to measure influence and reach on Twitter. In fact, I think this conversation will continue and we'll bring more voices into it, more perspectives. Maybe the folks hosting this dinner didn't have broad reach and influence in mind.

From where I sit, I would want to optimize every such event. I would not invite people to such a dinner without an awareness of their Twitter reach, without a hashtag in the confirmation. I encourage a discussion about my thoughts here. Perhaps over a glass of wine. Maybe buttery but not over-oaked Chardonnay like the Calcaire Chardonnay of Clos du Bois. Or a light and lovely Franciscan Sauvignon Blanc. Or have a chat over dinner with that Simi Landslide or Sonoma Pinot Noir, or the robust and cab-like Mondavi Carneros Pinot Noir.

What do you think of Twitter as a tool? Are PR firms using it to fullest advantage? What are some creative ways you have seen it used?

If you are a PR firm hosting these types of events, I would be happy to consult with you about a social media strategy. Not saying I'm a guru, just one of the folks on Twitter trying to jump in and figure it out. Let's not miss opportunities to extend our reach. Maybe we can take the next steps together.


Ed. Note: To see further exploration of how Twitter and Hashtags can round out your exposure, reach more people, see Red, White, Boston's post on a related event. Tweeting with a hashtag started just after the dinner I write about here, and before the Tuesday event which sounds wonderful, too. Lessons in Social Media and Leadership.