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Archive for March, 2010

Who is Seattle Wine Gal? Interview With Sacre Bleu

All Content Belongs to Barbara Evans. Into and interview questions written and conducted by Sacre Bleu

The tale of anyone who manages to map their way back from distress or misfortune seems always worth repeating.  We love the comeback story, the person who in spite of whatever crap got dumped into their life just didn’t see failure as an acceptable option.  They played it out.  That’s Barbara Evans, or as many of us have come to know her, Seattle Wine Gal.

Seattle Wine Gal is the Twitter name and emerging brand that is becoming a sort of Internet/Wine pop culture phenomenon.  Her number of followers, in a very short period, has sprung to almost 5000 and her web site look and content could be best described as guerilla minimalist.  It is at once both substantive and irreverent with no shortage of attitude and charisma.

Evan’s is a study in survivor strategy and balls out determination.  From a childhood depression and a learning disability comes a young woman with 7 years of TaeKwonDo experience at traveling tournament team level, roller derby girl, MA is Social Anthropology, aviation and pilot training with a final touch down as social media advocate/wine babe.  In short, she’s one of the important faces helping transform the ever youthful wine landscape.  Our interview with her comes at a time when her work load and popularity are growing rapidly.

When you look back to when you first began enjoying wine, did you ever have a eureka or Sacre Bleu! type moment where you realized wine was really special and what was the wine that came with that moment?

People love asking wine lovers “what was the bottle that turned you into an enthusiast”. Many wine lovers think up some super expensive First Growth Bordeaux or fine Champagne as the bottle that ‘did it’ for them… don’t believe them! I have asked this question to hundreds of people, and after some coaxing have learned that most wine enthusiasts discovered that wine was special when they bumped the price point from $8 to $12! I believe there are scads of “eureka” moments in a wine lovers life, all which make it more difficult to go back to that $8 bottle. As for me, I used to drink boxed wine. After “splurging” on a $15 of Tempranillo, I couldn’t drink the boxed wine anymore. My second Eureka moment came when someone bought me a bottle of 1999 Sanford Pinot Noir. After that I began working at a wine shop, attending seminars, and eventually traveled the world in the pursuit of wine!

You’ve managed to overcome a great deal in your life. The journey from young girl with a learning disability to licensed pilot, SCUBA certification and ultra marathon runner with an MA in Social Anthropology isn’t typical. What is it that burns inside you as motivation?

Yes, my past surprises people. I openly admit to having had a rough adolescence. I had severe depression and behavioral problems, which led me to “special kid” classes/schools, learning disabilities, and other problems which I will not mention (but thankfully overcame). I have always tried to keep my head above water and be a good kid who got good grades. To get a B, I tried a hundred times harder than many of the A students. After years of struggling to keep up, I developed an unintentional, systematic hyper drive sense of motivation. As life got easier, the hyper drive that barely kept my head above water started propelling me above and beyond. I guess I never really noticed (and still don’t) where this unique inner flame to push life to the limits leads me.

What is it about the integration of social media with wine that brings you to this level of passion and fun that you chose to carve out a career in it.

I never intended to start a business after ‘creating’ Seattle Wine Gal. One Year ago, I worked for a large online retail company. I created and managed their Social Media program. I was given no resources to learn how to create a winning campaign, and I had no background in business. I poured my own money into educating myself and spent hours and hours of my own time mastering SEO, analytics, and basic platform tech skills for this campaign. Just as I began to see real success, and a positive Return On Investment, I was let go due to a merger with another company. It was then that I decided to push the limits with what I learned. I created Seattle Wine Gal as an experiment. Everything that I wanted to do working for corporate, but was not ‘allowed’ to, I did with Seattle Wine Gal (from dropping the F bomb occasionally in my tweets, to pics of me guzzling expensive wine out of the bottle on my Facebook page). I found that people were tired of the same old ‘wine review’ style wine bloggers, and drawn to my style. Along the way I began to see the wine industry struggling to tap into one of the most sought after customer demographics right now… young wine drinkers! Wine makers and shop owners, as well as Seattle restaurants began calling on me to help them with their Social Media. Trading my know-how for wine and food wasn’t paying the bills, so I started my own business BeRealTime and do business as Seattle Wine Gal.

Do you believe that social media will reach it’s true potential in terms of engaging consumers with products? At least in the wine world it seems that so much social media bandwidth is spent with company’s and brands engaging each other more often than the consumer.

Yes, there is a very fast shift from traditional marketing to social media marketing right now, and there is no sign that it will ever go backwards. This seems to be very scary for the wine industry. They know that they need to get involved, but have no idea how or why. I see a lot of heal dragging, but I also see just as many people adopting these new marketing tactics.

As a company, it is very easy to get caught up in only engaging online with other companies like your own. To maximize Social Media efforts, businesses need to be dialed into their target audience i.e. their potential clientele. Extend your reach, find new people, and always be other focused. No one likes a product pusher (snore). I strongly advise business owners to get on board as quickly as possible. You get what you give; dedicate some time and effort to Social Media… the return on investment may shock you!

You’ve opted for a minimalist look for your site and turned away the recommendations of some who have urged you to upgrade its look. Why do you resist those urgings?

Part of this marketing shift I spoke of above is a consumer appreciation for raw, gritty, human presentation. People are tired of high production values and clean shiny print ads. At the same time Reality TV became popular, so too did reality marketing. It’s all about content. I am going to create a webpage soon (using zero dollars), but ultimately feel that it is completely unnecessary. I also feel webpage’s them selves, and text blogs (no offense) are beginning to lose interest and will fail to capture consumer attention. I am focusing my efforts more on video, and just started a fun new Youtube channel. For businesses too busy to write text blogs, I highly recommend getting into video. It’s easier and is the direction Social Media Marketing is headed! As for webpages, they are like a business card- a completely stagnant advert unless you work to bring it to life (badges to your YouTube channel, Twitter, Facebook etc). The new target audience is more likely to find your Facebook or Twitter page than your website.


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Social Media in the Wine Industry… You on Twitter yet? #WAMerlot

You’re invited to the largest simultaneous online Washington Wine tasting event ever (well at least that we know of). Gaining inspiration from Rick Bakas’ #CaliCabs event (and the upcoming #SauvBlanc event on March 4), a group of Washington wine writers and bloggers are hosting a national #WAMerlot taste and tweet.

RSVP for the Event at http://wamerlot.eventbrite.com

Join us Thursday, March 25 from 5 – 7 PM (PST)

Participation is simple – Find a Washington Merlot, open the bottle, drink it and tweet about it using the #WAMerlot hashtag. Using a program like TweetDeck will make participation easier (see the video on the upper right of this page).

Can’t find WAMerlot? Fear not, a special collaboration with Wine Library brings you three choices in various price ranges. Buy one or buy all three. Click the image below to see the killer deals Gary Vaynerchuk and team put togther for us!

Are you a Washington Winery? Click here for details on how YOU can make this an effective event for you!

Why Merlot? This is not a screw Sideways and shaft Miles event. This is an event to celebrate a wine variety that helped put Washington on the map. Previously I asked the question, “Which one grape best defines Washington?” The challenge, many grapes grow well and thrive in the various climates of the state. Along with smooth and rich Merlot, Washington is known for big Cabernet Sauvignon, bold Syrah, richly crafted Chardonnay, inspiring Riesling and more. With 122 votes, the outcome is below. While Merlot may not be the clear winner, it is more widely planted and more wineries across the state feature a Merlot or a predominant Merlot blend. Over the next four week’s leading up to #WAMerlot, I’ll feature a special segment on Merlot!

This event is co-sponsored by some great people on Twitter:

@seattlewinegal, @wawinereport, @nwwineandre @shona425 @wineeyak @yakimavalley @lunabeanmedia @winebeerwa @catie @walla2winewoman

Drink Happy!

*Content taken from http://www.drinknectar.com with permission and was written by Josh Wade @nectarwine