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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  1. March 9, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Very cool interview! I love your style and the vibe that you’re putting out about wine, as well as social media. They’re two industries that seem to have endless potential. I think binding the two together is where it’s at, and you’re doing a great job at it! And a huge high five for your TKD skills! Cheers…

  2. Port Gardner Bay Winery
    March 9, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Really interesting!

  3. March 9, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    An interesting perspective on relying on social media exclusively

    Social networking not enough for good customer service
    Bridget Carey, Miami Herald

    We are in the age of social media arrogance. Companies are banking on Twitter and Facebook to be the saviors of their customer service and marketing. Self-appointed social media experts spend days praising each other’s success stories and validating their jobs by spewing lofty answers as to why every company needs to hire experts to manage Twitter and Facebook accounts. But are companies losing perspective? Is there more to making customers happy than counting Facebook Fans and Twitter followers? It’s a point that online marketer Tara Hunt was preaching to a packed house of 350 at last week’s Future of Web Apps conference in Miami Beach. It was a conference for entrepreneurs to learn best practices from one another. Our weekly column strives to help the business community practice good online etiquette and use social media effectively. But when you just hear about good business examples from Twitter, it can give a false impression that Twitter alone can save your sales numbers. The truth is, balance between real world and online solutions is key. Hunt’s 15-minute talk gave know-it-all social media marketers in the room a refreshing dose of humble pie. Social media is a Band-Aid — not a solution. You can’t simply say you can lower complaints and improve satisfaction by hiring someone to manage a Twitter account. One of Hunt’s prime examples is the often-lauded ComcastCares Twitter account. I’m the first to say it’s a great example of how to use Twitter to help people who are voicing complaints. But if there are enough customer complaints to keep this guy busy all day — and enough that Comcast has several more people doing that job — perhaps there’s another problem that needs addressing. If Comcast fixed its problems, several people wouldn’t need to do that job, Hunt said. Cable companies are not exactly known for being the greatest at customer service, so it wasn’t a surprise she also criticized Rogers Communications, a Canadian telecom and cable company. At Rogers, she couldn’t reach a customer service representative over the phone, but there were six Twitter accounts to respond to her complaints online. “Instead of hiring people for Twitter, why not trying hiring people to answer your freakin’ phones?” Hunt said. Lisa Barone, co-founder and chief branding officer of Outspoken Media, based in Spring Hill, Fla., has been getting buzz this week from her blog post with a similar point: People need to plant branding seeds in more places than Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Continue your company blog. Keep doing an e-mail newsletter. Because what will you do when Twitter isn’t around? “I talk to small-business owners every day who have a Facebook and Twitter account but that don’t have a website,” Barone wrote. “I read tweets from people about how they’ve stopped blogging because now they have Twitter and it’s `so much easier’ to talk to people.” Barone’s and Hunt’s views are something every marketer should hear. In this world where social media do have high importance, we shouldn’t toss other solutions to the side.

  4. May 2, 2010 at 6:58 am

    Does the wine tasting ever go hand-in-hand with the piloting of airplanes, or the SCUBA diving? Because that would rock! 🙂

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