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Inside the Head of The Owner of A 9,000 Bottle Wine Collection!

An Interview With Cliff Chung, Owner of One of Seattle’s MEGA Wine Collections

* See Below for Information Regarding How YOU Can Purchase Some of Cliff’s Collection at a GREAT Discount!

I have known wine makers, Sommeliers, Master Sommeliers, Certified Wine Educators, General Managers/owners of 5 star dining establishments, and pretty much anyone I could introduce myself to in the wine industry. The inter-workings of the industry are very well known to me. What is not, however, is the consumer side of wine. Sure, I know people who have beautiful collections, fine dining parties, and even some who sip Cristal with lunch like it’s water (though I have yet to be invited along). What I have never tapped into until now, however, is the deepest layer of consumer that can be found. I call it Obsessive Collective Disorder (OCD), and I finally got to meet a fellow who’s been hit by the bug! While many of us in the industry are completely enamored by them and their very mysterious existence, the normies may consider them over the top, and just plain eccentric.

*Email Cliff at cfchung@comcast.net for Information About the part of His Collection He Is Selling!

Thank You Purple Cafe And Wine Bar in Seattle

A Few Quotes I collected From Cliff After The Interview:

“From the mid 2000’s till 2009 I bought 95% of my wine from Garagistewine.com, after a friend recommened I check out it’s website. I did and was hooked after that. So now I have about 9000 bottles, 3400 of which were purchased fro Garagiste over the last 4 years”.

“I buy bang for the buck wines that can age. I didn’t but to be a collector, but a drinker and sharer of wine. People point out that I can’t drink all that wine, but when i past on, someone will inherit a nice stash of wine”.

“People drink wine too early and too fast at meals. We look for instant gratification. Open the wine, especially reds an hour or two before the meal, decant if needed, pour into a glass to let it breathe, sip while you cook and notice how the wine flavors and aroma evolve”.

“Make friends with the venues that sell wine. Some local food stores have great discounts available”.

“There is a glut of wine out there. Many bargains to be found. And winemakers throughtout the world are getting better at making good to great wine at good prices”.
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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.


Real Life Social Media Success: The Influence of a Great Campaign

February 8, 2010 10 comments

Sorbet at Russells Dining (@RussellsDining) in Bothell, WA

Picture this scene. I’m in a gorgeous restaurant (that I frequent often) on a date with my snookems. We were dining fireside, great wine, nice shoes… the works. Before I go further, I digress a bit… I tend to have a one track mind and bore the hell out of him with Social Media talk, so on the way to the restaurant I mentioned something about having a Social Media and Seattle Wine Gal free dinner. I will tell you now that it was NOT an evening void of Seattle Wine Gal, and here’s why.

[Keep in mind how this directly relates to the real power of influence that exists within the walls of Social Media].

We were talking about an upcoming trip possibility and how we can go about it since we have a new puppy when I was interrupted mid sentence and told by him that someone in the restaurant was talking about “Seattle Wine Gal”. We both listened quietly and finally spotted the table of 6 who were enjoying a bottle of one of my favorite wines a few tables away. Phones all out in a tweet-friendly position, one of the gents was saying: “Seattle Wine Gal highly recommends this place. She’s become one of Seattle’s prominent tweeters and has awesome recommendations for wine and cool events.” I phased out and let them have their privacy back, but I did notice my name come up again a few times later that night. I must also mention that the wine they had ordered was a wine I recommended last week on Twitter.

Now folks, it is imperative that you know that I am not writing this to ‘toot my horn’. I was literally SHOCKED to hear this, and didn’t quite know if I liked the little bit of notoriety. It really did, however, get me thinking a lot about spreading a message through Social Media platforms such as twitter and Facebook, and how very powerful it can be if done well and with honesty and enthusiasm.

I have worked with many restaurants, wine shops and wineries to help them get on the Social Media Map. I am sure to check in with them up to 6 months afterward to see how their campaign is influencing business. They have all reported super positive things, and I can see just how well their campaigns are developing.

I am having an absolute blast with Seattle Wine gal, and meeting so many new and great people as a result. I did not set up this persona to make money, but I have been offered countless job opportunities, free event tickets, meals, wine etc. as a result. I sometimes feel that I am sitting on a gold mine of sorts. The fact of the matter is that everyone has the same opportunity to be doing so.

Thanks for letting me share this thought with you. Please contact me at Contact@SeattleWineGal.com if you have any questions, or would like to touch base about your own Social Media Efforts and how I can possibly help you.

Thanks all for the support folks, I truly appreciate it.

-Seattle Wine Gal

Free Wine for Tweets: Bribery, or Clever Use of Social Media Marketing?

January 8, 2010 30 comments

Will Trade Wine for Twitter Mentions.

I received this email this morning. As an Interactive Internet Marketer, I thought it to be a great use of  Twitter for Social Media Marketing (and quite common methodology actually). Upon further thought, however, I realized that it is just as easily can be seen as a bribe. Here is what the email read. *All names and wineries have been changed to non-existent names [with quotes], but the content remains exactly the same.

I wanted to pop you a quick note to invite you to an exclusive Live Tasting Tweet-Up with [Red Wine Winery].  The event is hosted by [Super Cool Online Buying Wine Company] and will take place January X at 6:00 p.m. EST.

As a participant, you will have the opportunity to sample 3 bottles of [Red Wine Winery’s wine], which we will mail to you before the tasting.

To keep things flowing and lively during the Tweet-up we recommend the following:

  • Tweet about the event four times during course of event
  • Tweet twice prior and twice following
  • Use a designated hashtag in your Tweets:  #Super Cool Online Buying Wine Company

If you’d like to participate, please confirm and provide an appropriate shipping address by January x.

Don’t hesitate to let us know if you need any additional information or have any suggestions on how we can keep things going during the Tweet-up.

Thank you. All the best, [Mike]

Last year, as Director of Social Media for an online retail company, I sent ‘free’ samples all of the time in trade for reviews and never thought of its potentially unethical merits. Now I wonder: Is there a way of doing Social Media Marketing to it’s fullest extent without giving free products in exchange for online recognition? Is this ethical? Am I being bribed, or simply offered a great chance to taste wine and let other know what I think?

PLEASE COMMENT!

Note to Wineries: if you would like for me to tweet/blog/Facebook about your wine, please send bottles to Seattle Wine Gal P.O. Box….. Just kidding!

All Content Written by Seattle Wine Gal.

Social Media for the Wine Industry: How Important is Your Follower Count?

January 4, 2010 20 comments

Social Media for the Wine Industry: How Important is Your Follower Count?

I’m going to skip the quality over quantity banter for a second here and answer this question truthfully as I see it. YES, your number of followers on Twitter, Facebook, your blog subscribers etc. IS important if you are attempting to use Social Media for business. Here are a few reasons why.

1. As controversial as this can be in the world of Social Media junkies like myself, a higher number of followers DOES give you more clout. Not everyone is impressed by someone on Twitter with 15,000 followers (for reasons I will discuss below). I assure you, however, that the number is glanced at by most people who pop onto your page, and (at least part of) your ‘tweet worth’ is assessed instantly. This is done even by people like myself, who feel that engagement is second to nothing, and that large quantities of followers may say nothing about the quality of the posts and the postees ability to entertain/teach/engage me.

2. The second reason that a higher follower count is important is that if you amass your followers carefully and in the right places, a larger number of followers will spread your message further. Obviously, from a business perspective, this raises your chances of reaching new clientele by increasing your visibility. I must caution you that the more followers you have, the more work you will have to do to keep the beach ball floating over the crowd while letting everyone get a hit at it. Keep focused on your goals and strategy to increase your chances of being able to manage a larger following. Don’t ‘drop the ball’ on other peoples attempts to engage with you- answer people’s RT’s, posts, and emails, and do so as publicly as possible.

Getting back to Quality over Quantity. I DO feel strongly that posting messages to 15,000 followers who don’t care is pointless. It is extremely important to target ‘follower growth’ efforts towards people who want to hear your message, and may ultimately purchase your product. There is no point in seeking out a taxidermist in Hong Hong when you sell wine in Woodinville, WA. While I would ‘follow’ the taxidermist back, I would not ‘look’ for him. I recommend focusing your efforts first in your own backyard.

How to create a strong, quality following. While I could delve deep and start getting into cross posts, link-backs and pings, social bookmarking and even SEO visibility, I will instead offer you a very do-able Social Media 101 Twitter, Facebook, and blog subscription tip: Seek out and Follow the followers of people like you, follow people who live in the demographic of your business, do key word searches for people who may be interested in what you have to say; follow these people and engage with them. Following is so important because many of the people you reach out to and follow WILL follow you back.*

How to manage that goofy looking unbalanced number of followers/followees on Twitter? Check out Twitter applications such as TwitterKarma or FriendorFollow to un-follow people who do not follow you back.

Now go raise your follower count with a target audience in mind, and plans to engage and listen to them and you are a step closer to business success within Social Media.

If you would like to create a strong and effective Social Media Campaign and live in the Seattle area, please contact me. I am not a contractor, I do one on one sit-down appointments with people in exchange for wine or food! Also, Get on My Radar Screen!

Email: contact@seattlewinegal.com

*There is so much subjectivity within Social Media, and so many varying ideas. I encourage you to listen to other forms of methodology to find the one that fits best for you and your goals. This is just one of many ways of “doing Social Media”.

All Content Written by: Seattle Wine Gal

THE Most Important Social Media Marketing Business Strategy: Be Authentic

December 27, 2009 15 comments

Like most small business owners and “self- branders”, I used to have the wrong idea about how to ‘use’ Social Media.

Are you a wine shop owner or winery looking to add Social Media to your Marketing campaign? One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to focus solely on an increase in bottom line sales and conversion rates. Here is what happened to change my thinking, and why you should change yours now.

I ran a Social Media Campaign for a large international online retail fertility supplies corporation. I adopted the persona of @FertilAidAmy, the infertility world’s online source of trusted and accurate infertility information (having attained a degree in Women Studies and health, I was actually a legitimate trustworthy source of information). I will be frank with you. The number one goal we had as a company was to use Social Media to increase bottom line sales. Is this a bad thing? No, not at all; most companies are using Social Media for just that reason. It’s not so much about why you’re doing it, it’s how you go about it.

As FertilAid Amy, I slowly built a community, employed clever tactics to increase clicks on our website (and conversion rates), used coupons, contests and games to engage people, and ultimately increased bottom-lines sales quite significantly.

Here’s what I never bargained for, and what I realized the moment we saw this campaign become truly successful: I began to really, truly care. I was involved in the lives of the people in my online community, well beyond just trying to sell them stuff. I established trust, create a raport and gained a huge following for the simple reason that I began to honestly care and love my ‘target audience’ as real people, and friends. I believe that this reality was ‘sensed’ by my community, and this was the moment the campaign began to thrive. All of my aforementioned goals of bottom line sales etc. began to increase. I was being rewarded for being authentic, and my reason for doing Social Media began to change. I went from a sales person to a friend and trusted source of information, both seemingly and in reality.

When done well, the lines between Social Media done for profit and done because you care will begin to blur.

You may be asking yourself what is the intent behind Seattle Wine Gal? I am in no way going to mask the reality of my reasons for starting this Social Media presence. My Seattle Wine Gal campaign (using my love of wine) was originally intended to show future employers the level of Social Media engagement I am capable of. The moment I began to truly care for the people in the community I am engaging in, and my campaign shifted from ‘putting myself on the map’, to meeting new like-minded people, and creating real, true friendships, was the moment I realized that Seattle Wine Gal was a success. I do not feel like the timing was coincidental.

Be Authentic, create REAL friendships and connections, engage, stop trying to sell stuff (or at least do it in a more elegant way), Go beyond your business sense and enter an arena of mutual respect and care.

Start Giving a Damn… you will be amazed by the ‘results’, and the shift in how you view your clientele and the Social Media Community you created.

-Seattle Wine Gal

Social Media Marketing Strategy for Wineries: People Will Listen if You Have Something Worth Saying

December 15, 2009 12 comments

If You Build It, They Will Follow. Do not attempt Social Media Marketing without having a clear strategy in mind! There are many facets of good strategy: setting goals within Social Media; how to go about achieving goals, and what to offer in return for customer/potential customer interest and loyalty. This post is about offering something in return for interest, loyalty, and appreciation.

Blogging about, Tweeting about, and making Facebook posts about your latest wine deals etc. will not build your Social Media community. Yes, you should use these to your advantage within the space, but do it with some finesse and thought. Engagement is key. Get creative, listen to people, offer clever incentives to get people into your tasting room. Above all, have a very specific niche and stick with it.

Let me explain what I mean by ‘specific niche’:

Without a consistent theme of your posts and Tweets, you will confuse people and lose their interest. The wrongful assumption is that you need to type up a blue streak about you you you. Telling people about the latest deals, a new vintage release, awards won etc. tends to interest people who are already a customer of your winery or shop more than potential clientele. The idea of Social Media Marketing is to extend your fan base, and get new people into your tasting room, while also engaging existing customers. I recommend creatively incorporating your wine deals and releases etc. into your well thought strategy.

Here are some examples of potential thematic niches that a wine shop or winery could adopt:

JoeShmoe Wine Cellars: Offering you excellent food and wine pairing ideas, for free!

Seattle Wine Shop: Your source of information for the newest and most unique wines available in the area.

Barbara Evans Winery: 101 wine tasting advice for the beginner enthusiast.

After coming up with this element of your strategy, i.e. what you can offer, stick with the plan. Gently and creatively incorporate your promos and events through this medium.

Please comment below and let me know what you think! I wish you luck and hope that this was helpful in your new or existing Social Media endeavors.

All Content Written By Seattle Wine Gal/ Barbara Evans