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An analysis of the 2009 Wine Bloggers’ Conference

by TrevR on July 27, 2009

For those of you who are unaware, this weekend marked the 2nd Annual North American Wine Bloggers’ Conference.

This year’s event was held in both Napa and Sonoma and was decidedly larger than last year’s inaugural event.

While we were unable to attend (for a variety of reasons), that didn’t stop us from following along with the festivities online. We also conducted a quick analysis of the event, which you can browse through below.

A name change for the 2010 event?
In examining the social media buzz around this year’s event, one thing became readily apparent: the name for next year’s conference has to change–from wine bloggers’ to wine Twitterers’. The reason?

From Thursday (7/23) – Sunday (7/26), there were some 1,281 total social media mentions of key terms associated with the 2009 Wine Bloggers’ Conference. Of the 1,281 total mentions, a whopping 88.7% were found on Twitter (a total of 1,136), with just a little over 8% appearing on blogs (111 total).

WBC 2009 by medium

Clearly, those in attendance have adopted Twitter in a big, big way–and for good reason. Twitter is designed to allow you to publish quick messages to a wide audience vs. having to write long, thoughtful blog posts. From those 1,124 Tweets, a total of 1,539,239 Followers were reached. Pretty impressive, don’t you think?

Hardy Wallace vs. Rick Bakas
Anyone who’s been following the wine industry will know who Hardy Wallace and Rick Bakas are. For those who haven’t, Hardy Wallace (aka goodetobefirst aka Dirty South Wine) is the person who won Murphy-Goode’s ‘A Really Goode Job‘ contest.

Rick Bakas (personal website here) was also a contender for the Really Goode Job, but wound up being hired by Napa Valley’s St. Supery Winery as Director of Social Media Marketing after not making it to the final round of the Murphy-Goode contest.

Clearly, both gentleman should have been quite buzz-worthy at the 2009 Wine Bloggers’ Conference, right?

Hardy Wallace vs Rick Bakas

Surprisingly, according to our findings, Hardy Wallace made just a blip during the event, despite the fact he won a contest that received a ridiculous amount of hype from both the blogosphere and mainstream media.

While Bakas (29 mentions) and St. Supery were busy engaging the attending wine bloggers via scavenger hunts and on-site tastings, Wallace (12 mentions) was hanging out with Murphy-Goode winemaker Dave Ready Jr. doing the talk show circuit.

Certainly illustrates two divergent strategies, doesn’t it? On one hand, a social media director was busy engaging directly with others in the social media world, while another (official title is ‘lifestyle correspondent’) spent his time talking to traditional media.

It’ll be interesting to watch where Bakas and Wallace take their respective employers from here…

Napa Valley vs. Sonoma
This year’s event was hosted by Northern California’s two premiere wine growing regions, the Napa and Sonoma Valley’s. So which of the two received more mentions from those attending the conference?

Napa vs Sonoma

Based on our analysis, the Napa Valley was the more buzz-worthy of the two, receiving a total of 192 mentions to Sonoma’s 151. All told though, it was quite close and both regions clearly benefited from their participation.

Which Napa Valley wineries fared the best?
The 2008 event, which was also in Northern California, saw pretty much zero participation by local Napa Valley businesses/wineries. This was absolutely absurd. In 2009, things were much different, with Napa Valley wineries hosting an entire day (Saurday, 7/25) of the event.

So, which local wineries were able to generate the most buzz?

Napa Valley wineries

All told, here’s how six local wineries stacked-up:

So there you have it, another Wine Bloggers’ Conference in the books and we likely have more questions now than we do answers. Until next year…

[techtags: Napa, Napa Valley, wine, winery, 2009 Wine Bloggers' Conference, Sonoma, WBC09, #wbc09, Murphy-Goode, A Really Goode Job, Hardy Wallace, Rick Bakas, St. Supery]

About the Author

has written 716 posts on The Cork Board. He was born and aged in the Napa Valley and has a passion for wine, writing and social media, which led him to co-found this blog in early 2007. Follow him on Twitter @TrevR.

  • alexandrawes

    Had a blast from Day 1! Was nice to hear Tom Wark as well but Rick Bakas was full of knowledge that left me well educated. Too bad my bottle of Faust got robbed from me at the SFO airport!

  • http://www.dirtysouthwine.com/ Hardy Wallace

    Hola from the red-eye (SFO to ATL)

    You make the opportunity to grab a 4 min slot to communicate the Murphy-Goode winery (and Sonoma) to 5 million of viewers on live TV sound like a terrible thing. Any winery (especially now) would jump at that opportunity.

    What got us on Fox? Use of Social Media. Apart from the obvious, what else did that appearance do? Generate content that was then blasted all over Social Media. This is a grand slam! The Murphy-Goode and Sonoma message reached approximately 5 million people on air, and then the Fox link was tweeted, RT'd, blogged, and posted on facebook more than 50x. All that and the only part that I missed of WBC09 was a 45min bus ride to the CIA (There were 3 other Murphy-Goode / Jackson-Family employees on those buses).

    Am I missing something?

    How did you pull your Rick and Hardy stats? I lost count at 70+ mentions from the WBC09 which is a lot higher than either number you have there. I'm sure Rick's count is higher than 27 too. I got a ton just by being a panelist on the future of video blogging.

    One place where we both agree– It is very important that we measure the success of Social Media. But I think it is equally important as to what and how we measure…

    On a side note, Rick is a friend of mine and he kicks serious a**!!!!!

  • Vinquisition

    The stats seem quite slim compared to following the tweets throughout the conference. I suspect whatever tool you used to compile the numbers missed a lot of what was going on.

    From my memory, both Spann and Spring Mountain Vineyard had at least 10 mentions. There were more that escape me right now.

  • Shana Ray

    Great stats on the conference. Thanks! I think it is fitting that since most of us have met on Twitter that it is the vehicle that we still use to connect with each other.

    This also shows that while wine blogging may not be followed as much as, let's say, food blogging – The potential to get the word out is still there. It just exists on Twitter.

    As for Sonoma vs. Napa, did you take into account @InsideSonoma vs. @NapaVinters or just mentions of the two counties? Just curious.

  • TrevR

    First off, I wanted to say thanks to everyone for all the comments and questions left both here on the blog as well as those sent in via email.

    I also wanted to clarify a couple things to start:

    The post wasn't meant to be an end-all, be-all report on WBC09 social media buzz, but rather a snapshot of the conversation as of late afternoon Sunday (we pulled the data around 3pm PT on Sunday afternoon). All told, we setup more than 15 separate keywords/phrases (including #WBC09) to capture the bulk of the conversation that was happening. The tool we used to get this data examined blogs, Twitter/FriendFeed, online message boards/forums, video sharing sites and photo sharing sites (note: social networks, a la Facebook, were NOT included).

    That said, we'll leave the full, comprehensive analysis of social media buzz from the conference to the experts at Cruvee, etc. (sure hoping they do something along these lines in the near future, otherwise, seems like a major missed opportunity).

    Hardy–we weren't making any type of judgment about going on Fox News, but rather just wanted to highlight a clear differentiation in strategy between the Murphy-Goode approach and St. Supery's approach.

    Shana–great points about Twitter and wine blogging in general. It certainly is interesting to see how this all played out. As for the Sonoma vs. Napa data, we actually ran separate searches (against the 15+ keywords/phrases mentioned above) for “Sonoma” or “Sonoma Valley” and “Napa” or “Napa Valley”.

    Hope that helps clarify things a bit, please keep the feedback coming!

    Cheers,
    TrevR

  • http://twitter.com/spiritandwine Mark Buckley

    Well I think the Wine Blogger Conference was a huge success. There were some mishaps along the way, i.e. huge wireless failure on Friday at the Flamingo and some of the busses getting lost in Napa on Saturday. Overall it was a great connection of people that only meet in twitter/facebook land. There was great conversation that didn't make it on to Twitter. I think in the subsequent weeks you will see the bloggers file official posts and blogs about their experiences, but Twitter made sense as a “live blogging” tool during the conference. To expect people to update there blog while watching keynotes and tastings is a little unrealistic. My take home, as my first time attending, was that we all got to bond as a group and comeup with great ideas for the future. There were definitely some folks “Pitching” there programs or platform, particularly on Friday night (I won't mention names) I also think, that if you want a more accurate analysis you should have been in attendance. You can follow on twitter and Facebook, but that doesn't give you the full picture of the weekend. Basically, we were treated like Royalty. Bloggers are finally getting full respect. Napa pulled out all the stops during Saturday and probably overshadowed Sonoma in doing so. Many wineries are realizing that we matter to their success and want to cultivate us as tools to making connections and sales in this tough economy. Perhaps next year they will add a full day so that Sonoma can get full representation, although Sunday was the Drycreek Vineyard walks, which were awesome. But it will have to wait as Walla Walla, Washington is the next stop on this train.
    Hopefully, more stats and reviews and “real blogs” will post before to long so people can get the real inside scoop on the affair.
    Happy Blogging!
    Mark

  • http://twitter.com/spiritandwine Mark Buckley

    Good comments Hardy! Its funny how they frame it as a competition between you and Rick to see who tweets the most… Perhaps you and the rest of us bloggers were actually paying more attention to the speakers and winemakers… gee, that's a thought… Rockon with your Goode job!

  • Casey

    Bit of context re: the blog vs. twitter use for those that didn't attend — there were wifi connection challenges at the conference center throughout much of the event there, so many turned to their phones and twitter for communicating. Similar effect during the Saturday afternoon events throughout the Napa Valley, as there was not wifi access the immediate way to get the word out was via twitter SMS/apps.

    (Yes, a subset of attendees may have had 3G access for their iPhones, but between participating in the live events and interacting with the twitter conversations, even their focus shifted to microblogging on the fly. The longer form, reflective blog posts will come. twitter just enabled the quick reactions and live engagement.

  • http://twitter.com/oenoblog Ryan Reichert

    I lost my bottle too!!!

  • http://www.dirtysouthwine.com/ Hardy Wallace

    Trevr,

    Fox News is not a clear differentiation in strategy- If they call you up and you can reach 5 million people for free– you go. That's common sense. If you can use that opportunity to provide social media content, that's Kung-Foo. If you can do that with only missing a 45min bus ride… that's supersonic.

    Here are some search terms that you may have missed– There are 15-20 pages of tweets to analyze.

    http://search.twitter.com/search?q=%23wbc09+Har
    http://search.twitter.com/search?q=%23wbc09+dir
    http://search.twitter.com/search?q=%23wbc09+Hardy
    http://search.twitter.com/search?q=%23wbc09+goo
    http://search.twitter.com/search?q=Hardy+Wallac
    http://search.twitter.com/search?q=Hardy+Wallace

    Twitter vs Blogs:
    At conferences, you communicate via twitter, not through blogs. Add in WiFi issues, and Sat's events away from the hotel, and I'm surprised any blog posts were put up. Still, this is about blogging not twitter- At the US Automakers conference do they sit around building cars? Probably not.

    Analysis of Social Media ROI is crucial– but TrevR, you threw down Rick vs Hardy, Napa vs Sonoma, Twitter vs Blogs, all backed by incomplete data (and not seeing what was going on at the conference), which provided what feels like slanted analysis done by someone who wasn't there.

    Being defensive is not fun, not my style, but neither is being run over by a bus–unless that bus has no brakes, is on fire, and is driven by clowns– Somehow I'm ok with that ; )

  • TrevR

    Hardy, not suggesting the Fox News opp wasn't a good one and it was a funny spot to be sure.

    Re: Twitter vs. blogs, it's quite obvious Twitter is the preferred method of communication at conferences and other events where you may not find yourself in front of a computer or able to post a longer, thoughtful article–that's what I wrote in the post above. I've Tweeted (personally or for clients) at close to 100 different events since early 2007, it's a lot easier than the live blogging that used to be more commonplace pre-Twitter. The point was to illustrate just how much the wine blogosphere has adopted Twitter as method of engaging with one another and with wider audiences. In the future, if someone doesn't have a blog, but has 50-60K followers (or more) on Twitter and Tweets regularly about the wine industry, would they not be welcomed at the Wine Bloggers' Conference?

    Re: incomplete data…if I were to re-run the entire analysis right now it would still be incomplete. The minute I hit publish, 10 new Tweets will come through and two new blog posts will be put up (the #WBC09 Tweets continue to pile up even as I write this three days after the conference and now #WBC10 is popping up as well: http://www.twazzup.com/search?q=%23wbc09&l=all ). Welcome to the real-time web. The conversation doesn't stop–meaning any analysis will at best be a snapshot of the point in time in which it was done.

    On a side note, due to viewing the movie Poltergeist at too young an age, I'm not very fond of clowns personally… :)

  • eljefe

    I feel a little like I am beating a dead chicken, but a couple more thoughts…. 1,539,239 total followers sounds amazing but I suspect that is simply a total from all tweeters (which I guess makes you a tweettotaller ;) and doesn't take into account the significant overlap in our follower lists.

    Also, simply counting mentions misses the fact that some mentions are positive, some are negative, and some are simply a reference point (e.g. “going to Quintessa next”). I realize that's beyond what you set out to do here but I think this could be an interesting discussion… (BTW analyzing mentions of participating wineries and regions from outside Napa/Sonoma could be instructive. Just saying.)

    Regarding live blogging and tweeting during the event, the biggest attraction of this event as far as I am concerned is to finally meet the people you have been blogging and tweeting with for months or even years. You don't want to squander this opportunity in meatspace by wasting time in cyberspace. The right time for blogging is after the event!

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

  • http://www.twistedoak.com/ eljefe

    I feel a little like I am beating a dead chicken, but a couple more thoughts…. 1,539,239 total followers sounds amazing but I suspect that is simply a total from all tweeters (which I guess makes you a tweettotaller ;) and doesn't take into account the significant overlap in our follower lists.

    Also, simply counting mentions misses the fact that some mentions are positive, some are negative, and some are simply a reference point (e.g. “going to Quintessa next”). I realize that's beyond what you set out to do here but I think this could be an interesting discussion… (BTW analyzing mentions of participating wineries and regions from outside Napa/Sonoma could be instructive. Just saying.)

    Regarding live blogging and tweeting during the event, the biggest attraction of this event as far as I am concerned is to finally meet the people you have been blogging and tweeting with for months or even years. You don't want to squander this opportunity in meatspace by wasting time in cyberspace. The right time for blogging is after the event!

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

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