Commentary

Spitting & Twitting

It's tempting to say the best thing about the wine-tasting event Spit & Twit was the name, and maybe it was, but what made an even bigger impression was how social media is changing the nature of real-world events. It also showed the limitations of being digitally and physically social at once.

At City Winery in Manhattan, WineTwits and others hosted Spit & Twit with a few dozen wineries and importers sharing over 100 wines. Attendees were encouraged to tweet, and a good number did, with the #sptw hashtag racking up about 275 tweets during the event, plus other tweets without the tag and many more before and ever. The printed program, which I neglected to read until Nelly Yusupova (@DigitalWoman) showed it to me, listed hashtags for each wine, and WineTwits created an iPhone-optimized site making it easy to tweet about and rate each wine.

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The tweets during Spit & Twit included the usual shout-outs and snarkiness, with a healthy mix of wine snobbery. Here's a sampling:

  •        WasitRodge: Ok. WineBerry is the sexiest boxed wines ever. #sptw

  •        leighleighsf: fave red, #ESRIOPST01/@blameitonrioja. awesome! fave white,#WIEWC07VO (harvested during full moon) #sptw

  •        castlebuilder: #sptw Served French wine by Kentucky gal. Je t'aime #frbxscbb05y'all!

  •       sarahmcsimmons: Dear girl in the plaid shirt, you are in our way. Could you please spit, twit, and move? #sptw

    It was also a great event for taking photos. When I captured the Jam Jar and Dead Arm shiraz, the wine importer thought I was being so smart to keep a record of the wines I had, when all I was trying to do was get a good picture to tweet. As for the image's flipped orientation, I'm still figuring out how to tweet photos from the new Motorola Droid phone.

    Spit & Twit felt like one of those events that's a sign of the times today but will soon feel archaic. It's as if a restaurant opened called Order and Be Served, or a musician went on the Watch Me Play Live Music and You'll Pay Another $40 for a T-Shirt Tour. Wine drinkers of a certain generation at larger tasting events will soon expect that sharing these experiences through social media is part of the event.

    Right now, the process is still a bit clunky. Most people weren't tweeting, and for good reason. Imagine tasting a dozen wines (for starters), then taking a picture, crafting a message, and using the appropriate hashtags, all while finding a place to put down your wine and getting out of the way of the people on line behind you. The tweets did add some value though: attendees could look at the screen for recommendations, wine lovers not there could get some dirt (or terroir) on good wines, and the wineries could benefit from the broader buzz. Another potential add-on for future events, which WineTwits could probably build in a matter of hours if they don't do it already, is a list of the ratings, showing  live rankings of the top-rated wines there.

    I asked WineTwits founder Stephen Gilberg for his thoughts on the event. He said, "The level of interactivity I saw [there] was amazing and unprecedented.  People were following other people's notes in real time (both via their handheld devices and onscreen) and you could see traffic flow to certain tables as the wines at those tables were being talked about."

    He then elaborated more on where social media fits in with the buildup and aftermath of the event. He said, "It's definitely a learning process, and it's going to change as the market develops, but utilizing Twitter and Facebook  [was] central to the event's success.  You still need to reach out to traditional media to attract consumers. Email blasts are important as well. The next day the event lives on as people are still tweeting about it, and it's now a resource on WineTwits.com that will continue to grow."

    You can find more of the interview on my blog, and you'll find Gilberg at many other social media-infused happy hours to come. Should you attend one, though, I'd recommend against spitting and twitting at the same time. Better still, go with a group and name a designated tweeter who can keep churning out 140 characters even after you've sampled 140 wines.

  • 4 comments about "Spitting & Twitting ".
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    1. Howie Goldfarb from Blue Star Strategic Marketing, November 12, 2009 at 10:40 a.m.

      I will only say it was refreshing to read that with only 275 tweets people were spending most of their time drinking, tasting, and having real person to person interaction than tweeting. Now here is where google wave would destroy twitter if it truly is what it claims. Hashtags to collect wine reviews are nice. But twitter is 140 characters. But on Wave I could see real time where there is one place with all the reviews and as you move on you can enter your own for each wine all in one location! And without the 140 character limit. I could just see someone getting mad because you omitted the black cherry and spicy finish from your review because of lack of the character limit and saying 'you know I hate black cherry in wine'!

    2. Rodney Brooks from ToTouch One, Inc, November 12, 2009 at 12:16 p.m.

      What a great way to not only promote your business but also to network. Plus, with wines, you can develop your plaid for what you like and not like in wines. I will pass this on to my wine friends. This would also work really well with food tastings.

    3. Jeff Behan from VisionTrust Communications, November 12, 2009 at 3:45 p.m.

      This is a great approach for using Twitter at industry meetings that typically only attract a small percentage of their members. Those that do come to the meeting (smaller numbers than ever with the current economy) could be encouraged to "tweet about the meet" - giving it further reach than ever.

    4. Cathy Taylor from Vocii, November 12, 2009 at 4:59 p.m.

      Sounds like a nice convergence of wine tasting and social media all in one place. Although I will agree, it's hard to tweet with one hand and taste with the other. But it does open up another opportunity to exploit the 'social' part of social media. Nice concept.

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