So I hear you’ve recently set up a new Twitter account but you’re lost at what to do with it now, eh? Well let me tell you dear reader friend, you are not alone.

As I’ve written in a previous post, social media is transforming our media landscape and for some, it’s not so easy to grasp this newfound concept. If you’re like most of my readers, you’re probably asking questions like,  “How do I…” or “What does “RT” mean“, and “How do I find winos?“, or what the heck is a “#wine“? …and for my wine biz friends, you want to know “What’s the value“, and “What’s the ROI“?

Unfamiliar territory would bring anyone to the brink of bonkers and believe me I understand your pain — but in all honesty, it’s not so bad after you understand some of the basics.

Some of you in the wine industry biz probably want to cut to the chase and get right to the “value” aspects of Twitter but I’d like to convince you to chill through a few posts before we dive into that topic. Trust me the ride will be worth it.

Let’s get down to business. This is the first part of a follow-up series that will dig into the lingo of Twitter while addressing it’s usefulness in the world of wine. Today we’ll focus on, “How do I find wine Twitters and why should I care about my followers?”

THE BASICS

Having 2+ years Twittering under my belt and humbly reaching 5K followers, I’d like to share my experiences and recommendations on it’s usefulness for wine aficionado’s and professionals alike.

First, don’t bother with third-party auto-follow applications  (or for that matter, any application that automates anything on Twitter.) It’s not that these applications are bad (by any means), it’s just that if you want to build your brand the right way, the last thing you want to do is alienate followers.

Twitter is about building relationships, and you certainly won’t be doing yourself any favors by automating messages. Yes, it’s certainly more time consuming to tweet your messages by hand, but trust me, it will be well worth your efforts in the long run.

Second, don’t BUY your followers.  This will come to a surprise for some, but many marketing services sell followers — at a hefty price, of course. DON’T by into the hype. You won’t become a rock star overnight and marketers that guarantee $1,000 per month per 10,000 followers is a crock. Do you know why? Because most marketers couldn’t possibly collect the kind of personal data you need [e.g. is this new follower a potential buyer?] to produce the results you are looking for as far as wine sales go.  If you believe this, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. You’ll prosper a higher rate of success by finding your own followers.

Let me reiterate. I see Twitter as a mechanism to build relationships amongst those who share similar interests.  Based on my observations, I don’t see Twitter as a platform for moving product. Sure, there is nothing wrong about Twittering occasional specials, but most of my Twitter winos are using this application to build relationships with those that share similar interests. If you have a success story that debunks this reasoning, please share.

Third, promote your Twitter handle from your website. Your loyal consumers will follow you if you advertise it.

THOSE WHO FOLLOW

The first mistake is to think that you have no control over those who follow you — followers make informed decisions on who to follow based on how you present yourself, what you say, and how you INTERACT with your followers, so think about the image you want to portray. For obvious reasons, this affects industry tweeters more than consumers.

Building followers will take a conscience effort for industry tweeters. Be prepared to tweet with passion and build your brand by interacting with your followers. Your marketing person might be a good match for this job, but in reality, any team member that enjoys virtual interaction with your customers and shares your vision is a good fit.  If you’re not sure who would be the perfect contender, talk to your staff. Marketers, winemakers, hospitality, managers and owners all make good candidates.  You might even consider rotating tweeting responsibilities.

HOW TO FIND WINE TWITTERS

Whom should you follow? Seems like a bizarre question, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t you follow everyone that follows you? Not unless you want a windfall of spammers — that, and I can guarantee you won’t share interests with your followers. Do you really want to follow those who tweet every 5 seconds about tooth whitening products? I think not.

Now on to the good stuff — finding winos on Twitter. Let’s attack it from a couple of different angles. For a generic approach, I’ve found the Twitter search page easy to use for finding wine friends, consumers and wineries.  Browse through the list and find those that interest you. Roll over the first icon on the right hand side and click on a popup “follow XXX”.  Simply click on it and you’ll follow them.

You’ll also find a number of  “Top Wine Twitters” on wine blogs. Ken, from Alawine.com, built a cool little “Top Wine Tweeters”  page, which happens to be one of my favorite top wine Twitter lists and ranks each Twitter accordingly.  He bases his rankings on a respectable mix of quantities and ratios of followers and friends, updates, retweets and Twitter lists (with some exclusions for noise, off-topic and similar factors). One simple click and you’ll be following famous wine Twitters such as Jancis Robinson, Kevin Zraly, Wine Enthusiast, Natalie MacLean, Dr. Vino, and Vinography.

We happen to come in #7 on the list (dude, I feel like breaking out the Wayne’s world, “I’m Not Worthy” video).   Awesome Ken, and thanks for the kudos.

There’s another cool application you might find useful. Check out wefollow.com “Top Winos” page.  By default, the page shows the most influential wine Twitters and ranks them based on number of followers for each tweeter.

There is another cool feature that Twitter recently launched. It’s a ‘list” feature which allows users to create groupings of people for whatever reason (e.g. winos, wineries, distributors, wine writers, etc). Mashable compiled a great “How To” on the subject so head on over there for a good overview on what it is and how to use it.

…and to get you started, here are a number of recommended lists to follow:
Alawine Top 100 Wine Tweeters
Alawine Top 100 Wineries
Alawine Wine Social Media List
Elizabeth Dehoff’s Bloggers List
Enobytes #VinQ List
Nectar Wine Bloggers
Northwest Winos
Steve Paulo’s Wine List
The Wine Sleuth List
Wineaday List

This raps up our lesson for the day. Stay tuned for our next post: Using Twitter #Hashtags.

Until then, be sure to hit us up with comments on the following Q’s:
•    How do YOU find Twitter winos?
•    Do YOU use auto-follows?
•    What is the value of buying followers?
•    What is YOUR favorite Top Wine Twitter List?