After Moderator Andrew Healy introduced the panelists presenting New Technologies and Social Media session today at Unified Wine & Grape Symposium (#UGWS), Ashley Teplin, the first panelist, jumped in head first with advice for winemakers. Tell the world who you are, she said, or details about your brand: "Tell. The. Story."

"There's a lot of wines out there, and you need to make sure that your brand resonates with the people who will consume it."

Teplin is the owner and co-founder of Teplin+Nuss.

Outline your brand via a six-month plan, and stick to it, she said.

And jump in.

"Everyone notices, and everyone notices everything you say" on Twitter, or Facebook. So be yourself, she said, but draw a line between your brand and who you are when you're not making wine. Be careful not to cross that line too often, or do so with care.

Her tips:

— Befriend your local journalists. Be their plus-one and a wine event. (And, I might add: Ask your new journalist buddy to explain how journalism works so you'll understand more about ethics, and what Off The Record really means).

— Less is more. Do not take on more social media than you can reasonably accomplish in a given time frame. Stay on it, or don't take it on.

— Don't be out of line, or in poor taste, in posts on your Facebook page.

— Ask for help from social media experts and continue to educate yourself.

The second panelist to speak was Kristy Sammis, funding partner of Clever Girls Collective.

Know your market; who will you target? "When the 'how' and 'who' come together, that's when you'll actually see traction," in your social media efforts, she said.

Social media is just one channel of marketing, Sammis said, and not an end in itself. It's just part of a larger plan.

That said, blogs are much more influential than ads in print media, Sammis said. Viewers may not purchase because of an ad on a blog, but they are "influenced" by the blog. In other words, social media resonates with viewers.

"Content is king." Use your content — your story – in a unique fashion. And then make it easy for your target audience to find you.

Reach out beyond wine bloggers: Find crafters who blog about, say, knitting and drinking wine. Or beer. "Use your social media outreach skills for good and find who is willing to talk about your product," Sammis said.

Mark Gordon, the third panelist, is direct social media manager at Jackson Family Wines, and opened with "the best places to be" on social media.

Number one choices: Facebook and Linked In. "Nice to have" is Twitter. But it takes time. Instagram would be his fourth choice, followed by YouTube, Google+ and a blog — if you're ready and have the time. Pinterest, again, if you have the time. And vimeo, for its quality.

He echoed Teplin by reminding audience members not to open an account in any of the above if "You don't have the time to maintain it."

Time your posts around the holidays, and what might be seasonal in the vineyard — harvest, pruning, even planting, he said.

Gordon shared several ideas for winemakers' best use of the various social media outlets:

For Facebook: In your posts, use 80 characters or less, for fewer words pack more clout than paragraph after paragraph. Be mindful that people don't read as much as they once did.

Pose your questions so that viewers can respond to you with yes or no or very short answers: Facebook users favor "like," "share," and the ability to comment very quickly.

Best time to post: 3 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday are considered the "best days," he said, citing research. Posts that include photos receive more attention than those that do not.

Twitter: Retweet regularly. Follow others, especially those in your industry. Tool up. Hook up, but don't sell. Reply when you are mentioned. Use #hashtags. Use Instagram to tweet your photos. And finally, engage people directly.

Panelist and musician Alan Kropf, founder of "Mutineer" magazine, opened up with a bugle call that got everyone's attention and laughs — and underscored his point: Winemakers have a battle for the mainstream consumer.

Viewers crave a personal connection to your brand; without that "hook," your brand is just that: Yours.

This goes back to Teplin's advice to tell your (own) story. Be yourself, because everyone else is taken.

Many distributors, he noted, tell small producers looking for help that "you're too much like everyone else." Find what sets you apart Kropf said, and run with it.

"We're going through something of a Wild West period (as far as social media), and you don't want everyone else to discover the results when you're still waiting to get on the train," he said.

Healy and all four panelists all live and work in Napa or Healdsburg.

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