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(R)evolution Episode 3: Rick Bakas on Social Media, Wine and Engagement

Welcome to the third episode of (R)evolution, a new series that connects you to the people, trends, and ideas defining the future of business, marketing, and media. My guest this time around is Rick Bakas (@rickbakas) of Bakas Media, previously director of social media at St. Supery Winery in Napa Valley.

Note: This is a live setting and there are a few spots where offscreen noise is a factor. Stay focused, Rick represents what’s going on in the front lines of social media marketing and his experiences are shared here for you.

In this episode, we discuss opportunities and challenges facing not only a particular winery in Napa Valley, but any business hoping to connect with customers and influencers online. The social web and the people defining conversational landscapes are seeking attention and engagement. But as we also explore, consumers are seeking experiences and social media represent the ability to bring brands to life in ways that appeal to all of the senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste.)

“Social Media is like a big dining room table where everyone is invited to pull up a chair.”
– Rick Bakas

Rick also recently published a new book, Quick Bites, 75 Savory Tips for Social Media Success.


For those looking to visit Rick at St. Supery Winery, he promises to roll out the red carpet for you…let him know via Twitter @rickbakas.


Andrew Landini, Producer
Adam Eckenfelder, Audio Tech/Re-Recording Mixing
Location: Portabello Grill, Redwood City

Past Episodes:

Episode One: Empowered with Josh Bernoff
Episode Two: Silicon Valley vs. The World with Sarah Lacy


Brian: Welcome back to another episode here at Brian We are in Redwood City at Portobello Grill. With us today is Rick Bakas. He is the director of social media at St. Supéry Winery, and then also he is an author of a new book.

Rick: Quick Bites. These are little spin size servings; I wanted to use the wine and food analogy.

Brian: But the subtitle of the book is what I like. So what is it?

Rick: We talked about this in rehearsal, and you know, I couldn’t quite get it right. It is 75 Savory Tips for Social Media Success.

Brian: All right. So what is the first tip that comes to mind for social media success other than opening this bottle of wine in a few minutes?

Rick: I always say it is hard to pick one, but being consistent and being consistent not only with what you are saying, but across all the different social sites, using the same logo, the same avatar, it is kind of like your logo, like your Nike, that is your swoosh. And your screen name is your brand name. So, being consistent with that across all the social sites, because you never know where it is going to show up or where it is going to get to. Where you are going to see it, on a mobile device, desktop, so I think being consistent is important.

Brian: Now you are on the front lines of the entire web for St. Supéry Winery Was that something that was a tough sell, or were they ready for it?

Rick: They, luckily, this winery was ready for it, because we are owned by the Skalli family from Southern France, and one of the members of the Skalli family works in web in France. So it wasn’t a real hard sell. They didn’t sort of get their toe in the pool and say, o.k. if we are going to do this, we are going to do it 100%. And that was a really nice thing. They gave me complete autonomy, which is pretty critical; they gave me autonomy to do everything. They didn’t micromanage me.

Brian: Do you find that consumers are ready for engagement? At least from the winery?

Rick: Oh, yes. Absolutely. I mean, look at the people walking by licking their chops when they look at this bottle. Wine and food is the most inherently social act.

Brian: He is referring to me, by the way.

Rick: Yes, between takes. But, no, wine, food, not just any kind of alcoholic beverage. Beer, spirits, it is all about enjoyment. It is one of the most inherently social interactions there is.

Brian: I would say, though, there are some hurtles, especially in California, for any type of marketing, especially online marketing with the alcoholic and beverage industry, how does that affect sort of how you look at social?

Rick: We see it in the wine industry, but I am sure a lot of people see it across different industries. You really, when you get up to the upper management level, and you get someone who is counting pennies and they can’t quantify, if I do this in social media, then I can do that with my sales. It is hard for them to really understand that there is a value, because they can’t see it in black and white. And wineries are, a lot of them are owned by smaller, two and three person families. So they can’t really justify affording doing anything with social media 100%. They kind of dip their toe in the pool, which doesn’t work for them, and they say, o.k., it doesn’t work. And they give up on it.

Brian: Do you also find that just the laws associated with, let’s just say, alcohol marketing, for example, there are discussions on Twitter that if you are an alcohol brand, you have to age gate your followers. You have to age gate your fans on Facebook. How does that impact what you do?

Rick: Luckily for our audience we have found it is really self-selecting. And there are some settings that you have like on Facebook, you can set your setting on your fan page, for example, to be a certain age. I think it is actually, the check box says, “Legal drinking age.” So that for each state, if that changes, you are still…but yea, since it is an adult beverage, we can’t do a lot with contests; we can’t give things away necessarily, so we have to be really careful about which age group we are talking to and…

Brian: What are some of the things that you are learning that at least on the social side of what people are looking for and what they are not looking for.

Rick: I learned that I liked wine before, but now I love wine.

Brian: Do you have any openings, by the way?

Rick: Give me your card. I am not sure if we can afford you. I found that a lot of the things that we suspected was that – wait, what was the question?

Brian: Another effect of wine marketing. The question was, what do you find that people are looking for and what they are not looking for in engagement?

Rick: Yes, sorry, these lights are hot, and it is warm out. Well, for us it has been, almost everything that we have tried has worked out really well. We have done a Tweet tour – a lot of what we are doing, I guess, if you were to sum it up is with marketing our product is that we are trying to take the experience at the winery in Napa Valley and we are trying to use all these social tools to bring it to people who can’t make it. So, if you are in Boston, or Sheboygan, Wisconsin, we want you to know what it feels like to be on the vineyard, or know what the wine tastes like. We are not pretentious. We take the snootiness out of it. And by doing that you are actually engaging more people, because you are being educational. It is inclusive; it is like a big dining room table where everybody is invited to pull up a chair.

Brian: Actually, I would say that you are lucky, at least, in social marketing with a lot of, I would say marketers or businesses that realize that you actually have the opportunity to engage all of the senses, at least to some extent. Would you find that that comes alive in many things that you are doing as well?

Rick: Yes, yes, that is a really good point. Because you have five senses and if you do it right, you can stimulate all five. So, really, that whole experience, it is a luxury experience. It is not like going and buying car tires, because that is not a luxury experience.

Brian: Although there are some tires that you think you are buying a luxury item. But that is another story.

Rick: So what we would like to do is, we have this experience around the wine and the winery, and really we are trying to facilitate people talking about that to each other. We are not a brand broadcasting. We are really setting the table and we are inviting people to come and talk amongst themselves.

Brian: And that actually starts to open the door, or the cellar door, shall we say, to sensory marketing, which is sort of something that has been experimental over the years or experiential marketing is another way to call it. But I would imagine that wine could benefit greatly from the minute you connect at any level on those fronts, you actually create not just stakeholders, but actually, as you set the foundation for someone who can truly be an ambassador for you. What is on the horizon for you?

Rick: We have been successful with trying to get folks engaged and talking about what we are doing. And we do a little bit with mobile, we do a little bit with all the different very social sites. But now it is scaling up and being able to track and understand all the data and the metrics. Because there is so much of it, and we are just a small company. So we don’t have a team of ten people analyzing. And, so it is really trying to answer that ultimate question. We did this, and then that happened. So, we have a pretty good idea, but we want to be able to nail it 100%.

Brian: And Rick, are people watching this able to earn something a little special for coming to visit you in Napa?

Rick: Yes. If I take care of you personally, then I will roll out the red carpet and I will take you to do barrel tasting, take you out to the vineyard, maybe I will put you on a plow, make you work a little bit, earn your keep.

Brian: Never mind. No, I actually had the opportunity to visit with Rick a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it. In fact, I put my pictures on Flicker. Rick, how can people find you?

Rick: You can pretty much go to a social site at /stsupery – pretty much any social site and you will find us. And you can also find me at /rickbakas on most social sites.

Brian: Rick, where can they get your book?

Rick: You can go to Quick Bites and I would love to hear back to see what people think. I wrote it because I don’t want people reading as much as I want them doing. So it is little servings, a little bit of do this today and if you do that, it is really great stuff straight to the point for your brand. This one was absolutely delicious, by the way. So, we took that one, that tip was great. Thank you.

Brian: So, with that, Rick, thank you very much. It is actually a great honor to have you drive all the way out from Napa for this. This is the case study, actually being written as we go.

Rick: Thanks for having me.


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31 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “(R)evolution Episode 3: Rick Bakas on Social Media, Wine and Engagement”

  1. Brian, thank you so much for doing these—they are both enlightening and entertaining. I look forward to more. Cheers.

  2. Paul Chen says:

    Excellent as usual, extremely insightful! Much appreciated!

  3. rickbakas says:

    This was a good time. Really glad to be able to sit down with you, Brian. Cheers!

  4. hardaway says:

    Wow! Happy to find this. Didn't know you were doing it, and now I will catch up on the previous episodes:-) I always admire people who have the guts to do video.

  5. Great interview with lots of take-aways, thanks for featuring Rick. I love his passion for St. Supery and wine — “I frickin love wine.” Hoping to clink a glass with him someday at the winery.

  6. Great work Brian and Rick! This is my first (R)Evolution experience and certainly won't be the last. Wine FTW! 🙂

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