If a winery owner or winemaker said to me, "I'd like to start a blog," here's what I'd say to them:
- Don't do it just because everyone else is. If you're not interested in telling a story about your winery and its wines, you're better off not starting, because (a) people will sense it, and (b) you'll end up quitting.
- The best,easiest way to start a winery blog is TypePad, an online service. It will cost you $8.95 a month for the "Plus" level of service, which is the minimum you should consider because it offers domain mapping (see below). The next (and highest) level of service is Pro, at $14.95 a month. No, I don't make anything for recommending TypePad (free alternatives are Blogger and Wordpress).
- Pay for a year of service, which costs the same as 10 months of month-to-month ($89.50). After all, you're making a commitment to this blogging thing, aren't you?
- Plan on posting at least once a week. Can you spend 30-60 minutes once a week telling your audience an interesting story about your wine? Sit down and brainstorm 10 things to write about before you start (you don't have to do this alone). Posting more often is better, as it helps build readership (people love new content, if it's interesting). Tom Wark, who has rapidly become one of wine's preeminent bloggersi, posts daily over at FERMENTATION and his posting frequency (along with expertise) is one reason.
- Don't announce your blog until you have posted at least 5 - 10 times. Having content for your first visitors when they arrive gives them a sense of what you write about and whether they might be interested in subscribing.
- Instead of publicizing http://yourwinery.typepad.com/ as your blog's Web address, use TypePad's domain mapping feature to make the URL for your web log http://blog.yourwinery.com/ (minor geekery required).
- Link to your Web log from your home page and/or site navigation. Take advantage of existing traffic to your Web site to increase your blog readership. Don't hide your blog.
- Get the word out to your existing customers via e-mail and newsletter. Tell them it's a way of getting an inside look at what goes on with your wine (it should be). Intrigue them, and then deliver on your promise.
- Always tell a story. People who are interested in your wines are genuinely interested in the story behind them. There are stories everywhere if you have the eye for them. Write authetically about the challenges and pleasures in making your wine. A blog is not a sales pitch, but a good one will get people interested in buying your wines.
- Get the word out to the blogging community - we keep an up-to-date list of winery blogs at The Winery Web Site Report, so let us know about it.
- Read other winery bloggers for inspiration. Mary Baker at Dover Winery is one of the best, but all of them are making a sincere attempt to bring their audience closer to their wines.
- Subscribe to your own blog, so you see what the world sees. That may mean learning about RSS readers (hint: use Bloglines - it's simple).
- Provide clear instructions for people who might want to subscribe using an RSS Reader. Pretend you know nothing about blogs, RSS, or RSS readers.
- Have some trusted subscribers that you can ask for feedback, and then ask for it. Your mom doesn't count.
- Be patient. Be authentic. Have fun with it.
What would you add to (or subtract from) this list?