Some of you may know that I began BCWineChat on Twitter at the end of December 2011. My hope was to find an open forum for BC wine consumers, BC wineries, retailers and restauranteurs to meet, once a week to give thoughts on one issue for one hour. My report card on our first four months:
The Participants: The chat started out driven by myself, some retailers and a handful of consumers. It has grown to include many more participants and specifically, more consumers–but there is many more opportunities to grow. I would love to see a forum where consumers can talk with winery owners, winemakers, wine retailers and sommeliers about all things surrounding BC wine. In addition, it would be great to have politicians (thank you @Dan Albas for starting that ball rolling!), government agencies and regulators not only “lurking” but participating–ENGAGE the consumers–don’t be afraid of them and their questions. It is a great dream… Grade: B (quality of participants is great…now for more of them)
Twitter as its Home: I have had requests to put it on Facebook, a regular running discussion board and various other social media platforms. All great ideas, but since I have only a small slice of my week to organize this it will stay on twitter if it continues to be organized by me. With Twitter as the chosen format, the biggest complaint has spoken to the limitations of being able to get your point across in 140 characters in a one hour time limit. The tweets definitely do fly fast. In response to this, I have always been willing to add subsequent chats on the same topic if it seems like there is still a lot to talk about once the hour has come to a close (that was the case with Ways to Boost Winery Tourism Part Une and Deux). I also encourage people to take the conversation to the website and make comments on the posts. On the plus side, we are not solving world problems here. We are getting the creative juices flowing once a week for an hour. Not a bad thing. Grade B-
The Topics: I get many requests to host more and more “controversial” issues from the trade (retailers, restaurants and especially BC wineries). BCWineChat is a great place for it–but not every week. If the hope is to engage consumers to a greater extent, then BCWineChat cannot become synonymous with controversy. Who wants to tune into a bunch of whiners, and not a bunch of wine-ers, each week? Wine isn’t negativity and controversy. It is a celebration. Some of the most lively discussions have been about wine pairing everyday meals, wine epiphany moments and getting questions about wine answered. That being said, wine lovers want more access to BC wine, liquor laws reformed, and barriers to enjoyment broken down. This is why BCWineChat will always sprinkle in the important issues periodically to highlight these issues. Ultimately, it would be great if solutions pop up on the chat, but really, if we’re all talking openly, that is a great first step for change. Grade B+
Archiving the Chats: Many participants are not aware that the chat is archived using CoverItLive (thank you @raincoaster) . As long as each tweet has the hashtag #BCWineChat attached to it, the entire conversation is saved for later review. To date, these chats have gone to the halls of Ottawa a for Members of Parliament to review for a certain topic (Interprovincial Wine Shipments in Canada) and no doubt to various wineries who want to see what the consumers feel about a certain issue (Cellared in Canada). I have had many wine lovers thank me for the archive service because BCWineChat conflicted with their life during the Wednesday 8-9 time slot…like Canucks playoff games–understandable! If people are reading the chat after it ends it means that they are interested and engaged even after it has ended. Grade A-
Again, we aren’t solving any world problems on BCWineChat. We are trying to open up a conversation around a local product. A conversation that can include all the public and private organizations, groups and people that contribute to that product in BC. Retailers talking to retailers. Winemakers from one winery talking to vineyard managers from another. And most importantly, consumers telling everyone what’s on their mind.