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NAPA — North Coast wineries must step up efforts to improve their websites and utilize an array of tools to engage with customers or risk seeing those relationships weaken, experts told industry executives Wednesday at an annual conference.

Technology is swiftly reshaping the economy in a way that is comparable to the immense changes unleashed by the Industrial Revolution, said Dave Maney, founder of Economaney, a Lakewood, Colo., consulting firm.

"Start to understand these tools. Grab the web and see what it can do," Maney urged executives at the eighth annual Wine Industry Technology Symposium in Napa. "I believe that if you have a chief executive that says, &‘I have a guy that does that for me,' the next thing that guy will be doing is running the company."

Wineries were urged to increase their presence on Twitter and Facebook, but to think about the reasons for doing so before taking the leap. For example, social media tools could help build a brand perception, or to humanize a company.

"If you're not asking &‘why' up front, how can you measure the effectiveness?" asked Jeff Tinker, senior vice president of Wells Fargo Bank. "If you're just doing it because everyone else is doing it, you probably don't have a real objective."

One way to steer marketing efforts with social media is to become storytellers, said Sean Moffitt, founder and chief evangelist of Agent Wildfire and Wikibrands Consultancy. He said many wine company websites use templates that look like they were built in 2001.

"There are some horrible examples out there," Moffitt said. "Stories are what count nowadays. If I hear one more story about, &‘We use the best grapes and best fields …' Tell me something new. Because that's what everyone else is telling me."

Companies should be blogging, tweeting, posting videos and sending emails at a rate that some in the audience found surprisingly high. At a minimum, companies should tweet 100 times per month, Moffitt said. A good goal is for a company to tweet 200 times per month, and a great goal is 400 times per month. Blogs should be updated five times per month at a minimum, but a good goal is to do 12 blog postings per month, and a great blogger posts 30 times per month.

"The average life span of a tweet is 12 minutes," Moffitt said. "You need to be out there constantly producing good content."

Companies also should list their employees on their websites, because customers are interested in the people behind those companies and brands, Moffitt said.

"If you look at Millennials and what they care about … what they really love is authenticity." Moffitt said. "Who's part of that company? Who's working for that company?"

Panelists encouraged trying out daily deal websites like Groupon, which sends steep discount deals to a list of subscribers every day. For example, Windsor Vineyards recently sold 8,000 Groupon deals for half-cases of wine for $45, a product valued at $167, said Jennifer Carroll, national sales director at Groupon.

"Even though it's a small winery, with more of a local footprint, they used Groupon to do more of a national outreach," Carroll said.

Attendees also discussed ways to accept payments using alternative technologies like Square, which makes credit card readers that can attach to a mobile phone or iPad.

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