The Debate about Online Wine Influencers is a Stupid Waste of Time

Vinted on October 17, 2019 binned in commentary

If that headline above looks as though it could have come right out of 2009… well, it totally could have come right out of 2009.

Remember those good ol’ days? When wine brands were all in a tizzy about a new wave on influencers (at that time, bloggers) operating almost exclusively online.

How do we interact with these new presences in the wine media world? How can we tell if they are legitimate? How do we know if they have any real wine knowledge? What kind of audience are they reaching – and is it the kind that we want to reach? What if they want free stuff? What if they’re just hacks? How can we measure the real impact of their influence? Should we send them samples? Should we invite them to taste? Should we work with the ones that want to charge us for exposure? Will working with them put us into hot water with more traditional wine media? How the hell do we find these young whipper-snappers, anyways?

For a time, the introduction of wine blogs and the further democratization of wine criticism and brand exposure splintered the wine media sphere, upended its apple-cart, made waves of anxiety for those who’d spent the last ten years feeling somewhat comfortable about how the whole wine media thing operated.

For a time.

And then… life went on, wine kept being sold and marketed (albeit in changing ways), and online social/blogging outreach became just part of what you do in wine brand PR. We adapted. We got through it. We figured it out, for the most part.

And so I do not understand why, in the ever-livin’ hell, WINE BRANDS AND PR SEEM TO BE REPEATING HISTORY AND BITCHING TO ME ABOUT HAVING TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO WORK WITH WINE INFLUENCERS ON INSTAGRAM

People, we have been through this already!

First of all, Instagram isn’t new – it has been around for nearly a decade, though like everything else in wine, the vinous world has been a bit late to the game and only really seen major traction the latter half of that time. Don’t act like we shouldn’t have seen this coming.

Secondly, just because an attractive celebrity staging an IG photo for 25 minutes to get the perfect combination of lighting, vineyard, and bottle shot doesn’t feel like “real” wine journalism to you, doesn’t mean that it’s without value. We spent years in the wine biz debating the worth of something (blogs) that didn’t fit the traditional wine media mold, but whose value in exposing wine brands to those who otherwise might never see them should have been ridiculously obvious to anyone who cares about expanding their brand presence and mindshare.

And we want to have this debate AGAIN?!??

What. The. Actual. F*CK?!??

I’m ranting because I continue to encounter this debate worldwide while traveling and interacting with wine brands, and my reaction in each case is an incredulous, increasing amazement at the amount of time and effort being wasted on discussing whether or not these next wave of influencers should be courted.

The correct questions about this wave of wine influencers shouldn’t be focusing on “whether or not.” They should be focused on “who,” “how,” and “when” to work with them. I mean, do you want to exposure your brand to potential new consumers who don’t know who you are yet? In almost all cases, the answer should be “yes,” and if it takes an Instagram photo to do that, well… let them take a damned Instagram photo, and let them take all the time they need to set it up.

Wine brands already posses the exact skillset required to navigate this latest influencer wave, and it’s the same one that will be used to navigate the next wave, and the one after that. It’s already been done successfully with wine blogs.

The wine business needs to collectively stop confusing the media with the messages, and focus on making the messages count and have impact, because there will, for the foreseeable future, always be another Instagram, another set of media you couldn’t predict that looks wildly different than what you’re used to dealing with, and that will attract influencers who don’t look and act like the ones that you worked with before.

Cheers!

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    Comments

  • okiewinegirl2015


    It’s like debating that they should transition from print media to digital. The Train left the station an hours a ago, baby. Most bloggers are regular Instagramers to get their posts out there anyway. The wine industry should be eyeing the present future i.e.Weibo and Kakao with the largest wine drinking communities in the world as their staff Instagrams-away the newest bottling.

    • 1WineDude


      Exactly

  • Tim Teichgraeber


    …And what publication are you planning on writing up this story for, Joe?

    • 1WineDude


      Uhm…. you’re reading it…

  • Leeann Froese


    OMG Joe, THIS. As someone in wine marketing and PR it is my job to get eyeballs on my clients, regardless of the channel. Influencers, bloggers and legacy media are all potential channels. It is also my job to vet and determine who is full of shit and who is of value. This applies to all channels and tactics. Great post.

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks. I don’t envy your struggle! :)

  • Joel Vincent


    I’m gettin’ too old for this shit…

    😜

    • 1WineDude


      Ha ha, same!

  • PaulG


    You are quite right Joe, but new technology will always bring new challenges and decisions about who to follow and why. The problem with blogs that I see is that there are no guardrails. I can name a handful of pro-caliber blogs (such as yours) and a whole lot of wannabe’s that take advantage of the easy entry into wine writing with little in the way of skill, experience or even a point-of-view. Keep on doing the good work and shine a light on those who don’t.

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Paul. In a way, that’s actually the point; the worthwhile influencers will need to be sussed out regardless of the technological platform. That’s just hope it is now, and focusing on the platform rather than the utility is s red herring chase.

  • Bob Henry


    See this wine blog and my supplemental comments:

    The Wine Gourd wine blog
    (July 15, 2019):

    “The role of Wine Influencers — more of the same”

    URL: http://winegourd.blogspot.com/2019/07/the-role-of-wine-influencers-more-of.html

    • 1WineDude


      Great article, thanks for the link. That piece also links to this very cogent take on wine sales influence: https://spitbucket.net/2019/01/16/the-real-influencers-of-the-wine-world/

      • BOB HENRY


        Let me proffer this exhibit from a Wine Opinions online survey:

        “Purchase Influences”

        URL: https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-ZgHHdvhpGvg/WJvNd5wYcyI/AAAAAAAAGvU/87oXLHPBmSwICHyxOyp6dafu0EJAlReAQCEw/s1600/influences.tiff

        • 1WineDude


          I think this bolsters my point, Bob; over 20% would theoretically be interested in what those influencers have to say about a wine.

          • Bob Henry


            There is a “classic” statistic cited in marketing:

            20% of your customers generate 80% of your sales revenue.

            (Reverse the digits and you have the “80:20 Rule.”)

            Citing the Wine Opinion survey . . .

            https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-ZgHHdvhpGvg/WJvNd5wYcyI/AAAAAAAAGvU/87oXLHPBmSwICHyxOyp6dafu0EJAlReAQCEw/s1600

            . . . those 21% influenced by a wine review (read in print or online), and those 25% influenced by a 90+ point score from a respected wine critic are similar in percentage to the 20:80 Rule.

            Those 20+% are the wine enthusiasts for whom wine is a lifestyle choice. Possibly even an abiding hobby. (But more than the 1% — numbering 350,000+ — of wine drinkers who subscribe to Wine Spectator magazine.)

            And that 20+% are similar in percentage to the 16% “core wine drinker” statistic below:

            Excerpt from WineBusiness.com
            (May 12, 2010, 2012):

            “The Market for Fine Wine in the United States”
            [Fine Wine 2010 Conference in Ribera del Duero (Spain)]

            URL: http://www.winebusiness.com/news/?go=getArticle&dataid=73903

            By Graham Holter
            Associate Director – Publishing
            Wine Intelligence market research firm (United Kingdom)

            According to the data presented by [David] Francke [at the time, managing director of California’s Folio Fine Wine Partners], U.S. wine drinking is compressed into a small segment of the population.

            SIXTEEN PERCENT OF CORE WINE DRINKERS consume wine once a week or more frequently, which ACCOUNTS FOR AROUND 96 PERCENT OF CONSUMPTION. Thirty-five million adults drink virtually all of the wine sold in America, Francke said.

            [CAPITALIZATION used for emphasis. ~~ Bob]

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