This Is Me Totally NOT Lightening Up On Wine And Social Media

Vinted on March 7, 2012 binned in best of, going pro, wine 2.0

Actually, it’s not social media and wine that I’m going to be talking about here – it’s social media and engagement. Engagement with actual people who actually spend their actual hard-earned cash for the purpose of drinking actual wine…

It’s taken a while for me to respond to this plea for me to lighten up when it comes to social media’s place in the wine world. The delay is mostly due to me having been on the road, and otherwise waiting for the Universe to present a pertinent example of what I was talking about (it didn’t take long – more on that in a minute or two).

I’m not lightening up. If anything, I think we all should be making more of a fuss over this stuff, not less.

The best responses I can give to any challenge on the power of engagement in the wine world come from my own experiences. So let me talk to wine producers directly here for a minute or two (…or fifty), and share some of those experiences with them. It will sound harsh at times, but that’s because I keep hearing arguments that are the equivalent of telling me that my experiences didn’t happen, and I’m not a psychotic (at least, not yet) so there’s definitely something a bit screwed up here. And most of what I’m saying is not unique – it’s been said by others, I’m just culling many of the points together.

For those that don’t want to wade through the damn-near 1800 words that follow, the bottom line is this: if you are producing wine, and in this day and age you are letting someone like me (or any critic) dictate the majority of your brand message to current and potential customers in online engagement channels (twitter, facebook, etc.), then you need to audition for a Jim Henson Company project, because you’re acting like a Muppet

1) Ignoring social media entirely makes you a Muppet

No disrespect meant to Muppets (hey, I own the original Muppet Show DVD series, okay?), but they’re clowns and so in real life and real business, you don’t want to be one.

Some of you out there making wine are acting like Muppets, because you are letting someone else pull the brand strings, leaving opportunity sit unrealized. You’re dropping the ball at the 5 yard line and instead letting folks like me run with it. People like me – wine people who are carving out a space mostly through social media – cannot be explained without acknowledging that engaging people one on one about wine via those channels has at least some power. That argument is akin to flying in a helicopter while telling the other passengers that helicopters can’t fly, watching them all trying to enjoy a gorgeous bird’s eye view of the city. In other words, it just sounds… stupid. After all, I did it, and I did most of it in my spare time (so spare me the argument please about no one having two hours a week to spend talking to their customers on social media or any other channels).

So if we take it as a given that social media is media and does have power, then if you’re late to the social media platform game you now have to “compete” with people like me. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t compete with me on social media even if you’re late to it, because if you don’t then I’m willing to bet that you, as a wine producer, in a few years will hire people like me to come tell you how we did it and help you ‘get there’ yourself. And trust me, if I end up consulting some day I will gladly double-dip those dollars on your Muppet butt all the way to the bank – I’m a good person, but I’m not a “nice guy.”  Just know that I didn’t have to, because if you’re smart about it you will act now and you will not have to pay me…

2) “Stop beating the social media horse, you’re scaring me!”

I sometimes get criticized that this social media “tough love” scares wine people. To which I usually reply, “hey you should feel a little bit afraid, actually.”

Why? Because we have an antiquated system in place in this biz in which producers can be distanced from their consumers by an obscene amount of indirection levels – importers, distributors, retailers, critics. And now we have people flocking online to take back some of that one-on-one engagement – with practically every other consumer goods industry players saying that engaging those customers directly and collapsing those levels of indirection will become increasingly important as younger consumers come into those markets expecting brands to interact personally with them.

What are the odds that wine will somehow be a part removed from that trend?

Zero. Z-E-R-O, zero.

It just takes longer for the wine biz because it’s about seven years behind most other industries and the effects are delayed due to the number of indirection levels.

Producers and critics should be afraid if they want to live primarily within those levels of indirection, because those levels will NOT look the same even five years from now. People will increasingly expect brands, big or small, to pay attention to them individually, because we’re all already sick to death of being treated like cattle by every other service provider or producer of anything out there (take a plane ride lately? enjoy it? would rather have had more personal, human service during it? yeah, that’s what I thought…). We’ve collectively had enough as consumers. We are starting to demand and expect engagement.

So take the engagement power back. Take back your brand message and talk to the people buying your shiz. I know it can be done because I’m doing it, and in a way it’s at your brand’s expense.

3) “Stop yelling at us and give us some examples!”

The next piece of criticism I get is from those asking for successful examples of what I’m talking about. Which I’ve given, but when I follow up with those producers I’ve used as examples, they tell me that they’ve received maybe a handful of questions at best from people I’ve sent their way, even though I know conclusively that many more read and/or watched those suggestions.

So here’s another an example for you, but probably not the one you’re expecting.

On my last jaunt to Napa I needed a place to sleep for one night, so NVV put me up at Terra Valentine on Spring Mountain (these poor people had no idea I was going to write about this, so please go easy on them!). Now, Terra Valentine has a friggin’ castle up on Spring Mountain. It’s practically – no, actually – a luxury villa up there, complete with spiral staircase, amazing view of the Valley and a three-chambered stove/smoker for what would, I imagine, make the ultimate cookout experience.

That’s NOT where I stayed.

I stayed in their little studio apartment, a sort of partitioned one-room building next to the vineyard manager’s house. Comfy, clean and totally fine, but small and definitely NOT a friggin’ luxury castle (it was described to me, quite accurately, as “a crash pad”). And yes, I know that there will be people flaming me for even staying at a winery, but I don’t care because it’s 100% within my published code of ethics (no conditions attached) – and, more importantly, it happens to be central to the point I’m about to make.

Terra Valentine’s soft-spoken (and talented) winemaker Sam Baxter drove me around the property and apologized that I couldn’t sleep in the little castle. Why? Because they had a customer staying there.

To which my response was: “You guys totally get customer engagement.” Because personally, I sure as sh*t wouldn’t put a critic up (present company included!) in my castle if I had a big customer in town – and I honestly don’t care who that critic happens to be. When I asked Sam who did their PR, his response was “our customers are our best source of promotion, really.” That about sums it up (but won’t prevent me from writing another 500 words…).

Now, the Terra Valentine twitter account is not the best shining example of online customer engagement, but they fundamentally get something more important than that; they get that the customer should be engaged directly, and they get that such engagement shouldn’t be left for someone else to do for them. Ultimately that will translate to loyalty from those customers. Savvy on twitter and facebook and whatever-else will follow eventually; the critical thing to understand is that if you’re not going to talk and cater to your customers, you’re gonna be dead eventually, no matter how many levels stand between the you and those people.

4) “But critics are still important, they still sell wine, etc., etc., etc.”

Totally true, and they speak to audiences that still buy the most wine, in fact. They’re probably  more important than you realize. You shouldn’t ever totally ignore them.  But the influence of ivory-tower-style wine reviews is on the wane (quite self-admittedly, I’ll add), and their  reviews are increasingly out of touch with the average cool kid just trying to find a decent fine wine at a decent price.

Why is this important? It’s important because that waning will increase as a younger generation moves into the roles of importers, distributors and retailers currently held by Boomers, because the younger generations consume information very differently, preferring social recommendations for example.

Don’t believe the trend? Check out my friend Elin McCoy’s look at how those critical names function at retail – people aren’t looking for any particular person’s nod for a wine, they are looking for anybody’s expert-ish nod for a wine on the shelf:

“Most [retailers] said that the majority of their customers simply
look for a high number on a shelf-talker and don’t know the
difference between 94 WA (The Wine Advocate), 94 WS
(Wine Spectator), and 94 IWC (Steve Tanzer’s International
Wine Cellar).”

The point is not that critical assessment is all bullsh*t or unnecessary, it’s that the wane of traditional criticism is happening (slowly) and the landscape is changing (slowly) and therefore it is scary (or should be!) – but it’s also liberating, because it means you’ve now got opportunity to put context around your wines and context is increasingly resonating with consumers who want some humanity put back into the products that they buy. And guess where context is cheap and relatively easy to do? That’s right – on social media platforms.

Hell, that’s just one of the potential opportunities – there are hundreds more, so long as your vino is good. So go out there and make some opportunities of your own.

I’ll be watching you. I’ll be cheering you on. And I’m gonna keep banging this drum, even if the beat sounds old, because this tune needs to be played – and I ain’t going anywhere for a while…

Cheers!

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    Comments

  • Jason Phelps


    Joe,

    I take no issue with the ideas you present but I do think timing is the key. The industry is growing into this slowly, like every other change they make, and in will eclipse what you are suggesting. In the process there will be shake up, winners, losers and a new engagement model on the other side.

    In the meantime folks like yourself will continue to beat the drum and be frustrated by the apparent lack of progress. Think like a Jedi. Be patient, it will happen. You can't force it. Evolution, not revolution.

    Jason

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Jason. Totally appreciate what you're saying. But the other side of that coin is that the biz is already behind and needs to catch up, so time is already a'wastin' from that point of view.

      • Jason Phelps


        That's the problem with evolution, it is messy and sometimes what we think of as winners are actually losers and the future winners are going to come out of nowhere.

        I am firm in belief (and I got skewered for it) that small wineries are busy doing their thing and engaging at a local level and often don't see an ROI for branching out beyond that. Many don't have the inventory for it anyway, and growth isn't planned just because of a few hundred new Facebook or Twitter followers.

        Jason

        • 1WineDude


          Thanks, Jason – and thanks for sticking with the reply despite the technical difficulties! I don’t disagree with you that the timing isn’t right for everybody, but that does NOT mean those people shouldn’t get their toes wet on this stuff NOW in preparation for the future. The trouble is, if people like me say things like “spend 5-10% of your MEDIA time on outreach through social media channels” then guess how much time the wine biz will spend? Probably more like 0-1%…

          • Jason Phelps


            After reading all the comments it would seem that there is plenty of support for this being an evolutionary process where some actors are ahead and some lag behind. Predicting the winners from that would be senseless though.

            When I posted (and I am going all shameless here) my thoughts on this convo and how the curve of technology adoption plays a role I didn't get any response. I'm small fish so I am going to post the link here in hopes that some may see it and add my thoughts to the context.
            http://ancientfirewineblog.blogspot.com/2012/03/w

            Jason

            • 1WineDude


              Jason – great post, just reading it now… would comment here but I guess it's better for me to comment there! :)

  • Jeffrey Slater


    Joe, This is another great blog post about the critical importance of engagement. Consumers want to connect with brands and especially artisan categories like higher end wines. Brands (in all category) have to be great listeners to really understand how their products are being received (and perceived) by their customers. Brands need to amplify their listening skills through social media like Twitter et al.

    Here is a real life example- My wife bought a few bottles of one of her favorite wines. The natural cork broke on that wine and crumbled on 2 of the 3 bottles. (full disclosure- I work for a closure company- Nomacorc). The cork in question was a competitors but I tweeted a photo of the problem natural cork and wine and within a few hours, I heard from the winery and they asked me some great questions to help understand their problem. Kudos to them.

    Social media helps wineries learn to listen. I first truly got this in listening to Gary V speak at our wine marketing conference last year. If anyone wants to hear his speech, you can see and here it here: http://vimeo.com/23278383

    Cheers.

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Jeff – hope you are well! Great points. Here is another example: I wear Keen boots, they last a long time and so the laces wear out, but the laces are an odd length so are impossible to find. So I reach out to Keen and they know I'm not gonna be replacing those shoes for a looooong time, but thy send me 2 pairs of laces. Guess which brand I'm going with when I *do* replace those laces? And guess who will tell something like 15K friends on social media about Keen when he *does* buy a new pair of boots? Cheers!

  • Richard Auffrey


    Hey Joe:
    Why does the example you mention have nothing to do with social media?

    • 1WineDude


      Richard – To make a point that *the* point is about engagement and not about tools. I don't doubt that TV will eventually kick ass engaging people on-line because they're coming at it from the standpoint of listening to and taking care of their end customers.

      • Richard Auffrey


        But the example proves nothing about engagement through social media, which is the heart of your post. Your first two points are general points about the value of social media, but then when you come to the third point, an example, you don't deal with social media, so there is a disconnect there. I think most wineries understand engagement with their customers if they visit their winery or tasting room. But they want proof that social media engagement is worthy, and you did not offer them an example of such a success here.

        • 1WineDude


          Richard – forest through the trees, bro. I should probably have added something like “engagement is an approach, not a tool – that needs to be fundamental before using social media for outreach… here's an example.” So my screed didn't transition well (sorry about that).

  • Matt Powell


    First off – Muppets. I have the DVD's as well … *sigh* … i diverge – "You guys totally get customer engagement." (Terra Valentine paragraph)… y'know it helps to get customers engaged when you have a FREAKIN CASTLE to put them up in. I mean seriously … brand equity is what every winery craves, but you really outlined the problem (and may have eluded to another, more subtle one as well; which i hope your readers can see) such that any winery needs CASH to engage customers to help build that brand equity. The wine business is a mature industry and competition for shelf space, distributor eyes, and customers in the end is fierce. Differentiation is key but without cash, how does a little ol' winery get to the consumer? Wine shows? no (they just want free wine to drink); Charity Auctions? no (people are there to drink); Tasting room? no (small brands DO NOT and can NOT afford a bricks and mortar establishment – besides, foot traffic is limited so you'll never be able to sell enough to really grow) … the only real way for the little guys is to (1) depend on an advocate or champion to help promo the product (2) keep costs way way way way way way down and (3) have a little bit of luck. So when you state … "So go out there and make some opportunities of your own." … i agree, provided you have CASH to build a castle and to help build your customer base. Poor folks need not apply (i.e., like someone you ..er … already know); Wine is a pricey business to be in.

    • 1WineDude


      Matt – I'd add a #4 to your list. Reach out via social media as well, which costs time but NOT cash. Wine is certainly a pricey biz but producers like Quevedo ( www <a href="http://.http://quevedoportwine.com/” target=”_blank”>.http://quevedoportwine.com/ ) have done it sans castles. Not saying it's easy, but am saying that it can be done, but the work has to be put in to do it one on one with customers.

      • Matt Powell


        Social media does work, i agree; but really … how many bottles of wine have been sold via friends on FB? are they repeat customers? What about twitter? i don't have 10K followers so i canna offer a discount that is propagated appropriately to a large audience. If Alyssa Milano wants to speak highly of the vino on her twitter account, then i'd say #1 (above) is a winner (advocate) … so i'll agree with a caveat; SM works when you have an already entrenched fan base that are previous customers. Honestly, i've found email customer lists to be as or more effective than anything else … get the customer, keep the email, and stay in contact with them on a quarterly basis. Oh .. .and having customers post their own reviews (not pro reviews) seems to really help to … man, i need a castle.

        • 1WineDude


          Matt – you do need a castle :). I’d take email lists over social media connections any day right now. The point is “right now.” And you have to put in work to build that base in social media. It’s not chicken & egg, you need to feed that chicken first, bro!

        • Ed Thralls Jr


          Matt,

          As social media marketing manager for 10 wineries, I can vouch that we have sold thousands of $ worth of wine using FB and Twitter and that number continues to grow as we get better in the space — what is the right level to ever really be "entrenched" with a fan base? You have to start, just like you started with one email on your email list. Email still has higher conversion for us too, but it's not an either/or scenario… SM is another tool that should be in your toolbox to reach more leads, more customers, more sales opportunities via channels you are currently missing…

          Love the reviews by customers — we are building a testimonial section on some of our sites that bring together those reviews from other channels like Yelp, Foursquare, Facebook, etc… in addition to allowing customers to put a review or LIKE on the product page itself.

          • 1WineDude


            Ed – thanks, nice shout out to the crowd reviews!

    • Hence Cellars


      Social media only takes a little effort to pay off, especially when you’re in an area full of wine lovers, like we have in the Walla walla Valley. With over 150 local wineries, and a population base of only 50,000 people, we’d all go broke if we were trying to live off the local economy.

      So, what we have to do is rely on social media to make us stand out with the tourists/wine crowd. By talking to our customers, and potential customers, through Facebook and Twitter, we can make sure the we get more than our fair share of the tourist trade, without spending additional advertising dollars. And, by joining networks of Facebook wine drinkers from Seattle, Spokane, Boise and Portland, we can get our product in front of them before they’ve had a chance to set their wine tours to see someone else.

      It’s not that hard, and if you have a couple of glasses/bottles of wine while you’re doing it, it can actually be quite enjoyable. LOL

      • 1WineDude


        Hence – great points, especially about having the bottles handy. ;-)

  • Karyn


    AMEN! I am the marketing "director" for a small winery and I cannot convince my bosses to stop spending money on paper advertising and embrace social media. I do believe there is a huge generational gap and they see social media as a newfangled, passing fad. It is not and is here to stay. Period. And, I use you as an example every time I talk about the importance of social media. (Any blogger who outranks a millionaire on the Most Influential People in the Wine Industry knows what's going on!). Keep stumping on the soap box, Joe. You're great.

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Karyn! It kind of pains me to see wineries taking out ads in Spectator on page 67 or whatever; I always think, what could a seriously good PR person do on social media for brand recognition/outreach with that same amount of money? Don't get me wrong, those mags are still super important because retailers & distributors make big buying decisions based on them, but page 60-whatever? I mean really, is anybody actually gonna see that ad? Let alone act on it? Cheers!

  • 1WineDude


    Oh, and MAtt – The Muppets do totally rule! :)

  • Jason Whiteside


    Zzzzzzzz. I thought this was a wine blog, not a blog on how to be an internerd! I can't imagine wine marketing strategies appeal to majority of your wine afficianado reader base…

    • 1WineDude


      Jason – Wednesdays are reserved for possible internerdy stuff here, as the frequent readers know (or at least seem to tolerate :-). Don’t you have some beer to cry in over your beloved N.O. Saints defense being a bunch of criminals or something? ;-)

  • Minda Ruggles


    It's so interesting that you point this out when all week long on Twitter I've seen postings complaining about those ivory tower reviews. I would add that certain bloggers (obviously not you or I wouldn't be reading this) are just as bad. I've read some that are so concerned with sounding grandiose that you feel like you must be reading a translation because it's so stilted and non-conversational. And yet most wine producers allow their wines to be represented this way. So now their beautifully approachable Grenache is completely unapproachable as it is locked up behind by some stuffed shirt's confusing and convoluted review.
    In direct contrast, some wineries (notably Benziger) are fully embracing social media engagement. How smart to invite people to post on a collective Pinterest board. How clever to retweet your tasting room visitors' pictures! How fun to post a "Pick the Food Pairing for Our '09 Viognier" on Facebook. Social media works because you flatter your customers by reaching down from the lofty wine realm to show interest in them…and that leaves a good taste in everyone's mouth.

    • 1WineDude


      Minda – EXACTLY what I was getting at here. Benziger is trying to take it back with their brand, in a way. And that is what I’ve been trying to tell producers, their voice can become trusted just like a critics if they outreach to customers on these platforms. Cheers!

  • SAHMmelier


    As I was reading this, I found myself thinking a lot about the blurring of consumer/critic. As a "layperson" with a wine blog, which catergory do I fall in? Am I the easy to dismiss writer that gives myself too much credit in the critique department? Or the educated consumer that likes to write about my experience with a particular wine? "Publishing" has become so easily available with the internet that I think a lot of people are kind of confused on how to deal with the power of Social Media. Thoughts?

    • 1WineDude


      @SAHMmelier – I’ve actually written about that a couple of times. Bottom line is that, with the power of crowd-sourced reviews, *everyone* has a voice that matters. Now, your social media sphere of influence might not be as large as mine at the moment, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have influence and/or should be ignored and/or won’t grow in influence. Complicated (and great!) question but the short answer is that just about everyone’s voice matters now, it is only a question of volume of those individual voices. And when they come together en masse? Then that volume is deafeningly loud!

  • Renee Vimmerstedt


    I am not in "the business" of wine…so to speak. I am however, one of the actual people who spends actual money to drink wine. If a wine producer makes a product that I like then I have a vested interest in seeing that product succeed on the market. Success for the winemaker translates to a product I want continuing to be readily available to me.
    I have a favorite wine producer. I won't say who here but anyone following me on Twitter would have no problem figuring it out though the "who" really isn't so important right now. I have given shout-outs to them quite often in the past…not so often in the recent past. I have been intentionally not mentioning them as often. Why? A few weeks ago I was sent an email from someone following me on Twitter. The person wanted to know what my job title was for this wine producer and if I might be a good person to send their resume to. First I laughed about it then sorta got peed off. Why would this person not have sent an inquiry to the winery owner (who sometimes tweets once a day) or the person who handles their Twitter account ( who maybe tweets once a month)? The job seeker follows both of them. I think she sent the email to me because I was the ONLY one talking about the business.
    I hate to dog two people who I personally think are sorta bad ass cool but sometimes I wanna shake them both and yell "WHY THE HELL ARE YOU NOT TALKING TO PEOPLE AND RE-TWEETING THE HELL OUT OF THE PRAISES YOU ARE GETTING??!!". I have no problem continuing the shout-outs but want to see them do their part too. Is their day really so full they can't take 20 minutes to respond to people? Is there really not enough money to hire a social media person? Are they really so naive that they think their distributors and retailers are taking care of their marketing and promotion? Its wake up time. Engage already!
    Thanks Joe for starting this dialogue. I think a link to your post should be sent directly to every wine producer to be found in the social media realm. Im gonna make sure the one I have been talking about gets a tweet.

    • 1WineDude


      Renee – thank YOU for the story from the trenches, so-to-speak. These examples are really powerful wake-up calls!

  • Paul Mabray


    CRM is not a tool, it is a culture. A culture that our industry desperately needs to embrace. Social media is only a channel by which your customers want to communicate with you. It should be treated more like a telephone call than a mass email or marketing tool and measured as such. How many sales have come via phone? Millions. But they are done 1:1. How many phone calls does a winery take that do not result in sales? Tens of millions. We have become myopic that social, due to its large numbers, is a mass sales tool. It is a way to scale CRM on a mass level but the fundamentals of customer engagement, 1:1 communication, still prevail.

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Paul – amen!

    • Jennifer Burke


      Exactly. The Internet is a virtual place of business. How do you engage customers and make sales in the physical world? One on one.

      • 1WineDude


        Thanks, Jennifer – well-put!

  • Leah Hennessy


    Joe:

    AMEN AND THANK YOU. I feel like I could gush another 1800 words simply about the fact that you actually WROTE this, but I won’t.

    I’ll just tell you how thrilled I am to see you go all Sam Jackson on the wine industry. Fear SHOULD be a motivator – most US wineries have a lot to be afraid of, whether they realize it or not.

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Leah – “And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy My brothers!!!” :-)

  • Brian Shapiro


    Great post Joe,
    As a winery employee, I look at post’s like this as a challenge to engage. And believe me, when we are engaged with the consumer sales happen, maybe not from the initial conversation, but down the road that person is going to return to us and make a purchase. When you engage them, and they engage you it creates a fantastic conversation that spills into their everyday life. Whats great as well, that conversation spills into our office too! When the winery gets stoked about customers, you engage more customers and you have alot more fun…and you realize, we are here for them, the ones that love our wines!

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Brian. Great points – customer loyalty can certainly come from engaging people on this stuff.

  • Wayne


    Engagement is indeed the point. I activley work (although you won’t see my name on anything) with a few high end wineries. They contract with me not because I get social media (the projects aren’t even based in social media), they contract with me because I understand engagement on a personal level. They see a need in an ever changing market to engage with their customers in a more complete way. The wineries I work with a smart people who understand that it isn’t about Twitter or whatever else, it’s about building a connection between their customers and their brand and not letting a Critic or anyone else do it for them.

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Wayne – kudos to those clients for getting it right!

  • 1WineDude


    Tom – at least you are getting started. And you can ease into it once you\’ve done that. But remember this: have a plan also for what you want to do to engage the people who do show up to Like your page or follow you on twitter.

  • Beau


    So, how many followers did you lose? After your taste on FB last night, I thought your post would be a lot more incendiary.

    Working for a small, 5,000 case production winery has taught me a few things:

    1. Right now, we don’t need social media to sell wine, because we sell every bottle we make to either the wine club or through our tasting rooms. I realize this is in direct contrast to what some guy a few comments above said, but the fact is, his generalizations are wrong. Banks lend money to let you build a new tasting room, not run a social media campaign.

    2. We do need social media if we are ever going to expand sales-focus beyond tasting room and wine club. (caveat: the owner has no plans to do this at present, making my job somewhat tough!)

    3. While the adage that the “old guard” wine industry people don’t “get” social media is certainly true (ex: my boss), there are a lot of winery owners/winemakers/etc who DO in fact “get” social media as an engagement tool, but have yet to see a positive ROI come from that engagement. To them, positive ROI means $$$$$$$ in sales because of FB/Twitter/Pinterest/Blogs/etc.

    4. A point I feel is too-often overlooked by the social media evangelists: While building that foundation for future relationships is awesome, the vast (VAST!!!) majority of wineries need to sell their wines RIGHT NOW, not when their social media campaign matures. That means continuing to rely on: tasting rooms, wine clubs, and distributor relationships. Social media often takes a back seat to those concerns deemed more pressing.

    Just a few things I’ve noticed. Also: During my nine years in retail wine sales, I never had a customer come in and say “I hear about ________ on FB/Twitter/etc, and I really want to buy it, do you stock it?”. The retail:social media and winery:social media relationships seem to be diverging…

    Cheers!

    • 1WineDude


      Beau – none of what you wrote surprises me. The big, measurable jumps in sales won't happen until retailers and distribs are using social media a lot more than they are today. Until then, it's a trickle that is nearly impossible to measure but that does NOT mean it isn't worth starting on that path now to engage custoemrs. Because that current trickle will become LOYAL. It's like a stock portfolio, I think: right now it's 90% stocks & 10% bonds, in X years it will be 40% bonds, then 60%, etc. It's a continuum. “Small percentages now will pay off later” seems to be the message, so patience and fortitude need to be the mantras. Part of my point was that social media outreach helps control a brand message – that's not necessarily linked to sales, but is linked to perception with potential, current customers.

    • 1WineDude


      Oh, and Beau – I actually gained followers! Crazy… ;-)

      • @UCBeau


        Good! I would hope that people would see how passionate you are, and how you do mean well even if they disagree with your message.

        • 1WineDude


          @UCBeau – Yeah, peeps are way cool like that! ;-)

    • Jason Phelps


      I've shared some of these same practical considerations after talking to small winery owners. I think they say a lot about when wineries might move in this direction, not if. I was so happy to see this here!

      Jason

      • 1WineDude


        Jason – hopefully it helped!

    • Paul Mabray


      Beau,
      My comments back
      1. This is a fortunate place to be but supporting the second sale through relationship management will ensure the long term success of a winery when visitation dips, increased TR competition, or another financial crises.

      2. Both Social Media and e-commerce. The reality of SM is that it is a communication channel like the phone that is as relevant as the phone or email whether the owner wants to recognize it or not. At a base level, a winery answers the phone and email and should also answer SM to people talking to or about them.

      3. This is also a myopic notion of what ROI is. Talking to and retaining customers ALWAYS has ROI. If not, we’d never answer the phone or email. The singular focus on making SM a sales channel is a warped perspective on the medium. Almost every engaged winery has made at least 1 additional sale through talking with their customers through social media. The problem is that they WANT it to be scalable like email or adwords. It is much more like answering a call and how many of those calls actually yield sales . . . ?

      4. It is not about building future relationships, it is about managing current relationships through scale. Anyone that talks to or about your brand is a social customer. They may buy directly or indirectly but regardless, they are a customer.

      To your last point, that is not how people talk from social recommendations – they would probably say, “my friend recommended I buy this wine (not mentioning that they sourced it from social media, do you have it?”

    • Matt Powell


      Common sense in this post – my favorite part … “the vast (VAST!!!) majority of wineries need to sell their wines RIGHT NOW” … this is truth. … SM has not sold me any wine. FB maximizes at a few hundred ‘friends’ and unless i decide to follow 10K, i won’t get 10K followers — which sort of defeats the purpose … perhaps i’m too negative on the SM thing … i did gain 1 follower this morning, somebody named ‘Trixie69’; i didn’t follow back.

    • Renee Vimmerstedt


      98% of wine names I take into my favorite wine shop and either ask if they carry or ask to order are wines I found on the internet. Not once in the 7 years I have been patronizing this shop have they ever asked me where I heard about the wine. Sales cannot be attributed to social media marketing if no one is asking the right questions.

      • 1WineDude


        Renee – very true; plus, I'd guess that very few shops have considered recording that info. Some do – but certainly none in PA where I live (but then, what incentive do they have, since it's a monopoly and we have zero choice anyway ;-).

  • @SDependahl


    In 2012 no business should ask whether or not there is value in engaging with consumers online. The big question is how to integrate it with the overall business goals. I do not think the act of tweeting or posting Facebook photos alone is magical. Too many businesses feel compelled to jump into the social space because they see their peers doing it, and it is just expected. That said, Joe, I appreciate your message and agree that now is the time to get involved online. It's not too late–in fact, we’ve barely begun to realize the potential.

    • 1WineDude


      @SDependahl – Amen!

  • Paul Mabray


    Matt – sorry to contradict you but very few thing sells anything unless you invest the time: a wine club, e-commerce, the phone, traditional sales, etc. The question is have you invested the time? Moreover the expectation that a FB page generates sales is like saying I have a website and it is not selling or I own a phone and it’s not generating sales. Of course they are not unless you dedicate resources to execute against those tools and they have very definite behaviors in how they stimulate sales. The same applies to SM. Moreover retaining a customer is much less expensive than acquiring them and in a sea of almost infinite wine choice, how you stay top of mind to ensure you get 1, 2, 3 . . . additional sales from your customers requires engagement through WHATEVER means you can.

  • Sue, Wink Mkting


    Middle Sister wines has been engaging with consumers through social media for over 3 years. We find that it has increased brand awareness and made some very loyal fans. It is also a place where people can discuss, complain and enjoy wine – and they do. In September, we started using Pinterest and in the last month it’s popularity has exploded. No bad news here!

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Sue – Pinteresting! ;-)

  • Paul Mabray


    Beau, totally brother – just wanted to put some points for people reading that support our mutual position. ;-)

  • Kiss My Glass Boston


    For all those wineries who have no idea how to start engaging on Twitter, here’s the easiest dip-your-toe-in-the- water idea:

    Everyone’s got an email signup form in their tasting room, right? (and if you don’t, WTH not?) Add a second field for customers’ Twitter handles and start collecting them NOW, even if you think Twitter has the same longevity as a ’75 Pinto. Sooner or later, when you eventually see the light, you will be ever so glad you have that list. Because now you just have to activate your built-in Twitter following. And what’s more flattering to a customer than the winery they love following them *first* and interested in what they have to say?

    Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem 4eva,
    Melanie

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Kiss My Glass!

  • Matt Powell


    Word of mouth sells. And it sells better than any marketing, social media ‘enablement’, tasting room, or SG&A that can be thought of. The power of the customer to sell your product is only as good as your product. Sell a customer a pretty label, tell them how wonderful it is on FB, and have the wine be plonk, and i can assure you they will not be back. Wine clubs are 20 years ago, e-commerce only works if the customer knows where to go, who uses a phone anymore (think texting), and traditional sales via the distributors are a hope very few SMALL wineries can ever hope to achieve (considering they won’t even touch you unless you’re at the 30K case mark); i think the point here is that SMALL wineries don’t have the cash flow to build that castle, or to hire a social media expert to ‘force’ sales through artificial means. As the owner of a winery, who has spent an inordinate amount of hours working with my customers, i know all this to be true. While i’m certain that SM may work for some, we, on the poor side of the industry just cannot justify hiring someone, via WHATEVER means necessary to move the product. Finally “Moreover retaining a customer is much less expensive than acquiring them” … not in time it’s not.

    • 1WineDude


      Matt – not sure it requires hiring anyone. It can be YOU, just with an appropriate amount of time to devote (that could be 10 minutes a day, ever).

      • Matt Powell


        You are right, so i think i should get some pointers from you at a later date. I could give you some wine for … uh wait a sec …

    • Paul Mabray


      Matt, I disagree about time or the need to hire someone for the basic functions of SM. We are a 3 man team with almost 4K customers and we have time to meet, answer, email, SM, use the phone, etc to service them and still do our job of software manufacturing (as rigorous and difficult as wine making), sell our services, manage our website, write content, market, etc, etc, etc, etc.

      • Matt Powell


        Paul, i applaud your efforts. It's clear that you have developed a business model that works well for you and your clients. Perhaps at some time we could discuss more at length – i dunno, it could be a fun conversation …

        • Paul Mabray


          All in!!! Also hopefully you are getting some benefit from VinTank's free social listening software.

    • gabe


      I have to disagree…I think social media does sell wine.
      we are a small enough winery that i work in the cellar and the tasting room. Every time we have a tasting, I ask people how they found out about it – and a LOT of them say they read about it on facebook. This not only gets people in the door buying wine, it opens up an opportunity for a personal connection that will lead to a long-term customer.

  • PAWineGuy


    Dude,

    Good post, but you are really starting to sound preachy… The difference between you (and others) building a brand through social media, and a winery using it to engage / market / sell, is that you haven't asked your followers to pay for your content. And that, Dude, is a very big distinction.

    Social media is an evolutionary tool, and everyone should use it to some degree. The push back that you see from some in the wine business is at least partly related to the fact that many of its proponents have no or little wine industry marketing experience, and spend a lot of time pushing one channel while having no understanding of the others.

    • 1WineDude


      PA – But I do. I pitch my 1WD content, I pitch content of other websites that I'm paid to write, and might very well pitch products to them in the future. The difference is that the pitches are like 2% of my content on twitter or facebook; the rest is added value or being myself. It's the how as well as the what – and what we're selling just depends on your POV.

      • PAWineGuy


        Where do I enter my credit card information?

        • 1WineDude


          PA – I’ll take the money if you wanna donate!!! :)

    • Paul Mabray


      PAWineGuy,
      Perhaps I am an exception but I agree with all Joe says and I have been a "bag dragger", run a wine club (one of the most successful in wine history), managed winery eCommerce, etc, etc, etc. So despite being a pundit go SM I have 20 years of experience in the wine industry. The blog posts like this are a reality check and instead of being dismissed should be a mirror that we in the industry should all look into and then out again to recognize that we are now in a customer centric and digital world that can no longer be ignored.

      Pls excuse grammar, logic, and spelling errors – typed from my iPhone.

  • @SnugglesMAR


    Amen, Melanie. I've retweeted and posted more about wineries that follow me than ones that don't. I've even searched out wines that I haven't tried or heard of until they followed me.

    Oh, and the Electric Mayhem Band rules.

  • Jeff Stai


    So a hundred years ago there were business owners saying "Why do I need a telephone? I'd just have to answer it." Wineries will get it when they get it, or they won't.

    • 1WineDude


      Jeff – a scenario repeated with cell phones not too long ago ;-)

    • Wine Tom


      And before that fax machines. What could be so important I need to stick it in a machine and have it instantly arrive across the country. We've been doing business just fine…

      • 1WineDude


        Tom – and I'm just old enough to remember the fax machines that you had to *hand crank*! :)

  • PAWineGuy


    Paul,

    You ARE an exception. But I don't see people dismissing SM, I think what people are looking for is a little balance. When a SM pundit ignores how it relates to other channels, or fails to acknowledge what a salesman on the street can accomplish, or the continued role of traditional media… well, it comes across as a magic bullet, which we all know SM is not.

    • Paul Mabray


      PAWineGuy – totally agree that it is not the panacea by any means and work hard to bring context to where it belongs (and all things digital) in the grand scheme of winery sales and marketing operations. Thanks for the nice words. I think Joe's point is more about customer service in its entirety and SM being only a component. I also think that is a place our industry greatly needs to improve.

      I also think his rhetoric is really a reaction to the lack of usage to the general winery population. As an example, mention or even @ a few wineries on Twitter and see how long or if ever you get a response. Try this on FB fan pages. It is completely analogous to these wineries not answering their phone and it is, unfortunately, more common than I'd like to admit.

      • 1WineDude


        Paul – your phone call comparison is perfect!

    • 1WineDude


      PA – where ate these people saying it's a magic bullet? Are folks actually still paying those kind of people for advice?

      • PAWineGuy


        "It comes across as a magic bullet" – no one is actually calling it that, but yes, when people talk about SM without any context as to how it relates to the rest of their marketing efforts, that's a red flag.

        What happened at Murphy-Goode and St. Supery after the buzz died down? Where are the post-mortems?

        I'm not trying to throw cold water on the importance of SM, because I think it's now self-evident, just trying to achieve some balance.

        • 1WineDude


          PA – understood. So am I which is why I write stuff like this. :) Cheers!

        • Jeff Stai


          "What happened at Murphy-Goode and St. Supery after the buzz died down? Where are the post-mortems?"

          Paul Mabray posted a little throw-away info graphic today on his FB profile that showed this wonderful path to viral happiness. I know that Paul was trying to make a good point about social reach but the graphic hit me a different way.

          It's not really right for the typical small winery/business to think of SM in terms of what MG or St S. did. Chances are pretty good you're never going to have the time, budget, or creative inspiration to do something like that – after all, you're in the wine biz not in the corporate marketing world. But that kind of SM is not going to win the race for you. Engagement, one fan or customer at a time, is what you're looking for.

          • 1WineDude


            Jeff – and, importantly, what you do with that fan/customer as well. People get caught up in the numbers game, but as Vintank.com recently posted, that's a vanity play. Once connected, people want some engagement – not constant, of course, but they've effectively given you permission to talk to them on that channel. You know all this of course, I am just riffing off of what you wrote. :)  Cheers!

          • PAWineGuy


            Jeff, my point is that their experiments were not a big success, outside of the publicity generated during the hiring process, and despite the $ spent.

            • 1WineDude


              PA – do we know that either way? Not sure that we do without following up with those companies?

              • PAWineGuy


                Yes, I've discussed with both in depth. I think the problem is that adding a full-time person who only does SM is not economical, even for a 100K+ case winery.

              • 1WineDude


                PA – Interesting. Can you divulge any details? I’m curious as to what they would attribute the lack of reward (not enough traction?; didn’t do enough with the publicity/followers? both/neither…).

              • PAWineGuy


                Sorry for the delay in responding… here are the questions raised / comments relating to the two campaigns, in no particular order:

                1. When you have a "celebrity" SM blogger, how do you make it more about the winery and less about the individual?
                2. What do you do about their other outside projects? Do their "personal" posts match the values of our winery?
                3. Is it better to hire a full time SM individual, where ROI is difficult to measure, or better to add someone in the field who can see X number of accounts per week, work with distributor reps, close new WBTG deals, etc…and assign an existing marketing person to engage in SM?
                4. While direct customer engagement is obviously desirable, metrics as to the effectiveness of the engagement are still crude, and tend to be anecdotal.

              • PAWineGuy


                5. You still have to measure dollars spent against return, even when something is a slower burn like SM… so when you bring in someone specifically for that role, and then you relate it to returns on putting that person in the field, spending the equivalent for incentives, WBTG programs, DAs, etc… it obviously falls short.
                6. Perhaps the better course is to spread that role between existing personnel as a new tool, rather than creating a new role.

              • 1WineDude


                Thanks, PA! Given that most people knowledgeable about marketing are saying that SM is part of a much larger strategy (or should be, anyway), the approaches to integrate it (as youre concluding I think in #6 there) make sense to me. Cheers!

    • gabe


      The magic bullet in the wine world is pretty simple – make good hooch

      • 1WineDude


        Gabe – but I know a ton of people making great stuff who are not selling as much of it as they'd like. I wish it were but i am pretty sure making great juice is not a magic bullet :(.

  • TacoHunter47


    So like. Are you like the Andrew Breitbart of wine media now?

    • 1WineDude


      Taco – Uhhmmmm…. NO.

      • TacoHunter47


        Hmmmm …. Glenn Beck of wine media?

        • 1WineDude


          Actually, can i be the Al Franken of wine media? That feels more correct somehow… ;-)

          • TacoHunter47


            No

            • 1WineDude


              Doh!

    • gabe


      lol. maybe the john stewart of wine media?

      • 1WineDude


        Gabe – ha! Another guy with much more hair than me…

  • talkavino


    Joe, it is a late comment, I know – but – have a faith! Today, during lunch, found @KingEstate written on the cork from the bottle of King Estate Pinot Gris from Oregon! Your wish is getting fulfilled!

    Cheers!

    • 1WineDude


      Nice! Way to go King!

  • kristysf


    As a complete wine-industry outsider (but a career social media person, for whom, perhaps, NEVER THE TWAIN SHALL MEET), here's what I don't get and what Joe and I (hi!) recently discussed at length:

    I don't understand why small wineries with limited budgets insist that they can't afford to engage in social media, but other small companies, in other industries, can. Is the wine industry SO exceptional that the same rules simply cannot apply?

    There is no shortage of case studies from small business and small retail shops who've become successful through their use of social media — or who, at the very least, have used social to increase brand awareness and sales to some degree.

    (Here's an example from a boutique retailer: http://www.usatoday.com/money/smallbusiness/story

    Is wine really so different? What am I missing?

    • William Allen


      Now sitting on the other side of the fence Kristy, its a little easier for me to understand. I did very little for social media during 2011 Harvest. Small wineries with 1-2 person teams, often part or full time jobs, kids, production, retail/trade sales. bottling, TTB bullshit, events, etc etc all takes its toll.

      Social Media can be an effective part of marketing….and this is a sector that doesn't really get marketing for the most part. I can tell you first hand after a 20 hour day or two, going through Tweetdeck (in particular) is going to come after responding to emails, paying bills, and some sleep.

      The double edged sword of social media for small biz/wineries – it take little to no capital expenditure, but can be a huge resource expenditure, doubly so for a small team that struggles with marketing and/or technology.
      Life is a little different on the other side of the counter/crusher, and while I agree at a high level, I am not the only person who has softened their understanding as we transitioned into the other side.

    • 1WineDude


      Kritsy – thanks; you hit on one of my central points, that the wine biz is special but it's not *that* special! :)

      • William Allen


        Marketing is inherently a challenge for this industry – the typical small winery, often with grower/agrarian background doesn't grasp the basics fundamentals, especially when it comes to things like branding, which is a long term strategy that must be cohesive and consistent. Social Media is a set of TACTICAL tools that plug into that strategy.

        If you are doing the basics of marketing correctly to begin with, fumbling around blindly with tools isn't going to make a huge difference. You'd be better off first focusing on core tools, then branching out.

        Never anywhere did I say that wine business is 'special.' although it certain has some unique attributes. Skills and experiences in marketing, social media can work across industry, no doubt. But its becoming a bit tiresome the stream of people with neither pontificating.

  • kristysf


    Hi William,

    I get what you're saying, and I know I have *absolutely* no grasp of what a 1-2 person team is up against on a daily (or seasonal, or yearly) basis.

    It seems like what you — and maybe others? — are saying is that MARKETING is a giant challenge and resource-drain altogether. And that's a big problem to overcome, with or without social media.

    So maybe we have two different issues at play here:

    1. What role does marketing play, period?
    2. How much of that role should social media take up?

    And I think a non-wine-industry person can weigh in on how to decide #2 (because it's NOT the same answer for everyone), but that's only after the company/label is on-board with #1.

    • 1WineDude


      Oh, kristy – sorry, forgot this: "hi!" ;-)

  • gabe


    I'm part of a very small winery. Anyone who says they don't have the resources for social media has a fundamental misunderstanding of how social media works. How hard is it to take 10 seconds out of your day and post a line that says "bottling the riesling today". Or better yet, a line that says "special wine & cheese tasting this weekend".

    I'm not saying everyone has to be on social media. But I do agree with the Wine Dude on this one. If you're not on pumping your brand on social media, and are trying to grow your brand, you're doing it the hard way.

    • 1WineDude


      Gabe – amen! Or, take 10 seconds to thank or reach out to a customer…

    • William Allen


      I know VERY well how Social Media works, have given classes, consulted. And its an integrated part of a marketing plan, which I have led sales and marketing efforts in the tech sector for 20 years. Taking 10 seconds a day to post something isn't at all a marketing plan or stratagem, and I see far to many wineries use social media in a way that they quite possibly might be better off doing nothing at all.

      • 1WineDude


        William – I don't think anyone is saying that a random 10 seconds of crap on social media is genuine engagement. But your word of caution is definitely sound, it should be part of a comprehensive plan.

      • gabe


        Well I've never taught a social media class…but I'm a young dude and all of my friends are on social media. When I got a job at a winery, they all followed our facebook site, and now they call me when we have a tasting advertised. In fact, every time we have a tasting event, a large percentage of our customers are fans of our winery that heard about it on our facebook page.

        Of course it's not a comprehensive marketing plan. Putting all of your eggs in the social media basket is as foolish as not doing it at all. But saying that wineries need a social media consultant to do it properly is totally obtuse.

        While people like William may not like what we are posting, it's pretty clear to us that fans of our winery enjoy hearing about what happens behind the scenes; and advertising tastings on facebook has been more successful than advertising in print media. It's free, it's easy, and it works, plain and simple.

  • Kelly Keagy


    Darn it… 101 – day late, dollar short….

    • 1WineDude


      Kelly – I think we can give it to you because my last comment was technically #100!

  • Wine Tom


    It is not a new struggle to drag the wine industry into technology. Maybe we (SM supporters) need better examples, better stories, and language they (winery owners) can relate to.

    • 1WineDude


      Tom – appreciate what you're saying, but of they don't get it by now my fear is they will get it when it eventually hits their wallets in obvious ways; by then it'll be *really* late…

  • Bob Trimble


    Yep, great perspective and very insightful!

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Bob!

  • Curtis Kastner


    Thank you for saying it like it is. As someone who wants to make his own contribution in what I'm going to call "The New Wine Biz," you're giving me hope. Lots of it.

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Curtis – solidarity, brother! :)

  • gabe


    an interesting follow-up: yesterday, we posted on facebook that we were bottling our 2011 viognier. today, we started receiving e-mails from customers who wanted us to send them viognier….

    • 1WineDude


      gabe – coincidence? ;-)

      • gabe


        also got a thank-you e-mail from a recent tasting room visitor.
        thought of you and made sure to send a personal response.
        keep dishing out the good advice

        • 1WineDude


          Thanks, Gabe!

  • Jon Bjork


    It's simple: not using social media is like refusing to buy a cell phone.

    • 1WineDude


      Jon – maybe it's more like refusing to answer a call. :)

  • Trackbacks

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    Thursday, 8 March, 2012

    […] came across a post by Joe Roberts, discussing Social Media and Wineries.  While I am new to the wine industry, I am not new to social media. I have been working at a […]

  • Trackback from Terroirist: A Daily Wine Blog » Daily Wine News: Rent-Seeking
    Thursday, 8 March, 2012

    […] though certain critics have blasted Joe Roberts for overemphasizing the importance of social media, he isn’t stopping. In fact, he thinks the wine industry should be making “more of a fuss” about the importance of […]

  • Trackback from Advent of Wine And Social Media « Talk-A-Vino
    Thursday, 15 March, 2012

    […] post was born after reading the post by Joe Roberts, a.k.a. @1WineDude, which was called “This Is Me Totally NOT Lightening Up On Wine And Social Media“. The best thing you can do is read the original post – but to give the main idea, the […]

  • Trackback from Boomers And Busts: Sobering News For The U.S. Wine Business in 2013? | 1 Wine Dude
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    […] aspect of this is, of course, using social media to bypass media and interact directly with people who are actually buying your ju…. But most of you not only haven’t done that, you still don’t know how to do it. How do we know […]

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