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.