Why wineries should embrace social media
It’s hard to believe that right here in Microsoft’s backyard, most wineries know very little about social media. Sure, there are a few who have embraced the latest technology, but even those who have worked at big technology companies and left with fat stock portfolios to start a winery are often not social media savvy. Just because they worked for a big company doesn’t necessarily mean they use the latest technology. Besides, even CEO’s of big companies have been slow to adopt social media as shown by this latest research from ÜberCEO. Many wineries aren’t willing to take the plunge for some of the same reasons:
- Fear of the Unknown – Fear of making the wrong choice. With so many social platforms to consider that they simply choose not to choose.
- No expertise – Many wineries believe that just to even get started, they need to be experts on not only their winery, but with the technology.
- No time – Learning something new takes time. And maintaining a presence on a blog or Facebook or Twitter takes time too.
Writing my blog allows me to meet a lot of winemakers and winery owners. A few weeks ago, I had a chance to stop and chat with Leslie Balsley of William Church Winery at the Seattle Wine Awards. She expressed what I hear quite often from wineries, which I’ll paraphrase here:
We just don’t have time or knowledge to do all this social media stuff. We have our web site. Isn’t that enough?
No, it’s not nearly enough if you plan to thrive in the wine marketplace but especially during tougher economic times like now. Social media is changing the entire landscape of how consumers research, enjoy, share and buy wine. It’s also forced many businesses to adapt to this new way of marketing to consumers and especially to the millenium generation who grew up on this stuff. Besides, if planned properly, social media shouldn’t take a lot of time.
In the past, the tiered system of wine sales dictated how wineries interacted with consumers. Wineries provided the wine and information to distributors who chose what they provided to retailers who in turn sold to customers. The laws created, after Prohibition was repealed, are to blame for our outdated distribution model and the bottlenecks created by powerful distributors. If you want to know more about how all this came about, read Tom Wark’s Fermentation blog about this very topic. This one-to-many model had wineries producing whatever marketing collateral the distributor needed.
Some laws have changed and in many states wineries are now allowed to sell and ship directly to the consumer. This allowed wineries to bypass the middlemen and sell wines and share information previously controlled by distributors, retail establishments and restaurants. Consumers increased as did the number of wineries since the smaller wineries were now able to sell direct to consumers, retailers and restaurants. With this change came a change in how wineries market wine to these different audiences who have little knowledge about them, however, it was still a one-to-many media model
Some small wineries rely entirely on the direct-to-consumer model, bypassing not only the tiered system of distribution, but also traditional print media, their points rating systems and critics. Their view of the social media world would be like this simple diagram. Some have even gone as far as maintaining a blog with the ability for consumers to comment on the winery and their products. But they’re only scratching the surface of social media, since this model is still one-to-many or one-to-one marketing. They are still pushing information out to the consumer and not truly engaging them.
Eventually, all the other media will shift to become one aspect of the social media arena. When that happens, the media model may look like this, where wineries, blogs, traditional media and other key influencers provide a platform for wine to be discussed, rated, and hopefully, freely bought and sold. Except, of course, if you’re in Michigan. Then you’re at the mercy of the distributors in that state…sorry.
Don’t believe me? Then you really need to see Pamela Heiligenthal’s post on Enobytes along with the TED video by Clay Shirky about the transformation of media.
Not only will everyday people be consumers of wine, but because of the ability of social networks to widely share information, each consumer also becomes a critic and an influencer, if only in their part of the web world. Considering the costs when compared to traditional marketing, it’s hard to ignore. But utilizing social media to drive sales is akin to Boeing advertising on television about their airplanes. They aren’t likely to sell an airplane to television viewers, but those ads are meant to promote brand awareness and improve consumer confidence. Social media for wineries is similar in that it allows wineries to promote their brand and engage with their customers thereby creating goodwill. Conversations on SM may not have anything to do with wine and it likely will not result in direct sales, but the brand awareness it creates will help when the consumer is faced with so many choices at a wine store or supermarket. The goodwill from SM may result in a winery visit or word-of-mouth marketing. You remember that shampoo commercial: She told three friends and they told three friends and so on and so on. Oh, you don’t? I guess I’m dating myself once again.
To benefit from this model of many-to-many interactions, a shift in thinking and marketing must occur. It’s not enough to push information out to customers. Actually, most social media customers will be turned off by more traditional selling techniques. You must become an active participant and connect with people beyond what you are selling. You need to be a real person behind the winery.
from → Social Media