Few things bring people together like food and drink. From the Roman empire on up through the ages to now, wine has served as the common thread that weaves together society though social gatherings. Birthday parties, annual holidays, business functions, family dinners or just hanging with friends are settings where wine and conversation are likely to be found.
That bodes well for wineries and wine shops wanting to build their brand in social media. The wine industry has a bit of an unfair advantage over other industries. If we were using social media to talk about tires it wouldn't be nearly as sexy as talking about Chardonnay.
I've seen dozens of wineries who are trying to make sense out of social media and utilize what limited time they have to do something, anything just to avoid being left behind. Well open up your mouths baby birds, because I've got a big fat night crawler for you. Well, five actually. Here's some answers to the test:
1. Be Patient - It can work. But it's not going to happen overnight. The best analogy I can give is the example of planting vines. You don't plant vines, then turn around and say, "where's my grapes?". You have to wait 3-5 years before your vines produce fruit you can use.
Luckily, you don't have to wait 3-5 years for your social media vines to produce fruit, but you do have to nurture it and let your social presence grow organically. If you do that, your social media presence will produce fruit consistently. It's hard for winery owners to commit 100% to this concept, which is why some of them are failing at it, and ultimately writing off social media as a fad.
2. Build Trust First, Then Sell Wine (maybe) - This is the secret. It's the answer to the million dollar question. It might blow your mind when I tell you in the past 12 months St. Supéry winery has offered to sell wine through social media a total of three times. Yet, people are buying our wine and sales are up. They're buying for a number of reasons, including the hard work of our CEO, VP of Sales, National Accounts guy, price adjustments, new winemaker and our stellar visitor center. Social Media and Marketing is one cog in the engine.
The worst thing you can do is get online, then start pushing your product. Nothing will dissuade trust faster. In fact, that's literally the opposite of what this is all about. As soon as someone opts in either by following on Twtiter or becoming a fan on Facebook, that is the beginning of a personal relationship. That's the beginning of trust building. You have to put faith in knowing your trust will create a tighter bond with consumers, which in turn will lead to sales.
3. Establish a Personality - Wine drinkers would prefer to see a face or hear a voice. If it's the winemaker, even better. If it's the chef or owner, that's a great start. Just putting the winery label out there is okay, but it's not very personal. The consumer wants to get to know the people behind the brand.
Videos and photos are going to happen. Attending wine and social media events is going to happen. Before a consumer opens up their wallet, they want to know who they're buying from. Adding the human element to interactions with customers through the face(s) of the winery allows the winery to show they care and are transparent.
4. The Right Person isn't a Millennial - One of the biggest misconceptions is you need someone in their 20's. It might seem like a good idea because twenty-somethings are cheaper to hire and are the main users of social media, right? Wrong. The largest demographic of wine drinkers online are women 35-55. I'm a 40-year old male, and having some successes in this arena. Gary Vaynerchuk is a 30-year old male and definitely having successes. The right person is someone with emotional intelligence to responsibly represent a brand publicly.
I'm not saying someone right out of college won't work, just get someone for the right reasons. This person is going to be holding your brand in their hands, which is why I tend to lean towards hiring someone internally rather than a so-called social media marketing firm or social media "guru". Anyone who refers to themselves as such should give you reason to run in the other direction.
5. Promote Everyone but Yourself - I'm really fortunate to work for the Skalli family at St. Supéry. They understand we can't just talk about ourselves all day because that would be boring and one dimensional. We often talk about everyone and everything but ourselves. It blows people's minds when we promote our competitors online. We do it because we're stewards of a legacy of collaborators. Before any of us were born, grape growers used to work together and help each other out. Luckily, in the realm of social media, you're rewarded for doing that.
If I had to guestimate, I'd say a winery's brand has little better than a 1:1 return on effort when self promoting. But you get better than 2:1 when promoting members of the community. Imagine that, you get rewarded for being positive and supportive. Pretty cool concept.