Is the wine industry finally waking up to social media?


Wine glass balancing on tablet

Is the wine industry too slow in adopting social media marketing?

The title of this blog worries me. If the wine industry is only just waking up to social media marketing where have they been for the last 10 years?! Heads stuck in vines? And we’re not talking the six second video kind.

At a recent symposium industry experts gathered in Italy to discuss the future of wine communications, and of course social media was top of the agenda. A series of talks, presentations and discussions all aimed at taking wine industry communications forward. Modern communications for a very old fashioned industry.

One of the panel discussions at the symposium, organised by the Institute of Master Wine Makers Wine, titled ‘Communication: Reaching Tomorrow’s Audiences’ was a highlight of the four day event. But even the title of the debate was outdated. Surely the panel discussion should have been titled ‘Reaching Today’s Audience’. Social media is where your consumer is now, keep up!

Social media isn’t new. Facebook has been around for 10 years, Twitter five years. Are wine marketers only just waking up to the fact that this is where consumers are communicating and want to be communicated with?

Guy Woodward, ex Decanter Editor, wrote an interesting article for trade title Harpers Wine & Spirit calling for shift in thinking. He thinks the wine industry needs to take a different approach. For him modern communications is about listening to your consumer and having conversations with them. Not talking at them from ‘your ivory châteaux’.

How should you ‘do’ social media?

Other drinks categories are light years ahead in terms of social media and marketing. Just look at craft beer. Many small breweries are reaching big audiences by placing digital and social media channels at the heart of their marketing strategy. We wrote a little but about it in an earlier blog, click here to have a read.

The question modern marketers are asking is not ‘should we use social media?’ It’s now a question of how we quantify the value of a social media consumer. How are we turning them into brand advocates? How do we measure sales from social media?

Consumers expect to see brands using social media, they demand clever new ways to engage with goods and services. And if you’re still using social media and digital as a brochure for your business a major re-think is required.

Here are three examples from the wine industry where modern communications is used to reach the modern consumer.

  1. Naked Wines – the online retailer and supporter of independent wine makers knows how to communicate with its audience of wine lovers, or ‘angels’ as they like to call them. The company, a venture capital fund for wine producers, allows its customers to invest into independent wine makers. In exchange, these customers get exclusive access to wines at wholesale prices – typically 40pc to 60pc below retail. Every element of their communication in inclusive. It’s two way. They listen to their customer. They are truly social. And if this plays a part in the recent reports of record profits it would seem modern communication does pay dividends.
  2. Hardys Wine – they’ve made some pretty bold statements in the marketing press. According to Marketing Week Hardys has studied the social media strategy of Nike and Disney to create a ‘fully integrated below-the-line approach’. Blimey this sounds impressive (or 2014’s worst buzzword). Unsurprisingly, it isn’t as grand as it sounds. A Vine account with 19 followers (one of which is me), standard ‘win a case of wine’ on Facebook and Twitter used to promote cricket sponsorship. It’s hardly ground breaking but we should lambast them for having a good go.
  3. Tesco’s social wine project – in 2013 Tesco launched a campaign in partnership with wine importer Enotria. The idea was simple and certainly social media savvy- a crowdsourced wine created by Tesco’s wine community. Everything from the grape to the bottle label. Simple and effective.

So what should the wine industry do to catch up?

There’s a huge opportunity for small to medium sized wineries to catch up with social media. First of all listen to your consumer. There are lots of conversations about wine taking place online every minute. Tap into them, understand your consumer and start talking in a way they want to be talked to.

Ultimately wine brands need to sell wine so make sure your social strategy is focussed on the bottom line. Find ways to cleverly bring consumers into your brand, make them feel special and then once they’re in the market to buy make the user journey as simple and easy as possible.

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