Talking about social media for wineries

Interesting session today at the importers’ AGM held by Wines of South Africa in London. I was there to speak about the use of social media in the wine trade (my presentation is available here if you want to see it). Two points of discussion proved quite interesting.

The first was whether or not agencies/importers/wineries should tweet as organizations or individuals. I firmly believe that the latter is the best course to take. People relate to people, not organizations. I think you are likely to have much more impact if you tweet as yourself, and build up a social network this way.

But for some employers, this can seem risky. If they have a staff member tweeting as themselves, one common reaction is that the person involved is using company time for something that isn’t just about their role. The usual give and take of twitter sees people getting involved in all sorts of discussions, and mixing the personal with business. Bosses can sometimes find this slightly alarming.

Also, what happens if a member of staff is an effective user of social media, building up a large network by tweeting as themselves, and then leaves? Bosses might see this as a loss; the individual is taking away some equity that took the employee company time and resources to build.

But I’d argue that without having tweeted as a person, that employee would never have built anything like as rich a social network up in the first place. It’s true: they take this with them when they leave. But they’d never have had this to take away had they been tweeting as the organization, and the company would not have enjoyed the benefit of this employee’s profile and following on twitter while they were in their job. So it’s a choice: you generate nothing and you lose nothing when they leave; or you generate something, benefit from it, and lose this when they leave. The latter is preferable, but it requires bosses who understand social networking at a reasonable level, and who can see the bigger picture.

We also discussed the problem of tweeting from larger companies. An employee from one of the UK’s largest agencies revealed that she simply can’t tweet because the legal department won’t let her. Because of the Portman Group recommendations, if she were to tweet she’d have to protect her tweets, and then if anyone wanted to follow her she’d have to contact them by email to verify that they are over 18 (the legal drinking age in the UK) before allowing them to. This means building up any sort of following is just about impossible. Once legal teams get involved in these sorts of decisions, it’s almost inevitable that a risk averse strategy will be chosen, which pretty much rules out employees tweeting in a personal capacity about anything to do with their job.

15 comments to Talking about social media for wineries

  • Skippy

    I can honestly say that is the first time I have seen the phrase ‘If you are a dick, people will realize…’ in a presentation. Nice work, did it get a few chuckles?

  • Very interesting, I think that basically at work I’m the only one who understands what Twitter is, and like everyone else use Facebook but have been the only one to start to try and put something into place for the company.

    However 12 months in and we’ve been using a corporate page, should we stick or switch to a different thing. WOSA actually do quite well for instance Claudia there is Claudia WOSA – you know the person and what she works for. Perhaps I should become Tim SHJ rather than the company name.

    Certainly that might mean people who know me, might be more likely to engage. In general terms I think I pretty much subscribe to what you say, there are plenty of people trying to get people to spend money getting people to set up social network stuff.

    Also plenty of people who think that social media will be a magic tool. But then plenty of merchants have set up expensive web shops only to find that they haven’t managed to sell much.

    After talking to our board about the budget they had for our website I took the decision and talked them into letting me remove e-commerce full capability from the site and make it more about communication. The blog is the main deal and you can buy the things we blog about but by and large it’s communication.

  • Isabel

    Really useful and straight forward presentation! Thank you

    Question: Regarding your thoughts on personal vs corporate twitter accounts, do you think it’s necessary for the person posting on the account to have a picture, name, etc or just make the company posts more personal?

  • I covered a similar wine and the web seminar in New York. Here’s the link to the post: http://marmitelover.blogspot.com/2011/01/new-york-art-salt-wine-and-web-long.html
    It may be of interest to you.

  • Great, pratical, common sense advice to using social media in the wine industry Jamie. You were spot on with all you said. You asked if anyone had had success using LinkedIn. Well the answer to that is yes….I have made many positive contacts with people who can help promote and sell Seven Springs wine all over the world. We have been able to get on US radio (both myself and winemaker Riana), have many contacts in Holland, Germany, Sweden, the USA and Canada, all who are interested in selling our wines in the future.

    As you said yesterday social media is not the whole answer to marketing and selling, but if used correctly it is an exceptionally valuable resource that can and does work extremely effectively.

    Also great to see the @7SpringsWine tweet at the top of your Twitter image.

    Tim Pearson
    Seven Springs Vineyard

  • Hi Jamie, Great presentation and good to have a discussion afterwards. I am going to forward your comments onto my boss to see what they think about personal vs company twitter profiles. It is an interesting debate!!

  • Ben S

    Jamie,
    Once again a topical, debate-rich subject for your blog. If your beloved City scored as regularly they’d be top of the table by now. This is extremely relevant to me as I tweet as @enotriauk and haven’t ‘gone solo’ – yet. The significance of Twitter is, as you say, ‘a network of uncertain value’. Uncertain, yes, but of value, undoubtedly. It seems to me that what started as very much a ‘social’ interaction – in the sense of ‘not really about work’, has now become more serious with larger followings and more credibility given to the medium.
    I think the solution – for me at least – is to continue as @enotriauk but also to activate my own, non-corporate id where I can swear, rant and generally say exactly what I think about a range of topics. But I would say that for me it can still be fun and hopefully relevant to tweet as an entity and not a person – and I don’t feel overly (or even overtly) censored doing it. Viva tweeta!

  • Steve

    If only you’d added the word ‘blues’ to the title I might have read it…

  • Interesting presentation Jamie. I would be interested to know the sort of traction firms are experiencing through Twitter, and whether it’s resulting in sales. How effective IS it?

    In Australia (as with the rest of the world) we’re getting more and more wineries using social media, but many of them just use Twitter to chat to each other (largely about cricket and football). A few tweetups have been organised, but again I haven’t seen any figures to show what sort of impact the medium is having on sales. Have you?

  • Timely blog! I’ve been ramping up our use of social media more and more. We are definitely finding that it is a slow process – developing those relationships, getting more followers, retweets, clicks, etc. We were struggling with how to measure the effectiveness too. The more conversations I am having, the more I read and understand, I am finding that it really is all about fostering relationships and the analogy of a playing a round of golf is pretty accurate. We have had some good success with Linked In too – in fact, more so there than on FB/Twitter so far.

    Also realizing that many in our target market, small wineries & vineyards, are managing multiple tasks from growing grapes, winemaking, running a winery & tasting room to just handling office operations, and thus twittering or posting on FB seems like a waste of time in comparison. The benefits are not understood, so when there’s not enough time in a day, it’s not a priority when they are just trying to get everything done in a day.

    But we’ll keep pushing forward and soon, they’ll get on board, one by one.

  • Hi Jamie and thank you for an amusing and well thought out post and presentation.

    You hit the nail on the head regarding authenticity and putting a face to the brands. People contact is KING!

    We tweet out of Australia and its great to see more and more wineries coming online and sharing. There have been some highly successful twitter campaigns held here in Australia with 70+ wineries getting involved and making it happen, and I look forward to being involved in many more.

    Social Media is indeed here to stay :)

    Bridget
    The Internet Chef

  • Hi Jamie,

    One of the challenges in the personal vs business Twitter profile debate, is drawing the line between the opinions. The person inadvertently becomes representative of the company or business position on things. In the wine trade that can be very beneficial as we try to break down the gap between producers and consumers. But this can be a problem, as most people have some opinions that differ from the core position that their brand represents.
    I think that this is one of the main motivators behind anonymous commenters on blogs. The wine industry is a relatively close group and much of the online content is consumed by people within the industry or trade. If you have a strong opinion and air it, it is generally associated with you brand.

    Cheers.

  • Like everyone, the hardest thing is to quantify what benefit social media brings to the bottom line. And you’ll do your head in trying to come up with some sort of metric to work that out, so the best thing is just to roll with it, converse, meet and introduce yourself to people interested in what you do.

    The biggest mistake made is just to use it as an advertising board, with each post crammed with URL’s. People see through that pretty quick.

    We ( Haskell Vineyards) got into it over a year and half ago as @dombeyawine. We’ve met a lot of people that we wouldn’t otherwise have come into contact with, and in the process have become one of the most followed SA wine brands on Twitter. And it’s pretty good fun too, which is a good thing…maybe the most important thing.

    Cheers

  • Alessandra

    I personally believe that if you tweet/ facebook as a company, you can just as easily establish a following then if you tweet as an individual. It is all about the content that is pushed out. Tweeting or Facebooking as the company can create brand identity, and enables the company to become an expert in their field. The company can become a resource that people trust, and go to over and over again. What is key, is that you have employees that are part of the company engaging with the company page as well. I recently wrote a blog post about social media for wineries and give examples of two wineries that have developed successful social media strategies. You can read it here: http://www.mysmn.com/yoga-theater-and-wine-a-gold-mine-for-social-media-marketing/

  • I think a big misconception that’s been put forth is that people can easily measure the ROI of social media. This is kind of like asking you to measure the value of your friendships. It’s hard to put a $ figure on something like that.

    However, it’s still important to pay attention to your brand’s exposure across various channels. I am sure that multi-channel attribution models would show social media having a strong influence on site visits and conversions, although there probably won’t be many direct conversions attributed to SM.

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