Social media: necessary, but not sufficient for success
Courtney Cochran, whom I’ve mentioned before in this blog, here and here, runs an outfit, Hip Tastes Communications, whose website says can help wine businesses “refresh, reposition and reinvigorate” themselves (not to mention learn the gentle art of alliterative writing).
Last week, she wrote an Op-Ed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle that makes the case for wineries to “turn to social media and other viral digital tools to remain relevant,” but I think the overstates her case, mainly by relying almost exclusively on the anecdotal experience of a single winery, St. Supery.
St. Supery, as we all know, hired a social media director, Rick Bakas, a year ago; Bakas had been a contestant in the Murphy-Goode “A Really Goode Job” contest that Hardy Wallace won. In her article, Courtney says St. Supery reports that its wine club attrition rate has dropped, and she attributes that fact (assuming its true) to St. Supery’s “dramatically increased…participation on social sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Ustream and Foursquare.”
I have my doubts. First of all, a declining attrition rate doesn’t sound like a great measure of success, although I suppose it’s preferable to a rising attrition rate. Nor does Courtney offer any further tangible evidence that St. Supery is experiencing more robust sales than, say, any other winery along Highway 29 in Napa Valley. St. Supery may or may not be healthy, but it’s not good journalism to take a minor factoid issued by the winery, tie it to increased participation in social media, and then make the gigantic leap to claiming that “The wineries that understand this [i.e., social media] will be the winners in this recessionary moment.”
There’s simply no evidence for that. I could go along with Courtney if she had said, “Social media is one element for a winery to survive in this recessionary moment, but it’s not the only element. Other elements include old-fashioned marketing, sales and promotion, good reviews by reputable critics, tasting room strategies, sound distributor relationships,” etc. etc. In other words, social media is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for success. To put the entire burden of success on the back of social media is asking too much of a strategy that, so far, has failed to achieve much of anything for any winery.
That’s the problem when you ask someone who’s running a social media advisory company about social media. Of course they’re going to tout it! Crest toothpaste is not going to say, “Brushing your teeth is not an important part of dental hygiene.” I respect Courtney, and if I had a winery, I might well ask her to come on over and advise me about online marketing. But I would also keep things in perspective, and I wouldn’t bet the farm that Twitter, Facebook et al. would be my salvation.