Can a winery get buzz from Twitter? Probably not
I saw Biz Stone on C-SPAN talking up Twitter, which of course he co-founded. He told the tale of a New York night club that was struggling to get attention. When a local celebrity tweeted that he was going there, badda bing, next thing you know hundreds of people were trying to get in.
That’s a great example of the Twitter influence. Another, on a much more massive scale, is the way that kids in the Middle East are pulling off the Arab Spring, using Twitter to alert each other. This kind of stuff is exciting, and clearly establishes Twitter as one of the most revolutionary advances in the history of human communication.
So what does this mean for wineries?
I’ve been saying for years that it means nothing. Put me down as a Twitter skeptic. There are vast differences between popularizing a night club, mobilizing crowds against a regime, and boosting the fortunes of a winery. And anyone who confuses or conflates these instances is bound to be disappointed.
We can dispense with the Arab Spring use of Twitter immediately. Political movements have always depended on the ability of a core group to communicate widely with a constituency, whether it was by putting tracts up on church walls, broadcasting shortwave radio messages or, nowadays, Twitter. That’s all Twitter is for modern politics: the most up to date way for constituencies to talk to each other. But does anyone think that the choice of a wine brand is a revolutionary act, comparable to overthrowing a government?
Now, let’s think about that New York club. In that example, a lot of people already were ready to go out on a particular night. They were looking for someplace cool, when lo and behold someone cooler than them told them to check out this club. So of course they did, and in so doing they created, and became part of, buzz. They had nothing to lose by going to that club. If they didn’t like it, they could always go someplace else, probably in the same neighborhood. Manhattan has plenty of clubs.
The hope among winery proprietors is that they can use Twitter (and social media in general) to create this same kind of buzz–an energy that will send people flocking to buy their wine (hopefully direct from the winery, so they don’t have to deal with distributors). But I haven’t seen any evidence yet that this can be done. It was different with the night club. Clubs are driven by buzz, same way that restaurants are. Whatever club is the buzziest at any given time will get the crowd. And when it comes to creating buzz, there’s nothing like a celebrity endorsement. People have always flocked to clubs that had celebrities in them, from CBGB and Studio 54 back in the day to San Francisco joints like Infusion and DNA Lounge.
But how can a winery get buzz going? Can you think of a single instance? I can’t, and I’ve been watching this scene for a long time. I suppose in theory one could imagine a celebrity talking up a winery or a wine brand, and it could have a certain impact. Lil’ Kim sang about Moscato (“still Over In Brazil sippin Moscato,” from Lighters Up/Welcome To Brooklyn), and that, among other things, is said to be responsible for Moscato’s popularity, especially in the hip hop community. But let’s say Lil’ Kim’s lyric was, “still Over In Brazil sippin Fetzer Moscato.” Do you think hundreds of thousands of people would be out looking for Fetzer Moscato? I don’t. Besides, celebrities usually don’t mention specific brands unless they’re paid to endorse them.
Take it a step further. Let’s say someone famous with a high likeability factor, like Bono, tweeted that he liked Fetzer Moscato, and then, somehow, that tweet got retweeted so much that it became a trending topic. I suppose that would give Fetzer Moscato a certain boost. But it wouldn’t last for long. It couldn’t, because before long all the other Moscato producers would figure out what was happening. They’d hire their own celebrity endorsers, and the whole thing would become absurd. Either that, or the shelf life of such an endorsement simply would expire beyond a certain point, probably within a matter of weeks.
I understand the theory behind the night club tweet story. It’s an urban legend, simple to understand, and compelling. All success takes is a tweet; little wonder that winery proprietors are so enthralled with the possibilities that social media dangles before their eyes. All I’m saying is that so far those possibilities have not materialized into reality, and the logic of the situation suggests they’re not likely to in the future.