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Hey Joe, lighten up on the social media thing

51 comments

It must drive wineries crazy to read stuff like Joe Roberts’ post today at 1WineDude.

Winery owners are doing everything they can to keep afloat in this dour economy. Most of them are tinkering with social media to some extent; some of them even have dedicated employees for it, if they can afford it. Inbetween buying corks and capsules, hoping the bottling line doesn’t break down, filling out employee forms, patching up hoses, worrying about drought or swamps in the vineyard, pruning, staking, riding the mule around the vineyard, topping off, racking, tinkering with valves and dials and switches, deciding on blends, driving to the hardware store, going on the road to sell wine, meeting with distributors and wholesalers, having staff meetings, and, oh, trying to find an hour to spend with the wife and kiddies, here’s Joe telling them they need to “just start using that time on social media to connect with customers already.”

What time? You mean those few hours between midnight and dawn when everyone’s entitled to a little sleep?

I pity these poor vintners. Everybody’s telling them to do social media, “to reach younger wine consumers” through the Twitter machine, to check their Facebook feed every three minutes, to blog, to make YouTubes and put them up on Oinga-Boinga or Diddly-Squat or whatever the hot new social platform is that’s about to go public. And those vintners are just sitting there, like, What? What are you talking about? It’s easy for someone who doesn’t have a real job to tell them to hang out on social media all day long, as that will magically solve all their problems. It’s also easy for that same blogger to tell winemakers “But if I were a small-production winery, I’d be worrying a hell of a lot more about how to reach, engage, and keep customers I had (as well as engaging new ones) than trying to get a crazy-good review with critics.” Why would a blogger tell winemakers not to be concerned with the critics? That’s crazy talk. And it must drive winemakers nuts (like I said) to think that they’re not doing enough to “engage and keep” their customers. When you accuse a hard-working vintner of being lazy when it comes to engaging customers, it’s like asking a guy when he stopped beating his wife. There is no answer that’ll get him off the hook. If he admits he’s not reaching out enough to potential customers, he subjects himself to feelings of guilt and suffering, because he knows that, no matter what he does, it can never be enough.

I agree that winemakers or owners should play around with social media, if they want to and like it. I spend a lot of time at it myself. But I don’t think it’s helpful to tell them that they’re bad if they’re not living online. When Joe (whom I like a lot, I really do and he knows it) says, “Honestly, I’ve got no idea what producers (especially smaller wine producers) are waiting for when it comes to outreach,” he’s really doing a disservice to the people he says he’s trying to help. How does he presume to know that producers are “waiting for” something? He doesn’t know the myriad ways that each producer is reaching out and engaging, whether it’s through a wine club, or working the tasting room, or hitting the road for a winemaker dinner, or writing thank you notes to valued colleagues, or visiting Wine Enthusiast’s headquarters in New York and tasting with the staff. Winery people work really hard, long hours. Telling them they have to put social media at the top of the list of things they’re already overwhelmed with is really no help at all.

  1. James Rego says:

    Heya! Common sense always prevails and this sounds right to me!

  2. All valid points. But I think you’re reading more into Joe’s post. In my experience, social networking has been a lot more valuable for me as an importer/retailer than chasing the critics. I also know that most of my producers aren’t all that good at selling, they let the product speak for itself and few of them are natural-born marketers. The rule of thumb is that you have to spend 20% of your time marketing to get anywhere, and social networking is a good way to refine and test things without much time or expense.

  3. #1. Average social media geek is 25 yrs old. Avg buyer of premium wines is 35-55 yrs old.

    #2. How much does a winery, or any other business, have to say that’s actually interesting? You can only throw out so many coupon deals.

  4. Steve, Another great post. Thanks for reminding your readers of the ‘other’ things winemakers do. Here is an example: I am supposed to sit down with one of Antonio Galloni’s recent favorite winemakers to taste his non-Napa projects, but need to put it off until he gets done with Unified in Sacramento. I went to Unified once and it takes all of the ‘romance’ out of wine (corks, bottles, innerstaves, barrels, bottling lines, tractors, fermentation tanks fill a huge building). To a winemaker it is a must-attend event. These are the same people who make the wine you and I taste and evaluate, who go on the road trips to sell their wine with distributors, who manage all the tax and compliance issues associated with a winery, run a tasting room and keep a website up and running. I think what Joe is doing is making a good argument for the wineries to use him as a social media consultant. More power to him!

  5. Bill Smart says:

    Steve, Joe’s a friend (like he is to you) so I’m not going to bash him. I think he’s trying to build his business just like anyone else and part of that is pointing out where his services could be used by winery owners. I don’t think Joe is saying that social media is the only means of engagement with the consumer.

    As has been pointed out many times on this blog, marketing/sales/pr is a multi-pronged approach. There is no one shoe fits all solution. Winemaker dinners? yes. Sales trips and meetings with distributors and gatekeepers? Absolutley. Facebook and Twitter dialouge and fresh content? You have to do it. In my opinion, it’s like anything else in life – you have to take a balanced approach to successfully build your business.

  6. Asking Joe to lighten up on the social media thing is like asking Steve to lighten up on the thing he does.

  7. I almost googled Oinga-Boinga!

  8. Steve, my day job is in a business completely unrelated to wine and I’m overwhelmed by all the social media platforms capital-T “they” tell me I need to be on. And now Pinterest? Good god, shoot me. But part of my frustration with “needing” to use social media in my day job is that I see how much more powerful social media is in wine vs my job.

    I have no skin in the social media game so I feel totally free in saying that Joe has a point – wineries who aren’t trying something with social media are missing out on a great opportunity. Our blog serves a very niche community, fans of Virginia wine. There are a few winemakers and owners who comment and interact with readers through our blog and we’ve actually heard things like “we didn’t love Winery X years ago but after reading comments from the new winemaker, we made another trip out and loved it.” It works.

    Everyone obviously has to do what they’re comfortable with and can allocate time for, but I think the wineries embracing social media are going to have an edge. People may see social media as a millennials game, but I’ll bet money that our blog readership is predominantly 35+.

  9. I felt the same way up until last summer. Then I got schooled on how (some) small production wineries are driving business through social media. For zero cost outlay and very little time, these guys get repeat business, customer loyalty, viral exposure to a new group of consumers in their target market, increased RQ, etc. Those leveraging it are ecstatic.

    So, should Joe be “Telling them they have to put social media at the top of the list of things they’re already overwhelmed with…”? No – and in fact he doesn’t – but social media does belong higher on their list of priorities than, say, visiting Wine Enthusiast’s headquarters.

  10. Steve:

    You urge Joe to “lighten up on the social media thing” as if you have better insight than he does into what it takes to run a profitable winery.

    Before bombastically making that argument, you might want to chat with winemakers who have actually embraced social media as Joe urges everyone to — folks like Elizabeth Vianna (Chimney Rock) and Cathy Corison. I’m sure both of them would be happy to chat with you about the huge impact social media has had on their operations.

  11. Yes! We need more advocates for small hard working producers who wear dozens of hats at once, not mega wineries with huge PR firms and massive marketing budgets!

    Steve, I am rather aware of your travels in places like Santa Barbara, I know many of these guys, and I know they live by the seats of their pants often at two or more winery jobs just to get their product out.

    Let’s help these people out and tell their story. Good for you Steve. I like Joe too by the way, but it is a question of perspective.

  12. I think the key here is not so much to go bozno on the social media thing with the hopes of winning new consumers but to solidify relationships with EXISTING customers.

    The latter has a much greater ROI than the former.

  13. Steve –

    You write, “It’s easy for someone who doesn’t have a real job to tell them to hang out on social media all day long.”

    I’m wondering if you’re trying to set a record for most strawmen attacked in one sentence.

    Joe is not telling anyone to “hang out” on social media. He’s telling to engage. And he’s not telling them to do it “all day long,” either. But he’s absolutely right when he says there is opportunity there, and it’s often being missed. Now, I agree with you regarding the long, long list of chores that winemakers must undertake. But it implies that not a single one of them could possibly have time for social media. Have you ever asked the many winemakers who have found a way to work it into their day? Some might even enjoy the engagement with customers, writers, colleagues, etc.

    I often think of people like Paul Mabray when this subject comes up. Paul is dripping with great ideas, but he has to work extremely hard to get anyone to listen. And I think posts like this one are a good indicator as to why.

  14. Wayne, I really love those Santa Barbara wineries. They work so hard at what they do–and the results show in the quality of the wine.

  15. i work at a small winery, and we use a lot of social media. So I took a little offense at the post at 1WineDude for assuming that we are so far behind the times. In the Willamette Valley, most small wineries are using tons of social media, so that was my main objection to the original blog.

    But this post by Steve is also a little silly. I make wine and get paid for it. There is definitely no “woe is me” mentality about how busy I am. It’s a lot of work, for sure, but c’mon…I’m workin as a frickin winemaker! It’s the best job in the world!

    I think the real issue is that two people who are internet wine writers don’t realize how much social media wineries are actually using. If they don’t know, then I guess it’s really not that effective

  16. Steve – thanks for the differing perspective on this.

    I do think you’re reading too much into my blog post. I’ve never accused wine producers as not working hard (if you can find one that I’ve said that to, I’ll give you $5000 – it’s safe bet for me because I’ve never said it :-). What I’ve accused them of is complaining that engaging customers on social media will take too much time.

    And it does take time – it just doesn’t take nearly as much time as they think; the point is that in the time that it takes someone to complain that reaching out to customers on social media platforms, they could have reached out to 10-20 of those customers, possibly hooking them for life because they’re pretty happy that one of their fave brands reached out to them (and went on to tell a bunch of their friends afterwards). Hanging out on social media all day long is not productive – it’s probably more akin to obsessive/addictive behavior and it’s not something I’d ever advocate.

    Regarding the part about critics, we’ll just have to understandably agree to disagree on that point. The point is that, as others have noted here, not having a multi-pronged approach to promoting your wines is crazy. Think about it this way: if a wine brand engages a customer effectively on social media, they can enter a zone of trust with that person – a zone of trust in which their voice has the same level of weight as mine, yours, Gary V’s, Robert Parker’s… that’s an amazing opportunity for a producer to help shape how their brand is perceived (particularly with a younger generation of wine lovers); not taking advantage of that opportunity is crazy.

    I do need to clear one thing up, I don’t consult with wineries on social media (not sure how that rumor got started?). I also can’t make wine, and I suck at blending! :) But I sure as hell know something about taking a brand from literally nothing to something in the wine world and doing it almost exclusively via engagement with wine lovers on social media and **doing it in my “spare” time**, in the (tiny!) spaces between my day-job career, my family, my band, and eating & sleeping. If I can do that, with my modest skills, then I’m totally convinced that a small wine producer can do it as well. I’m also convinced that in doing so I worked as much of my ass off as any vintner, anywhere.

    As for this: “It’s easy for someone who doesn’t have a real job to tell them to hang out on social media all day long” – I’m not sure I can dignify it with a proper response. :( I mean, I left a very lucrative job to try to carve a totally new and independent path in the wine world. I suppose in that respect I do not have a “real” job anymore, but I can tell you that I’ve never worked harder than I have in the three weeks since leaving the corporate world, and have big things planned (some of which I hope to announce very soon).

  17. Kyle Wilkinson says:

    If there is one thing, and one thing only, you can always count on wine bloggers to do, it’s to reiterate ad nauseam the importance of wine blogs.

  18. I work retail and have yet to have a single person mention anything about wine to me and how they heard about it via social media. I know of people who keep up to date with certain wineries who do use it, but it wasn’t how they discovered it. Most of that comes from reading reviews, ordering wine at restaurants, sampling wines at retail events or they had it at a friend’s house.

    That doesn’t mean FB and Twitter should be ignored (but I would ignore all the others for now), but like I said, I’ve yet to see any proof that it influences actual purchases.

  19. Kyle – as far as I can discern no one is talking about blogs whatsoever in this conversation. At least in my case I’m talking about reaching people (customers); and yeah, that is pretty important at the end of the day.

    DrinkerX – beware he fallacy of small numbers. I know people who have only gotten their last several wine purchase recommendations from social media connections. Both experiences do not mean that only one or the other of us is right. Both are right – ignoring one over the other way of engaging those people is not a smart move.

  20. DrinkerX – an absence of evidence is not evidence of absence…

    Most consumers that enter a wine shop looking for specific wines or styles of wine do not inform the staff of the origination of said desire.

  21. raley roger says:

    Gabe, you sound like a cool cat! And, indeed, winemaking is the coolest frickin’ job in the world!

  22. An interesting conversation. I just had to respond to one of the comments by Bob on Sonoma. He writes:

    #1. Average social media geek is 25 yrs old. Avg buyer of premium wines is 35-55 yrs old.

    #2. How much does a winery, or any other business, have to say that’s actually interesting? You can only throw out so many coupon deals.

    To which I reply:

    #1. While boomers and Gen Xers represent most of the market, about one quarter of wine buyers are Millennials (Wine Market Council). As morbid as it is to say, the boomer market is shrinking due to attrition. Forward looking wineries realize that those buyers will be replaced by Millennials and use the appropriate tools to reach them.

    #2. If you don’t have anything interesting to say about your wines or winery, you might as well shutter your doors today. Figure out what makes you special and run with it.

  23. First off, quoting Bob on Sonoma…

    #1. Average social media geek is 25 yrs old. Avg buyer of premium wines is 35-55 yrs old.

    So that means you shouldn’t try to engage via social media??? If the average is 25 and we know there are a ton of teenyboppers on twitter, that also means that there are a TON of 35-55s out there to bring that average up to 25.

    And who says you only have to sell premium wines? The current 20s demographic is embracing wine as one of their preferred drinks more than any other generation seemed to. So why wouldn’t we go after them with lower-priced wines (which can be huge profit generators for wineries!)

    It seems to me that the ones that criticize social media are simply out of touch with the way the wine business (and any other business for that matter) works. All successful people in business are BUSY, not just winery owners/employees. The ones that put the extra effort in and engages their customers in WHATEVER way they can are the ones that will ultimately be more successful in whatever industry they happen to be in.

    To the wineries that are too busy to engage your potential customers, get out now. If you think this business is like Field of Dreams, you have been grossly misinformed. First you build it, then you engage your customers, then they will come.

    Joe was just trying to demand better of the wineries as he is a customer and supporter as well. That is his right. The same way I have the right to comment when I think a blog post from a blog I read consistently is nothing more than a jealous rant because the world has found a better way to market wines besides made-up point scores in some magazine.

  24. Social Media = the new face of customer service.

    No one would ever excuse anyone with, “oh, that winemaker is very small and so busy… he can’t be expected to provide customer service!”

  25. Kurt Burris says:

    Social media is a tool that can help keep your name out there. But, it’s bloody useless unless the content is worth reading. And most of it, and not just wine related social media, isn’t. And it certainly never opens a bottle and pours it for a potential customer in a tasting room. And if you don’t get the wine into a glass, it’s worthless.

  26. I’m so thrilled that I worked at wineries for about 10 years (Belvedere & Grove Street, Barefoot Cellars, Mondavi, and Ironstone) before becoming self-employed as a wine consultant.

    I started at the the bottom with one day a week (Sunday) in a tasting room, working back up to where I belonged after segueing from one career in radio PR to Director of wine PR. During those early days, I was constantly inspired by what [former] Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor had recently said at that time. Quote: “Do the best you can in every task, no matter how unimportant it may seem at the time. No one learns more about a problem than the person at the bottom.” (I went from sitting on many community boards and writing scholarship grants to one day a week at a wine company… That qualified for “no matter how unimportant…”)

    It’s because Joe (and I like him a lot, too) has never worked at a wine company from the ground up, that he’s frustrated because things aren’t moving fast enough in the social media department. If you’ve got to live any job at a winery, you learn quickly that it’s primary function is agriculture, then you’ve got a foot up on it.

    We have to constantly remember – social media people – that this is an ag industry first. If these farmers could just set up a fruit stand at the end of their driveways, and sell their grapes right at their front door steps, they might have time to get on a computer while waiting for the next truck to pull up and take their grapes away. Sadly, those days are long gone.

    It’s fascinating to watch the next generation of wine writers slowly learn what this business is really all about. The glass of wine is a class that begins at the nursery. Computers come in there at some point, but it’s low in the pecking order priorities, because being a farmer means tending the grapes, before all else. (I get totally frustrated at times too, so I know Joe’s pain… Perhaps that’s why I’m taking the time to weigh in… from sitting on both sides of the fence.)

    Things are slowly changing at wineries, and it’s like watching grapes grow…

  27. This gimmick of criticizing social media is getting old but hey it keeps working so why not, right? I’ve watched these posts over the past few years and wondered why you keep using social media to push the same “social media doesn’t work” message. I never pegged you as a hypocrite.

    Why don’t you pick up the phone and ask any of us who DO get it? Maybe interview people who understand the new era of business and can explain it to you.

    But why would you do that? Beating this dead horse keeps people coming back to your blog and giving you page views, right? Controversy is a gimmick for readership and commenting. It’s surprising more people haven’t caught onto this.

  28. Rick Bakas, sorry I’ve lost your trust. I have just tried to bring balance to this “magic bullet” discussion of social media. My critics portray me as hating social media. That is obviously ridiculous, as I engage in social media all day long. I simply react to the implication that social media is some kind of wonderful solution to the vast problems of winery owners. It is not. It seems to me that the people who most object to my point of view are those who are trying to establish careers as social media consultants.

  29. “It seems to me that the people who most object to my point of view are those who are trying to establish careers as social media consultants” Steve, I’ve known Rick Bakas for several years and I think he scratched the word ‘trying’ out of his resume a couple years ago. It is a big universe of wine out there, Steve. Back-handed comments to Joe and Rick about what they are doing with their careers? What is the point?

  30. Sorry Steve, I have to disagree. I have this conversation with wineries, wine shops, restaurants and other small businesses regularly.

    Are these small production wineries also too busy to provide customer service? Because that’s what SM is – customer service when your customer isn’t standing in front of you.

    And I can’t believe the wineries that are taking advantage of this opportunity to engage are doing it at the expense of any aspect of their winemaking. They are simply being smart about the way they manage their time, and they know that inbound marketing is what their customers are looking for.

    I personally have experiences with wineries in Willamette, Central California, Ohio, New York and Virginia which are growing and maintaining their customer bases with solid SM plans. And they’ve solved customer problems from 1000 miles away, problems that could have LOST them customers, without that customer ever having stepped foot in their tasting room.

    Is it the be all, end all? Of course not. Is the forward thinking winery establishing a SM presence? Yes, because that’s where a good segment of their customer base is spending their time.

  31. Unfortunately, you lost my trust in 2009 when you inaccurately publicly shared my salary at St. Supéry in another social-media-doesn’t-work post. Not only did you post the wrong number, but again you could’ve picked up the phone and called or sent an email asking me. When did fact checking go out the window? Whatever my salary was at that time was private information. Your post created quite a bit of confusion (i tried to go back and find the link but can’t locate it to reference).

    Going forward the industry can do two things:
    1. Recognize these posts for what they are—gimmicks to drive page views
    2. Reach out to people who can answer the question of what works and what doesn’t

    If you truly believe social media doesn’t work, Steve take this blog down. Delete your Twitter profile. Take down your Facebook page. They don’t work, right?

  32. Rick, you’ll have to show me where I “shared your salary.” Here’s the link to where I mentioned you once. http://www.steveheimoff.com/index.php/2010/07/12/social-media-necessary-but-not-sufficient-for-success. It says nothing about what you earned at St. Supery, so you shouldn’t be saying things you can’t back up. Nor was that a “social media doesn’t work” posting. The title was “Social media: necessary, but not sufficient for success.” I don’t know how you interpret “necessary” to mean “doesn’t work,” and I don’t think you can explain it. So please, Rick, take a deep breath and chill.

  33. Both of you really should learn how Google works. Steve, you did mention Rick’s supposed salary in here: http://www.steveheimoff.com/index.php/2009/07/21/and-the-winner-is/

    And I quote, “At least one contestant for A Really Goode Job already has landed a job: one of the top fifty, who didn’t make the Top Ten, was recently hired by St. Supery Winery, in Napa Valley, as their social media director. Salary: $90,000 a year.”

    Steve, you really shouldn’t be saying things you can’t back up…

  34. LT fan of this blog, and 1WD among others. It truly is great to see quality writing, personality out there – though I prefer the less personal stories.

    Here’s the link in question:
    http://www.steveheimoff.com/index.php/2009/07/21/and-the-winner-is/

    Originally from Canada I come down in the middle of the issue. Social media is phenomenal. But it is not a miracle panacea. I know that everything we’ve done on our sites would not be possible without Google, Twitter, Facebook. Plus we’ve made numerous industry connections and expanded virtual relationships. All tremendous in my books. Enjoying all of your work!

  35. Colorado and Rick Bakas, I stand corrected. I did write that. I can’t remember where I got the number but I would assume it had already been published elsewhere. Rick, did St. Supery put out a press release with that number on it? At any rate, I apologize if I revealed your salary if it was not public knowledge.

  36. That number was not published anywhere else. It was only incorrectly published here.
    Whatever the salary was at that time, it was private information.

    Thank you for acknowledging it and for the apology.

  37. Rick, you’re welcome. I will also write re-apologize on Monday morning on my blog. Now I hope you’ll acknowledge I do not write “social media doesn’t work” pieces. That’s an exaggeration. All I’ve ever said is that social media is not sufficient in itself for a winery to depend on. I don’t know why people take that evident truth and distort it into “Steve hates social media.”

  38. Steve,
    We have to stop meeting like this . . . Initially I was going to come in guns blazing to your flame post (you know I love a good bare knuckle debate) but I was talked down. Instead I’ll offer this up to you:

    So your statement essentially posits that wineries barely have time to focus on social media due to the constraints on their time, need to focus on revenue generating activities, and social media takes time and has no proven case studies of revenue generation.

    The way you use social media is such a broad term that you leave too much room for interpretation. It encompasses blogs, forums, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Flickr, Youtube, and so much more. Each one of these has case studies of success for brands outside of the wine industry. Each one of them has case studies of incredible failure as well.

    The way you elude to revenue generation often seems that you are looking for the “big hit” case study. e.g. Winery X put out a tweet and made $Y of sales. Social media doesn’t work like that and represents an old school push marketing mentality (which barely work today as well).

    If you want to criticize marketing methods used in the wine industry you can go through the list: advertising, email, tastings, wholesalers, e-commerce, etc. They all work to varying degrees and have varying degrees of success and ROI for different brands and many (especially advertising) can be chastised for not working.

    The notion of the poor, repressed winery is exaggerated. Yes, unfortunately there are wineries in trouble and struggling to survive, but most wineries are just having to work harder to make sales not just as a result of the recession but compounded by unprecedented competition, diminishing routes to market, fewer critics, and many other factors. That being said, how many of the over 7800 US wineries match your exaggerated description of the overburdened winery owner? Joe’s comments about engaging on Social Media are not the “put up a Pinterest site, create a Facebook contest, etc.” He states the most basic reality. Customers talk about your brand on social networks and EXPECT that you, at a minimum, talk back.

    When does taking time to speak with a customer a burden? Is it a burden when a customer calls the telephone of the winery to answer the call? Is it a burden to answer an email from a customer? Is it a burden to speak to a customer when they walk up to a winery’s table at a tasting? And what is the ROI on any of those interactions? How often can they be tied to a direct sale? (pssst., the answer is almost never)

    If small winery is the calibration, then in these economically stressful times their highest priority is selling direct to consumers isn’t engaging with their customers the most important priority than hoping (and that is the reality) for a critic to fall in love with their wine and give them a score that actually moves the needle (94+)?

    We can not deny that social media, in all its forms, permeates through our society, and is a major relevant channel. It is by no means the panacea but more akin to email. It is now essential in our business communication stream and at the very minimum, we need to speak with our customers.

  39. My boss thinks like Steve, I think like Paul and Joe. I’m showing this thread to him.

  40. Paul Mabray, whenever I write something about social media people who feel a lot more passionate about it than I do write in. I always learn from these exchanges. Clearly SM and its relevance/impact on wineries is a huge topic, not thoroughly understood and evolving rapidly. Thanks for your input. I am doing my best to watch SM developments, at least in California.

  41. Laughing…thank you.

  42. I don’t think there is much I can add to this discussion, as most of what I would have said has been said. I think Steve is correct that many wineries don’t have the time for social media or the money to hire someone to oversee a social media campaign. These folks won’t necessarily be losing out. I also think that Joe is correct in asserting that it could be quite beneficial to some wineries to engage their consumers in this fashion and that it wouldn’t necessarily distract them from making the wine they set out to make.

    I believe a social media campaign can only be effective when the message and the time put into it is constant. This does require effort and a willingness to be prolific.

    What I really wanted to say in the comment space, however, is this: Thanks Steve for writing this post, thanks Joe for writing the post that provoked this post, and, even more importantly for me, thanks to all the commentators. This is one of the best give and take discussions on a blog I have ever read.

    Cheers.

  43. Richard, your comment is dear to my heart. I always wanted my blog to be a safe place for smart people to have high level conversations.

  44. Most small wineries are pop ~and mom~ operations. It is mostly the wife who handles much of the marketing while farmer John is out farming and engaging in the related activities enumerated by Steve. More and more she is adding Social Media postings to her quiver of arrows. She knows the Internet counts for a lot. And more and more we’ll see actual sales on Facebook and other channels, particularly since anyone can now be a cyber wine merchant (in California) as long at the simple rules are followed. This will make Social Media increasingly significant.

  45. Amy Tsaykel says:

    There seem to be a lot of industry politics whipping around here, which I’m just gonna let float right over my head. Here’s all I’d like to say:

    Steve, thank you for recognizing that those of us helping run small wineries live a workaday reality that many fail to grasp. As the operations and communications manager of a 3000 case winery, your piece utterly resonated with me.

    Joe, thank **you** for encouraging small wineries to engage. It’s all too easy to let your Twitter account languish when you’re crushing fruit, running a tasting room, hand labeling bottles, and cleaning toilets. We need encouragement!

    With all due respect, however, your comparison of your communications business (and I used to run one myself) with the hard manual labor, seasonal stress, and pricey investment of winemaking is grossly mistaken. It just is.

    You wonder why winemakers don’t engage more, so you might consider their *type* of work. First, there is the aforementioned grueling physical component. Further, by my observation, many winemakers have a certain artistic temperament and require focus and solitude to perfect their craft. Asking them to socialize (even online) can be a great affront to their creative process. I notice the same tendency in other types of artists.

    Paul says, “The notion of the poor repressed winery is exaggerated.” Really?! If anything, I find the story is unsung. Wine is a luxury product that is completely taken for granted–yes, even by aficionados. Critics have the opportunity to lead the way in **showing respect** for those who grow and craft the wines. Why not stop casting stones and seize that opportunity?

    Now I gotta go. I have some Tweeting to do.

  46. I’m a winemaker working on 6 projects with more in the pipeline and I LOVE social media. I agree with both parties… we do have a busy life so not all can (are willing) to devote the time to it. But lets break it down…. its SOCIAL media and I truly enjoy the social aspect of what I do on FB, Twitter, etc… so its not such a chore for me, its fun… and I get the benefit of engagin with my customers as SM creates a more personal relationship with those customers that are on SM platforms.
    So I would agree with Joe in that, it is important… you need to do it… but it has to be done well… as Gary V says, “dont be a highschool guy and try to close on the first date”… you gotta create the relationship the same way you would build a face to face friendship (sort of).
    Lets test this social media thing… I invite you all to my website at http://www.moduswines.com to further “engage” with my passionate little brand. Or, facebook/moduswines, or @moduswines, or http://www.winemakerjasonmoore.com LETS GO!

  47. Like Paul, I had a idea to come in guns a blazin as well, but now I’d just rather say Thanks to those who came to my defense here in terms of my having been painted with too broad a stroke by Steve and in turn representing some things that I don’t actually believe. That means a lot!

    And also a big Thanks for the discussion generally – trust me it is an OLD discussion for most other industries whose participants have largely moved on to use Internet tools to talk to customers directly already (I know this because I helped a very, very, very big company come to that conclusion… back in 2002!). The wine biz can’t keep partying like it’s 1999!

    Cheers!

  48. The greatest service a winery can do if not using social media currently is to use it as a customer service/ marketing function. The most important thing is being able to engage / control conversations about your brand. We all understand time and resources are not always there, but with smart phones these social platforms can be quickly monitored & updated while waiting in line at the store. Please not while driving. Cheers!

  49. “I agree that winemakers or owners should play around with social media…”-Steve Heimoff

    And we are having a discussion because?

  50. I just love how people who don’t have to make or sell wine for a living tell us how to market wine (social media!!) and make wine (natural!!), and have such strong opinions on distribution (I hate the three tier system!!!). All these people are probably married to or otherwise living off of someone who works at a job where they deal with sulfites, distributors, and old-school marketing.

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