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The power of twitter?


It’s been proved by Iran. I spent a good part of the weekend transfixed by the live coverage and images from the streets of Tehran, and saw YouTubes even before CNN aired them. Whatever doubts I had about Twitter’s historicity have now been erased.

But let me elaborate: that’s for breaking news. Twitter obviously does a great job when a government doesn’t want to let the world know what’s happening. No government can stop a cell phone or some other mobile device from capturing images and sending them around the globe at warp speed.

Where I’m still perplexed is how twitter relates to wine. It’s hard to imagine 100 tweets coming in every few seconds about anything wine related, the way they were on #iranelection. Nor is it easy for me to see how a tweet will get anyone to part with his or her money in order to buy a bottle of wine, or earn a young wine writer any recognition. Sure, maybe someone here or there will do it. Maybe someone will go out and buy something because their twitter friend recommended it. But I don’t think anyone’s figured out how to monetize twitter any more than they’ve figured out how to monetize a blog. Twitter is the essence of the World Wide Web: free, instant, democratic and viral. What it isn’t — as least, so far as I can tell — is marketable.

I wish someone would prove me wrong and show me how twitter has made any winery or blogger any money. Maybe, being in the depths of this recession, this isn’t the best time to be measuring twitter’s impact, which may be neutralized by other economic factors. Maybe when and if we emerge from the downturn, twitter’s power will become evident. Maybe there will be a model that proves that twitter can move quantities of wine, or earn a living for a writer, in a way nothing else can. If so, we haven’t yet seen it.

All this being said, it obviously doesn’t hurt, and can only help, a winery or writer to twitter, blog, do Facebook, etc. For wineries, they’re the equivalent of winemaker dinners, open houses and newsletters — traditional forms of outreach, updated for the digital age. Every little bit helps. But I think one winemaker dinner in New York or L.A., or a favorable review much less an article in a big magazine, is going to sell a hell of a lot more wine than having somebody from the winery tweet something that will just get washed away by the next 1,000 tweets in the next 30 seconds.

For wannabe wine writers, well, good luck breaking into the paycheck brigade. If twitter earns you a few bucks, mazel tov!

  1. Hm.

    I am certain that twitter can help wineries and bloggers (and companines in general) NOT loose customers/money.

    Just as we are all informed about the elections in Iran and see how bad news travels fast, very fast, we can see this in sectors of “customer satisfaction” (which easily translates to conversions or non-conversion) on twitter.

    Maria Ogneva wrote up an article on this very aspect (with a wine twist, if you will): Be Goode to Your Community

    Otherwise, I certainly see the challenges you mention: how to bring forth a positive twitter campaign geared to some form of monetization when the current is flowing so swiftly in the stream of relentless information… perhaps, like the Iranian elections, it is a question of the #hashtag, burning (or percieved) need and the golden timing?

    It should be interesting to see how twitter and wine web2.0 strategies continue to develope.

  2. Why is earning a few bucks the measure of worth for Twitter?

    When people complain about Web 2.0 culture, what they’re really saying is that they don’t see the value of sharing. That’s all Twitter and MySpace and Facebook and YouTube and Flickr, etc., are: Sharing. The people who embrace sites like Twitter find value in sharing.

  3. There is one, Steve – is shaking things up. I know that it makes a bit of money for the organizers and I’m involved in helping to organize two future events at the moment. Just about everyone in the industry that I speak with about a twitter tasting event immediately wants to get in on it, so more and more of them are seeing some kind of benefit (probably in the engagement of a younger generation of wine consumers).

    The other thing it does, which is probably a nightmare to try to estimate in dollar value, is expose those wine brands to a pretty large number of eyeballs at a fairly low cost. The twitter events for wine generally draw a hundred or so participants, most of whom are buying the wine to taste during the event, and the topic trends usually in the top 5 on twitter when the event is taking place. So there is good exposure for the wine brands.

    So, I’d say that some of us are making a little bit of money from twitter. But none of us are quitting our day jobs just yet ;-).

  4. Steve, don’t know how it’s working out but I see that Lew Perdue has devised a way to monetize his excellent blog, .

    To wit: “Not a VIP Premium Subscriber Yet?
    Subscribe now, and get the rest of this original article along with the spreadsheets and everything else on the site every day, including the Data Cellar for just $9.99 per month or $115.88 per year. Click here for more details.”

    Now, he could also be using Twitter to drive folks to his info blog.

  5. Why everything has to be about money?

  6. The Iran situation and the mass of tweets associated with it at #iranelection, while illustrating the power of Twitter to provide reams of information on breaking news, makes for an apples and oranges comparison to the use of Twitter for community building and social marketing. Twitter, in particular, is not a standalone social media tool, but rather serves to create interest and provide useful information; if used well, it can encourage followers to check out your primary platform, be it a blog or a website, where more robust conversations, and potentially (sale) conversions, can take place.

    Most hashtags lead to a topic area where the conversation isn’t as frantic as at #iranelection, so one can actually take a little time to see which posters are interesting and which are merely posting garbage. You can follow those of interest, and tune out the others. Using a management application such as TweetDeck enables you to “listen” selectively while the other Twitter debris floats off downstream. You become part of the communities that you select, and ignore the others.

    Twitter is just one part of a social media strategy (including blogs such as this one) that a winery can use to compliment its traditional marketing efforts. You first ask how Twitter can make money, and then mention measuring Twitter’s impact. These are two different issues. I don’t think anyone will claim that Twitter will directly make them any money; note that Twitter itself doesn’t have a scheme for monetizing its service. But with thoughtful tweets, Twitter can be used to develop influence and create trust in the winery’s community, which in turn can encourage followers to support the winery; this is Twitter’s potential for impact. We have to remember that social media is not a direct marketing tool; it is an influence tool (see #iranelection).

  7. I believe the single best use of this medium is to provide links to more substantive discussions which are breaking elsewhere in cyberspace. As I noted in the previous discussion, Tim O’Reilly, founder of O’Reilly Media and the father of Web 2.0, with his humungous following of 535,000 people judiciously posts references and less often an opinion.

    For another exchange on this topic as it applies to our industry readers should surf over to:

  8. As someone relatively new to the wine industry and social media, I am using Twitter to learn all I can and get to know others with similar interests. It seems clear to me that a genuine culture of wine exists on the web – I’m still trying to figure it all out (law school did NOT prepare me for this!) I do notice many of the same names – in fact just yesterday JD in Napa, above, gave me a suggestion via Twitter for rental properties in Napa Valley. I recently invested in a new Napa winery ( and am helping to launch the brand – not too sure what role Twitter will play. As of now, I have no real strategy – just being myself and sharing info. One thing is for sure – if we get that great review, you can bet I’ll be tweeting about it!

  9. Maybe not quite on point but I have recently bought wine based on twitter conversations with @sobonwine, @jugshop, @klwines and @bluedanubewine. That money is making it back to the wineries, stores and/or distributors…

  10. I’m with you Steve. I see many great uses for Twitter, but few of them apply to selling wine, particularly when the consumer is notoriously brand-disloyal (you might turn somebody on to your brand, but when they get to the store and another brand is $2 less, you’ve lost the sale).

    As for the comments about everything about making money and using Twitter for sharing, it may surprise some to learn that wineries are not charitable organizations. They have employees who expect to be paid thus the need to sell wine. If they want to fritter on twitter, fine, but I think more time on the phone and in the marketplace will produce a better result.


  11. Steve, Twitter is not about anyone making money directly. Dale Cruse put it best: it’s about sharing.

    For example, I just put out a tweet asking or tips on a tricky food-wine pairing — Italian Wedding Soup. I’ve received a dozen solid ideas in about 30 minutes.

    I have article on twitter coming out soon in Wine Business Monthly. My best analogy: Think of Twitter as the concept of email built on the scale of text messages injected with the immediacy of instant messaging and empowered by the free spirit of blogging and the reach of a broad social network.

  12. I keenly remember the popular 60’s slogan “The Revolution will not be Televised”. The truth in that could not be more apparent now that we understand that the Revolution is going to be Tweeted.

  13. Gary Vaynerchuk at the Wine Library feels Twitter was an essential piece in building his business as referenced in this recent article from

  14. Gary is a success but I don’t think he’s taken seriously by wine people. He’s an entertainer.

  15. Regarding GaryVee not likely being “taken seriously by wine people”, who would these wine people be? Likely not the audience that GaryVee is pursuing. One has to wonder just how much wine the Wine Library TV moves; I’m under the impression that it’s quite a bit, if one believe the numbers that GaryVee throws out. I’d say that he has used social media to build phenomenal community trust and move a lot of product. The “wine people” need to take this type of social media success seriously.

  16. I have purchased wines that I read about on Twitter. I doubt I am the only one to make a purchase based on a tweet. Also, if Dell can drive $3 million in sales from their Twitter account than so can wine companies.
    Of course, there are the hard to measure brand building effects of a Twitter account as well.
    High scores in established wine mags does sell wine. But your example of wine dinners is arguable. Having been in the wine trade for awhile, I have seen successful wine dinners and also dinners that drove zero measurable sales.

  17. Steve, it’s still early in the process, but social media is primarily a way to build relationships with your base. Ultimately the sales process can only succeed with trustful, enduring relationships. Facebook, Twitter and other social media are just tools in the Social Media tool kit, not to the exclusion of other avenues. I have seen some very good promotions already being used by wineries to stimulate their followers on Twitter. If done in an earnest and respectful manner, without a hard sell approach, you can continue to endear yourself to your base. The consumer is very interested in being on the “inside” of the wineries they follow. Twitter is just another way to extend the romance and mythology of a brand. Even though it can be used tactically, social marketing can also further the strategic messaging that won’t always yield immediate results, but put you higher up in the mental retention ladder when it’s time to make buying choices. Does this exclude tastings, winemaker dinners, web site, blogs etc.? Of course not, but these social networking tools are just an additional way to make your brand omnipresent in the face of your target. You mention the economic situation, and that is all the more reason why your brand needs to be everywhere that your potential consumers are. By the way, if visitations to web sites mean anything, I just got an email from a client winemaker today who told me that since he started on Twitter, he has seen a great increase in visitations to his blog. Will that sell wine? Perhaps, but it depends on many other factors. But if Twittering brings you more potential customers, that’s a start.

  18. Steve, think outside of the box and forget about the old media landscape.

    Come read my post and blast me your two cents! >>

    ~Pamela @ enobytes

  19. Steve I noticed that you started using your own Twitter account again. Did this post and comments reignite the spark?

  20. Dylan: The spark had a long fuse. Not sure what to make of Twitter, except that its power in Iran is astonishing. I’ll tweet here and there and try to figure out what Twitter means for me.

  21. Steve, I see your point, but I have to agree that Twitter is about so much more than making money. Like Tish, I too have gotten great story ideas from Facebook status updates and Tweets in very little time (am actually on deadline today and may find myself using these methods to score sources and/or ideas in just a few!). I also did a piece on wine twittering that highlights Twisted Oak Winery’s Jeff Stai, one of the most prolific winery tweeters (@eljefe) so far as I can see, who says he’s signed on wine club members via Twitter and uses it to better retain customers and increase lifetime value of said customers:

    Cheers, CC

  22. Hello Guru, what entice you to post an article. This article was extremely interesting, especially since I was searching for thoughts on this subject since last Thursday.


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