Selling wine through social media?

The Access Zone at this year’s London International Wine Fair built on it’s introduction in 2010 and the presentations and networking opportunities seemed popular throughout the event. It is the brainchild of Gabriella¬†and Ryan Opaz of Catavino and Rob McIntosh of Thirst for Wine. The three have recently joined forces to launch Vrazon, which was the umbrella for the Access Zones activities this year.

One of the questions that was inevitably raised during one of the talks that I attended (and in many others no doubt) was how wineries can make money out of their social media activities. I was glad to hear that my view on that question was the same one held by the experts, when Ryan Opaz quite simply replied: “You don’t”.

That has always been the challenge, as the assumption is that because you’re talking to people online you should inevitably be trying to sell them something at the same time.

Ryan’s response echoed a comment that I read in the Sunday Times last weekend, an an interview with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. In it he claimed that Starbucks is the number one brand on Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare and mentioned some of their strategies around social media. But what stood out for me was this simple comment from the CEO of one of the world’s most successful brands:

“The mistake firms make is using these channels to try to sell stuff. They are not designed for that but to add value and build trust. We understood that from day one.”

Something important to bear in mind when wineries get into a conversation with your customers online.

5 Responses to “Selling wine through social media?”

  1. I agree, social media alone doesn’t work if you don’t have a digital business model supporting your social strategy. How many wineries out there are ambitious enough to innovate their business model and add relevant value to their wines. How many wineries are willing to try something new? Wine in itself is the most social product together with food. Consumers hate it to buy wine as if it were a jar of peanutbutter. They want to engage! Wine producers wake up! Give consumers the attention they are looking for. Reward their eagerness to share your wine with their friends. Answer their questions, be friendly, open up. Be your product! if you will add value, social media will follow automatically

  2. There are two different points/questions being asked here:
    1. How do you MAKE money through social media
    2. How do you SELL through social media.

    Starting with #2, the flash sales sites have shown how an innovative winery with a strong social media presence can, in fact, sell through social media. In regards to #1, a well executed social media strategy designed to reach customers who have never heard of a wineries brand can dramatically increase sales, even if indirectly by simply building up brand recognition. Why do you think Starbucks spends millions to maintain their social media status?

    Simply saying “you don’t” make money from social media is naive.

  3. Chris says:

    Hi Josh, thanks for your comment.
    Yes, I agree that social media can lead to increased sales, just as many forms of PR and communication can. But the difference in my mind is when a winery sets out on a social media campaign with the aim of selling opposed to the aim of building rapport and understanding of their consumers. It changes the way that they approach the tools at their disposal. If potential customers in your community want to make a purchase online of course it would be foolish not to have the opportunity available.
    Thanks again for dropping by and for your comment.

  4. I have to disagree with this article. I work with numerous wineries, wine merchants, and distributors who are successfully driving traffic from social media channels like Snooth, Winesearcher, Facebook, and twitter. More importantly this traffic is turning into revenue and viral marketing opportunities they otherwise would have had. I do agree, having the right tools and the knowledge of how to use those tools effectively is an important factor in these client’s success. While they may be in the minority, I think the numbers of successful social media campaigns and efforts are growing.

  5. Chris says:

    Hi Bobby,
    Thanks for your comment. Don’t get me wrong, social media and online community can be useful for selling, but I see this strength as best used by companies whose aim is primarily to enable a sale. For example the wine merchants and distributors that you refer to. But most wineries start a social media campaign to get closer to their customers, share some of their ‘farm feeling’ with those who may be interested in their products far away and getting a better understanding of their market. In my insignificant opinion, the best are those who develop a personal relationship. But those who want to sell me something or drive me to their online sales site with every second tweet or update just irritate me. The clever guys (and it seems that you are helping you clients to be those guys) are still able to leverage a sale but maintain the core personal interaction through their own brand’s communications. I am talking in the main about the better known personal or ‘brand personal’ profiles such as Facebook and Twitter which connect with consumers outside of the ‘wino’ circles.
    Thanks again for visiting the site and adding to the conversation!