Wineries – Missing the Social Media Opportunity?

“Having a Twitter account and not using it is like opening your business without any inventory. People may stop by, but they’ll never be back.” – J. Wade

Are wineries leaving money on the table? Social Media / Social Networking (whatever you choose to call it) is not going away. 2009 may be thought of as the year that Twitter hit the mainstream, but 2010-2012 will prove to be the years where money is made (and lost) through social mediums. We are finally living in a time where businesses can have real time conversations with their consumers; real time feedback, real time promotions, real time complaint resolution, and real time viral excitement. As a winery, do you want to look back in a few years and think, “Boy I wish I got in on that in the early stages?” The longer the wait, the tougher the upstream swim.

“Social media offers new opportunities to activate…brand enthusiasm.” –  Stacy DeBroff, founder and CEO of Mom Central 

In my analysis of the Spokane area wine market, I discovered that 11 of the 15 wineries have Facebook fan pages and seven have twitter accounts. Of these forward thinking wine lovers, there are two that are actually taking advantage of Social Media to stay connected to their customers. The remaining are just stores with no inventory. Social Media is a two-way conversation with your fans/followers. Having a Facebook fan page is a start – fans can interact with one another, but think of how much more effective it would be if you responded to their comments? The interaction generates greater brand and product loyalty.

Good friend and Social Media Guru, @SeattleWineGal (Barbara Evans) has a fantastic post on the benefits of Social Media for wineries. It is an insightful post and worth the hop over to read it! It starts with trust, continues with reputation building and ends with increased sales.

“Social media efforts that have a strategic focus, plan, and goal, as well as a properly maintained and executed campaign, will result in an increase in sales.” @SeattleWineGal Barbara Evans

What is your Social Media strategy?

I realize that many wineries, specifically Spokane wineries, are smaller operations that keep busy maintaining the day-to-day tasks of growing, harvesting, fermenting, filtering, bottling, and distributing their passions. “I can’t afford to take time out to tweet or update my Facebook status.” Upcoming harsh tone is intentional – Can’t afford free advertising. Can’t afford free word of mouth. Can’t afford free brand loyalty. Can’t afford increased sales. Attitudes like that will lead to obsolescence as customers vote with their wallet and move to products they can engage and build loyalty with.

Three Tier Tactics

Web Pages:

Web sites are static information mediums. A web page is a necessary business card element as customers are in the habit of searching for businesses in the .com .net world, but they don’t provide an opportunity to interact in real time. Keep your web site fresh by including feeds from your twitter account and current event, product information, or even a blog if you have time (heck, you can link to mine or any of the thousands of well written blogs out there). Web sites are often a first impression of your product and are a great place to push people larger amounts of information as you interact through Social Media.

Facebook Fan Page:

Facebook fan pages are Social Media, static information, and fan interconnectivity rolled into one. With 3 out of 4 Americans using social media and Facebook being the king, NOT having a Facebook page immediately puts you at a significant disadvantage. Just having one isn’t that much better. The key (as with Twitter) is to use it. Fans and followers want to connect. The conversation is part of the brand experience. Sharing pictures of the crush, responding to user tasting notes, sharing upcoming events (along with event pictures and then responding to users who attended) will do way more for brand loyalty than thousands of dollars spent in magazines and trade publications. Imagine the romance your customers will have as you describe the process of the 2009 vintage that you’ll be releasing in 24 months. They will have felt a part of the process. Your customers are online, now more than ever.


I could talk at length about ways to maximize Twitter (and Facebook) use, below are five key steps!

  • Build your base: Invite customers to follow you on Twitter (and Facebook) by including links in all e-mail, newsletter, web site, print publication, etc. These links should become a part of every distribution avenue (including your business card).
  • Follow your followers’ friends: Chances are your followers/fans have friends who are interested in the same things they are…YOU! There is no need to be overzealous. Take it slow, follow 30-50 at a time and then add more as they follow you.
  • Be Social! Small Town Rules: When you see interesting posts, retweet them. “RT @personname Great post on such and such topic. Excellent read! http/hyperlink.” Putting the RT and @personname is the handshake and endorsement. Reply to people as they follow you or if they re-tweet your posts. Over time you’ll see exponential interaction…if you follow the next step.

“Remember to put the ‘social’ in Social Media. Meeting in person and talking on the phone are still great ways to connect.  The digital space is an extension of actual human interaction, not a replacement.” – Rick Bakas @RickBakas St Supery Winery

  • Tweet informative and often: It can be a challenge to keep content to 140 characters, but be creative! Don’t be afraid to tweet the same information several times in a day. Tweets (and Facebook updates) are real time feeds. If you tweet, “Hey wine lovers, stop by our tasting room today and receive 10% off our newest release,” it’ll be off of most peoples radar within the hour (or even minute). With your frequent updates and potential re-tweets, your single post can quickly reach hundreds and thousands of people.
  • Don’t sell, offer incentive: Fans are less likely to respond to 2007 Cabernet for only $19.99 (unless it’s normally $50) than tweets of, “Stop by, watch the bottling, and receive $5 off with mention of this tweet.” These incentives will also give you the opportunity to track effectiveness.

Much more could be said to maximize social media, but putting these five principles into play will begin the process of building trust, brand excitement, loyalty and increased sales.

If you’re reading this thinking, “where do I start” or “this sounds good, but I think I need more help,” feel free to reach out to me. If I can’t answer your question of provide the time you need, I can certainly point you to the right person. (

Don’t miss out on the opportunity. Will you be the one to stand out? Your fans are waiting. DRINK.HAPPY!


Owner of Nectar Tasting Room in Spokane, WA. (@nectarwine) Publisher of Spokane Wine Magazine (@spowinemag), author, speaker, consultant and internet marketer with Nectar Media (@nectarmedia)

27 comments on “Wineries – Missing the Social Media Opportunity?

  1. Seattle Wine Gal

    Wow, this is excellent! As per your quote: “Having a Twitter account and not using it is like opening your business without any inventory. People may stop by, but they’ll never be back.” I agree 100% and would add that (just like a store w/o inventory), having a ghost account makes companies look bad. It’s better to not have one at all rather than have one that has gone neglected. Great article, excellent FBook and Twitter tips very impressed! -@SeattleWineGal

    1. drinknectar

      Thanks Barbara – that means a lot coming from the Seattle Wine Guru, – oh, I mean SeattleWineGal! I’ve been in marketing for years and only wish I would have started this new adventure last year – or sooner.

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  3. Sip With Me

    Great post! I’m always amazed to see wineries (or any company for that matter) develop a Twitter presence and then not even follow their own followers. I guess you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink!

    1. drinknectar

      Thanks Tamara! There are a lot of businesses in general that don’t ‘get it’ – they look at it like a business card. Having an unused Twitter or FB page does more damage than good, it says, “I was told to make an effort, but I don’t care”

      1. Seattle Wine Gal

        I have to disagree a bit here and suggest that it is less a matter of not caring, and more of one of not knowing how to use the tools. It is actually quite difficult to understand how to properly use Social Media platforms without dedicating a good amount of time. Vintners, more than most people, lack this required time. It is quite a quagmire. We recommend that they do it, and then expect them to know exactly how. I suppose all we (people like you and I Josh) can do is keep giving tips and hoping that they are utilized by wineries little by little. -Seattle Wine Gal:

        1. drinknectar

          Very good point, Barbara! It is a young medium, I should cut some slack, eh! Together we can help those that share our passion for wine excel in the world of social media!

  4. sosabob

    i think you meant three TIER not TEIR tactics.

    1. drinknectar

      Thanks – goes to show you can read something a million times and just not catch it.


  5. Winotone

    Nice article.. come across similar here in Sonoma Valley.. some are catching on.. yet some still just don’t get it. We’re working on them… :-)


    1. drinknectar

      Winotone – To @SeattleWineGal’s point earlier in the comments, they just need the gentle nudge and some positive examples and success stories like @RickBakas @StSuperyWinery and of course @GaryVee

      Thanks for stopping by!

      1. Winotone

        Rick is a friend and a rockstar in how to do it right. Ironically was going to meet with him today but he got swamped. Someone asked me on FB who was the best at it.. got me really thinking about what they’re all not doing.. here’s my take.. from my FB post

        Hmm.. hard to say the ‘best’. many are way more active on Twitter than FB, and some vice versa.. I believe you need both, plus a easy to navigate website, a blog and paying attention to Yelp as well as other things.. Eagles Nest in San Diego was considered a success story in getting word out about their brand, as apparently you’re not allowed to … See Morehave a tasting room in that county. St.Supery has done an excellent job in hiring Rick Bakas from the Murphy Goode challenge before it even ended and he has done tweetups all over the country bringing attention to the brand. I would have to say they have been one of the most successful that I’m aware of, then again, there are wine regions in all 50 states, and to a 2,000 a year case producer, selling 200 cases thru social media is huge, but not so much to someone like Sebastiani. Like I’ve said, Social Media is not the golden gun of your marketing world, but just one part of your overall online and in-house marketing package, but from what I see, many that have gotten into it lack communication within their own organization to be truly effective.. the marketing dept is tweeting away and the tasting room staff have no idea what the twitter name even is, so the customer that wants to tweet about the great Syrah at ABC winery, can’t do it, and the brand suffers from that missed free publicity opportunity.. I could go on and on.. Everyone in the organization has to be involved.. IMHO.. :-)

  6. Coffee Social

    Great advice, Josh! Any tips for boosting fan conversations/interaction on FB pages?

    1. drinknectar

      Thanks, Rachel

      Three quick off the top of my head.

      1) Ask questions, don’t just post deals. 2) If you see them in your store, thank them via FB 3) Hand out Twitter/FB cards and encourage people to post their thoughts on your newest quiche or dessert or to even provide their own recipie.

  7. Ben Simons

    Great post! I think that a lot of businesses, wineries included, neglect tools like Twitter and Facebook because of the effort required in learning how to use them appropriately, and then in maintaining them. What they don’t realize is that these social media outlets can be some of the best tools for developing connections and brand loyalty, and the benefits will be well worth the effort.

    Thanks for the great insights!

    1. drinknectar

      Thanks, Ben. What can we do to help tem out?

      1. Ben Simons

        Great question. I think that there are a number of ways different people can help out. For us bloggers, I think that posts like this one are a great way to encourage wineries to use social media, and to use it correctly. As a consumer, giving wineries feedback on what you would like to see in this arena, as well as positive feedback about things that they are doing right will help. I work in website development, so I have worked with my clients to advise them on productive uses of social media. More than anything though, I think that time will eventually lead to more consistent quality in this area. As examples of successes in social media crop up, they will start to multiply. With any new technology, you always have those out in front, and then those that follow. People imitate success.

  8. Lara Dickson

    Nice post Josh. Agreed with some of the commenters that it takes more than just a ‘presence’ and signing up for these services. Folks should really take the time to learn how to use them – and empower their staff as well. Diving in without a plan is futile. I’m a web/graphic/social designer with hospitality and resto clients. They all wanted to get on the Twitter train but were frustrated w/ trying to get going. I wound up writing a guide on how to get started and really reap the bennies of social media – esp Twitter. That post was recently blown out into a nice Twitter e-book specifically for f&b peeps. Social media is happening – with or without their participation. Doing it right is the issue.

    1. drinknectar

      Lara – where can the readers locate a copy of the ebook? Is is appropriate for all audiences? I appreciate you stopping by and providing thoughtful insight.

  9. Eric

    Great post with a lot of good information. However, I disagree with the comment on Twitter. Having a twitter account and not using it is not nearly as bad as having a lackluster web site or an unused FB fan page. If you don’t use your twitter account, it simply sits there. Sure it isn’t helping, but I don’t think it necessarily hurts having it sit idle. I recommend to anyone even thinking about participating on Twitter to go out and grab your name before someone else does, even if you don’t use it right away.

    Facebook and websites are a different matter. Letting them sit idle with stale content WILL hurt your brand. But once you’ve plowed through the initial learning curve, it shouldn’t take more than an a few minutes a day to keep it updated and to engage with your customers. The problem I’ve found is convincing wineries that it’s not as time-consuming as they think, but the returns on their small investment in time are substantial.

    1. drinknectar

      Thanks for your insight – I think web sites are a definite necessity and agree a poorly done web site and a non-interactive FB page will hurt your brand. Not using your twitter account gives your customers a reason to become passionate about someone who is using theirs. Being inactive may not hurt your brand too bad, but it does not expand your brand. Good luck with your consulting with wineries and thanks for stopping by.

  10. weeklywinejournal

    I’m going to do a little survey of Arizona wineries and see how many are into the social media. So far I have found only one out of 39.

    1. drinknectar

      Wow, that is such a low % – it’s your task, should you choose to accept it, to get them on board! Give them consultations for free wine 😉

  11. David McCauley

    I agree with most of what is being said, but having consulted for many small and large businesses, I find that just jumping on the social media band wagon because “everyone is doing it and if you don’t you will be left behind” is not a good way to conduct business, and can ultimately lead to failure, for both the business and the consultant.

    Social Media is changing the way we can build relationships with customers today, but comparing an unused twitter account to a store with no inventory without having a clear understanding how a winery currently engages with its customers seems to be an alarmists view of things rather than a long term strategic approach.

    Many companies created a website because everyone was doing it, but have had little or no traffic. From that standpoint, small businesses get the attitude “I tried it and it didn’t work”. What they didn’t do, is create a long term strategic plan that would incorporate their website as part of their overall marketing. They were sold on ‘build it and they will come’ idea, and it failed to deliver. I think that most small businesses are using this resistant thinking with Social Media, feeling that they were promised the world with their website and it didn’t deliver, so what is different about Social Media?

    What I am talking about here is strategy. @SeattleWineGal has some excellent posts on her blog that states this clearly. Other comments here are also excellent suggestions. The point I am coming from is that Social Media/ Web 2.0 is a tactic. It is a way to keep connections with your customers. But first, you need to know who your customers are.

    Using wineries as an example. A winery may have several channels to distribute their wine. Wholesale – thru a distributor or direct distribution, retail – at the winery, online thru the winery website or thru a fulfillment center on another wine site.

    Each of these methods of distribution have different customers. Wholesale – customers may go to a wine shop, a grocery story or specialty shop and find a huge selection of wine. They then either have a favorite they are looking for, or will be looking for something new/different. When looking for their favorite, the only thing important is knowing what store carries their bottle. If they look for something different, it is usually based on a recommendation by friend or acquaintance, the wine shop steward, a review or article.

    Let’s take the average Washington winery – it is a smaller winery, makes handcrafted wines, may sell only 2k to 20k cases;s it may sell 25 percent wholesale thru a distributor for a large store chain, 25 percent direct distribution for a few smaller novelty gift shops, and 50 percent retail thru its tasting room.

    The strategy for the wholesale is to get the word out so customers know what stores to find the wine – and that is thru the distributor, co-op advertising, maybe a review, TV/radio ads or a listing thru printed media. The problem for the winery is that they may never get to know these customers, unless the customers have an easy way to reach the winery. It is real hard to develop a relationship unless the customer engages first. If the printed media and advertising doesn’t include the various ways to get in touch with the winery, then the winery can’t engage. If the winery already has printed labels, business cards and brochures, and can’t control what the distrubutors push to the stores, it can be very costly to have everything reprinted just to say that you do social media.

    Customers that come in the tasting room is different, there is face-to-face interaction – initial time to engage a customer and develop a relationship. A winery can get to know the customer, and find out if they like newsletters and/or tweets. It is easy to suggest to the customer how to keep in touch, actually find out what the preferences of each customer are, and cater to those needs.

    Two different product delivery strategies, two different customer relationship strategies.

    Another thing to consider, is how a winery keeps in touch with customers overall. If a winery primarily engages with a newsletter once a month or quarter, then using Twitter/Facebook making daily or weekly tweets may be overkill and could actually offend some customers. So they need to give the customers the choice on how to be contacted, as well as have different strategies for newsletter and tweet delivery. Each tactic needs to be strategically considered in the larger marketing plan, which should incorporate all marketing, such as TV and print advertising, press releases, tour guides, reviews and articles, etc. They also need to have segmented lists, so that tourists are not blasted with ‘join us at local events’ if they don’t live in the area, and locals or wine club members are not blasted to ‘join the wine club’. For a small vintner that wears many hats in the business, this can be very overwhelming indeed.

    The key to making any marketing method successful is to plan the strategy, make specific goals, determine who the customer is, determine what tools and techniques need to be used, determine how to measure the performance, take action by testing, then tune the techniques to get optimum results. It doesn’t matter if it is Social Media or print advertising. I think most busineses would ‘get it’ if they were approached on this strategic thinking rather than ‘hurry before its too late’ idea. My clients have, anyway.

    1. drinknectar

      David – wow – Thank you for the in depth comments and insightful suggestions. I am in the middle of writing my follow up to the post and may use some of your comments with your permission.

      A strategy is KEY to success in anything and a multi-faceted strategy that takes into consideration the voice of the customer is critical. MY post stemmed from my interaction with Spokane Wineries, who are all small in nature, and learning that only two of them are using Social Media. These wineries already have a huge advantage over the 13 others who are sitting on the sidelines. The 1000 Facebook fans of Whitestone or Liberty Lake Cellars have huge interaction opportunities that the others are missing out on. These wineries are creating emotional connections with their consumers that the others are not. My statement was intended to cause urgency – urgency to think through a strategy that includes social media. This post was intended to be a kick start with some basic principles for getting going. I love your added insight and would love to connect with you as a resource for those that reach out to as a result of this ongoing series.

      Thanks again!

  12. Dezel

    Excellent post Josh. Some of out local producers get it and some just don’t have the time or are not computer savvy, which is something to consider. Based on what I know and the great info that you provide I’m making an attempt to share the information and help some see the light – the social media light! It’s free and requires some effort, but rewards are great! Have an awesome weekend, bro.


  13. Shannon Casey

    Excellent post. I will be sharing this with the Michigan wineries.


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