Wine Sales

Here We Go Again: Social Media and the Wine Business

The forever doubting, Mr. Steve Heimoff, had another blog post about social media. I will let you read it here if you choose. I actually do not visit his blog, ever, but Paul Mabray from Vintank posted it on Facebook and I was stupid enough to bite.

Here’s my issue with Steve Heimoff (and all his posts relating to social media) and anyone else (businesses included) that does not believe in or think that social media is a valid place to spend time:

You are looking at it wrong. You are looking at social media the same way people looked at the very first personal computers, phones, or email…who would want to use that and how could that possibly help business? What’s more interesting to me is that people involved in traditional advertising think billboards and phone book ads are even remotely better than social media or at all accurately trackable (this is a word now, right?).

Can you accurately tell me how many people have come into your tasting room or purchased wine based on your billboard?

Can you accurately tell me how many people have come into your tasting room or purchased wine based on your phonebook ad?

Can you accurately tell me how many people have come into your tasting room or purchased wine based on the ad you placed in Wine Spectator?

Can you accurately tell me how many people have come into your tasting room or purchased wine based on the wine event you poured at?

My point is simple; I do not believe that any numbers are 100% accurate, or even close to 100% accurate.

If you are looking at social media as a place to sell, I think you’ve already lost. I understand why you don’t like it. Social media is a way to connect with people, connect with like minded communities online, and sure, brand awareness. In business, nothing works quite like relationships. So if you’re focused on what “follower number 2,135” will buy from you then you lose. “Follower number 2,135” is Bob Jones and he’s married to Carol and they love Cabernet Sauvignon. Bob engages with your brand on Facebook and you rarely respond to him directly…would you ignore him if he called your tasting room? Would you ignore Bob if he were IN your tasting room?

This is why I keep going back to the importance of culture. The world of business, for most of us, has shifted more than we even fully understand yet. It’s still shifting. The thing most people can agree on is that business as usual isn’t working as well as it once did. We see that people, human beings, want to talk to other people, other human beings. They want to build communities, share information, and help each other. People want to get recommendations from others and give people some of their own recommendations. People also want to engage with the people behind the brand names.

In other words, people want access and they want access to everything. If that’s not your game, you will lose. If you want to put up barriers to access those people will go to a winery (or other business) that is granting access. Social media is not sales. Social media is building the relationships that most of you build in your tasting rooms. In essence, your tasting room is now the Earth, rather than the 1,000 square foot building you physically pour wine in.

Just as people want access, you (the winery) have access too. With this access, this two way street of openness, you must tread lightly. If your focus is the sale, you lose. If your focus is being helpful, funny, or otherwise adding value, you are building brand awareness and loyalty. By the way, brand awareness and loyalty (relationships) result in sales…period.

Is it trackable?

For the most part it’s as accurately trackable as billboards, phone books, and magazine ads. There is just no way to have 100% accuracy. This area (analytics, metrics, ROI) in social media, digital, online is getting better all the time…but look how long billboards have been around…and you still can’t tell me how many bottles of wine your billboard sold…can you?

Although I respect Steve Heimoff’s opinion and what he’s done in the wine world, I simply don’t think he’s looking at it the right way. Some of the comments on his blog post were excellent and show far more intelligence than my above ramblings.

So where do we stand? You’re always going to have believers and non-believers…in every topic on the planet. How to plant an Iris, how to wash your car, or how to do laundry…opinions have been around forever and I don’t see that letting up anytime soon. There were believers of email from day one and others that thought it was the dumbest shit on the planet…fine. Who won that one? Actually, this isn’t about winning and losing…it’s about being aware. What’s happening in business? What’s happening in the market? What’s happening amongst your target market?

If you can’t make something work for you and your business goals, screw it, let it go. On the other hand, if you learn the culture and understand what certain tools are doing and how they are being used…jump in, join the conversation that is happening whether you choose to be there or not. Someone already has or is about to mention your brand in the social media world…whether you are there or not it does make a sound. It would be mighty kind of you to answer the call.


  1. says

    First off, let me say that I do not own nor manage a winery. However, I can say that social media does play a role in my small business. I love meeting people when we show our art at a local winery. And I also enjoy meeting people online & developing reciprocal communication. Does social media take time? Yes, it does. Yet, for me, it is definitely worthwhile. It opens me up to the larger virtual world and expands my horizons. I love it! ^_^

    • says

      Diane, that’s definitely a big aspect of it. My personal view is that any business could benefit from properly using social media so long as building relationships makes sense for the business. There aren’t many businesses where relationships don’t matter. Thank you and keep up the great work!!

  2. Steve Baker says

    Very well said, Matt. The obvious for us in the year and a half that we have now lived in Paso is the social connections and relationships that we established through FB and other social media. From those have sprung industry connections and opportunities that likely would not have happened or if they did, would have been drawn out over a much longer period of time left to chance meetings, etc. With the onset of the computer age, the public now demands instant information on any and all subjects and for a business to not fully utilize these tools is limiting their potential. As an example, we have yet to produce one grape for sale and yet we have developed and cultivated relationships with many wine makers that are very interested in our project! This is through all means of communication!!!

    As another example of the use of social media, did you see the posting of the upcoming Rhone Ranger grenache blanc tasting event at Summerwood on July 30th? See you there…cheers!!!

    • says

      Steve, great points and thank you. We live in an age where connections matter SO much and the ease of connecting is SO much easier. As for the Grenache Blanc deal, believe it or not I had not heard of it. LOL. Thanks for keeping me in the loop on the Rhone Rangers stuff!! 🙂

  3. says

    Great post Matt!

    I think the truth of the matter is so many people don’t care about BUILDING relationships. They just want to have them. Whether they be personal or business. It takes time and caring to do both. I for one enjoy the building process and spending time getting to know people. It is one of the things that turns me on and is oh so long lasting, not like a sale that just gives instant gratification and then you constantly looking for the next one.

    The Wine industry is suppose to be fun and the product itself is about building relationships. It is too bad that so many of the winemakers/wineries don’t really understand why they are in business and why people want to buy their wine or go to there winery. Geez, if only they would talk to them to find out!

    Keep up the good fight!!

    • says

      Haha, thank you Gina. You are absolutely right. I love building relationships. I’m not looking for the quick fix/ sale…I want to build the relationship because I know it will mean repeat, long lasting business…and on top of that I have a friend. Cheers to ya lady!! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *