I (Tyler) wonder whether the growing concern with the wine industry’s slow adoption of social media is a social media problem per se, or a historic problem of poor customer engagement. Kid Napa does a good job summarizing a recent discussion on the issue, though it also has been tackled directly by others such as Alder Yarrow, Steve Heimoff, and Joe Roberts.
Before adding my wrinkle as a winemaker for a small, boutique brand I’ll summarize well-outlined positions that are perfectly valid, and often perfectly correct. Joe Roberts notes that wineries need “engagement innovation…[or] the single most innovative outreach platform ever developed in the history of the human race – the Internet – to directly engage the people who buy their shiz” (emphasis mine). I agree with the principle, we need to engage our customers, and yes the internet is a key tool.
However I will add that many of our customers “who buy [our] shiz” don’t use social media. That’s right; our big buyers who drive the majority of our sales are not the ones engaging with us through social media. Perhaps industry ambivalence to social media is because we are not alone in this fact. We still engage the buyer in other ways and we utilize social media to engage our future customers, who are likely to use social media as another way to engage with us. It’s a matter of current versus potential customers: both are needed, both are valuable, and both desire to be engaged.
Providing ballast to Mr. Roberts, Steve Heimoff points out in “Hey Joe, lighten up on the social media thing” that winemakers are busy enough with countless other responsibilities and that adding another serious time drain is unfair. And while Gary V may be shouting “just wake up sooner, work more,” not all of us have the power to get 26 hours out of a day. Steve is correct; we do have many other tasks that drain our ability to drive the social media megaphone of the winery. That said, winemakers may need to locate the same passion and persistence in this arena that they do during harvest: overworked and overburdened as we may be, we have to roll up our sleeves and knock it out of the park anyway. No one is better positioned than we are to funnel information from site to cellar to customer. We ought to be the teachers: of the story, of the philosophy, of the vineyard, of the wine, etc. And while it can be tiring to take on these multiple roles all in one day, no more hiding behind your barrels and work orders! It is the appealing part about being a winemaker: multidisciplinary work!
Alder Yarrow, as is his tendency, brings an amount of sensibility and rationality to the discussion – as well as a good deal higher word count! He accurately points out that using social media is a necessity but that there are tools that can help wineries mitigate the size of the conundrum. Mr. Yarrow acknowledges that it’s work, but insists that it’s the right work to be doing. He’s right, and emphasizes Mr. Robert’s point in a more constructive way.
And for my wrinkle? Working with Joe Donelan – who until recently never used a computer – has taught me the lifetime value of the customer. It may have taken a bit to convince Joe of the importance of Twitter, but he has always understood the value of engagement (“engage, educate, and entertain!” he says). All the writers outlined above used the word “engagement.” But perhaps we should peel the onion back further; maybe the problem is not only a hesitation to work with social media but also a systemic problem with engaging customers.
Could it be that a historical lack of engagement (and maybe I’m being unfair) is partly to blame for the dearth of social media adoption? Haven’t consumers, until very recently, primarily been engaged with wineries through retailers? It seems the residue of an old manufacturing based economy is that we are slow to become energized in directly engaging customers. We are not the only industry that has been slow to realize that the U.S. is no longer a manufacturing-based economy but service-based economy. We are no longer just “suppliers” providing goods for some anonymous end consumer. We are service providers. At Donelan we are fully engaged in this process, even with the majority of our buyers, albeit not solely through social media. We write notes, we email, we call, we tweet, we post, we “like”, we serve our customers and anyone else who desires to learn about wine and our passion. In short, we “engage, educate, and entertain” at every opportunity.
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