By Elizabeth Hans McCrone
More than 60% of wineries and wine-related businesses say they plan to increase their use of social media over the next three years in response to changing market demographics, to build their brand and to reach targeted customers.
This information comes from the recently published 2013 Wine Industry Financial Benchmarking Report, conducted by Moss Adams LLP, in partnership with the Farm Credit Alliance and Turrentine Brokerage.
“The benchmarking report we produced provides wine industry professionals the opportunity to compare their business to others throughout their region or throughout the industry; allowing them to get a view of how they measure up operationally and financially against others of similar size and structure,” notes Jeff Gutsch, Partner and Wine Industry National Practice Leader.
The survey took place between May 20 and August 15, 2013 and included responses from 166 wine-related businesses throughout Oregon, Washington and California. Winery participants ranged in size from those producing less than 1,000 cases to those with 720,000 in annual case sales.
Commenting on its highlights, Moss Adams Sr. Business Consultant Rick Boland says that data gleaned from the report confirms a continuing shift in small and medium wineries to a focus on direct to consumer within the three-tier distribution system.
“Over 60% of respondents said they will increase social media for brand building and direct to consumer sales,” Boland states.
Rebecca Ritz is the founder of Bauerhaus Design, Inc., a company that specializes in online branding for wine industry clients. With more than 15 years of experience in creating brands for all types and sizes of businesses, it comes as no surprise to Ritz that social media use in the wine industry is on the rise.
“The number one question I get when I’m at trade shows is ‘you do social media? How? Social media scares me,’” Ritz reports.
Ritz says the interest comes primarily from owners of wineries and related businesses that want to get on the bandwagon, but “aren’t like millennials who lead the pack in living their lives online.”
She believes the formula for working successfully with non-traditional media is understanding that platforms like blogs, Facebook and Pinterest is “having a conversation with potential buyers instead of talking at them. It’s getting to know people before you make the sale.”
Ritz notes that 60% of Facebook users login to Facebook every day. “You need to go where people are going in order to get your message out,” she advises.
Jessi Pearcy, the Local Marketing Manager for the Missouri-based St. James Winery couldn’t agree more. According to Pearcy, St. James has an annual case production of 200,000, distribution in 18 states and now, 6,500 followers on Pinterest. She says the winery’s customer base is becoming increasingly social media savvy.
“It’s an engagement tool, more than a sales tool,” Pearcy says. “People appreciate funny and educational posts. (They’re) tired of companies popping up on their news feeds. Even with all those exclamation marks and smiling faces, they can tell it’s a sales pitch.”
Pearcy advocates that blogging about upcoming company events, sharing recipes; posting videos and passing on “the funny joke post” are creative and largely inexpensive ways to engage target audiences. She says it’s a great way to get feedback about company products “no matter what you post,” and that people of all age groups are now regular users of social media platforms.
But does all that online engagement translate into dollars and cents? Pearcy believes it does, eventually.
“We can’t really measure it outside of referral traffic or (website) analytics provided by companies like Google,” Pearcy admits. “But in my mind, I think people feel more close to the brand. They’ll see us in the store and they’ll remember. I know it affects me and my decision-making. I can’t be alone.”