For the last two years I have submitted a project topic to the student enrolled in the Wine Business Management program at Niagara College. Last year, the topic was on Generation Y and its perceptions of “green wines” and this year, on the use of Social Media to drive traffic to winery tasting room. Gerry Davies tackled the challenge and I will post the summary of his findings this week.
The research was structured as follow:
- An informal survey of current winery social media adoption and activity (in Ontario and elsewhere in the world)
- A comprehensive literature search into existing papers, books and articles on social media marketing in general, and specifically relating to the wine industry
- An online questionnaire into winery social media use, distributed to Ontario wineries
- Follow up interviews with selected wineries.
- Interviews with other Ontario wine industry stakeholders and social media marketing experts
The first thing Gerry conducted was an informal comparison of SM use among wineries in Ontario and in other selected regions in the world;he found that Ontario’s wineries have adopted SM in a big way. Out of 102 wineries searched, 84% had an active Facebook page, and 44% had a Twitter account. It should be noted that the Twitter numbers may not be accurate as they were obtained by visiting winery websites and searching the winery name at: http://www.twellow.com. There may well be individuals at some wineries who tweet winery business under their own name.
In the US, both California and New York are very SM engaged — in fact, of the small samples we examined from Sonoma and the Finger Lakes, we found 100% Facebook (FB) participation, and 60-80% Twitter (TW) participation. In Napa, using the numbers found on the Napa Vintners Association website, we found the participation rates to be lower (43% FB/27% TW), however out of the 386 wineries and vineyards listed, some were small vineyard operators, with no direct contact with the public
Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, by contrast, appear to be much slower to adopt SM as a marketing and customer engagement tool (although our samples were by no means comprehensive). New Zealand was especially interesting. In our random survey of 10 wineries found on the New Zealand Winegrowers website (http://www.nzwine.com/), only one winery had any SM presence, and that was Kim Crawford, owned by Constellation. Their FB page was, however, very well done, with well written personal responses to followers’ posts.
One theory on the discrepancies in participation rates between regions may have to do with tourism. California, New York, and Ontario are heavily tourism-dependent wine regions, with large populations within a day’s drive, while most wineries in Australia, South Africa and especially New Zealand, see far less tourists, and rely much more on off-site and export sales. They may not see the benefit of attempting to engage with customers who may never visit their winery or develop a strong attachment to a winery half a world away.
Looking at actual Facebook content, we found a wide variety of adoption levels among Ontario wineries. Most posted the same types of material: Winery news and events, new releases, reposts of media articles, food pairings and promotions. In most cases, the majority of the dialogue on their pages was outbound; however some had a very active two way dialogue with their fans — often those wineries who routinely posted questions such as: “What are you drinking tonight?” Other than wall posts, most had some photos and event listings, but only a few offered much else (discussion forums, customer reviews, videos, special FB only offers).
Among the winery Facebook pages we accessed elsewhere in the world, we found their strategies to be very similar to Ontario, with the exception of California, where most winery FB pages we visited offered videos and web casts, discussion forums, contests, and links to other wine-related sites.
Twitter, by its very nature, is a more engaging platform, and we found that wineries that were active had far more frequent two way communication with their followers.
My next post will describe findings from an online survey conducted in the winter of 2011 and provide a snapshot of the current usage and challenges related to Social media expressed by Ontario wineries.