First insights on Social Media Usage by the Ontario Wine Industry (4)

Here is the time to share our recommendations. If you’ve just joined the thread, the main objective was to portray the usage and perspectives of Social Media marketing by Ontario wineries. The first post gave an overview of the Ontario landscape versus the rest of the world, the second disclosed the main findings of the quantitative online survey, and the third dig further information from in-depth interviews with participating wineries.  Today we are investigating what the follow-up interviews brought as additional insights.

While we didn’t intend for this paper to become a how-to guide for Social Media marketing, or to replace the ever growing list of resources which exist out there on the subject, we thought we should try to summarize a few common strategies and concepts we uncovered during our research, regarding the use of SM as a marketing tool. While some of the benefits and strategies listed below are generic and apply to any business, we have attempted to make our recommendations as winery-specific as we can — integrating our interview and survey results, along with the results of our literature search, into out findings.

First and foremost, social media must be viewed as a communications tool — not just another marketing and promotion channel — another venue for a business to broadcast its corporate message. It is a forum for conversations — two way, where everyone has equal value and no single entity controls the message.

Put simply, “social media marketing is word of mouth marketing on steroids”, and it needs to be approached this way. In today’s world, consumers value and trust information and recommendations from their peers and influencers far more than they do traditional advertising, and any organization who participates in this new realm must understand that their role is very different here than it is in other forms of marketing.

The Value of SM

  1. Connecting with and building a dialogue with people who are customers, may become customers, or who may influence others to become customers
  2. Building brand knowledge and awareness in a very cost-effective manner
  3. Identifying potential customers from their comments on various platforms
  4. Tracking the habits and behaviours of potential customers
  5. Connecting with influencers
  6. Gathering market intelligence about attitudes towards your brand or your competitors
  7. Funneling potential customers to you website, where you have the opportunity to sell
  8. Providing support, getting feedback and responding to complaints

Out of this list, #1 overrides all of the others. Social Media is a forum for people to connect with people, and therein lies its greatest value. Interaction on SM is discussed below, but suffice it to say that this is the key to success in SM marketing.

The other value of SM is the ability to tap into and engage in potentially thousands of conversations about your winery, your wines, Ontario wines, and wine in general. This is what makes SM such a must have tool for wineries. Wineries have fans, and you want to leverage those fans to help build your brand. You want to start, add to, facilitate, and spread conversations about your wines and winery — the secret is knowing how to do it without turning people off.

 12 Strategies for Success

  1. Commit. While it’s very easy (and free) to set up a Facebook page or Twitter account, it requires a commitment of time and resources in order to maintain it effectively. It will do more harm than good to set up a page, post regularly for a few weeks, and then let it go — once people visit and see that there’s nothing new for them, chances are they won’t bother coming back. One thing we heard over and over from our interviewees was that the more they post, the more responses they get.
  2. Listen. SM is a two way form of communication, and not another channel to broadcast your company message. It is a forum for you to engage and talk to your customers and fans (present and future), which means you have to be willing to listen to them. In fact, some have even suggested a ratio — listen 75% of the time, and talk the other 25%. Ask questions. Find people out there who are already talking about your brand and engage them, and get new people involved and excited about it. One of the great powers of SM is the fact that it is the consumer who effectively controls the brand out there, not you. You can contribute to this process, but you can‘t control it. Once you recognize this, you will soon realize the value of consumer feedback, and you will actively solicit it.
  3. Be authentic. People want to engage with a real person on SM, not a corporate mouthpiece. You have to be yourself, but, that being said, you don’t have to reveal everything about yourself either. Learn to use the lingo, but always remain professional and remember that you’re representing your brand. Be positive, and avoid negative comments about others. Thank people and show an interest in them — after all, they are showing an interest in you. Ideally the person who is your SM voice should be the person you would want talking about your winery at a party.
  4. Don’t hard sell. One of your ultimate goals in engaging in SM marketing is of course, to increase traffic and sales, but you have to operate within the limits and rules established by the SM community, and each individual platform. Often, you are joining a conversation in progress, and your goal is to contribute to it, not dominate. You want to engage and interest people, give them information, move the conversation forward, and generally add value with your contributions — these are things that will keep you in people’s good books. The place to sell is your website — the value in SM is in driving people to it. The secret is to strike a balance between conversation and sales, especially on Twitter, where the conversation shouldn’t be just about you and your agenda. In fact, some experts recommend a ratio of 80/20, where 80 percent of your tweets are non business related, versus 20% business.
  5. Provide added value. Give people a reason to spend time on your Facebook page or following your tweets. Make them feel special, by offering promotions or other things they won’t find elsewhere (of course this is limited by provincial alcohol advertising and promotion regulations). People love to feel like they’re “insiders” — that’s why they’re following your winery! Offer them inside information, invite them to exclusive tastings, releases and events, and reward them for being fans.
  6.  Follow your brand. There are software programs out there (see websites at end of paper) which allow you to track and monitor Facebook, Twitter, and literally thousands of blogs for any mention of your brand. This gives you the opportunity to join the conversation and share your knowledge and insights with people who have already demonstrated that they are interested in what you do.
  7. Know who the key influencers are. In the wine business, there are thousands — some well known like Robert Parker, Tony Aspler, and internet sensation Gary Vaynerchuk, and many other lesser known — but still influential people who write and blog about wine, and specifically Ontario wines. Know which ones are supporters of Ontario wines, follow them, interact with them, and gain their support.
  8. Develop an integrated strategy. Social Media is only one part of a successful organization’s marketing strategy, and, like other elements, it should fit with an overall plan, whose core objectives and messages remain consistent across all platforms. You should have a firm grasp of who your target market is, and where your winery is positioned in the industry. There are far too many platforms, bloggers, and wine reviewers out there for any one organization to understand (let alone access successfully). Knowing your target market will enable you to devote your resources to the places where your potential customers are.
  9. Involve your staff: While it’s important to have an overall strategy regarding your SM marketing goals and winery message, having people from different areas of your operation – winemaker, vineyard manager, events co-ordinator, for example — posting messages about what’s going on in their department (especially on Twitter) can add another layer of authenticity and personal touch to your presence. People love to be the first to hear the winemaker’s impressions of a barrel tasting of a new vintage, or the condition of this year’s fruit as it’s harvested. In addition, all of these Tweets can be forwarded to your Facebook page or website.
  10. Support your industry. Another common theme among the veteran users and experts we talked to was the value of using SM to strengthen and promote our wine industry. Promote local events, congratulate another winery on an award, support your local association and re-post their messages, and interact with your fellow wineries. Not only does this benefit the industry directly, it also sends the message to the public that we are truly one big community of wineries and regions, all with a common goal – making great wine.
  11. Learn. Don’t be afraid to try — the learning curve isn’t that steep, and there are plenty of resources out there, both online and in person. Don’t be afraid to approach your neighbour winery and ask for tips, if they seem to be doing it right, or attend one of the many social media marketing forums held throughout Ontario. It doesn’t have to be geared specifically to wineries (although those are available from time to time as well), because the principles are the same no matter what your business.
  12. Be patient. SM marketing is about relationship building, and that takes time

Would you add anything to this list?

We would be happy to administer this survey to different wine regions in the world. Please contact me should you be interested.


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