There is a part of me that regrets having to write this post, while the other part knows that it has to be done. Social media around the world is changing how consumers relate to wine. The idea of using social media to sell wine is working and is being
taken very seriously by wineries who want to engage new consumers and those individuals just turning to wine for the first time. We still suffer from the inability to fully measure its results, but those that have embraced it at the least anecdotally have acknowledged that is does have an affect.
Here in Spain, we’re missing the boat. And I’m afraid in the short term, Spain will continue to fail to size up. And before any of you start pointing to individual examples of winery blogs, or other social media campaigns that you feel are examples of how I’m wrong,Â allow me to explain my thoughts.
Social media is about sharing ideas, sharing stories, and communicating with people on the consumer level. It’s removing a hierarchy of who is more important than who, yet social media really shines and succeeds when people using these tools begin talk to every consumer as an equal, not a subordinate. Successful practioners of Social media even work with their competitors, or rather as I call them, collaborators in an effort to amplify their message. The best social media campaigns realize that we all are aiming for the same targets of openness, new ideas and a better world. To do this, the most successful practitioners of social media hold no secrets. If they succeed, they share the steps they took to achieve that success within the social networks they’re active in. If they fail, they also explain why they failed and ask for help, knowing that others like them, as collaborators or competitors, will lend a hand.
A bit utopian, but it’s true, and here are some examples. Seth Goodin publishes his books for free online and than outsells his competitors by leaps and bounds when these same books come out in print. People hire him because they can see he knows his stuff, and he knows it well. Gary Vaynerchuck has shared his philosophies, and if you ask him a question, he’ll probably answer it in a video on his site; whereby giving you, and everyone else the answer for free. He “tells it as he sees it”, and for this his audience rewards him. El Jefe, from Twisted Oak Winery, posts photos of his vines coated in a thick layer of ice on his blog, and strangely enough, people are still buying his wines. In fact, they do it not only because he makes great wine, but to support him as a friend. Tapas (Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society) is a group of wineries who work together to promote their wines. They host tastings as a team and do promotions that help everyone within the group sell more wine. They know that as individuals they will struggle but as a group they can shine.
So why will Spain fail? Simple. Wineires in Spain refuse in most cases to work together. If you have a good example where this is not true, please let me know, but there is a serious case of “cutting one’s nose off to spite one’s face” going on here in Spain.Â Example: I sat down with a producer in Ribera del Duero many years ago who told me that they could not get their wine tourism initiative off the ground. They had few visitors, and of the visitors they did have, it was difficult for them to motivate wine sales. I asked him if he knew of any other interesting wineries close by, to which he replied, “yes”. I then suggested that they team up with those wineries to rent a bus and provide tours for visitors to the nearby town of Aranda del Duero, to all of those wineries. With their logos plastered on the side of the bus, they could visit 3-4 wineries, and then end up at a wine shop where all the wines were available for purchase. Affordable, tourist friendly and easy to set up. Their response illustrates my point: “Well, what if we sell our neighbor’s wine?”
UGH. I would hope you did, but with that attitude, you won’t sell your neighbor’s wine or your own wine. Good luck!
So why do I think Portugal has a chance? Although they might prove me wrong, and at times, I honestly think they are trying purposely to prove me wrong, but they do have a few nice examples of success. The Douro Boys have done a great job of working together to sell all their wines. Their “Douro Boy Dinners” are legendary and the meals are filled with jokes and stories as each individual teases the other about who’s wine is the best. We all fall in love with the wines, and when out and about, we never hesitate to recommend any of the wines when asked. It helps that they make great wines, but the point is that they are happy to sell some of each others wines for the collective good. There have been other attempts like the now crumbling G7 group, and the stable Independent Wine Growers Association, which features the wines of Luis Pato among many others. These groups are offline social media communities, that work well to spread the cost of promotion within a group of like minded individuals.
Social media is about sharing ideas and stories. If you have a winery blog and only talk about your own winery, please don’t tell me about it, because I won’t be reading it. If you get on Twitter and only tell me how your new wine is being made, once again, forget you know us, as we won’t follow you. If you fail to tell me about what inspires you, which wines make you want to be a better winemaker than I really don’t have any reason to talk to you. Create a webpage where I can’t see it if I don’t have Flash installed, and I won’t bother waiting for it to load. Send me a press release without my asking for it, and I’ll make sure to ignore everything that comes from you going forward. Oh and if you bother me about how you were the first to do x, y, or z, I won’t be able to get my finger to the “spam” button in my email inbox quick enough.
That said, if you tell me about your region, the wineries that you admire within it, the restaurants that you eat at every day, and the people you talk to as you travel about promoting your own wines, well then, I just might lend an ear. If you do something original where you were the first to think of it, please show me how you came up with the idea and tell us how others can benefit from it. Explain what you did right and wrong in developing the idea. If you do this, I’ll follow you with interest. I will talk about you to others, and I will buy your wines when I find them. The more I know about you, holistically, the more I will want to do everything I can to support who you are and the wines you make. Tell me honestly when the harvest is difficult, because if I turn on the news and see from the weather report that you are lying, I won’t bother turning to you again. Or best of all, ask a question, and then listen to my response. Do that you will gain an evangelist for your brand, who you won’t have to pay.
I have yet to see anyone in Spain embrace these ideas, though I trust there are those who believe they exist, prove me wrong. Spanish wineries need to stop thinking they are the best wine producing country in the world. Here’s a very true statement that might help you out: “There is no perfect wine”. You are one among many, and that is what I like about wine. Help me to get to know you, your wines, all while discovering other wines in the process. Trust me, we the consumers will reward you for it.