Unified Panelists Stress Social Media

Wineries should register names on Twitter, Facebook, before someone else does

by Kate Lavin

  • Attendance at the 2010 Unified Wine & Grape Symposium is 11,700, just 200 shy of the event's all-time record, set in 2009.
  • Sessions on grapegrowing, winemaking, business and public relations began Tuesday.
  • A special seminar on high-elevation and high-latitude winegrowing is being held Friday from 8:45 a.m. until 3:45 p.m.
Sacramento, Calif. -- You might know Jeff Stai of Twisted Oak Winery as the guy with the rubber chicken; but wine bloggers know him as one of their own. Sitting on a four-person panel Wednesday during the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, Stai was called “a great model for what is possible as a winery owner,” not just because of what he bottles, but because of what he represents to a growing legion of amateur wine writers.

In today’s age of social media, Stai has found, it’s just as important to keep current with what consumers are saying online as it is to follow trends in glossy consumer magazines. VinTank’s Paul Mabray said Wednesday that only 12% of wine products get reviewed by the traditional press; so if someone is talking about your brand online, you’d better know what they’re saying. There’s a chance they’ll have the loudest voice talking about your product.

Getting Twisted

In 2006, Stai had a winery and a new website. Convention at the time told him that he needed a blog, but he didn’t know what to put on it, so he turned to the Internet. What he found was this: Whole forums and chat rooms of wine drinkers were talking about Twisted Oak, and he’d had no idea. The same might also be true of your brand.

Rather than sit sedentary and watch new comments unfurl on his computer monitor, Stai figured out where the wine bloggers were, and he went to them. Small meet-ups followed. Then Wine 2.0 and the Wine Bloggers Conference.

“Jeff Stai has earned respect and trust of bloggers, because he is everywhere,” said Alan Kropf, a sommelier and co-founder of Mutineer Magazine. After all, Stai wasn’t showing up with a flashy sales pitch and used car salesman-type agenda. He was coming to hang out with wine drinkers, to listen what they had to say, and to have fun. And really, isn’t that what wine is all about?

Taking control

Nearly four years into his social media experiment, Stai isn’t sure that blogging is for everyone. But what he’s learned is universal: Wineries need to be proactive. Set up Google Alerts to be sent to your e-mail account when your brand is mentioned online. Read what people are saying about your wines. If a consumer had a negative experience, reach out to them and try to make it right. Turn that negative experience into something positive, and you’ll be remembered for it.

When it comes to social media platforms, timing is important, and if you haven’t already, you need to claim your brand on Facebook and Twitter before someone else does. Stai recalls that when he went to set up a Twitter account, for example, someone else claimed the name TwistedOak before he did. Now the winery is registered as ElJefeTwisted instead. Go to twitter.com and register your brand name. Do the same at facebook.com.

“It isn’t brain surgery, and it certainly isn’t rocket science,” Stai said of learning the ins and outs of these social media platforms. If you’re having trouble, ask your 20-something niece, neighbor or a newly graduated member of your tasting room staff to take an hour and show you the ropes.

Speaking in the Unified session Free to $5,000: Promoting Your Brand on a Limited Budget, Linda Jones of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council said, “Make sure someone is clearly responsible” for your website and social media accounts. “People make it the last priority, but that is a mistake. Identify someone in the organization whose responsibility it is.”

And don’t go too far down the food chain when selecting the staff member in charge of disseminating information. This is a huge point of contact with your consumers, and its importance can’t be overstated.

According to Mabray, "If you have a talented in-house person that represents that brand and culture, get them trained and leverage them.  If social (media) is your key strategy for communications, hire an in-house employee. Otherwise there are great firms you can hire that have wine and social media expertise."

Many of your Twitter and Facebook messages are going to refer consumers back to your website, so make sure it’s up to date. The holiday party you hosted in December should no longer be listed on your “Events” page. Someone taking the time to visit your winery website expects to get up-to-date information; don’t let them down.

Currently no comments posted for this article.