Vines online

Computers, the internet and social media have all had an enormous impact on the way our wineries do business.

It used to be that a winery could market its business through word-of-mouth or by advertising in the yellow pages of the phone book. Sometimes they would take out an ad in the local newspaper. This kind of marketing suited our winemakers just fine—it took a minimal amount of time, allowing them to stay out in the vineyard and concentrate on their grapes.

Then, as computers and the internet took increasing hold, many of our wineries invested in a website—allowing people all over the world to learn about their wines. At the time, having a website was considered cutting edge and all that was needed to show the world they were a serious business.

Websites were, and still are, a great way to explain the history of a company, their products and services and what makes them better than their competitors.

But today, social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have taken over our free time. It’s not enough to have a website—where companies hope people will seek them out via Google. Now companies need “followers,” as in the people who follow them on social media.

While a website is a one-way means of communication allowing a company to share information with the world, social media is interactive. Once a company shares information with its followers, the followers are invited to engage and respond, exchanging valuable information in the process.

Even though social media has been around for a good 10 years, winemakers have only recently started to get on board with it. Why? They would rather be out in the vineyard than hunched over a computer. But with 2 billion people using Facebook, winery owners have started to embrace this marketing tool.

Wineries now use social media to inform and entertain friends, families and most important, customers—making daily posts about the status of the grapevines, or perhaps the taste, aroma and appearance of a newly opened cask of wine and, not to be left out, all the fun that people are having while visiting the winery. It’s much easier to post a quick update via Facebook than to update a website.

“Social media is how Creekview Vineyards connects and communicates with our customers,” says winemaker and owner, Greg Peterson. Shortly after opening in 2005, Creekview Vineyards engaged with Facebook and Twitter. This has allowed them to distribute their traditional monthly newsletter via Twitter and Facebook. Peterson says they post promotions and photos of events, the vineyard and winemaking that keep their customers engaged. “Creekview Vineyards currently has over 8,600 followers of its Facebook page and I hope to see this grow,” he says. Adding, “For the future I am looking to expand our social media footprint via Instagram and YouTube.”

Social media is a powerful tool that helps winery owners connect with consumers to build and maintain relationships. Jazmine Ancira, marketing director at Fortino Winery says, “It has helped Fortino build its brand awareness on a more personal level—letting people feel the family connection we have.”

The financial benefits of social media are compelling. Advertising costs for social media are significantly lower than traditional printed brochures and newspaper ads. Wineries, often on a shoestring budget, can stretch their advertising budget by marketing their business through social media.

Facebook provides weekly summaries, called “insights,” that show how well postings perform in terms of the number of people viewing, sharing and commenting on them. This way, wineries can build on their best results with similar posts in the future.

For an extra cost, Facebook gives users the ability to target, or “boost” their postings to the people who are most likely to be interested in wine. Wineries can choose the demographics of each posting, ensuring that people in specific geographic locations, age and gender groups will see them.

It’s not uncommon to reach tens of thousands of people in just a few days. In March, the Wineries of Santa Clara Valley association reached 100,000 people with a boosted post about their Spring Passport event.

Kim Engelhardt, owner and winemaker of Lion Ranch Vineyards and Winery says, “Social media is our primary source of marketing because it gives me a greater return on my investment.”

This is great for tracking and Engelhardt adds, “I can target the audience I want and then through the software analytics, I can actually look at data on the money I’m spending.”

But there is a downside to using social media. It requires frequent monitoring to track questions or comments. Daily postings keep your followers engaged, but they are also time-consuming for page administrators. And technology that is simple for people who are computer savvy can be daunting for others whose skills are stronger in the art of winemaking.

“We do use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram frequently but not as religiously as we ought to, there is still a bit of a generational, learning curve about it all, says Vic Vanni, owner of Solis Winery. With a chuckle, Vic says, “My thoughts? I’m too old for this stuff, I need a millennial to help!”

Nevertheless, the positive side of social media makes it worth the effort.

Winemaker Jeff Fadness says, “I started La Vie Dansante Wines and Blended, a Winemaker’s Studio with a desire to share the experience with others. Social media gives me an instant connection to a world of new friends.”

For now, wine lovers who want to know more about their favorite wineries can go to that winery’s Facebook page, click on “Follow,” and then click on “See First,” if they want to make sure they don’t miss any updates.
I started La Vie Dansante Wines and Blended, a Winemaker’s Studio with a desire to share the experience with others. Social media gives me an instant connection to a world of new friends.

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