10 Myths About Wineries, Social Media, and Their Interactions

Reminder that April's Virtual Tasting will be the 2009 Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling. The tasting will take place on Wednesday April 28th from 7-9pm. Read more about it here.

Recently I wrote a post encouraging Washington wineries to become involved in Social Media. Something I believe discourages involvement is a number of myths about wineries, Social Media, and their interactions. Here’s a list of the ones I hear most frequently.

MYTH #1:
“If I just produce great wine, I can expect to be discovered and whisked away to the magic wine kingdom by some anointed wine writer or by a uniquely intelligent customer base.”

Most people at wineries got into the business because they wanted to make wine, not because they wanted to market themselves in some fashion and certainly not because they wanted to dive into the world of Social Media. Many wineries hope for their ‘Oprah moment.’ However, most wineries are not going to get 100 point scores, have a years-long waiting list, and open only a day or two a year. Given that, what is plan B?

MYTH #2:
“Everyone else knows exactly what is going on with Social Media. I’m the only one in the dark.”

Many people feel they are the only ones who don’t know what is going on with Social Media. This is intimidating as people are reluctant to admit that they feel in the dark. The fact is Social Media and the world surrounding it are extremely fluid. Everyone is figuring it out as they go…except that some people aren’t going yet. Some people, though, are far down the road.

MYTH #3:
“If I hold my breath long enough, Social Media will go away, and I will be magically transported back to 2007.”

Many people I talk to just want Social Media to go away. They wish they didn’t have to become involved in it. Additionally, everybody wishes for a return to more prosperous times. Social Media, however, will be increasingly important in the coming years, and the economy most likely will remain stagnant for some time.

: “If I enter the Social Media world, I can expect to see instantaneous results.”

A number of people I talk to enter the Social Media realm expecting to see an immediate impact on sales. When they don’t, they get discouraged and abandon the space. While it is possible to have relatively quick success with Social Media, for most it is a medium-to-long-term strategy. It will most likely produce very few immediate results except disappointment if you expect otherwise.

MYTH #5:
“If I just create a Blog, Facebook, and Twitter account, consumers will come and my wine will go.”

In addition to expecting instantaneous results, people at many wineries think Social Media is a cure all for selling wine. They believe that if they just create accounts on Social Media/Social Networking sites, lots of people will come to the winery and buy wine. The reality is, if you don’t have a well thought out branding, marketing, and sales strategy as well as good execution, don’t expect Social Media to fix it! Social Media is just another tool in the toolbox.

MYTH #6:
“If I use Social Media to tell people to come to the tasting room and buy my wine, people will come to the tasting room and buy my wine.”

People who run wineries are obviously interested in using Social Media to sell more wine. However, many people think of Social Media as a tool for straight advertising. For this reason, they use the tools available to push their product. This is a mistake. Social Media is about building relationships. The key is communicating and interacting with people. If all you do is talk, sooner or later, people stop listening. Think of it this way, do you turn the volume on the TV up or down during commercials? Some amount of product pushing is acceptable, but it should be limited.

MYTH #7:
“Social Media has never sold a single bottle of wine (or anything else for that matter).”

This is one I frequently hear. Social Media impacts decision-making that can impact sales. If you talk to people at major companies, they are all in on Social Media. Why? Because they believe that it can help them brand their product and move their product. Part of the reason why I believe this myth persists is that the relationship between Social Media and sales is often indirect, difficult to measure, and is more of a mid-to-long-term play. Additionally, even to the extent there is or isn’t an effect on sales, most people at small wineries don’t measure how people came to the tasting room or why they decided to buy their wine. Rather, they just look at net sales.

MYTH #8:
“If I want to be involved in Social Media, it’s going to take up all of my time. I’m too busy already.”

A big barrier to many people – which is a real one I believe – is the fear that involvement in Social Media will take an enormous amount of time. While this can certainly be the case – and there are surely Facebook and Twitter Twelve Step programs out there already – you can devote as much or as little time to Social Media as you wish consistent with the amount of time you have. Of course, if you put more in to it, you may get more out of it.

MYTH #9:
“But I’m a private person! If I use Social Media, everyone is going to know everything about me!”

Many people fear giving up their privacy by using Social Media. While I understand this concern, I believe it is less grounded in reality than many people realize. You can control what you put out there and say as much or as little about yourself as you like. Gary Vaynerchuck gave a great example of this when he was in Seattle promoting his book Crush It! He asked the audience how many people had seen a picture of his wife and/or knew her name. Very few hands went up. You can choose what you want to reveal. Besides, everyone already knows everything about you anyway!

MYTH #10:
“But I don’t want to be involved in Social Media, and you can’t make me!”

As I said earlier, many people wish Social Media would go away and steadfastly say that they will never become involved. The reality is, if you operate a winery, you are already involved. People are already talking about your wines and winery on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and other mediums. You just don’t know it! Doesn’t it make sense to be part of the conversation?

Sean P. Sullivan


  1. Sean, this is an awesome list! Includes all the same Myths that I hear. Fantastic work exposing them specifically for wineries!


  2. Absolutely. As @catmears said on Twitter, these also apply to any business, but the complex, personal nature of wines makes them doubly suited to the ongoing conversations possible through social media.

  3. Joshua S, thanks for the comment. I agree that, with the exception of the first, these are not winery specific.

  4. This list is great! Although, I think you could argue that it applies to almost anyone who is selling a product. Wineries are a natural fit for the space because wine evokes such strong emotions and passion in people. Compare wine to some other consumer product, like tape. Wine easily wins, right? And yet, Scotch brand tape has a great Facebook community - http://www.facebook.com/#!/ScotchDuctTape?ref=ts.

    Wineries, specifically, could benefit from social media a lot by establishing communities for their wine lovers, and listening to the conversations about their wine happening on the world wide web. Just a simple Twitter search can be a great tool for customer service.

    Lesson? Consumers are already excited about wine and wineries, so you have already one the first, crucial battle. Build a community that's engaging and meaningful, and you'll wine lifetime fans. :)

  5. Catherine, couldn't agree with you more on each of your points. Thanks for the comment.

  6. Really enjoyed this post. Personally, I think that success with social media depends on values that resonate with producers of good wine: integrity, authenticity, patience and generosity. It continues to be viewed with suspicion by some wine professionals. Sure, there are a handful of people out there who may take advantage and spam/insult you. But I actually find Twitter, Facebook et al pretty heart-warming: find your tribe in these spaces, and you will be reassured that most people are helpful, interested, sensitive and (often) extremely funny. Free interaction with your customers - it's a great honour as well as an opportunity. Your point about it being in a well thought-out marketing context is an excellent one. And there are plenty of companies who can help time-strapped businesses out with that. Thank you for sharing!

  7. A good site to portray your winery at is http://www.allvineyards.com - Consumers can explore all the beautiful vineyards/wineries from here.

  8. Thank you for the comment @SarahAbbottMW. And I agree that Twitter and FB can be heartwarming. Many think of it as a burden initially but come to find they actually enjoy it.

  9. I love lists and this list is definitely a must-read. I'm curious where nos. 3 and 10 came from, because I have yet to run into a winery (at least here in CA) that feels that way. Wishing that times were different and that we were back in 2007 (or earlier) is unrealistic. Social media is here to stay and has changed the way everyone does business. Accepting that and, as you said, becoming part of the conversation is the very least that brands should do. Ironically, it will be the places that NEED to see this list the most that probably will not.

  10. Eric, thanks for stopping by. I have really enjoyed your posts on Social Media on BricksofWine. On #3, so many wineries I talk to just don't want to become involved in Social Media and hope that they can ignore it and it will go away (it won't). However, they feel a good deal of pressure to become involved in Social Media due to its rise and the increased pressure caused by the poor economy. Many I talk to are just hoping the economy recovers quickly and that they can go back to happily ignoring Social Media, although deep down they know even if the economy recovers, they can't do that. On #10, I'm being somewhat facetious about how many need to be dragged in kicking and screaming. There's so much anxiety about entering the space. Thanks again and keep up the good work.

  11. Myth #1 - Odds are 99.9999% against an' Oprah' moment. Social media done right increases chance of 'Oprah' moment

    Myth #2 - A minority of consumers are actually using web for wine research yet. Most wine review/aggregator sites have very few unique visitors relative to the 80M US adults who prefer wine. Arguably the entire readership of mainstream wine review/aggregator sites is 1M+ but that's probably over-optimistic. Social media is also causing wine influence to be more diffuse. Not as easy to target influencers than the 'old days'. Social media is creating new 'star reviewers' and at same time greasing the wheels of recommendations from friends. It's certainly not too late to play and catch up is quite possible.

    Myth #3 The World has changed, and will change again... and again... there's no going back

    Myth #4 It is a long game. Today's winners will be tomorrow's losers. Unlike football, there is no time limit.

    Myth #5 Some will. But maybe not the ones you want.

    Myth #6 If you only 'push' on social media, you will detract from results. Think of social media as an extension of your tasting room. Hopefully the experience you deliver in real life is one where tasters discuss wine and chat with the staff in a friendly and relaxed way. That consumer experience needs to be recreated in the social media world.

    Myth #7 - Yes it does. Not only directly (which may have minimal measurable results) but also indirectly through the world of wine retail. It's a subtle reinforcement for buyer decisions but very hard to track. Don't be misled by research that just counts clicks.

    Myth #8 - This is the real cost. Doing it right is not cheap. But just think about it, neither is advertising or the discounts you give to wholesalers etc.

    Myth #9 If you are already on Facebook you are exposed anyway. Might as well immerse yourself and get some benefit from it all. Plus its fun.

    Myth #10 your choice, and you still have some runway. In fact wait long enough and social media will make you a success as the only winery not on twitter - that would be a sort of cool caché. People would seek you out for that experience alone :-)

  12. Well written and I agree, for the most part.

  13. Social media for wine, in its infancy, is the currency of a vocally distorted and broke set of individuals who think that, by "talking" about a winery, wine, tasting room, wine event, etc., they can get free admittance and/or free wine simply because they think they are "social media celebrities".

    You know who you are when you throw cheap flattery and false enthusiasm at others. I can call you out if you prefer. This is not unlike the early days of network marketing, or multi-level marketing.
    Just make good wine at the right price. They will come. ~WAwineman

  14. There is more than a grain of truth in Anonymous' comments. Had a case yesterday where wine blogger who has written about a producer's wine gets invited to visit winery (nice touch) and now wants to charge them not only for expenses but also for his time and mention on blog as a condition of the visit. Be selective on whom you bestow favors....but it doesn't mean don't do it.

  15. Thanks Paul for that comment.
    See, it's these idiots who are the reason why wineries do not have more faith in social media. They can point to klonks like that and say it's a waste of time.
    Wineries: get an experienced, professional consultant like http://winedirectsolutions.com/blog/ .
    Wineries like buyers, not talkers. Simple. ~WAwineman

  16. Paul and WWM, thanks for the comments. I agree that the sudden surge of so-called Twitterati into the space has increased anxiety among many wineries. Very easy to be on Twitter and, especially because Twitter is so confusing to many, it's difficult for folks to tell who the influencers are or aren't. Additionally, I hear stories from more than a few about people asking for comp'd tasting fees, free wine, pay-to-play, etc. This is, understandably, creating a lot of misgiving and muddying of the waters. Personally, I expect this to shake out reasonably quickly as the space and people's understanding of it evolves. Unfortunately, I do believe that it will, in some cases, delay wineries moving into the Social Media sphere. A shame for all concerned.

  17. Phil, thanks for the comment. Feel free to comment on any areas where you disagree or that you think are off the mark.

  18. Sean, I have heard many of the same statements. I am curious, though, have you noticed a difference in level of acceptance based on the size and/or age of the wineries?

    I am seeing smaller wineries, with little to no marketing budget, who have innovative thinkers using Social Media to their advantage, but also larger wineries who are charging their Marketing or PR folks to bring in Social Media help. There are challenges with both approaches, that I won't go into here. However, I wonder if most who try to ignore it for the reasons you state above are more of the smaller and older variety who are already challenged by other business concepts that could potentially help them manage and grow their business outside of the basics?

    Social media isn't breaking any new ground as it relates to building trust, brand, relationships, etc... things you should already be doing for your business. It's just a new approach with related technologies that help you perform these activities more broadly and in almost real-time directly with potential or existing consumers.

  19. Very good information. Wineries need not be afraid of Social Media. It can help them.

  20. Ed, thanks for the comment and good questions. Definitely a lot of the larger wineries have hired or contracted people to do their SM work for them although some, strangely, have done neither and aren't doing much. I don't get that. Some small, new wineries have done some great, nimble stuff. I can think of several small wineries that have created large a large Social Media presence before they have released a bottle of wine. Very smart.

    In terms of age of the wineries, I believe that has sometimes been a factor, as this is a large change for wineries that have been around for a long time. I also think many small wineries do struggle at times with things on the business side. This adds to those challenges.

    Your last paragraph is dead on. It's just a new approach to doing things folks should already be doing.

  21. Good stuff, Sean. Especially #6. The folks who use Faceboat and Tweeter exclusively to sell stuff stick out like the meathead sitting right behind you in the movie theater who talks all the way thru the flick. Good SM'ers are entertaining to hang with. If there is a sales pitch woven into the conversation, that's ok, but it shouldn't dominate the conversation.

  22. Ed, great article. An even better follow-up article would be an article featuring real world success stories. Shona Milen claims 'Wineries need not be afraid of Social Media. It can help them.'

    The reality, though, is that the world is painfully short of examples where Social Media has actually helped wineries. Any efforts to bring concrete examples of success to light would be a boon to us all - and a great template for everyone to learn and succeed in the future.

  23. Paul G, I agree that, much like any advertising, there are ways to put 'product placement' into tweets without being over the top. Thanks for the comment.

    Peter, thanks for the comment. I'm hoping to do so.

  24. Ed T, you are quite right about many smaller wineries and their business acumen. The SM part is just one more area that they probably will miss out on until long after it is the mainstream.

    Sean, well said. And it will be great to hear about some of the success examples.

  25. Great list, Sean. I agree with you that social media is another opportunity to build relationships. Not everybody gets a chance to meet the grape growers or winemakers that produce the wine they consume. However, Twitter and Facebook give producers and consumers a chance to connect. I hope more wineries realize what a great opportunity that presents. Catherine's comment about social media being a tool for customer service also resonates with me.

  26. Great post on Social Media! You've accurately identified many of the unfounded roadblocks that keep people from participating.

    The comments so far have been fantastic - Catherine and Ed - you are dead-on! Social Media IS the new customer service!

    As a company that is deeply involved in leveraging Social Media to help wineries gain brand awareness, I can tell you that those that have made the decision to embrace Social Media in a strategic way are not looking back…not one bit. All of them are reporting major success in reaching thousands of wine enthusiasts that they previously did not reach. These enthusiasts are in geographic areas that these wineries had no presence in, giving them a much greater exposure for their brand. Additionally, several of these wineries are now reporting that they are receiving direct sales requests for their wines. I don't think there is a better definition of Social Media ROI than that!

    Keep up the great work Sean!

  27. Peter, some success stories include Murphy Goode, Twisted Oak, Eagles Nest Wines, St. Supery just to name a few. Granted, MG's success was more on the hype during the search than the actual 6 months Hardy was in the job. But, some very positive revenue figures were thrown around as to the benefit of that campaign.

    However, I will say I have not seen a specific, documented case study of a winery that has put any numbers on paper. Remember, though, that a success story needn't be specifically sales dollars. It can be # of impressions, bringing traffic to the tasting room, customer service as Pennie mentioned, etc. It all depends on the strategy that SM is being used for for that entity.

  28. I totally agree with this list. My company specializes in custom gifts.....especially wine accessories. I have found many welcome social media but many not ready to embrace it......and the same is true for many small businesses of all types. I think the key is to know that we are in this for the long haul. I do want to be part of the conversation.

  29. Another one to add to the list "I don't need to be on Social Media. I'm already selling out all of my wine and/or have a long mailing list."

  30. Great post. I work for Jordan and John Jordan could have easily followed Sean's myth because we sell everything we make. You have to take a long-term view on consumer relationships, communications, customer service and providing added value to your wine. We are investing in video and social now for our future.

  31. Myth #11 - Social media generates sales.

    Fact is, consumers are so saturated with DTC advertising, emails, texts, tweets, and FB noise that they are starting to tune it out. Consultants lack the creativity to come up with anything beyond "social media" as a solution to winery sales ills. Like sheep, wineries line up to tweet about their newest release and brag about how many FB friends they have. These are the wrong metrics, nobody gives a sh!t how many followers you have on Twitter, what matters is how many sales you are actually generating and with every other winery out there, all the way up to Gallo, participating in Social Media, you are just getting increasingly lost in the noise.

    Who is selling wine online in significant volumes? Winelibrary, wine woot!, WTSO, Cinderella wine...etc. They sell wine because they offer the best price and they know that their Social Media stats don't matter because wine consumers are seeking the best price. End of story.

  32. Nice! Common sense! I tried to explain these things to the last winery I worked at and, in the long run, got fired! People seem to forgot that making wine may be a labor of love but selling wine is a business. You don't need to be a Robber Baron, but you do need to thing critically and get all the floosie doosie mystical magical tour out of your head.

  33. Social media is definitely hear to stay, and it is definitely something that you should take advantage of. It is not just about creating a Facebook/ Twitter/ Blog, its about creating content that your audience is going to be interested in. I recently wrote a blog post on two wineries whose social media strategy is really great. Check it out here: http://www.mysmn.com/yoga-theater-and-wine-a-gold-mine-for-social-media-marketing/