Social media as tools for business – a Wine2030 blog

This is an article I recently wrote for Wine2030 following attendance at the NZ Wine Business Symposium in Napier, NZ. For completeness and ease of reference I am copying into this blog.

Social media as tools for business
Wine and economics have been around for a long time – hundreds, even thousands of years depending where you choose to draw the line. Social media have also been around for a long time, interpersonal communication is as old as man itself.

As an advertiser or marketer will tell you, personal recommendation is the best kind of advertising, as you tend to trust the person you are talking to more than an advertisement or the producer themselves – plus it gets your attention to focus on that particular product. Social media then provide the ultimate tools and the recent developments of social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter offer boundless opportunity for business. Facebook has over 400 million users and Twitter has 105 million – and both still rising. There are of course other online communities, but these are two of the largest and with the highest profiles.

I recently attended an energetic and fun presentation at the New Zealand Wine Business Symposium in Napier, New Zealand, by two guys calling themselves the Qwoff Boys. They emphasised the importance of communication – and in the current social climate, people want two-way communication – they want their voice to be heard. These media give people the chance to talk about what they like and want and think, and to bounce their ideas off others; join groups and focus on their areas of interest; and learn about whole new topics. Feedback is the key to social media. People don’t just want to be heard – they expect to be heard. And they want to hear what others think too.

These media give people the chance to share experiences, ideas and opinions through the spoken and written word and visual media – emails, blogs, online discussion, podcasts, photos and videos. This is the biggest audience that a company can have direct access to. Increasingly people are social networking online, doing their research online and purchasing all kinds of goods and services online. Social media opens the door to a large market. It is however important to understand the strength of ‘pull’ marketing, as opposed to the traditional ‘push’ marketing of media such as television commercials. The key is for people to become brand ambassadors, to build loyalty to the product. They become your salespeople if you go about it the right way.

On the flip side of course there are already millions of companies online, so the challenge is to establish a presence. If we are talking here about wine, this is especially true – with so many wineries online, it is important to distinguish the name and image of the company and the brand. The Qwoff Boys talk about the need to establish a personality for the company as this becomes important when you start to interact on a social level. People want to know what the company stands for, not only about the product.

Firstly, since there are a number of social media networks, it may be best to pick one or two and concentrate on those – it is an ongoing commitment to service these sites and be responsive to people about the product or service. There are a number of steps to get involved – there are several that are interlinked, and for a relative newcomer to these sites, I shall try to explain their interaction as I see them.

Let’s call the company Hip Hop Wines. The Hip Hop Wines website, blog site, Facebook and Twitter addresses are all complementary. All can exist independently but to maximise the number of visitors (and potential customers as well as brand ambassadors) the way that these media interact is crucial to understand and embrace.

Every company worth its salt these days has a website – the quality varies widey. This is a very important first step in media presence because the other media will create interest in your product and people are likely to then want to see the website. Hip Hop Wines has a lively name that gets people’s interest so look at the website – they want to see what the product is and some description of the wines, who makes it, what the brand stands for, what the logo and packaging looks like, what the company belief is. Photos of the winery, staff, some personal touches, all help the visitor to feel connected.

A point of difference is always a plus – does it have an unusual grape variety, is there something interesting about the area or the history of the winery, is the winemaker an ex-circus clown – something to make the customer feel connected and remember the brand. People love to tell stories about wine when they drink it and share with friends. I have a couple of little facts for most wineries I have visited – for example, from my visit to Champagne I remember four years on that Moet was friends with Napoleon – there is a barrel in the Moet cellars that Moet gave to Napoleon as a gift; and widow Clicquot of the Veuve Clicquot Champagne family was the inventor of the riddling table – a key piece of equipment in the making of Champagne.  

On the practical side, they want to know where they can buy the wine – cellar door, outlets, online ordering. They want to be able to contact someone to ask questions. And they don’t want to have to look too hard – there are lots more wines vying for their attention. So the website needs to be informative and provide all of this information and more in a way that is interesting and accessible.

So if I have a great website – why do I need the other media? Well – if you had a great book in Dymocks, how will someone walking in the door know that your book is so great? How do you direct them to looking at your book over thousands of others? The problem is the same on the net on a larger scale.

The Qwoff Boys use social media as a core asset of their business (@QwoffBoys; www.qwoff.com/go/blog; www.facebook.com/qwoff). Twitter allows just 140 characters per message (Tweet) – enough to whet someone’s appetite and provide a link to your website, your blog, and your Facebook page. On your blog you can write and post images, podcasts and videos of whatever you like and as often as you like  – reviews of new releases of Hip Hop Wines, medals that your wines have won, a new logo, a new range, a food and wine review with one of your wines, anything that may be of interest and give you a reason to tweet. People read the blog and may well start to follow your blog and see whatever you say in future.

Facebook had the business and personal page option. You want people to add you to their favourites and then receive updates when you write them. In your updates you can include videos and photos and links to blogs and the website – the Hip Hop Wines Facebook page should have key information points displayed prominently, such as the logo, winery name and address and contact details, photos, and links to interesting information about the company and the wines. It needs to hold the visitor’s interest – one click and they are looking at something else and someone else’s product.

On Twitter people start to follow you; on Facebook people start to follow you; on your blog people start to follow you – and the website is just one element in this whole media Rubik’s cube. All are inextricably linked – or should be. Each medium can and should link to the others. The website page can have links to Facebook, Twitter and blog pages and even quote tweets that are positive about the product. The interlinkages are too numerous to describe.

It is genius when you stand back and see it all working. I am still quite in awe of it myself and have explained it in a simple way so that it is clear.

The important thing to remember is that it is a two way conversation – therefore once you commit to these media, you must be dedicated. You must respond to queries or people will lose interest in Hip Hop Wines and choose something else where they feel they are being listened to. Keep a presence – set yourself a target of posting something new at least a couple of times a week, for example, so people do not get bored. If you have nothing new to tell, suggest a wine and food matching or chat about something you read or heard. Or ask your followers to tell you something – maybe ask them what they think would go best with you dinner tonight of duck fillet and orange sauce. Then answer them when they make suggestions. People want to be heard.

One other point to note is that if you want people to follow you, you also need to follow others – the principle of reciprocation, sharing and two-way communication. You need to be involved in conversations and to have a presence that is not just selling your product – remember the pull marketing. It takes time to establish a following and it needs an ongoing commitment.

Social media offer a minefield of opportunity. As the Qwoff Boys say – if you get this right, establish a presence, stay friendly and informative and respond, keep conversations relevant, and rely on pull marketing rather than push – these media will work for you. You will have your own army of brand ambassadors.

Author: Dr Nicola Chandler, Visiting Research Fellow, Wine2030, University of Adelaide.

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About tigchandler

English-born, lived several years in Wellington, NZ, then in Adelaide, South Australia, and recently moved back to New Zealand. With an economics background, I have worked in researching wine consumption patterns, marketing, economics and social media at the University of Adelaide. I also worked a vintage and in wineries in McLaren Vale so have seen both the research/analytical side of the industry and the practical/hands-on side. I have retail experience and many ongoing industry links all around Australia and overseas. This blog reflects my ongoing passion for everything related to the wine industry.
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One Response to Social media as tools for business – a Wine2030 blog

  1. Pingback: 2010 in review | Tigchandler's Blog

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