Draft 2: Twitter book wine chapter

10 08 2009

Chapter x: Wineries Like the Taste of Twitter

“Wine is inherently social so it’s really well-suited for social media, for Twitter,” says Rick Bakas, director of social media marketing at St. Supery Vineyards and Winery in Napa Valley, California. Bakas refers to the timeless tradition, across centuries and cultures, of convening around food and wine to socialize. Twitter provides a virtual roundtable where wine enthusiasts can meet and talk wine.

How many characters does it take to describe tasting a wine? How many characters does it take to recommend a wine? More and more people are finding it takes fewer than 140, and thus more wineries are surfacing on Twitter.

This chapter will explore how wineries came to find Twitter, their experiences, practices and measurement for using the platform. It will also identify two case studies documenting best uses of Twitter. We will make these findings through the stories of the following wineries:

•    Eagles Nest Winery (@eaglesnestwine)
•    St. Supery Vineyards and Winery (@stsupery)
•    Sobon Family Wines (@sobonwine)
•    Donati Family Vineyard (@donatifamily)
•    King Estate Winery (@kingestate)
•    Capozzi Winery (@pinotblogger)

Wineries Pour Into Twitter

“When I was first talking Twitter it wasn’t the mass market phenomenon it is today,” says Sasha Kadey, marketing manager and sales analyst at King Estate Winery in Eugene, Oregon. “Around the time of the [U.S. presidential] election when we saw Twitter permeating and integrating with CNN and mainstream media it became really obvious that we needed to be there.”

Kadey has a background in emerging technologies and education in entrepreneurial business. He joined the winery as it was expanding its CRM initiatives. Kadey says he had to make a case to convince his bosses that King Estate Winery should be on Twitter. He started by showing his colleagues the discussions about King Estate Winery that were already happening on Twitter.

“I told them, ‘These are the people that want to hear from us,’” Kadey says.  “It’s a great strive to achieve the critical mass to awareness, but there is immediate opportunity to create one-on-one dialogue with customers.”

Dennis Grimes, co-owner and winemaker at Eagles Nest Winery in San Diego, California is a huge Twitter fan. As longtime Internet and IT professionals, he and his wife and partner Julie actively follow Web trends and were first aware of Twitter shortly after its launch but didn’t immediately see its business value. However, they took the advice of winery social media consultant Cheryl Wolhar (@myvinespace) and created @eaglesnestwine in December 2008.

“We needed an Internet-based marketing plan to establish our winery name or brand, awareness of our award-winning wines, and a following in the marketplace,” says Dennis Grimes. “A 140-character Twitter post is not as effective as a detailed blog post in conveying information, but a Twit is effective as an awareness or referral technique to more substantive communications like a link to a blog post or conventional Web site.”

Robert Sobon, INSERT TITLE at Sobon Winery first learned about Twitter through a news story and some quick research he jumped on board creating personal and winery accounts. Like Grimes, Sobon referred to a social media consultant Jim Preston (@winequesters) to help build the program.

“We started on Twitter to spread information about what we were doing as a winery; tastings, events, award or reviews received,” says Sobon. “It now has been away to engage consumer, wine bloggers and accounts.”

Lesley Russell, VP of Direct Marketing and Sales at St. Supery Vineyards and Winery attended a Napa Valley Vintners seminar in mid-2007 and heard about Twitter for the first-time during a blogger panel.  She set up a personal account in December 2007 to check it out and created an account for the winery in November 2008.

“At first, we used Twitter to monitor the conversation about our brand,” she says. “Then we started to engage people talking about our brand, and we now seek to engage people in conversations about topics relevant to our brand and post items of interest to wine drinkers at large.”

At Mom and Pop Shops, Mom and Pop Tweet

As you would expect, small wineries have fewer resources for social media, so its owners often tweet. Direct access to people making the wine and/or business decisions through Twitter provides an additional value for people following the winery.

Josh Hermsmeyer, co-owner and president of Capozzi Winery tweets on behalf of his winery from @pinotblogger. Capozzi Winery is named in honor of his great grandmother Maria Giovanna Capozzi, who was a wine bootlegger during the prohibition era.

“I share [on Twitter] what I believe is a compelling story about my journey creating a wine brand, building a winery and managing a vineyard in the Russian River Valley,” Hermsmeyer says.

Dennis Grimes and his wife Julie tweet on behalf of their company, too.

“We are a family owned and operated winery, so to provide an authentic experience for our followers, we felt it appropriate that the owners manage the account,” Grimes says.

The Grimes’ posts approximately 25 tweets per day for Eagles Nest Winery, depending upon activity and personal bandwidth. Dennis Grimes says he tweets only a moderate level of self-promotion to reflect his personal dislike of “being marketed 100 percent, 24/7.” Original, proactive tweets include information about daily and seasonal winery activities, and wine educational wine and wine appreciation.

Sobon, too, tweets on behalf of his family’s winery.

“In a family operation like ours, I started it and I’m responsible for keeping it going, Sobon says.  “My name is listed in the bio so people many a family/name connection.”

Other wineries like St. Supery, Donati Family Vineyard and King Estate have hired staff to run its Twitter pages, among other marketing efforts.

Tools and Time

Sobon uses Tweetdeck and Tweetie to monitor Twitter and says he tweets approximately 10 times per day. He asks questions to start conversations and responds to people based on wine-related keywords like “Zin,” “Amador” or “Wines.” He says he spends “Too much!” time on Twitter and the constant challenge is finding a balance.

Sobon takes a casual approach to Twitter. Considering he’s the wine owner, he has no policies or approval processes to abide by other than his own best judgment. He says he just goes with the flow of conversations and has fun.

“I think the point here is allowing people to see the @sobonwine name and the Sobon Family name,” he says. “I don’t try to be too mission-focused.”

Hermsmeyer says he tweets most weekdays about whatever he feels people will find remarkable and interesting – and not necessarily about wine.

“There’s something I think we all still want to know: What is the best way to tap this attention asset that we’ve developed without alienating followers with commercial messages,” he asks.

Hermsmeyer uses Tweetdeck to monitor Twitter and likes to follow anyone who routinely posts funny and interesting links or take the time to craft a well-written tweet. He considers himself “a connoisseur of the tweet.”

St. Supery tweets for a combined hour each day, mainly replying to tweets.

“We try to follow everyone who follows us as well as people we want to follow us,“ Russell says. “We reply to every mention of our brand, positive and negative, by at least retweeting the post. We reply to every direct message.”

Russell favors Tweetdeck on the desktop and iPhone as well as Tweetie on the iPhone.

“I love Tweetdeck as I can follow certain people and terms easily, while filtering out others,” Russell says.

While Tweetdeck was the overwhelming favorite tool amongst the wineries, now everyone loved it. On August 3, 2009, shortly after interviewing for this book, Brandy Bell, wine club and marketing manager of Donati Winery tweeted, “okay. I just tried tweetdeck. I definitely hate it. web + brandy = love. tweetdeck is HARD TO USE and SCARY!”

The same shoe doesn’t fit everyone, nor does the same Twitter management platform. Bell says she’s on Twitter between two minutes on a really busy day, to a total 45 minutes on slower days.

“I tweet whenever I have a moment,” says Bell. “I just keep people involved in the goings on of my day to day winery activity, as well as the vineyard and winemaking activity. It’s important to try and be educational, but you have to be human, too. No one wants to connect with a cold, frigid company.”

Twitter Turns ROI, Warm Feelings for Wineries

Imagine sitting at your favorite restaurant and sending a tweet from your phone to let your friends know where you are. Minutes later a winery replies to your tweet and suggests you try its Pinot Gris, which is on the menu in front of you.

This is the kind of scenario Twitter enables for wineries wanting to connect to its customers in ways never before possible. In this case, the opportunity to interact with people during their purchasing decisions at restaurants can lead to real sales, says Sasha Kadey, marketing manager and sales analyst at King Estate Winery in Eugene, Oregon.

Kadey says he uses Tweetdeck to set up search columns for restaurants that serve King Estate wines. When people tweet that they’re at one of these restaurants he immediately replies with a recommendation to try King Estate’s wines.

“People are in the state of mind to accept recommendations at the table,” Kadey says. He once met someone using this tactic who turned out to be a LPGA golf pro with a large following on Twitter. Kadey says she continues to post tweets about our wine because it’s a new favorite of hers, which is a great referral for King Estate.

“We’re the number three most followed winery in category directories, and with the right strategy we’ll be number one,” Kadey says. “These are mostly qualitative measurements, but we were mentioned in Ad Age Magazine and at the Wine Bloggers Conference. We’ve had instances where we’ve interacted at point of purchase and we know we’re making a sale. At the end of the day, our being on Twitter is a net positive any way you look at it. It’s all positive brand equity.”

Grimes says he’s been encouraged by the traffic his public and private blog sites and company homepage have gained via Eagles Nest Winery’s Twitter account. He sees success on Twitter from a business perspective as building marketplace reputation, wines sales, lodging bookings, traffic to his Web sites, business contacts and communications with customers. He says Twitter will remain a part of Eagles Nest Wine’s strategy as long as it is useful and relevant.

“On a personal level, the benefits are friendships initiated and sustained, and the ability to share the wine lifestyle and wine education,” he says.

Sobon sees Twitter as being at its experimental stages and looks to qualitative measures to justify that “Too much!” time spent online.

“Do people suggest our wine?” Sobon asks. “Do people include me in their #FF or #followfriday recommendations or am I recommended to follow? Are we written about in their wine blogs? Is our winery a suggested place to visit? Was important information spread in quick amount of time?”

Russell says she measures St. Supery’s success by number of followers and secondary followers, number of people in their winery database who touch them through Twitter and revenue and wine club memberships associated with that population.  They also use coupon codes in tweet offers to track resulting sales.

“RTs, click through rate, @ replies and blog traffic,” says Hermsmeyer. “If you match actions up with things like mailing list sign ups and assign each sign up a lifetime value (based on industry averages for bottles purchased per customer) you can ferret out a reasonable estimate of the ROI for a tweet or marketing program which uses Twitter. But, you have to measure, and you have to have a goal that itself allows for measurement.”

Follower count is important to consider, too, says Hermsmeyer of Capozzi Winery.

“Like it or not, all media, even social media really is still a numbers game, he says. “The ‘ambient intimacy’ we build through all the phatic communication on Twitter is still only reacted to by roughly 5 to 6 percent of those viewing the message. For a business to effectively use Twitter as something other than simply a way to connect with the same few hundred people each day, or as a kind of listening post in cyberspace, you need amass as many quality followers as you can.”

Bell has seen real sales resulting from Twitter for Donati Winery. Having had little presence in Dallas Texas before, Bell said she met someone through Twitter who was a fan of Donati Family Wines and was interested in hosting a Donati pouring event. Through Twitter they set the basic logistics and followed up before the event, dubbed “Donati Does Dallas” over email. Bell says the event was a success for Donati because people signed up for the wine club and made sales onsite.

“The initial contact, the basic planning – it all happened via Twitter,” Bell says.

Bell also has a story about a woman who replied to one of her Tweets about Syrah. After a few tweet exchanges Bell sent her a link to a club member page.

“Seven minutes later I got a call from the tasting room,” Bell says. “She came to the winery that quickly and left with a case of wine. That was the first time Twitter converted a direct sale for me.”

While these are separate instances, Bell sees a real sales lead on Twitter for Donati Family Winery.

“I have received 124 Twitter orders, which accounts for 7 percent of my current followers,” Bell says.

Twitter as Part of a Social Media Blend

While Twitter is a priority for St. Supery, Bakas says it’s part of a larger, overarching social media strategy, which includes Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and LinkedIn. St. Supery promotes its Twitter handle via email signature, icons on its Web site, and offline as handouts in winery tasting room with Twitter icon and name, last page of every PowerPoint presentation.

King Estate also has a presence on Facebook and LinkedIn. Kadey says the winery plans to launch a blog that ties together all of its social media properties. He says Twitter remains a key part of King Estate Winery’s social media strategy because of it supports .

Donati Winery is also on Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn. Donati Winery also hosts its own social network through Ning called WineSpace at http://winespace.donatifamilyvineyard.com. Launched in March 2008, WineSpace boasts 429 members as of August 2009. Bell says the group has created another revenue stream.

“My theory is, if you are there for someone all the time, regardless of if you are selling to them at that time or not, they will think of you when they do need wine,” Bell says.

In addition to Twitter, Grimes is feverishly active elsewhere online on behalf of Eagles Nest Winery. On a July 8, author and wine blogger Tyler Colman skeptically wrote on his Dr. Vino blog about how social media, sites like Twitter could improve wineries’ sales. Grimes commented, “Social media is no winery panacea – it’s another way to connect with our constituency.”

Grimes also connects to his constituencies via a Ning-based social network for his Wine Club members as well as a Facebook page.

The Hangover

Bakas sees Twitter providing immediate advantages in wine industry because “everything’s been done before.”

“There hasn’t been a new marketing idea in the wine industry for 10 years,” Bakas says. “This is a whole new frontier for people to engage. Real time search on Twitter and other social platforms is a huge advantage, too. I geek out on that stuff.”

Bell is optimistic for how Donati Winery can continue to grow its audience on Twitter and engage customers.

“A lot of wineries do outreach and have email campaigns,” says Bell. “Twitter is another communication that’s more instant. Print media is dead. People aren’t picking up magazines or papers to read about something. They want it now and that’s why Twitter works.”

Like all social media, Twitter and its audience are bound to evolve. Whether or not they evolve together will impact how much wineries will continue to invest resources into the platform. At least in the near term, wineries expect Twitter to age well.

“Technology practices are constantly evolving,” Grimes says. “Twitter will remain part of our strategy as long as it is useful and relevant.”

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5 responses

11 08 2009
kegill

Great job, Paolo! Now we need some example tweets to illustrate your points.

11 08 2009
Paolo

Absolutely! Duh. I can’t believe I didn’t include tweets in the copy yet.

My rewrite agenda for this week: Include tweets and wineries’ takes on demographics.

11 08 2009
Week 8 – Chapter Drafts and Revisions «

[…] Everyone: read Paolo’s second draft […]

20 08 2009
kathy

Ok – still need tweets (screen shots would be good, linked to the live tweet).

Sector background -> give us some stats on wine consumption and winery growth/numbers. Why sector is important. Also, lessons might apply to because …

Summary -> take aways for any winery or winery-like entity. Annotated bullets would be fine.

Need recommended list of people to follow in wine sector and why

20 08 2009
kathy

Aslo – metrics and tweet analysis info needed. screenshots that match the profile data; analysis of the twitter profile pages.

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