Wineries who put off using social media will experience “digital Darwinism”, a leading digital expert has warned. “Social media is one of the most powerful customer interaction channels in the world, more relevant than anything seen in human history,” Paul Mabray of winery social media index Vintank told the drinks business. “Those who choose to keep waiting will see their customers migrating to the use of these channels and will experience digital Darwinism,” he added, describing the wine industry as “the last to have not succeeded online.”
Ryan Opaz of wine marketing agency Vrazon believes it's fundamental for wineries to have a presence on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. “You can’t survive without it, there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle. If you don’t embrace it, you’re back in the Stone Age,” he said. A recent survey on social media in the French and US wine industries carried out by digital marketing agency ABLE found that 94% of the US wineries surveyed were on Facebook, compared to 53% of French wineries. It also found 73% of US wineries had a Twitter account, compared to just 41% of French wineries.
According to wine communicator Robert McIntosh, medium-sized wineries set to gain the most from social media. “For a medium-sized winey seeking a sales boost, social media can be a great way of getting noticed by an agent or distributor and securing a listing,” he said. But despite their popularity, McIntosh believes new sites will eventually replace Facebook and Twitter. “In the next year or two we’ll see a shift in the way people use social media – the obsession with the number of followers you have on Twitter and “likes” you accrue on Facebook will be replaced by sites focusing on small but meaningful networks of no more than 100 people,” he said.
Rather damningly, Robert Joseph, founder of international consumer research site DoILikeIt?.com, believes winery websites are “some of the worst on the internet”. The majority, he feels, show no understanding of what consumers want. “Most people want to buy a benefit and are asking themselves: ‘Is this wine going to make me look savvy in front of my friends?’ They want reassurance,” he said.
While wineries and merchants may not be getting the design of their websites right, online wine sales are set for considerable growth in the following year. Simon McMurtrie, ceo of Direct Wines, recently revealed that 50% of the company’s UK sales, and 75% of its Hong Kong sales are now online – figures predicted to rise in 2013.