Social Networking and the Wine Industry

A Napa firm is sharing with the wine trade a comprehensive study billed as the first thorough analysis of the Internet’s social impact on the wine industry.

VinTank, in partnership with wine industry consultant Derek Bromley, has released a white paper profiling the impact of today’s social media companies on the wine industry. It has been offered as a valuable resource for wineries wading into Web 2.0. Researched and written with the intent of helping wineries make sense of a vast and confusing medium, the paper looks at the largest social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) as well as the almost 30 wine social networks jockeying for the attention of online wine consumers, ending with an overview of the wine blogosphere, Paul Mabray, VinTank co-founder, noted.

The free white paper is available for download here.
The study allows the wine trade “to understand the Internet better,” Mabray added. He said the purpose of the analysis was to inform those working in wine of the far-reaching aspects of cyberspace. The examination of the Internet (through blogs and such) “shows it’s the perfect medium for the industry,” Mabray concluded.

“Consumer embrace of social media literally turns the tables on marketers,” said Tom Wark, publisher of the Fermentation daily wine blog and partner in Wark Communications. “With millions of consumers, particularly those of the Millennial generation, now frequently using social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace, brands are being built and defined as much by consumers and communities as they are by marketers and suppliers. The degree of change this represents can’t be underestimated.”

Mabray and his associates estimate that social media are generating twice the online content of traditional media, and wineries have been struggling with how to engage their current and potential customers in this medium.

Cruvee.com — a VinTank portfolio company and contributor to the white paper — estimates that each day in April 2009 there were 153 blog posts, 1,420 forum posts, and 7,896 microblog (Twitter) posts on the topic of wine. VinTank’s white paper offers some practical tactics, recommendations and best practices on how wineries can begin to engage in those conversations.

Key findings laid out in the white paper include:

• According to Compete.com, the top 20 wine bloggers in aggregate represent a larger audience than the Wine Spectator online, and are growing at a faster rate. However, the wine blogosphere is highly fragmented and difficult for wineries to navigate.

• Wine social network memberships number in the hundreds of thousands, although it is nearly impossible to determine how much overlap exists across networks.

• The two top-rated wine social networks, CellarTracker and VinCellar, started as wine cellar management tools that over time have added social networking functionality. This deeper level of value has paid huge dividends in terms of customer loyalty.

• A key challenge for all wine social networks that have achieved any kind of scale is data quality. Duplicate and incorrect data affect all of these sites to varying degrees.

• Online advertising models for the wine industry have more challenges than other verticals because of outdated alcohol regulations.

Co-founded by Mabray and Eric Hsu, VinTank is the first digital think tank for the wine industry, providing expertise and analysis where technology and the wine industry intersect. With these tools, VinTank provides strategic consulting and business development for companies looking to add wine to their offerings and for wine companies looking to succeed online.

Consultant Derek Bromley has spent his career innovating in and around the wine industry. A former sommelier, co-founder of “Web 1.0” e-business, BevAccess, and winery sales/marketing executive, he advises a select group of wine industry clients on strategy, branding, marketing, sales, channel management and online tools including web, e-mail and social media.

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