How can you make your wine brand stand out online and on social media? We asked top digital marketing and PR firms what wineries need to do to break through the clutter. Both small and large wineries need to respond to trends in consumer wine purchases. While tasting room sales continue to be the largest direct to consumer channel, winery brands can't ignore the growth in online sales. Today, the top 20% of wineries dominate online wine sales. These wineries generate 90% of online DTC sales at an average order size of $363 according to Beverage Daily. That's clearly a massive opportunity if you can make your wine brand stand out.
So how can small, medium and even large producers differentiate their brands online? How can you stake out your share of this growing marketplace? We asked the experts in the digital trenches to share their top insights.
Plant A Lot Of Seeds
When you sit down and plan ways for your winery brand to stand out online and on social media, you need to consider the number of wineries vying for attention. There are over 9,000 wineries in the US alone. Now add in the wine brands from outside the US. That's a lot of competition for the consumer's attention.
When wine shoppers go online, they want guidance. There are simply too many brands to choose from for them to go it alone. That's why it is crucial for them to see your wine brand on third-party sites as often as possible. Even small wine content sites can get a healthy following when Google decides to serve them near the top of their results. These bloggers are looking for content and you are looking for links, referrals and brand recognition. It's the perfect pairing.
Here are some thoughts from wine-focused PR firms on why reaching out to the online wine community is so vital to making your wine brand stand out.
Erin Vaughen of Everly Communication, There are literally hundreds of wine bloggers, and while many might seem small, each time a blog links back to you, your site gets that SEO juice! The link certainly won't be weighted the same as a Food & Wine or Wine Spectator, but having a plethora of relevant backlinks from wine-related sites shows Google that you're an authority on the matter.
Kylie Barnett from Raising The Bar Communications - Be proactive about your winery public relations. With more than 9,000 wineries in the US alone, the chances of writers seeking you out for an online review or story are slim to none. Whether it’s an internal individual dedicated to reaching out and connecting with media, or an outside agency, don’t overlook the value of positive press for your winery and your wines. In today’s mobile-first world, all it takes is one “Top 5 Wineries to Visit this Spring” online article to accelerate the tasting room traffic you’ve been looking for.
The Internet Is A Visual World
One way wine brands can standout online and on social media is to use the right imagery. The internet in general and social media networks, in particular, are visual by nature. Whether consumers are reaching your wine brand via Pinterest, Facebook or Instagram, the images they see create your first and most important impression. The PR experts we queried agree that wineries need to invest in images that match their brand image and speak to their target audience.
Adam Teeter from Vinepair advises that great design is key. From Adam, "Design is more important than ever, especially for millennial drinkers. If your brand isn't clean, attractive and on-trend it's going to have a very hard time appealing to this new generation."
Erin Vaughen of Everly Communications says, You put the effort into ensuring that the wine label reflects the quality and personality of the juice within. Now, make sure that same branding is consistent throughout all channels! Your website and social media images should be extensions of your brand voice, which means that you need to invest in creating high-quality images and web assets. Dark and grainy iPhone 5 images of your otherwise stunning and majestic vineyard just won't cut it and don't communicate luxury in any way.
The wine PR firm Grupo Mass took this a step further. They partnered with a world-renowned artist to create art on their bottles. The winery now has visually stunning images to use when promoting their wine brand online and cross-promotional opportunities in the art world. As Julieta Sopeña explains, "The idea behind this co-branding was simple: combine both products (wine and art) and create an even more valuable product, that could generate more buzz, more press coverage and more exposure on Social Media than traditional PR, for less money".
Use 3rd Party Voices To Validate Your Wine Brand
44 percent of all US wine sales are still made at large grocers per a major beverage magazine. Consumers are used to walking down an aisle with some familiar brands to pick from. When they are feeling adventurous, they may select a bottle with a compelling label, but the choices are limited.
The online wine consumer doesn't have the comfort of those well-defined aisles. They are free to roam through the thousands of wine brands that are floating around in cyberspace. For many wine consumers, choosing a wine brand on the internet produces anxiety. Finding a source you can trust to recommend an online wine purchase relieves some of that trepidation.
As a wine brand looking to stand out online, you need to find those third-party sources of wine recommendations. Find some that align with your target market and then make sure you show up on every list and article you can.
Kylie Barnett from Raising The Bar Communications says, Partner with targeted social media influencers (individuals with relatively large, engaged followings who share your brand values) to integrate your wine into their online visual and editorial content such as blogs and Instagram. Drive consumer brand awareness by reaching NEW audiences through trusted third-party endorsement. Inspire your own EXISTING fans by repurposing influencer content/endorsement in your owned online brand channels. - Raising the bar
Erin Vaughen of Everly Communications says, "Many wine bloggers have an active social media presence. So even if their blog traffic is pitiful, their Instagram could be on fire with tons of engagement. Having a wine blogger or influencer post about your wine can get your brand in front of hundreds if not thousands of very relevant potential customers. It's also a great way to grow your own following."
Tell The Story Behind Your Wine Brand
It's impossible for consumers to taste your wine online. They will rely on reviews, images and your story to make purchasing decisions. To make your wine brand stand out online and on social media, you need a compelling story. Move beyond the dry marketing speak and flowery wine descriptors. Make the story personal and engaging. Sprinkle in news about recent awards and fun events at your winery. Also, make sure there is a link between the words and images you use to draw in new customers.
Kylie Barnett from Raising The Bar Communications offers this advice to wineries trying to stand out on social media like Instagram, "Bring your offline winery experience, online. Pull back the curtain and share some of the everyday or behind the scenes experiences that the average fan doesn’t get to experience (i.e. furry visitors in the vineyard; bringing in the grape bins during harvest; the sorting table in action; a chance afternoon rainbow over the vineyard; blending in the cellar; your winemaker’s hands at the end of a long day’s work).
Utilize social media vehicles, like Instagram Stories that celebrate in-the-moment experiences. The more consumers feel a part of your winery and your every day, the more invested they are likely to be in your brand."
Tim McDonald of Wine Spoken Here suggests that wineries should enter as many wine competitions as possible because at the end of the day you want awards, accolades, and stories. Then you can repeat in your social spaces, newsletter, and with your current fans.
Dan Elson a long time digital marketer says, "Use the why of the business to go to market. Why did you start your wine business? What makes you different to the rest? Tell me about your people. We all know people buy because of the why and not what!
You Are Part Of A Community, So Act Like It
When you are fighting to make your wine brand stand out online, it's tempting to force feed your winery into the conversation. Just like people who try to market on Reddit forums, the online wine community will quickly figure you out and then ignore you. You need to become a member of the community. That means getting to know what information people are looking for and which problems are they trying to solve. Make your brand a go-to source for wine information and you will have consumers naturally making their way to your content.
Weave this authority into your wine marketing and sales effort. There is no use to engaging if it never leads to sales, so you need to find the right balance.
Adam Teeter of Vinepair says, "Get active. It isn't enough to post on Instagram or facebook, you have to actually comment back and get involved in conversations with your consumers. If you're always just pushing content at them, and not receiving their feedback, you become a seller, and no one wants to be loyal to a seller.
Dan Elson a digital marketing expert shared this bit of advice, "...put a human element to the company! Become an authority on wine and everything to do with wine. You become the place to go not just to buy but to find knowledge about wine!"
Use Your Winery Assets
Do you have a beautiful vineyard? How about great architecture or interesting wine caves? These can be traded for publicity. The value of your vineyards, winery buildings, and barrel room can be thousands of social media impressions. This means your wine brand will stand out online.
The wine bloggers and social media darlings are always looking for great images to share and stories to tell. Leverage your existing assets in new ways that fit the digital age.
Tim McDonald of Wine Spoken Here suggests, "Send creative samples to high profile beverage journalists. One time to get noticed we sent a bottle with a message in the bottle. No wine, however, the message said, help! we need your thoughts on our Chardonnay, can we send you bottle along with our story?"
Jenna Faller of Double Forte PR shared this success story. "The oldest family-owned winery in Napa Valley tasked Double Forte PR with sharing the winery’s historical relevance, family roots, and winemaking program with media and influencers. We created an immersive “camp” program at the winery to bring wine media and consumer influencers to the winery. The event resulted in the following: Coverage impressions 99.6M (coverage in 7x7, Forbes Travel, Wine & Spirits, Haute Living, North Bay Bohemian) Attendees 11 Social impressions 392K. The winery now offers VIP “Glamping in the Vineyard” to consumers.
While possible, it is difficult to "feed the beast" on a daily basis. There is a lot of wine content fed into social networks and into the wider internet each day. The post you made today quickly becomes irrelevant in the stream of new information.
You need to make sure the content you choose to share is highly relevant and that each piece has a purpose. Ultimately, you are looking to build wine brand recognition, solve consumers' problems and most importantly, make online wine sales. If you follow the advice of these winery PR experts, you may be able to make your wine brand stand out online. Or, you can turn your efforts over to professionals and focus on making great wine!