Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wine & Social Media; What's the Connection?


Wineries, like many businesses, are trying to tap into or harness the so-called mystery that is social media. There are workshops, conferences and summits on how wineries can leverage the ins and outs of social media and laugh all the way to the bank. Social media in general, and in wine specifically has spawned companies, and brands, how-to videos, books and workshops seeking magic bullets and that ever-elusive ROI.

While I personally find the use of social media to a be a positive and almost too easy relationship building device, many that I've spoken with in the wine industry remain skeptical about the time commitment. "It takes too much time." "It's hard to get started." "I'm not a tech person." While I don't want to make any claims about the undeniable value of the use of social media, I do have a story that I want to relay.

On December 12th, 2010 Neil Cooper of Cooper Wine Company loaded his truck and was making his way to 106 Pine, a wine shop in downtown Seattle. He sent out a tweet that the "sled was loaded up" and "he was on his way." Somewhere between Red Mountain and Seattle, the folks at 106 Pine got in touch with Neil to let him know that they had fallen victim to the incredible week of rain that saw flooding all over Seattle. The shop was inundated with water; the tasting needed to be canceled.

Neil contacted the 1200-odd followers between his personal and business pages. Together, they started reaching out to other wine shops, and within an hour a new location had been selected at the relatively new Wine World Warehouse. While a new location was being settled, the twitter machines were a-twitter (see what I did there?) with what had happened to Neil's original tasting and the subsequent relocation. Folks who had no idea about Neil's original plans were now clued in to the small bit of adventure for Neil and the new location.

When I got to Wine World later that afternoon, there were four wineries pouring at the bar in the center of the store. The traffic was heavily weighted to the far right side of the bar where Neil poured. While we were there, 30 to 40 people came and went to Neil's side of the bar, and maybe 4 to 5 people visited the other three combined. At one point one of the other winemakers walked over and said, "Well, I might as well join the party." Neil was his usual affable self: joking, smiling and laughing with folks. Hugs and handshakes preceded glass pours of Neil's Pinot Gris, L'Inizio, or his variety of Cabernets. There was a party atmosphere on that rainy Sunday in Wine World and Cooper Wine fans and friends of Neil were the reason.

When I talked to Neil about it later, he mentioned that every single one of his wine club members made it to Wine World. He had about 75 folks come through that day, many were club members but many were not. The twitter traffic had also generated interest from other wine shops in Seattle, enabling Neil to parlay what could have originally been a royal pain into a gain. Neil credits one of his twitter followers (@wawineman) for reaching out to Wine World and helping to make that tasting happen. Other followers re-tweeted the new location and times, drumming up attention and promoting the Wine World tasting for folks who don’t follow Cooper Wine on Twitter or Facebook.

So what does Neil Cooper know about technology and new media that others in the wine industry fail to grasp? Nothing, really. It's not a technology thing. Neil Cooper knows people. He knows how to make people feel welcome, valued, and he loves to talk to you. That's his big secret. Social media isn't about being cutting edge; it's about engaging people and building - and more importantly - maintaining relationships. So while Neil benefits from having natural charisma he also benefits from the relationships he's built.

When I hear a winery or winemaker waxing cynically about the real value of social media and things like Twitter I think of that rainy day in December, a flooded wine shop, and the smile on Neil's face when I saw him at Wine World. The ROI was pretty easy to measure that day.


  1. Neil is a pretty amazing guy who is having a blast sharing his wine with new and old friends!

  2. It's all about relationships, not technology.
    Mary Stadum, Benton-Lane Winery