If someone visits your winery and checks into FourSquare or Gowalla, or even just tweets about being there, do you know about it right away? What chances to be awesome (and talked about) are you missing out on?
Having just attended the Direct To Consumer Symposium (DTCS) on Tuesday, I can say that everyone wants to know how to forecast the ROI for social media. It seems pretty clear that it's hard to measure (although there are definitely things you can measure, it's not easy to equate them with hard dollars in your bank account).
The big issue for wineries, large and small, is that Twitter (and other social media venues) takes time, which means a person. And that person costs money. And that has to get paid for, somehow. Which brings us back to ROI.
Fundamentally, you either have to believe in social media, or you have to be big enough to afford the experiment.
I tend towards the view that social media has value, but it's primarily the sort of value associated with having a pleasant, competent person answering your phones.
On the other hand, Rick Bakas of St. Supery gave a case study of using Twitter (plus a landing page) to sell 250+ cases of their 2003 Merlot (at $150 a case, including shipping, it was a terrific deal). Of course, he also pointed out that two subsequent offers didn't garner as strong a result. It appears that offers need to be spaced out to avoid "offer fatigue."
I truly believe social media is the future for small business marketing and I hope you can find at least one of these ideas helpful in your efforts to engage online. Always be on the lookout for innovative new ideas to reach your customers and don’t be shy. A sincere, heartfelt, and playful “hello” to your customers will be appreciated more times than not. Just make sure you have the infrastructure in place to monitor, measure, and manage all those new customer interactions.
If your winery is active on Twitter (and even if it's not), take a look.
If you've used Twitter, you've probably seen a hashtag. That is, a hash sign (#) followed by a sequence of characters, e.g. #wine. There's no built-in meaning to hashtags. It's just a textual convention which has become an accepted part of using Twitter. When people use the same hashtag to categorize their tweets, it becomes useful.
For example, Paul Mabray of VinTank has been know to include the hashtag #atomicfireball in his tweets. Who knows what it means? On the other hand, the #redsox hashtag has a pretty obvious meaning, and is used by enough people to break into the "Trending Topics" list you'll see on the right-hand side of your Twitter home page.
Even for a winery, which can't create products on the fly, it does point to the value of having devoted followers (not just quantity, but quality) and making special offers to them.
Do you have your Facebook and Twitter information on a nice little sign next to the cash register in the tasting room? If not, you're missing an opportunity to gain followers. Of course, that little sign should also point out the benefits of being a Fan or a Follower of your winery (cool offers not available to anyone else, of course!).
If you use Twitter's search function directly (from the right-hand pane of your Twitter home page, a relatively new feature), you can see that each result has a "swoosh" (reply to) button (mouse over each reply to see it). Clicking the "swoosh" button starts a new tweet with the "@username" already filled in for a reply.
(Note: using some third-party search notification applications, like Twilert, doesn't appear to offer this functionality.)
The resulting tweet will show up under the @username section in the right-hand pane of *their* home page. Hint: you may want to look at @yourname on your own Twitter profile.
If they have a hashtag in their tweet (e.g. #smithmadrone), then you can add that hash tag to a tweet of your own, so that it will "group" with those tweets. Presumably, if they tagged it, they're following results.
You can follow them, and hope they follow you back, at which point you can address their question. If your twitter name is "SmithMadrone", it's likely they will follow you (in this case).
And, of course, you can visit their profile and see if you can locate an e-mail or blog address. Time-consuming, though...
Obviously, you don't need to sign up for Twitter in order to see what's being said about your winery (http://search.twitter.com does the trick, and you can create an RSS feed for that search query). As pointed out above, using a recognizable name for your "official" Twitter account can help.
There's nothing stopping your winery from doing the same (well, maybe not the $1 million part). Why not try an experiment?
Get a Twitter account, if you haven't yet (choose a name like your winery name, e.g. AcmeWinery)
Create a compelling offer (something you know will be popular with anyone)
Make sure you set limits (one to a customer, must be a follower)
Make sure you set a time limit (one day)
Have a promo code that works with your checkout system
Tweet the offer (with details available on your site or blog)
You want it to be a compelling offer because (a) you want to generate buzz, and (b) you want to increase your followers. Don't make people order a case to take advantage of this offer (you can experiment with other offers later). You want to set limits so that you don't get killed (and again, you want them to follow you). A time limit prompts action, and limits your exposure as well. The promo code makes it work with your online shopping cart.
See what happens. Blog about it. Leave a comment here to tell me what I got wrong. Try it again.
Hint to Inertia Beverages, eWinerySolutions, and Cultivate: make it easy for your clients to do something like this. Gosh, you might even write a blog post or newsletter item on how to do it.
If you have a Twitter account, under the "Account" tab of your Settings you'll find place to enter a More Info URL. Now most people just enter the URL of their Web site address or their blog. For example, Covered Bridge Cellars Twitter profile links to their blog, as does El Jefe. On the other hand, Sol Rouge links to their winery's home page.
But there's something better you can do.
People who click on that link are expecting more information about you. Don't just throw them onto your home page. Create a Twitter Landing Page, specifically to address the questions of someone considering following you (or wondering whether to block you from following them).
Here's a terrific example of a Twitter Landing Page from Darren Rowse of ProBlogger.net, who also wrote this great post about how to create a Twitter Landing Page. Although ProBlogger focuses a lot on how to make money from blogging, it has useful information for all bloggers about building traffic.