Portland, Ore./Vancouver, B.C.
Rick Bakas of Bakas Media said a mobile commerce explosion is predicted for 2014.
—Northwest wineries and their partners have been getting an education in recent weeks regarding the use of social media in a constantly shifting communications landscape. With devices such as smart phones and tablets on the rise, online strategies are shifting away from tools tailored to traditional desktop computers and focusing on an increasingly mobile consumer: following those you want to follow you, in other words.
“Attention is the new currency,” social media consultant Rick Bakas of San Francisco-based Bakas Media told the Oregon Wine Industry Symposium in late February. Wineries that successfully engage consumers will not only capture their attention, but get a crack at winning their business and loyalty. “Make that person do a little, but get a lot,” he said.
Asking for their business and assuming loyalty up front isn’t going to make the cut. Consumers have become sophisticated enough to tune out advertising pitches, Bakas stressed. A decade ago, online banner ads earned click-through rates of up to 70%; today, consumers click through no more than 3% of the time.
A similar phenomenon is happening with other forms of online commerce, requiring businesses to engage consumers, building relationships and trust before making a sales pitch.
“So many businesses, not just in the wine industry but outside it, go right to the offering; they go right to the close. People hate that,” Bakas said during a symposium during the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival in British Columbia last week. “Think of Facebook as a big vineyard; think of Twitter as another vineyard. Nurture those followers. Eventually there’ll bear fruit; just not at first.”
Relationship-building is the focus of Twitter posts by Sandra Oldfield (@SandraOldfield
), winemaker at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards
in Oliver, B.C.
She leaves cultivating relationships with potential clients to Tinhorn Creek’s social media specialist, marketing coordinator Lindsey White, who posts to the winery’s Twitter account (@TinhornCreek
“I do let Tinhorn do the dirty work in some respects. I let Tinhorn sell, and I connect,” Oldfield said in the wake of Bakas’ comments at the Vancouver symposium. “We do follow each other, but I don’t manage that account, and I have faith that Lindsey manages it with the feel of Tinhorn Creek that I like her to have.”
Oldfield focuses her Twitter posts (she’s stepped away from Facebook) on sharing wine knowledge and being an ambassador for the Okanagan wine industry. Presenting a roundup of the top 20 words from both streams, Oldfield pointed out that Tinhorn Creek’s feed typically references the “winery” (itself), while her posts focus on “wineries”—that is, Tinhorn Creek and its Okanagan Valley neighbors.
“I feel that every CEO at every company in the Okanagan has the responsibility to talk about all their competitors as if they’re not competitors,” she said. Similarly, “wine” only became a top word in her posts when she launched #BCwinechat
, a Wednesday morning discussion forum, in late December 2011.
When it comes to time management, Oldfield said she doesn’t feel a need to limit her tweets, although she admitted she probably does tweet too much for some people (her Twitter account currently boasts more than 34,200 posts). For her, it’s all about the conversations she’s having: The tweets end when the conversations do.
Monetizing the new currency
Cashing in on those relationships is another question. Once trust is built, wineries must have a strategy in place to close sales.
A survey of the audience attending the social media and smart phone session at the Oregon Wine Industry Symposium drew a mixed read of how many conference-goers are actively pursuing a mobile strategy, but Bakas said an expected explosion in mobile commerce in 2014 will make this a necessity for wineries.
It could be as simple as being on Wine.com, Bakas said, noting that 40 wineries from Oregon are currently on the site. What’s needed next is making sure their presence delivers what consumers want.
That’s where Jeff Lorton of LynkSnap, a marketing company in Portland, weighed in. Lorton advised wineries at the Oregon event to ensure their sites are optimized for a mobile presence. If they don’t have a website yet, he encouraged them to skip that and go straight to a mobile landing page. The rise of mobile devices means a landing page will effectively be as important to wineries’ online strategies as a web page was in the early days of the Internet.
Lorton’s firm has built a name for itself developing QR codes, square emblems that look like a pixelated camouflage pattern and can be read by a special smartphone app. The codes can provide a quick link to more information about a winery, its wines or simply a contact page.
Bradley Cooper, winemaker at British Columbia’s Township 7 Vineyards & Winery
, is exploring the potential of the codes to connect with buyers. Township 7 finds that its Twitter account (@Township7
) has been a boon for driving traffic to events at its wineries in Langley and Penticton, B.C., and it also has lso explored Google+, FourSquare and the latest darling of the social media set, Pinterest.
But an early experiment with QR codes highlighted the importance of easy access. As originally set up, the codes required users to jump through too many hoops and provide too much information before getting anything from the winery—the polar opposite of Bakas’ advice that consumers should do little to get a lot. Township 7’s original QR codes forced them to give a lot, and get little.
“You were being data-mined before you even got to the wine, so we’ve decided to go to something else,” Cooper said. “It’s in the works. We’re seeing it as a potential sales force for us.” He indicated that a new QR code would remove steps that forced customers to register and reveal personal information before learning about the winery. The revised version will provide a more direct link.