Thursday, February 9, 2017
Social media doesn't sell much wine
According to a recent survey by Wine Opinions for the Italian Trade Agency, social media might not only be less important than 90+ point scores from critics: it seems less important than "wine is on sale for 10% off or more."
When you consider that the U.S. is a nation of bargain hunters, that makes social media recommendations seem pretty unimportant.
I say this as somebody who enjoys using Twitter, despite the company's coddling of abusive tweeters. But only 11% of high-frequency wine drinkers (people who drink wine several times a week) said they even visit Twitter once a month or more. Do they care about the bottle of Prosecco I just drank with herring? Not bloody likely.
The social media platform of most interest to wine lovers is Facebook, with 45% saying they visit it at least monthly. However, it's not clear that blurry cell phone photos of wine bottles on Facebook encourage anyone to buy wine, any more than the current barrage of angry political Facebook posts* is making anyone change their mind about how they should vote in the future.
(* I never thought I would miss Facebook photos of people's lunches, but I do.)
"Social media and apps are not as influential as we thought," said Stevie Kim, managing director of Vinitaly International. "Everyone is on it. But does that translate into a sale?"
Critics' point scores still matter to some: 25% of wine lovers said that a "90+ score from respected critic" is "very influential" on their buying decision. But words are catching up with numbers: 21% said that "positive review I read in print or online" is very influential. Hurray for words!
Wine store employees will be delighted to learn that a "recommendation from retail store staff" is more important than either critics or wine journalists.
For wineries reading this, these results don't mean you shouldn't worry about social media. Brand image is incremental. Moreover, the importance of social media might increase because baby boomers, who are still the most important market segment because of their disposable income, will become less consequential year by year.
But in 2017, Facebook, Twitter, etc., are still better places to run cat videos than Cab blurbs.
(UPDATE: There is a vigorous debate in the comments section which normally I would leave alone, but in the interest of truth I have to point out something here. Two commenters whose business is selling social-media consulting present very compelling-sounding statistics below to contend that social media does sell a lot of wine. Frequent commenter Bob Henry, who is driving me a little nuts on this post so I may regret encouraging him, asked both of them publicly and by private email if they would share their statistics with David Morrison, the Sweden-based wine blogger who specializes in parsing statistics. One says here, publicly, that he no longer has the rights to those stats. The second told Henry by private email that she would not do it. I think you need to know that these experts will not share their actual numbers before diving into the comments below. It was good work by Henry in the end.)
Posted by W. Blake Gray at 6:00 AM