A little over a year ago I lived in Northern California. I worked for the two years I was there for a Digital Marketing Agency, and we had several wineries as clients. I cut my teeth in social media and blogger outreach on those accounts. I was impressed with how engaged most were with the people vocal about their wine online. They regarded those conversations as an essential connection to both existing and perspective fans.

You are not a product

I was on a conference call with a winery once, and someone used the word “product” to describe the wine in a campaign we were all working on. Someone from the winery interrupted the conversation. They said that “product” lost the importance of the relationship between the winery and its advocates, and shouldn’t be used. The word reduced things to a financial transaction.

I thought they were being melodramatic. I thought, Come on! Your wine is a product. The more I thought about it later though, the more I agreed with, even admired, the person who’d stopped the meeting over the use of the word. The winery was obviously interested in increasing sales. That’s why they’d hired us. At the core of everything though, was a sincere passion for the wine they made. They realized their fans shared that passion and that’s what made those conversations on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram so important.

Sadly, I don’t see that level of online engagement from many craft breweries.

I met some amazing brewers at the 2014 and 2015 Beer Blogger’s Conference, and some lovely Reps at various tastings. They’ve all been generous with their time and their beer. I even had a long conversation in a grocery store with a driver for a local brewery a few months back. He helped me pick out a beer for a dinner I was making, and it wasn’t even from his brewery! In short, I adore brewers. They’re the coziest people in the world when you meet them in person. The problem is their engagement on social media is often one-sided, robotic, sterile even. It’s like being stuck on a service call with a digital recording that never connects you to a real person.

A model social media citizen

Here’s where numerous wineries excel at forming online relationships. Let’s look at La Crema Winery. They found our blog on Twitter. They, a winery, followed us, a beer blog. We were surprised, but checked them out and followed back. What the hell. We like wine! We look for their wines on menus now and try them when we see them. Although we definitely drink more beer than wine, as a result of their engagement, we actively listen to what they have to say.

Take a look at their Twitter account: La Crema Winery

When you look at their feed you see that they’re following a good percentage of their fans back. They’re also re-tweeting things those fans care about, some of which don’t even have anything to do with their wine. That sort of engagement shows they see themselves as part of a bigger picture, that their fans are more than just revenue.

I’m tired of talking about me, why don’t you talk about me?

Now let’s look at one of our favorite breweries: 21st Amendment Brewery

We followed their feed for a while, because we buy their beer and are interested in what they’re doing. Like a lot of breweries though, we no longer follow them. Why? Well, none of our mentions or likes or re-tweets resulted in any sort of conversation. We still buy their beer and love it, but as far as social media goes, what’s the point in following someone who never interacts? It’s like inviting someone to a party and all they want to do is stand on a chair and recite poetry.

When you look at their Twitter feed you see a huge fan base, but they’re following the tiniest fraction of their supporters in return. They’ve liked a bunch of posts, but every last one of those seem to be about them.

There’s nothing really wrong with that. Oprah doesn’t follow anyone. Neither do a lot of wineries for that matter. It’s a totally legit way to make use of social media. It’s just not interesting to people actively using social media. The active users are people looking for information to entertain and educate themselves (yes, it actually is used for that too). When those people find something that excites them, they share it with their followers. The passive people just there to collect information from your passive Twitter account aren’t terribly influential. They’re not getting the word out.

Ultimately, everyone is promoting something on social media. If that’s all you’re doing though, you’re missing an opportunity to connect with your biggest advocates. I’ve never heard anyone say, “I saw this great advertisement on Twitter today.”

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