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Double Standards for Winemakers vs. Farmers

This post is going to sound a little strange to people who know me and realize how much time I spend trying to get more and more winemakers online.  But I recently read an article and heard a flurry of tweets that have me thinking about an interesting double standard that exists in a lot of people’s minds.

I was following @vintuition and he linked to this article full of generalizations like “Old World winemakers prefer to stay offline” and “New World winemakers may not tweet much, but they do read wine blogs.”  While parts of the article address a survey of 500+ winemakers and a small congregation of winemakers at an unnamed Moet-Hennessy gathering, most of it feels like a conclusion that the entire old world has flat out rejected social media.

Now a lot of you might be thinking “Ryan, this is exactly what you say all the time.”  But I should clarify.  It’s true that we need more winemakers online.  But you have to admit, there are some winemakers already using social media.  Heck, there are a lot when you stop and think about it.  Winemaking is an agricultural profession so let’s stop and think about how many agriculteurs in general have adopted social media.  How many corn huskers, cereal growers, and catfish farmers are out there tweeting about the daily grind?  On the other hand, you’ve got lots of Languedoc Roussillon winemakers on Facebook, Twitter and Blogs.

I mentioned this on Twitter and @blogyourwine correctly pointed out that winemakers deal with the public much more frequently than those other agricultural fields.  But I guess that’s kind of my point.  Winemakers are already hugely interested in dealing with the public.  And if you say that winemakers don’t deal enough with the public through social media considering how much they sell direct to the public, I think that’s a double standard.  And it’s not just between winemakers and farmers.  Pick another industry that deals direct with consumers like restauration.  What percentage of mom and pop restaurants are on Twitter?  They exclusively deal in direct sales, and yet…

Setting the bar higher for winemakers than for other professions is nothing new.  Nobody walks into an auto shop and asks for a tour or a detailed explanation of how they work on cars.  Or goes to a pharmacy/drug store/chemist and asks to sample the product.  Wine is just different.  And I mean, hey, that’s cool.  I’m glad that wine is generally perceived to be so special.  It is special.  And I do have a certain amount of time to share with other wine lovers whether they drop by the winery unannounced or read this blog.  But I think that when we evaluate the entire profession’s willingness to spend time with its customers, we might remember that winemakers are already some of the most active agricultural producers out there.

Do we need to get more winemakers online? Yes!

Should we let journalists get away with saying things like “Winemakers shun social media”?  No.  It’s demoralizing, generalized and sort of misleading.

I can’t deny that 80% of the winemakers in this study said social media doesn’t matter to them.  Even in an area like the Languedoc Roussillon where we have a lot of people active, these are just a small percentage of the total winemakers.  But at the same time, we can relativize this data and say “Oh hey, winemakers shun social media less than restraunteurs, mechanics, dairy farmers, and so on.”

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  1. Tweets that mention O’Vineyards Winemaker Blog » Blog Archive » Double Standards for Winemakers vs. Farmers — Says:

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Fine Wine Academy, Fine Wine Academy and Fine Wine Academy, Ryan O'Vineyards. Ryan O'Vineyards said: @vintuition % is probably accurate. But we shouldn't be unnecessarily negative. Lots of us are online. More will be! [...]

  2. E. A. Grim, Esq. Says:

    re: the O’Vineyards FB status, “Isn’t it odd how people EXPECT winemakers to be online? How many articles are there about the scarcity of mechanics, preschool teachers and pharmacists using social media?”

    As usual, O’Connell, I agree with you. Sometimes social media just seems like a rash bandwagon to jump on — even though my job revolves around implementing social media in education, it’s obvious constant Twittering and Facebooking (amongst other tools, obv) isn’t really relevant to a lot of businesses’ interests. I don’t mind that my dentist doesn’t have a Tumblr. Well. Not that much.

    Anyway, I lurk this blog quite a bit. You’re thought of in Atlanta!

  3. mroconnell Says:

    A creepy dentist tumblr would be really awesome. :D Thanks for reading!

  4. Louise Hurren Says:

    Re. wineries and social media: I’m getting a distinct sense of déjà vu here. 10 – 15 years ago, websites were NEWS. If your business had one, you were at the leading edge. If it didn’t, well, that was pretty much the norm. I worked for a London PR agency where clients would ask us to “announce” that they now had a website – because it was considered ground-breaking. By 2000, people were turning on to e-commerce. Doing your Christmas shopping online was a BIG deal and the favourite subject of newspaper columns in November 1999. Fast forward to 2010, and practically everyone and his dog has a website. And some of them have blogs. And facebook pages. Some are tweeting. I guarantee that ten years from now, articles about how does (or doesn’t) embrace social media will seem as old hat as… features about online shopping. But kudos to Pierrick Bouquet of for using the standard PR tactic of doing a survey about your own product/service offering (his is social media for wineries), and then using the results to get media coverage. Social media coverage, even.

  5. ryan Says:

    As someone once pointed out to me: What other consumable product(food/drink) do we know the history and names involved with it’s production all the way to its consumption? Wine is one of the few products that people(geeks) expect to know the person who planted the vine, all the way up to the person who serves/sells it.

    The connection to the original source is very close, and Social media is a great way to explain and help understand this. Talking to the consumer is what has always happened, through the press often, and today you can eliminate the filter, which often times needs to be cleaned anyways….

  6. mroconnell Says:

    @Louise, true that. There’s a whole article just to be written on that notion of THIS IS THE NEXT BIG THING. And Pierrick is a smart feller! A lot of people have forgotten how to do real market research, much less turn that research into press.

    @Ryan Opaz, It’s true. Wine is thankfully special. Although I think you’re falling into that double standard again. Most people who want to know about the winemaker care very little about the importer, distributor, agent, retailer, waiter, etc. Almost all the expectations fall on the producer. As you point out though, it’s in our best interest to communicate our own message since the middlepeople will not always deliver our message as we had intended.

  7. Iris Says:

    @both Ryans, good point, that the communication pipes for wine from the winemaker to the winelover/consumer needed to be cleaned – too many old habits encrusted inside them, especially in France, where one or two main wine magazines, a long time mostly concentrated on Bordeaux Primeur, Burgundy and champaign for X-mas and the eternal FAVs in autumn gave little space for “less important” regions and newcomers,to come through. Internet, Blogs, Forums and social media opened bypasses for other winemakers, to find their independent way to pass the message, that they exist. In the meantime it seems more important for the traditional communicators, to create their parallel channel to compensate the loss of readers and subscripts – and they are all trying to do so, even if its a big problem for them, that till now, all these ways are “for free”.

    Winemaker, especially in France became aware of these new ways – and if more than 200 winemakers are bloging regularly today, this is still a small percentage, but it is an increasing number.

    When I asked myself, which wineries were in the panel of the mysocialwinery research, it easily occurred to me, that they must have addressed themselves to those, who are not already “in” – leaving out those, who already took their communication into both hands for free (well – just some more time spend – and I know, that “time is money”, for winemakers as for everybody:-). And as they are offering a service, it was more intelligent, to address those, who are not aware, that they can do a lot of communication work themselves nowadays. Winemakers are farmers too, as Ryan pointed out, farmers are used to save costs by doing a lot of work themselves, at least, if they are still farmers and not big trusts, just investing money into a benefit promising busyness, like the big Bordeaux Châteaux.

    So I do understand, that for marketing societies and public relations agencies, it is important, to get into contact with those, who “don’t know already” and not totalk too much about those, who already opened their pipe – and the more they can make believe, that it needs a real “specialist” to use Internet and social media, the more work for them. It would be counter-productive for them, to show how easy it is, to build your own net – like a spider – it just needs work, knowledge comes by doing – and as in wine-making, it’s often better, to make your own experience and find your own terroir expression, (or to trust in spontaneous yeasts:-), to make a distinguishable product, which touches the consumer/reader/winelover as something individual, outstanding, than to use standardised recipes.

  8. Iris Says:

    and a link with more advice, how to do it right:

    in English:

    and even translated into in French in the meantime:

  9. mroconnell Says:

    Yeesh, Iris! That is a post in and of itself. You’ve got a lot of good points! Ultimately, I realized that I’m not entitled to lots of press coverage. Journalists have a job and it doesn’t necessarily involve exposing our region to the world. So I have to do it myself!! :D

  10. mroconnell Says:

    @Louise I’m a little daft. Is this article talking about Pierrick’s study? Why doesn’t he get credit in the article? Or does he? I think that he’d disagree with the general tone of the article too, right? I mean, it’s just such a downer. :-(

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