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A lesson on tweet power from over the water – grow your #wine business

How 29 tweets per day has grown our wine business



A copy of my article that was recently published in Wine Business Magazine

I was reading my October copy of WBM and I came across Larry Lockshin’s article “Anti-social media”. Larry’s comments were completely in contradiction to my experience of twitter and so I tweeted about it. I asked people to re-tweet me, if they had never heard of Capital Wines before twitter. Within a short period of time @capitalwines started trending.

You see Larry was wrong about twitter and I am writing this to tell you why. We are a small winery – tiny actually, but are moving our production from 2000 cases to 5000 in 2011. Part of the reason for the increase is because we will open our cellar door in 2011 and the other reason is because of twitter.

I have been on twitter for 552 days (since May 15th 2009). I have tweeted 16,084 times. That is an average of 29.1376812 times per day if you are counting. I can’t remember my first tweet and had no idea where the journey would take me, but thought I should explore twitter as a way to promote our wine business.

Capital Wines was formed in August 2008. We purchased Kyeema Wines, one of the more established Canberra District wineries and became custodians of the renowned Kyeema Vineyard. I knew we had a great product, but quickly became overwhelmed, wondering how on earth we were going to get some cut through in a market place flooded with good product. A friend told me about twitter and so I thought I would log in and have a look.

With the mercury dropping outside, there’s not much to do on a cold May evening in the village of Gundaroo, so I tweeted. Within a few seconds someone tweeted me back. All of a sudden I had a few followers and found a few new friends. Now we are the second most followed Australian winery with just over 4,000 followers. (Teusner Wines are number one).

OK so some of these followers are bots and people that will never buy wine but there are many interesting followers too. Many prominent wine and food journalists are on twitter and I chat with them regularly. I have exchanged tweets with Jancis Robinson, Oz Clarke, Gary Vaynerchuk and celebrity Chefs such as Jamie Oliver. Neil Perry recently re-tweeted a video I made of our vineyard, restaurant and kitchen gardens. Normally, I would be watching him on TV, but on twitter the boundaries change.

Larry Lockshin raises the question about time spent on social media being significant, so I did the maths on our tweet account. 29 tweets per day at about 15 seconds to write is equal to 7.25 minutes per day. Add to this the time spent reading other peoples tweets – let’s say that’s four times the time spent to actually tweet and we have a total of 36.25 minutes per day. I work on my computer all day and keep my tweet deck minimized on screen, so it is really not that much extra effort to flick in and out of twitter here and there. How many sales calls could you realistically make in that time and at what expense?

Larry’s article talks about twitter being used mainly by trade talking to each other. He states that it is a good substitute for old communication channels but is not good for attracting new buyers. I’m trade and I buy wine – don’t other wineries buy wine too? I have also made a lot of friends on twitter. Wineries, restaurants and others right across Australia; right across the world actually! By getting to know restaurateurs via twitter, we are not just another winery making cold calls to their restaurant.

Most of our stockists came from twitter – certainly all of our interstate restaurants, our east coast distributor and our Western Australian distributor are all new buyers due to twitter. As well as trade, we have lots of consumers buying our wine and new members in our cellar club. I have sent our wine to people around the world and am in the process of talking to several potential distributors regarding export. October sales from twitter were just over 3 pallets, which is significant for a small winery like ours.

Larry talks about the consumer not caring about brand. “one $20 shiraz is as good as another and there is no remorse when one brand is substituted for another”. This may be true, but by building friendships and community you are more likely to have people make an emotional investment in your brand than if you are just a faceless product that has no interaction with the consumer.

“Marketing’s goal is to remind consumers of your brand so it comes to mind when they purchase.” Um – yep Larry that’s why twitter is so powerful because it is in real time. When it comes to brand, twitter has put ours out amongst the big players. I have had large South Australian wineries contact us to buy Kyeema shiraz for benchmarking. Mr Lockshin continues “This can be done through shelf facings in retail, through newsletters, wine dinners, cellar door visits, and all the other means we have for bringing our brand to the buyer’s notice”. All those things come at a cost and twitter has a reach beyond traditional channels of selling.

Larry uses statistics on an advertisement about junior masterchef as evidence about online messages. This is really flawed data. It is trying to demonstrate how very few people were talking (electronically) about an advertisement for junior masterchef whilst watching the finale of the Masterchef series. This is the whole point; no one is going to react to advertising. Where is the data on the electronic conversation about the masterchef show as it was being watched? My recollection of it, was that #masterchef was trending globally on twitter during the screening of the main series.

My friend Carmel (who I met on twitter @carmR) has built her entire restaurant business from twitter. She sells our wines on her restaurant list. Via twitter, we watched as she searched for a restaurant site, through to employing the Chef and then opening her gorgeous Italian restaurant. @_LaCasa . Last week she happened to see a tweet by the 7pm program looking for Oprah fans. She responded and then using twitter rounded up a heap of fans to come to the restaurant that night. It turns out they were filming footage to be shown on the Oprah show itself. I would like to put a price on that sort of publicity.

So how do you sell on twitter? Well actually I don’t. I just tweet and talk to people and build relationships – sometimes I just tweet a lot of rubbish – but its fun and the relationships build. The first person I sold wine to was Stuart Knox at Fix St James @fixstjames. He has continued to list our wine ever since.

Many people get twitter wrong – they just blast advertising or spam at people with little interaction or interest in other tweeters. Cordie from @ryn_and_cordie is a consumer on twitter. She had this to say to me about Larry’s article. “Some people will do twitter well and some will not. Those that don’t are unfortunately likely to blame the tool. People like us represent the consumer part of the puzzle, and through twitter and facebook, consumers now have a much louder voice, so rock on! Clearly it works! None of us would have been introduced on such a personal level to all of you lovely producers without it (which makes a difference when making a purchasing decision, well…that, and a good product).”

So I will continue to build our business through twitter. I will just keep tweeting and the interest in our product will keep growing.




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