Whether we like it or not, Social Media is changing our Wine World

The social media paradigm is transforming our media landscape to an unrecognizable form many are not willing to accept. Are you one of them? Then listen up because this paradigm shift is happening whether you like it or not and I have a few tips to help you transition to the new media world.

It’s a direction that will affect everyone in the wine industry, from wine writers to wineries, magazines, newspapers and marketing folks. If you don’t jump on the social media bandwagon you might just be left in the dark. If you don’t believe me, then listen to Clay Shirky, a prescient voice on the effects of the Internet. One of his latest TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talks, appropriately titled, “How Twitter Can Make History”, Shirky argues that emerging technologies enable loose collaboration, which is essentially changing the way our society works.

I strongly urge any individual in the wine industry to watch this video to understand the technical transfer that is happening in today’s world and how it affects today’s businesses (please watch it from start to finish, you won’t regret it).

There are a number of  interesting points in this video you should not miss. For one, Shirky states, “…our generation is living the largest increase in expressive capability in human history”. There have only been four periods over the last five hundred years where media has changed enough to qualify for the label “Revolution” – printing & press; telegraph & telephone; recorded media; radio & television. We are living in the fifth revolution with social media.

Second, the 20th century model revolved around professionals bundling a message and distributing it to the masses. According to Shirky, those days are over, never to return. Today, former consumers are now the producers, and the ability for amateurs to communicate between the masses is the new media landscape.

I’m sure many of you agree that we are long overdue for a new revolution. We could sit here all day and ignore it, and for those that don’t buy into the concept lay blame and point fingers, asking when this silly social media stuff started and question “why bother?”, but what is the point in doing so? I’ve been on the social media bandwagon for a while now, even though I’ve been known to poke fun at it from time to time, blaming ADHD for the evolution, but it is what it is, and as the old adage goes, if you can’t beat them, join them.

Now I am not here to take sides. I grew up on magazines and I have no shame admitting I still subscribe to publications like the Winespectator and Food & Wine. However, as much as I feel some regret for abandoning the old model, we need to evolve and move on because many consumers no longer identify with print. Why? The social media landscape delivers content faster and more effectively and the communication between the masses is recreating the user experience. It’s going beyond the one-to-one or one-to-many communication patterns via telephone, radio and TV and evolving to a many-to-many pattern, which instills sharing and innovation.

Those in the wine industry who utilize the social media model effectively and think outside of the box will remain competitive and thrive. Lately, we have all read a lot about the fate of professional wine writers and wine magazines in general. Some are doing reasonably well at embracing this new media and others are not. Print media doesn’t have to die, it only needs to rethink how they distribute content and engage with their readers — the bottom line is that newspapers and magazines desperately need a new image.

One way to accomplish this is by combining the old print model with the new electronic model. It’s not acceptable anymore to simply print a magazine. The first step towards the right direction is to incorporate newsletters, blogs and digital editions into the mix.

The second step is engaging with your readership. This is applicable for anyone in the wine industry so whether you are a writer, magazine, newspaper, blogger, winery, wine shop, marketer, etc. etc., listen up! The secret? Engaging with your customers. One example is twittering, which goes beyond posting stories, wine reviews, awards and daily specials. It’s ok to twitter these kinds of things, but you are doing yourself a disservice if you don’t follow up by making that personal connection with your customer. Believe it or not, your customer wants to make that special connection with the winemakers, journalists, publishers, storeowners, and bloggers, so the more this happens the more likely your business will succeed in the social media model.

2945559128_53078d246bAs for electronic media, publishing the interaction you have between you and your customers is a win-win situation. A wine writer that does this particularly well is Natalie MacLean.  She uses twitter (friend her up at @NatalieMacLean) to market her products and services but takes it a step further by engaging with her followers and incorporating reader suggestions into her digital media model. For example, if a follower twitters a new wine and food pairing suggestion, she’ll review it and add it to her Wine & Food pairings Drinks Matcher mobile application; this is the level of detail every business should follow to succeed in the social media model. It’s about the sharing aspect and making those connections that will make it worth while for both the business and the consumer, building long-term relationships and loyalty.

So the next time you question the value of twitter, or for that matter, social media in general, remember what Shirky said about the direction of our new media landscape and remember to utilize lessons learned from those who are struggling to make it in a digital world. If you think it’s a waste of time, you are sadly mistaken.

What are your thoughts? Are you using social media to connect with your community? Do you have any good or bad experiences or thoughts on what businesses should consider when adding social media to a marketing plan? Do you think social media can save the day or is it a waste of time?

~Pamela Heiligenthal


About the Author:

Editor and co-founder of Enobytes.com, Pamela is a sommelier and former restaurant manager and wine buyer with Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), Court of Master Sommeliers & Center for Wine Origins certification. She has contributed to or been quoted by various publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Sommelier Journal, Vegetarian Times, VIV Magazine, UC-Berkeley Astrobiology News, The Washington Post, the Associated Press, NPR and USA Today. True to her roots, she seeks varietal and appellation integrity and is always passionate about finding the next great bottle of wine.


  1. Whether we like it or not, Social Media is changing our Wine World | Mobile Phone Man June 23, 2009 at 12:21 AM - Reply

    […] View original post here: Whether we like it or not, Social Media is changing our Wine World […]

  2. Mark Norman June 23, 2009 at 4:02 AM - Reply

    Pamela, well written, my compliments. I have not listened to the video yet (will when I finish this comment) but one of the problems that I see is to few are helping the decision makers in the wine industry “see” how this will help. The business model they have been using is also broken but few have pointed out how to repair their world using social media. As far too many have pointed out you can’t sell wine on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.

    Those of us who are writing about this need to focus on the “how” thi is going to help.

    Look forward to reading more from you!

  3. ryan June 23, 2009 at 8:40 AM - Reply

    wow, a bit scary how in tune these two are on the same day! :) Great post!

  4. enobytes June 23, 2009 at 9:46 AM - Reply

    Thanks for your comments Mark, and I agree with you whole heartedly. I plan to address some of your issues in a follow up post, and hopefully give some additional guidance that might help those needing more direction.


  5. enobytes June 23, 2009 at 9:51 AM - Reply

    Hi Ryan! Yes, it is a bit freaky! Maybe we are telepathic:) folks, check out catavino’s post on social media & wine – we seem to be in sync :) http://tinyurl.com/lbphzu ~Pamela

  6. Ali and Tara June 23, 2009 at 10:38 AM - Reply

    We can attest that social media is completely revolutionizing the way people and companies do business. Not only have we relied on social media to advertise our own small businesses (for free no less), but we rely on social media to inform us on how other companies are using these tools to get their brand message across. Take Murphy-Goode for example. Their “Really Goode Job” has taken on a life of its own thanks to the power of social networking. Talk about reaching and maintaining a captured audience! And we for one (two) like to argue that you can in fact sell wine on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, you just have to know how. ;)

  7. JD in Napa June 23, 2009 at 12:03 PM - Reply

    You don’t have to read too many contemporary wine blogs to see that, in many cases, acceptance of the inevitability of social media in the wine industry will be an uphill battle. As one prominent blogger commented on my blog, the older winery owners will be a tough sell (see Mark’s points, above). This Boomer is out to change that with a little consultancy geared to providing social media support services to wineries. Your article, and certainly Shirky’s video, will be put to good use as I market my services. Anyone interested in a Boomer’s view on social media and wineries can check out my blog at http://fb4wineries.wordpress.com. You could push my readership into double digits! :o)

  8. enobytes June 23, 2009 at 11:07 AM - Reply

    Great points Ali & Tara. It is a free advertising model – I think many forget about that aspect. And yes, Murphy-Goode is another great example of how to use the social media model to its fullest! By the way, best of luck with your application! ~Pamela

  9. Paul Mabray June 23, 2009 at 11:17 AM - Reply

    Great post and we couldn’t agree more about the fact that social media is changing the landscape of the internet. We think this is particularly key for the wine industry. You rock for keeping this in the limelight.

  10. enobytes June 23, 2009 at 11:40 AM - Reply

    Thanks for the comments Paul, and it’s my pleasure keeping this in the limelight. I think it’s important to continuously resurface this issue and nudge those that need help moving towards this direction. ~Pamela

  11. enobytes June 23, 2009 at 6:03 PM - Reply

    JD, I definitely agree with you it will be an uphill battle. Glad to hear my article will be put to good use. I already hit your page – go check your readership stats! :) And good work on your winery social media blog! Wishing you continued success. ~Pamela

  12. Adam Japko June 23, 2009 at 7:57 PM - Reply

    Excellent post conveying agppropriate urgency. While generating revenue and conveying content through a developed social network is usually the primary focus for businesses getting involved in social media, it might be useful and as much a priority for the wine industry to rely on our new social networks to gather information on consumer trends and commentary. The wine industry, like many other industries, could benefit from unravelling some legacy operating strategies developed over the last ten years during a period of unnatural growth and reconnect with the sensibility of the current market. What a great solution social media is at a time when it might make more sense to listen closely to what the market is saying to each other instead of pushing the same programs into the market.

  13. enobytes June 23, 2009 at 9:26 PM - Reply

    Adam, you are on the mark when it comes to exploring new territory; pushing the same old program(s) is boring and won’t work in today’s market. Thanks for the comment. ~Pamela

  14. Denise Slattery June 24, 2009 at 7:15 AM - Reply

    Thanks for including the TED video in your post. This is such an articulate expression of where we are going as a society. Adopting technology to find new customers and really listen to what they want just makes so much sense to me. Right now this is an awkward period where some are just learning to use these tools – a bit like being a toddler and learning to walk. But imagine what it will be like when we are all up and running! Wow!

  15. enobytes June 24, 2009 at 6:12 PM - Reply

    Denise, thanks for the comments and great observations. Let’s hope it doesn’t take to long to get everyone on board! Cheers, ~Pamela

  16. TexaCali Ali June 25, 2009 at 7:53 AM - Reply

    After years in marketing – specifically online marekting, I’m so glad to see the wine business is starting to pay attention to this online communication revolution. Blogging since 2005 and creating direct interaction with my end-consumer here in Texas has catapulted brand awareness and sales! It’s just beginning – this is the exciting part. Thanks for creating another dialog and keeping this in the spotlight – it’s so very important to the growth of our industry. Cheers – Ali

  17. enobytes June 25, 2009 at 5:59 PM - Reply

    Hi Ali, thanks for the comment and I’m thrilled to hear that you’ve had good experiences with the social media medium! ~Pamela

  18. […] believe me? Then you really need to see Pamela Heiligenthal’s post on Enobytes along with the TED video by Clay Shirky about the transformation of […]

  19. Alina Brown June 30, 2009 at 5:29 PM - Reply


    Thank you for posting such a great article and linking to the TED talk video. I’m a huge fan of Enobytes!


  20. enobytes June 30, 2009 at 6:09 PM - Reply

    Alina, your’re welcome and thanks for the kudos! ~Pamela

  21. Steve Kaufmann July 6, 2009 at 12:46 PM - Reply

    Pamela, You certainly practice what you preach. You responded quickly and thoroughly to a question I had on low alcohol wines. I have already mentioned that on Twitter with a reference to your blog.

    LingQ is a Web 2.0 language learning community where members around the world learn languages and also create and contribute language content for other to learn from. All content is in audio and text format. Members get points for contributing content to our library.Tools on the site convert all this content into language learning.

    Would you allow our members to record some of your posts and put them in our library? Or would you want to do that yourself, sort of a podcast on wine? Of course we always acknowledge the source of content and place a link to that source.

    Registration is free so please have a look and let me know if this is possible.

    I think this is all part of the impact of social networking on how we communicate, promote and learn.

  22. Julie Brosterman July 20, 2009 at 5:50 PM - Reply

    Just got back from WITS – Wine Industry Technology Symposium – in Napa where I was the keynote moderator for the panel on Social Media & Commerce.

    Yes, the industry is changing and there’s a lot of confusion out there. The first is that whether you want to or not – a winery that doesn’t use social media tools to connect with customers AND find potential new customers will find themselves having to play catch up in this new universe.

    And yes, I recommend twitter – some very popular wineries with savvy teams don’t even realize that they don’t own their winery name on twitter – so that is the first big step. You wouldn’t want someone to take your winery name when you decided that you wanted a twitter account.

    Second, facebook is changing all the tools and all the rules when it comes to how businesses will communicate. I spent about 2 hours with two really smart guys from Facebook at WITS and they explained that the PROFILE pages and FAN/GROUPS pages that people are currently using for their winery page are going to be obsolete very shortly and that wineries need to construct (and again RESERVE)something called a PAGE under their name. If you need an inexpensive lesson on how to do this – contact me at julie@womenwine.com.

    Finally, our company creates online content, promos, contests – and offline events/social media strategy for companies seeking to market to this niche audience. Just google Celebrate Summer the French Way to see our latest project where we created an innovative branded trivia game to educate and entertain consumers about French wine, food and travel.

    And last but not least – you’re not going to have 5,000 followers in one day. Or friends – unless you have a huge list of customers who will take you up on your invitation to follow you or join your facebook page. But consistent high quality content that is personal will surely get you a following.

  23. Bettie August 5, 2009 at 8:53 PM - Reply

    Your article gives me a lot to think about.I would like to get started in social marketing for my own business but do not know where to begin. How do you use these tool effectively and not just for push marketing?

  24. enobytes August 6, 2009 at 5:56 PM - Reply

    Hi Bettie, thanks for your comments. Your concerns are valid, and I plan to write an upcoming story addressing this very subject. Stay Tuned! ~Pamela

  25. Bettie September 30, 2009 at 10:39 AM - Reply

    Has there been a follow up story addressing this subject? If so could you let me know the date?


  26. enobytes September 30, 2009 at 8:22 PM - Reply

    Hi Bettie, I had hoped to complete the story by now but my schedule is crazy. Hang in there, it’s on my priority list. ~Pamela

  27. Bettie Infante January 23, 2010 at 10:25 AM - Reply

    Hi Pamela,

    We have gone through some changes and changed our email for one. Did I miss your followup story?

  28. enobytes January 25, 2010 at 10:56 PM - Reply

    Hi Bettie, I’m creating a series of follow-up posts and we’ll have the first of our series posted tomorrow!

    Just so you don’t miss any of the topics, you can sign up for our automated announcements here: http://feedburner.google.com/fb/a/mailverify?uri=EnobytesBlogs

    Cheers! ~Pamela

  29. Twitter Lingo for Wine Geeks (Part I: Finding & Following) | Enobytes Wine Blog January 26, 2010 at 12:13 AM - Reply

    […] I’ve written in a previous post, social media is transforming our media landscape and for some, it’s not so easy to grasp […]

  30. […] I’ve written in a previous post, social media is transforming our media landscape and for some, it’s not so easy to grasp this […]

  31. Andrew A. Sailer December 20, 2010 at 1:23 AM - Reply

    It’s a gread read and I believe 2011 will be an interesting year for Social Media, Public Relations and Publicists. Atleast we’re accepting new clients at Cloud 21 PR.

  32. […] I’ve written in a previous post, social media is transforming our media landscape and for some, it’s not so easy to grasp […]

  33. […] I’ve written in a previous post, social media is transforming our media landscape and for some, it’s not so easy to grasp […]

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