Growing a wine business with Facebook

Wednesday, 6. April 2016 - 11:30

While international stock markets tumble, owners of Facebook have been rewarded with high returns: from $75.00 per share in January 2015 to $112.00 per share (and climbing) in January 2016. Facebook’s impressive earnings reports are thanks to the nearly 1.6bn users of the social network, who brought in $5.37bn of revenue in the last quarter of 2015, up 39% from $3.85bn the year before.

Although Facebook corporate communications specialist Simone Levien cannot indicate to what extent the wine industry makes up advertising profits – “We do not indicate earnings by industry,” Levien told Meininger’s – she did share recent case studies of how wine-related businesses benefit from Facebook ad campaigns.

Extending your reach

Brazil’s second-largest online wine store, Evino, uses Facebook’s “Lookalike Audiences” feature to reach more customers – and sell more wine. According to Facebook, 50% of customers who bought from Evino last year came through Facebook, with 40% of revenue coming from Facebook-generated ads.

Another example comes from Puddleduck Vineyard in Tasmania. Using various Facebook tools over a four month campaign, the family-owned winery achieved a 30% increase in sales, with 2,300 people interacting with the vineyard’s online offerings. The Facebook strategy focused on creating engaging content, including competitions and offers, and running Page Post Engagement to share behind-the-scenes photos of grapegrowing at the vineyard. The owners targeted food and wine lovers over the age of 21 through Facebook, but differentiated postings between locals (posts relating to offline events at the vineyard for example) and international audiences, who saw all other posts. The owners scheduled posts to appear at the right times during the week. In addition, 4,600 new fans were gained over the four-month campaign.

Reporting for this article backs up claims made by Facebook that its ad tools are improving visibility and sales for the wine industry, from local wine bars to large international corporations.

Take Total Wine & More, the largest independent retailer of fine wine in the US, which operates 130 stores across 18 states, and which is the largest American buyer of Bordeaux. “Facebook has helped us with campaigns to generate email signups, acquire new customers and loyalty program members, fill seats for local store events and classes and increase wine sales,” explained Greg Tuttle, Total Wine’s senior manager of social business, who oversees strategy and execution of social media initiatives. “We have hired 35 store associates across the country to manage local Facebook pages that provide customers information about new items, notifications, sales events and other localised information,” he added.

Tuttle told Meininger’s that the ‘Lookalike Audience’ feature is but one of many Facebook tools he uses with success. Since partnering with data brokers such as Acxiom and Datalogix, Facebook has become capable of assessing the profiles of existing Total Wine customers and then using that information to create a new list of Facebook users that share similar interests and demographics. “We can tell when a customer comes from such a list, because it is not on our original list of customers,” Tuttle explained.

Beyond organic

Up until 2014, organic reach – people reached at no cost via Facebook – was enough for Total Wine. But since then, the company has made a “substantial” investment in paid Facebook advertisements. Facebook has never offered free ads, but the organic reach – as determined by Facebook’s proprietary newsfeed algorithm of regular posts to a page’s followers – used to be “decent enough that with the right content, a page could receive fair engagement from their fans organically, without needing to utilise paid advertising for this purpose,” Tuttle said.

He said, however, that with the growth of Facebook, which created more competition for the attention of users, Facebook pulled back on the ‘organic reach’ that brands could access, instead introducing a variety of advertising products. “These products range from simple boosted posts to more sophisticated video, slideshow and ‘carousel ads’ that showcase multiple images within a single advertisement that each direct people to specific wine sales,” explained Tuttle. 

Tuttle also praised Facebook’s integration of Instagram – the photo-and-video sharing network purchased by Facebook in April 2012 – as “providing another exciting opportunity to reach existing and potential customers.”

Across the Atlantic, another large wine company says Facebook is at the centre of its brand content strategy. Since 2008, French wine exporter Millesima, which has offices in the US, has been using Facebook to promote sales, said Millesima community and content manager Frédéric Lot.

Over 15% of sales last year – €2.4m ($2.7m) – came directly as a result of Facebook, Lot said. Lot often posts images of wines sold by the company on Facebook, which encourage interest, he said. But that’s but one example of the various tools Facebook offers. Millesima spent €156,700.00 last year on Facebook advertising tools, which Lot said resulted in nearly 50m page impressions and a reach of just over 9m people.

“Facebook allows us to reach a stronger community – potentially 25m unique visitors – and it is the best vehicle for branding, institutional communication and recruiting new customers,” he said. Millesima uses Facebook as part of an overall social media strategy, assisted by the use of official blogs in six languages, which are promoted on the company’s official YouTube channel (2,000 subscribers, 750 videos, 2.5m unique views), a Google+ account and on LinkedIn.

For Lot, it’s important not to rely just on Facebook, but to combine the impact of different social media platforms. For example, Millesima uses Facelift, a social media marketing service that proposes strategies on how to best integrate other social media platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, WordPress, Xing and LinkedIn.  

Smaller campaigns

Smaller companies with lower budgets still benefit from Facebook for free. Sonja Eberly, wine director at the Northside Social Wine Bar in Arlington, Virginia praises Facebook for its ability to increase participation at wine tastings she organises. A local wine bar in an affluent Washington, D.C. suburb, Northside Social enjoys a robust following, but “the share function is one of the things that Facebook is really good at,” Eberly said. “We have six wines for $6.00 on Saturdays and themes change, so we take pictures of each event, then post to Facebook to reference for future events.” Existing customers who are already Facebook fans share such visual references on their feed with new friends and that has a multiplier effect, Eberly explained. The service costs only time, she added.  

Nearby in Washington, D.C., popular wine importer/retailer MacArthur Beverages occasionally spends money to “boost” Facebook posts, but it mainly relies on organic reach to increase visits to weekly tastings held at the store, according to store representative Phil Bernstein. “What I find most effective with Facebook is its use as a crowd source tool,” he said. “You put up a picture of a bottle and mention that it was at MacArthur’s, and then customers would come in and say, ‘I see you have that Lapierre Morgon 2014.’”

The famous châteaux of Bordeaux also find Facebook useful. Château Palmer created its Facebook page back in June 2009; the point is not to increase sales, as Bordeaux estates do not have direct sales, but to increase publicity and “be connected with the maximum number of Palmer fans around the world,” explained Annabelle Grellier, communications director for the famous Margaux estate.

Château Palmer only uses organic postings. In January 2015, it had 5,450 followers, but by January 2016, it was 6,050 followers, Grellier said.

One disadvantage for Grellier is that Facebook allows for both positive and negative comments by users, so a pure PR focus is not possible. “Whatever the case may be, we find Facebook to be a formidable tool for continued dialogue with our clients around the world,” she said.

Panos Kakaviatos            


Getting started

Facebook’s advertising services offer a step-by-step process, starting with “defining advertising objectives”. Examples of strategies include: creating ads for campaigns to get people to like your Facebook Page; encouraging people to visit your website; “boosting” views of your Facebook posts; increasing engagement with your app; reaching more people near your business; increasing attendance at events you are organising; and to get more people to view your ad videos.

Facebook’s site permits users to target audiences according to country and then theme, such as viticulture, winemaking, red wine, Napa Valley, or other more specific wine subjects, either alone or in combination.    Then, a budget is set.

Budgets can be daily or “lifetime” – the estimated daily reach will vary according to the budget, for both Facebook and Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. For example, a $5.00 daily maximum budget for a video to be shown to targets in the UK and US would reach an estimated 2,600 to 6,800 people on Facebook and 2,100 to 5,500 people on Instagram. But if the budget was increased to $50.00, that reach would grow to between 15,000 and 38,000 for Facebook and 8,900 and 24,000 for Instagram.

Advertising can be run according to a schedule that you choose, or continuously for the period of time selected.

It’s also worth considering multi-channel advertising, to coincide your social media marketing with your print and other mainstream advertising, for maximum effect. PK


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