An acquaintance of mine who works for a medium-sized family winery recently told me he was quitting Facebook altogether because he felt that it was an insincere way to communicate with people, and if someone really wanted to talk to him, they could pick up the phone and call him, or write him an email or letter, or send some smoke signals.
All kidding aside, as a winery sales rep, that might be the dumbest move he could possibly make. Like it or not, social media, and Facebook in particular, has become an invaluable tool in wine sales. Why on earth would you want to make it harder for customers and sales reps to communicate with you?
There have been a ton of articles recently on social media and the wine industry (Vinography and 1WineDude have a couple particularly interesting pieces published in the last couple of weeks), and I echo Alder’s sentiment that many salespeople at small, independent wineries approach Facebook with an attitude that is “some combination of fear, scorn, exhaustion, or ‘can’t-be-bothered.'” The same reluctance or unwillingness to reach out to retail consumers is carried over into connecting with buyers, distributor sales reps and somms–the kind of gatekeepers who have the ability to build brands and make sales happen (which translates into dollars in your pocket); they also have their fingers on the pulse of their home markets and can provide you with valuable feedback. Not to mention that many of these people are wonderful human beings with whom you might develop great friendships.
I had a conversation with one of my favorite distributors a few days ago (who I also consider a friend and mentor) and I asked him what kind of qualities the best supplier sales reps have. One of the top things he mentioned was that they all had good relationships with a lot of local buyers and somms. Nothing beats meeting with people face-to-face, and I advocate for that as frequently as you can, but when you’re flying around the country and may only get into certain markets from time to time, Facebook is awesome for staying in touch and checking in with people. I think buyers want to have a connection to the wines they’re putting on their lists and shelves, and I think they are also curious about the people who sell wine to them. I also have to say that many of my colleagues at distributors or in the greater world of buying and selling often reach out to me with questions about the wines I’m selling (they want tech sheets, they need deal pricing, etc.) first on my Facebook email or wall, and many times they don’t even know my work email address.
A recent study showed that 83% of Facebook users logged into the site between 1-10 times a day. 1 in 13 people in the ENTIRE WORLD are on Facebook. 45% of users check it right when they wake up, and about 75% of the U.S. population is on it. Bottom line: Everyone is on it. It’s a free and useful tool to help you build your network. And if that doesn’t sell you, know that many of your competitors are on it, so while you’re sitting there ranting about technology, they’re making valuable connections that you’ve totally missed out on.