Wine and Social Media: Are U.S. Wineries Twice As Social As Their French Competitors?

Social media use by U.S. vs French wineriesFrench wineries have long been the recognized authority for quality and tradition in the wine industry. But their American competitors are the trailblazers when it comes to using social media to engage customers and market their vintages.

According to a December 2011 survey on the use of social media in the U.S. and French wine industries from ABLE Social Media Marketing, nearly all U.S. and French wineries have an online presence: 99% of U.S. wineries and 92% of French wineries have one. But U.S. wineries use their site to actually sell wine more often (72%), whereas half that number (36%) of French wineries do. With a similar lead, 29% of U.S. wineries report that they have a blog, compared to 19% of French respondents.

U.S. Wineries Are Online And Very Social. The French?
Not So Much.

A full 94% of American wineries surveyed are on Facebook, and 50% of those report that they have 500 or more fans on the platform. In comparison, only 53% of French wineries have established a Facebook presence, with 19% having 500 or more fans.

Of the U.S. wineries surveyed, 30% have used Facebook Ads to promote their winery, as compared with less than 8% of their French counterparts. Nearly equal numbers plan to increase their use of Facebook this year; 72% of U.S. and 69% of French wineries plan to do so.

While 94% of American wineries surveyed are on Facebook, only 53% of French wineries are embracing this social network; trends are similar on Twitter and YouTube.73% of U.S. wineries surveyed are on Twitter. But just 41% of French wineries have a Twitter page; a majority (61%) of those report fewer than 100 followers. 2012 plans include ramping up current levels of activity on Twitter by 61% of American wineries and 45% of French wineries.

And when it comes to photo and video sharing networks, U.S. wineries have a lead over the French in the use of YouTube (46% vs. 26%) and Flickr (14% vs. 7%).

Part of the reason for this dramatic gap in social media usage?  The French are just not seeing the benefits. 17% of French wineries currently using Facebook state that they do not benefit from their presence on the platform, whereas only 4% of U.S. wineries feel this way. 42% of French respondents feel the same about Twitter, as compared with only 13% of those in the U.S.

Growth in Social Media Adoption: Are French Wineries Racing to Catch Up?

In a March article for Reuter’s, Leslie Gervitz claims that “French wineries, like over-tired children, are kicking and screaming but slowly making their way onto social media.” 

But the ABLE survey shows otherwise:  the 53% of French wineries on Facebook represents a 29% increase over the number reported in a December 2010 ABLE survey of French wineries. And according to the same survey, 9% of French wineries were using Twitter a year previously; the more recent 41% is no less than a 355% increase in Twitter adoption.

And the French have plans for 2012 which will continue the trajectory: of those who are not currently on Facebook, nearly half (48%) plan on integrating the platform into their 2012 marketing strategy. And nearly one fifth (18%) of the French wineries not currently using Twitter have plans to start in 2012 — compared to 26% of non-twittering U.S wineries.

Wine Industry Use of Social Media: The Critics Are Not Happy

Given the rapid rate of adoption, it seems safe to predict wineries on both sides of the pond will embrace social media marketing in nearly equal measure before too many more vintages have been bottled.  After all, few topics seem better suited to content sharing and social engagement than wine.  Evangelists and social media wine experts like Gary Vaynerchuk and Rick Bakas have set a high bar, and the #winechat community hosts active Twitter chats and tweet ups.

But the critics are not happy.  The wine business blogosphere has faulted U.S. wineries for being slow to adopt digital marketing best practices, and for squandering opportunities to engage customers in a way that few industries can.

“It’s time for the wine industry to stop treating social media like a newfangled gizmo, and start doing business with it,” writes Alder Yarrow . He cites “1 Wine Dude” Joe Roberts, who “describes many wineries’ approach to social media as some combination of fear, scorn, exhaustion, or ‘can’t-be-bothered.

The ABLE report does show that, even in the U.S., there is room for improvement.  A surprising 22% of U.S. wineries report that they are “having difficulties finding interesting content to post” —  surprising because wine connoisseurs have never tired of discussions of terroir, vintages or pairings.  And nearly 40% of U.S. wineries report that they do not “engage in realtime with customers.”  Clearly, there’s opportunity for wineries in both countries to use social media even more effectively.

Which wineries do you think are doing a good job with their use of social media?