Category Archives: VirtualWineEvents.com

Three Lessons Learned After 7 Months of Virtual Wine Events

Today marks the 7 month anniversary since the launch of VirtualWineEvents.com. Despite still being a very young site, I’ve been thrilled with its growth. We’ve had more than 7400 events featured with over 5700 unique site visitors. Additionally, more than 400 folks have created accounts to submit events.

Image by Pixabay

But the most exciting part is seeing the data from the site about what kind of virtual events consumers are seeking. It’s one thing to have anecdotes, but the hard numbers about what people are actually clicking on are deeply fascinating.

So today I’m going to share some of these insights gleaned from seven months of data from VirtualWineEvents.com. As I said when I first launched VWE, my goal has always been for this site to be a tool for the wine industry to help reach consumers. It’s why I have no interest in monetizing the site with things like sponsored listings or ads. I want to keep the richness of organic feedback–something that anyone can see, anytime, in things like the Trending Events and Trending Video Replays sections.

Though first, some caveats.

One, the data is deliberately very limited to protect the privacy of users. Not only do we respect GDPR on the site, but I have no interest in demographic details of users or what they do elsewhere. It’s only what they do on the site–which listings they interact with–that I care about. So if you want details about age, gender, income brackets or other interests, then you’re not going to find it here. The only data is from people who intentionally allow cookies and even that is limited to just very general details like location. Thus, the data below reflects the actions of only about half the nearly 6000 users of VWE.

Finally, the current audience for VirtualWineEvents.com is significantly biased towards the US.

After that, a good segment of our audience comes from the UK and South Africa and then Australia, Canada and India. While we’ve had visitors from over 70 countries (including growing traffic from New Zealand, Ireland, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore, France, Netherlands, Brazil and Sweden), the US’s influence will still be highly reflected in these numbers.

In future posts, I’ll dive deeper into buzz ratings–highlighting events that have seen the most interaction on the site. In October, I did a lengthy Twitter thread about the Top 10 most popular listings ever featured on VWE. Since then, that Top 10 has shaken up a bit as video replays become an even more significant buzz generator.

But now, let’s get to the three biggest insights that have emerged about virtual wine events.

Lesson 1 – When is the best time to host virtual events?

Answer – It depends.

Overall, the time slot that has seen the highest number of pure interactions is 19:00 GMT (2 pm EST, 11 am PST). This is prime time for the UK, Central Europe (8 pm) and South Africa (9 pm). It also overlaps with viable US times (especially on the weekends). But I wouldn’t necessarily say that it is the most popular time slot. While that time has had the greatest cumulative number of interactions (clicks, bookmarking, calendar adds, etc.), users only interact with an average of 2.4 events that are scheduled to start in that time slot.

Instead, the overwhelming leader in terms of average event interactions is 0:00 GMT–midnight in London but entering prime time for the US from 7 pm East Coast to 4 pm Pacific. Users interact with an average of 6.1 events during this time slot, followed by 23:00 GMT (average 4.5 interactions) and 22:00 GMT. Again, significant US-bias at play here. Below I have a chart of each time slot ranked by the average interactions they see from users. In blue, I’ve highlighted the “prime time” hours of 5 pm to 9 pm (4:30 to 9:30 pm in ACST and India) when most events are held.

Engagement times on VWE by interaction

AUS Central is ACST, which includes South Australia (Adelaide, Barossa Valley, etc.)

Another time slot that jumped out to me was 17:00 GMT (Noon EST, 9 am PST) when many trade webinars are held. Many individual events in this time slot have generated a fair amount of buzz ratings (often through video replays), though overall it’s not a big hour. But the near-even distribution between US and UK users does seem to bear out the value of these times for industry events.

17:00 GMT interaction

Takeaways:

Be mindful of your audience and err towards the prime time hours when you can. (Though I’m curious about that 8 pm drop in the West Coast US. Dinner time conflicts?) This is particularly true if you’re doing an event that involves tasting. Because let’s face it, not many folks want to drink wine at 9 am. But for more educational and informative events, the 17:00 to 19:00 GMT slots make a lot of sense to maximize overlap with engage audiences in Europe, South Africa & the US.

Lesson 2 – Virtual Tastings or Webinars? What is more popular?

To some degree, this is a question of who the audience for virtual wine events really is. Is it “regular” consumers who tend to gravitate towards tastings? Or is it more industry folks and highly engaged “winos” who tend to look for more educational events?

On VWE, I allow submitters to self-categorize their events as Virtual Tastings, Webinars, Social Events, IG Lives and Other. I leave the definition of the event up to them, but in the FAQ section, I offer this guidance:

Virtual Tastings– Events focused on specific wines to be tasted, usually with an expectation that participants have pre-purchased the wines ahead of the event.

Webinars– Events focused on a particular topic (such as Old Vine Zinfandel or the Wines of Rioja) that may include tasting specific wines but are structured to where participants don’t necessarily need to have those exact wines in order to enjoy the event. This would also include master classes and other educational events.

Social Events– This is a broad category that includes trivia, quizzes and other wine games, virtual happy hours, yoga, painting and cooking classes, book clubs, Twitter chats, movie viewing parties, etc.

Instagram Live– Due to the growing popularity of these events, we’ve created a separate category to highlight them. IG Lives often incorporate elements of Virtual Tastings, Webinars and Social Events with the common link being the convenience of being able to easily drop in on them while they’re happening.

While the popularity of Social Events & IG Lives ebb and flow (both were way more popular during lockdowns but still have some legs in the US), virtual tastings and webinars have shown remarkable staying power. And it’s pretty darn even between the two.

Virtual Tasting Engagement
webinar engagements

Takeaways:

Obviously, we’ll need to keep watching these numbers whenever things hopefully, someday get back to “normal.” While it’s easy to envision webinars still going strong post-COVID, I know many folks have been skeptical about the long term viability of virtual tastings. I don’t think we can pull any concrete takeaways from the data just yet. However, after seven months, there’s enough here to suggest that there will be some sustained interest in VTs.

Lesson 3 – Free or Paid events?

Outside of the “When should I hold my event?” question, the topic of whether an online event should have the cost of wine included upfront or be a free BYOB (bring your own bottle) event is one of the most frequent queries I get. This was the subject of another lengthy Twitter thread I did last month while looking at the data for the top 100 events based on buzz ranking.

That was more back of the envelope extrapolating. But looking at the hard data, events categorized as “Free” do get significantly more engagement. The average user engages with 3.6 free events compared to 2.3 engagements with all other events. However, as I noted in the Twitter thread, it does seem like that trend is changing with more consumers having their interest piqued by paid events.

Free events on VWE

Note: If an event lists a cost range like $0-20, it is not categorized as a “Free” event.

From Impulse to Intent.

In the Twitter thread, I shared my suspicion that one of the drivers of this change is that the mindset of consumers looking for online wine events seems to be shifting. At the beginning of the year, with the COVID pandemic and lockdowns freshly sprung upon us, folks were looking for an escape, for entertainment. That search for distraction played well with the novelty of virtual tasting and easy to consume options like IG Lives.

But as we settle into our new normal with (hopefully) more entertainment options opening up, wine consumers aren’t necessarily looking for distractions anymore. Instead, the ones who continue to seek out virtual events are looking for particular things. It’s more active engagement instead of passive consumption. We’re moving from a mindset of impulse (Hmm, is there anything to do tonight?) towards one of intent (I want to do ________). And consumers are usually more willing to pay for something that fits what they are explicitly seeking versus what strikes them on a whim.

This relates to another trend I see on the site.

The average user is spending a lot more time on VirtualWineEvents.com, clicking and engaging with listings. Right now, the average engagement is 3 minutes and 6 seconds. But compare the numbers from our first two months (May & June) with those of the past two (October & November).

May June engagement time

Oct Nov engagement time

Not only is the overall average engagement time higher but the average per session is also nearly a full minute longer (1m 06s to 1m 53s). And it’s not because there are more events to look through each calendar day. On the contrary, May and June were the two most prolific months with nearly 2600 events. At the other end, October and November only featured around 1200 events.

But even though the number of events has waned since the pandemic-induced frenzy of virtual tastings, the overall quality of events has improved. And accordingly, the seriousness and selectiveness of the consumers looking for these events have risen in response.

So what comes next?

While there was a lull in events during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer, activity has definitely picked up in the winter. It surprised me to see already 412 events submitted for December and another 91 for January. Typically that number slowly builds throughout a month as events get submitted on average 3 to 7 days before they happen. Quite a few only get submitted the day of or day before.

I hope this trend is pointing towards hosts being more proactive in scheduling events with enough time to promote them.  We really need to move beyond a “fly by the pants” mentality of throwing things together and just hoping people show up. Allowing more time to promote gives events a chance to build buzz and reach more consumers. As people move from what’s happening now? to actively searching for events that they want to attend, you want to show up in that search even if your event is still several days or weeks away.

And you want them to find you after the fact as well.
Add past event

Even if your event wasn’t originally featured on VWE, you can still add a video replay link.

I can’t overstate the value of video replays–especially webinars and winemaker events. That archive of quality content is truly the future of virtual wine events and where folks can find their most significant ROI. This will be another area that I’ll explore more in future posts as I keenly keep an eye on what’s popping up on the Trending Replay section.

Another thing I’m working on is categorizing the buzz rating data by keywords in their descriptions to compare events. I want to see how events with things like cooking class, blind tasting, cheese pairing, etc., fare in generating engagement. Which grape varieties or wine regions generate the most buzz? Does featuring a well-known moderator, Master of Wine or Master Sommelier help set some events apart? Tons of great stuff to sink my teeth into.

Of course, folks are welcome to ping me (amber@spitbucket.net) anytime about virtual events. As I said above, my goal for VWE is to be a tool for the wine industry. So if there are ways that this data can help wineries, wine shops, restaurants, educators and influencers better reach consumers, I’ll do my best to share it freely.

Subscribe to Spitbucket

New posts sent to your email!

What’s the Future of Virtual Wine Tastings?

While the present is still grim in some areas (such as South Africa), many wine regions have open up their tasting rooms even in a limited, socially distant capacity. That’s been sure relief for cash-strapped wineries and a welcome respite for wine lovers who need to digitally detox. (Provided they feel safe and welcomed.)
Photo by Sarah Stierch (CC BY 4.0). Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons
But make no mistake. There is still a lot of value and a healthy market for online wine events. The folks that have gotten used to finding wine edu-tainment from the comforts of their couch aren’t melting away in the summer heat.

Since launching VirtualWineEvent.com in early May, I expected things to get quieter as places opened back up. But if you’ve been wondering why I haven’t been writing as much, I can tell you that those expectations didn’t play out. Running VWE is turning into a full-time job with managing listings as well as counseling wine businesses about their events. (Though we’re still committed to keeping this as a free resource for the wine industry.)

Now I will say that the number of online wine events featured on the site each day has certainly decreased from a high point of 60-70+ a day in May/June to about 30 to 40 a day. (Though, to be frank, that high point was a bit much.) However, our site traffic keeps rolling on. A big reason, I suspect, is that even though the number of events have gone down, the overall quality has gone up.

Sure, there’s still the smattering of sucky virtual tastings.

But the number is much lower as those wineries putting on those lackluster events likely didn’t see many results for their efforts. Maybe they had a little bump in the first few weeks but probably soon saw attendance and enthusiasm fizzle. However, the wineries, wine shops, educators and influencers that got it–that figured out how the game was to be played–are the ones we see still investing and putting out quality online wine events.

Now, of course, there isn’t a magical formula. However, there are definitely some common threads that have emerged. First among them was the initial approach. As I told Jess Landers of SevenFiftyDaily in her article, How Wine Brands Can Successfully Utilize Virtual Tastings to Drive Consumer Sales, trying to replicate the tasting room experience virtually is a nonstarter. Those who tried usually failed spectacularly.

The wineries that viewed virtual tastings as nothing more than a revenue stopgap were always thinking too small and too limited. Meanwhile, other wineries, like Ridge Vineyards and the many who have partnered with 67 Pall Mall, approached these events as brand-building opportunities instead of wannabe tasting room experiences. These are the folks who nailed it from the get-go and will continue to see results.

Tomorrow, I’ll be talking about this and more as part of Outshinery’s On the Spot – The State of NOW in the Wine Industry panel.

Outshinery Promo

You can save your spot for the event here.

I encourage my readers to save a spot and join us at 10 am PST/1 pm EST. I’ll be sharing many of the insights that I’ve learned from managing VWE.

I’m not going to give them all away here, but I’ll leave you with this thought.

In a crowded marketplace, you can’t always rely on impulse driving a sale. Think of a label or bulk stack catching a consumer’s eyes. The sign on the road saying “Tasting Room Open.” That interesting name and just right price on the wine list. All the things that we used to rely on encouraging a wine lover to give you a shot.

As the COVID shutdown has shown us, relying on impulse is tenuous. Instead, you need to drive intent. You need to give consumers a reason to look for your wines, to want to go to your tasting room or visit your website and social media.

The ease and global reach of digital video is a powerful seed planter and intent driver. The future of virtual wine events belongs to the wineries and wine businesses that understand this.

And that future is now.

Subscribe to Spitbucket

New posts sent to your email!

Talking Virtual Wine Events Next Week at FOMENT 2020 and on IG Live with Tablas Creek Vineyards

It’s been a busy spring and early summer for me since the launch of VirtualWineEvents.com. I’ve been invited to several interviews and panels, mostly to talk about the industry’s adoption of these new digital tools. Two exciting ones coming up is the FOMENT Conference this Tuesday, June 30th, which I’ll follow the next day with by joining Jason Haas of Tablas Creek Vineyards for a chat on his weekly Instagram live broadcast.

I’ve posted the details of these events below which I hope you’ll join us for.

At the end, I’ve also included the videos from some of the projects I mentioned above such as Destinate’s The Future of Wine Tourism Webinar, Pour Agency’s wine marketing series and a couple of The Real Business of Wine panels that I’ve been on.

FOMENT | Wine and Tourism Tech Variety Hour

Tuesday, June 30th – 16:00 ACST, 8:30 CEST, 2:30 EDT (23:30 PDT June 29th)

Broadcasting live from Yalumba’s Signature Cellar in the Barossa Valley of South Australia, FOMENT tackles the future of technology in the wine industry and tourism. While the timing isn’t ideal for Americans, registering for this free conference will get you access to the recording.

A few of the notable guests that I’m thrilled to be participating in this conference with include:

Chester Osborn of d’Arenberg in the McLaren Vale
Lisa Anderson and Max Waterson of Yalumba
Wine writer Max Allen of Australian Financial Review, JancisRobinson.com and many more
Polly Hammond of 5forests and The Real Business of Wine
Wine Business professor Damien Wilson of Sonoma State University

My lovely wife and the tech-brains behind VirtualWineEvents.com, Beth, joined me in our pre-recorded interview. We talked about the need we saw emerging during COVID. Our goal was to create a site where wineries, retailers and wine educators could post upcoming virtual tastings, webinars, Instagram Lives–completely free of charge–so they could be more easily discovered by wine lovers.

We’ve been exceedingly pleased with the response and traffic that we’re having to VirtualWineEvents.com. Even as tastings rooms start to open up, wine consumers are still looking for interesting and engaging online wine events that they can attend from the comfort of their homes. Likewise, savvy wine businesses realize the continued value of platforms that allow them to showcase their brands to consumers across the globe.

Tablas Creek Wednesday Conversations with Jason Haas on Instagram Live

Wednesday, July 1st – Noon PDT, 15:00 EDT, 21:00 CEST

A perfect case-in-point of a savvy wine business embracing digital tools is Tablas Creek Vineyards in Paso Robles. Every week they host a live stream on their Instagram page. While, for the sake of my sanity and phone notifications, I’m glad that the “witching hours” of endless IG Lives have quieted, these online events are still quite popular.

The laid-back, conversational nature of IG Lives is an easy format for consumers to pick up. All you do is follow the person hosting the event. Then when the notification comes that they’re going live, you click on it. You can watch, comment and even ask to participate if the host wants to bring other folks in to join them. It feels spontaneous and unscripted which, for many consumers, comes across as more authentic.

Numerous wineries like Tablas Creek have been hitting it out of the park with these events that they can later upload to their IGTV channel or YouTube. Check out some of the past Wednesday Conversations with Jason Haas featuring guests like Jeremy Benson of FreeTheGrapes.org, Regine Rousseau of Shall We Wine, Patrick Comiskey of Wine & Spirits Magazine, Cesar Perrin of Chateau de Beaucastel as well as several members of the Tablas team.

I particularly liked this one with Elizabeth Schneider from Wine for Normal People.

There’s often a lull at the beginning of most IG Lives while waiting for people to respond to the notification and join. I love that Haas utilizes this time by giving some behind-the-scenes updates about what’s going at the winery and vineyard. In this episode, he talks about some of the viticultural challenges of their Scruffy Hill Block.

So be sure to join us and bring your questions about virtual wine events!

In the meantime, check out the discussions below. I had a lot of fun working with Destinate Travel, the Real Business of Wine and Pour Agency with their panels and projects.

Future of Wine Tourism Session 4: Going virtual

The Future of Virtual Tastings

The Consumer, in Partnership with ARENI Global

How to Get More Customers to Join Your Winery’s Virtual Tasting Room Experience

What Content Increases Winery Followers and Likes on Social Media

What is The Best Selling Point About Your Winery? Hint: It’s Not Your Wine…

What Can Smarter Winery Marketing Do for Your Winery?

How to Increase Wine Sales with Personalized Winery Marketing

This is the full version that the snippets above were taken from. Brandon Lee of Pour Agency gives a breakdown of the key points on their blog.

01:45 – What is SpitBucket and who is Amber LeBeau?
03:45 – Why is it so important for wineries to invest in marketing and what works
04:33 – The power of YouTube and how your winery can take advantage
06:34 – How can wineries reduce the noise and provide more value?
06:44 – Making good wine alone is not good enough to get more sales
07:32 – Wineries are not only competing with their neighbor or other labels
08:38 – What can wineries be doing to capture more attention?
09:16 – Winery video creates connection and engagement in the midst of the shutdown
10:42 – What your winery might be doing wrong with social media and Instagram marketing
12:08 – Make your content meaningful and stop potential customers in their tracks
12:55 – How can wineries incentivize more people to engage with their virtual tasting room?
14:50 – Sell your brand, not just wine. Jackson Family Estates and The Wine Makers on Radio Misfits – The Wine Makers
17:58 – What video would you want to see created to make you take action and buy a winery’s wine?
20:50 – The easiest thing you can do to start winery marketing right
22:34 – Show people who you are, build meaningful connections with everyone within your winery
25:15 – Wineries should be asking their customers what they want
27:54 – Why it’s important to move forward and innovate with marketing even if you have a reputation
30:01 – What is branding and what does that mean for a winery?
32:00 – If you give people a reason to give a damn, they will give a damn.
32:14 – What’s Amber’s favorite wine?

Subscribe to Spitbucket

New posts sent to your email!

The Booming Popularity of Instagram Live Wine Events

I call them the “Witching Hours.”

IG Live events

Every day starting at 5 pm, my smartphone buzzes alive with notifications. Someone is going LIVE on Instagram! Then another and another! 6 pm, 7 pm until they finally start to die off around eight.

And that’s just the first round of Witching Hours for IG events in Europe and South Africa. Like clockwork, if I forget to shut off my phone, I’m sure to be awakened at 2 am (CET) when the 5 pm Witching Hour on the US West Coast springs to life.

Of course, it’s not just wineries who are rushing to this platform. Pretty much everyone is hopping on the IG LIVE train from celebrities to chefs and musicians to regular folks just wanting to chat.

Eventually the avalanche of events will abate, but they’re not going to go away completely. As I’ve noted before, new habits are being forged and, for the 800 million daily users of Instagram, IG Lives will always be some part of their consumption. To that extent, I fully endorse wineries dipping their toes in this digital ocean.

But after months of watching numerous IG Live wine events, I do have a few suggestions.

1.) Realize that this is a competition for eyeballs

In short, don’t suck.

Every winery knows the challenges of competing amidst the “Wall of Wine” at a wine shop. However, on Instagram, you’re not just competing with a swell of other wineries and wine folks hosting events. You’re also competing for attention with Cardi B, Justin Bieber and Carmelo Anthony.

You obviously shouldn’t expect 10,000+ viewers, but even if you only manage to pull in a few dozen, you have to understand that those eyeballs are precious. There are so many other things that they could be doing or watching. But they’re here, watching you. So make the most of it.

The first thing you should do is understand the platform and what you can do on IG Live. Instagram has posted a playbook recently with links and tips. Be creative and, above all, be social.

Don’t fall into the trap of so many virtual wine tastings. No one wants to watch you drone on and on about wines that we likely don’t have at the moment. Even people that do have the wine often get bored to tears listening to that. These events should be more about featuring you–your personality and passion–than they are necessarily about selling wine. If people like you, they’re going to seek out your wines.

Two ways to get people to like you is to entertain or engage them.

Baby goats photo by Pinoydiscus. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

And if you have adorable baby goats, by all means, show us those adorable baby goats!!!!

Show them something different. Right now, a lot of folks are craving the outdoors like never before. So show them some of the beauty and diversity of your vineyards. Give them a behind the scenes view of the winery that they ordinarily wouldn’t get on a regular winery visit. Everyone sees the manicured lawns and beautiful barrel rooms. Show us the reality and not the mirage.

Feature a guest. It could be someone else in wine or a musician, comedian, chef, etc. If you’re a family winery, hammer that point home by showing us Grandma Jean or Uncle Roger. Even if they’re not directly involved in the winery, they’re part of your story and what makes you different. Bonus points for featuring embarrassing childhood photos of the winemaker.

But remember that one of the charms of IG Live is the real-time feedback and interaction. Ask questions of your audience and pay attention to their responses. Make them feel like they’re part of the event.

2.) Make sure that people know that you are having an event–and cast a wide net

The biggest limitation of Instagram Live is that often people don’t know when they’re happening. Oh sure, if you’re like me and following lots of wineries and wine people, you can’t escape them. But most wine consumers aren’t following that many brands–especially on Instagram where years of boring bottle porn have turned off a lot of folks from following wineries.

The beauty of IG LIVE is that you can use engaging events to bring more people back to your Instagram feeds and encourage them to follow you. But you have to reach them first.

Overcoming this obstacle was one of the reasons why I developed VirtualWineEvents.com. With digital platforms, you can reach a global audience and don’t have to be limited to only folks who already know and follow your brand.

VWE Screenshots

Once we realized how often people were searching for “Instagram” and “IG” on the site, we created a separate page just to highlight IG Lives.

There’s no reason why a winery in California hosting an IG Live at 1 pm can’t reach a consumer in Chicago, Dallas (3 pm), Toronto, New York (4 pm), Buenos Aires (5 pm), London (9 pm), Paris, Capetown (10 pm) or even Auckland (8 am).

Even if your wines aren’t available in those markets (yet!), people travel and talk.  Tourism will eventually return. So why not be part of the global conversations that are happening everywhere online?

3.) Remember, it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere

The most practical advice I can give wineries is to listen to the wisdom of Jimmy Buffet and Alan Jackson. We don’t need to launch these events all at the same time. Especially with that global reach, there is an audience for exciting and engaging online wine content almost any time. It’s undoubtedly advantageous to have your event when there is less eyeball competition.

The vast majority of IG Lives get launched at the top of an hour. So even a simple offset of starting at half-past (when many events have ended) or quarter-till (before the next batch starts) is a smart move. But if I had a winery in the US, I would particularly think about doing a late-evening event between 8-10 pm (PST).  I’ve been seeing things on VirtualWineEvents.com that suggest this time slot could be very promising.

Though, a caveat. With the Virtual Wine Events site only being live for a couple of weeks, I don’t want to read too much here. But, so far, we’ve seen a fairly consistent traffic pattern with a jump of users checking out the site and clicking on events at 8 pm (PST). Below I have a document read chart (i.e., events seen and clicked) from a typical day.

Document reads chart

PST – West Coast US
CET – Central European Time (Paris, Rome)
AEST – Australia East Coast (Sydney, Melbourne)

Again, a small sample size but intriguing. If you think of it from a consumer’s POV, what do we usually do after dinner when we’re bored? We hop on our phone and look for something to entertain us.

But at that time, you might not want to commit to a full master class or hour-plus event. Folks are more likely to be looking for something easy and fun–a distraction. Dropping in on a short IG Live event (most last around 25 to 45 minutes) doesn’t feel like that much of a commitment.

If the topic is interesting (i.e., not “Hey, watch me drink and swirl a Chardonnay for 20 minutes!”), then it’s an easy click of the button for someone to join from the comforts of their couch or bed.

VWE Tweet about IG Live events

To leverage that impulsive, looking for something to do nature, I set up schedule tweets with the VWE Twitter account to steer people towards interesting IG Live events happening soon.

This is definitely (at the moment) an untapped time period for US wineries. It also works great for Australian wineries that are eying the US market as this witching hour falls smack in the middle of the day for you. Maybe even catch some early rising Europeans as well.

Again, this is the advantage of using these digital tools.

Thanks to platforms like Instagram Live, when wine consumers are looking for something to do, they can usually find it. Even when things return to semi-normalcy, we’re not going to abandon these habits completely. The urge to ward off boredom is always present.  And the dopamine high of a notification buzz is potent.

Thankfully, it also pairs well with wine.

Subscribe to Spitbucket

New posts sent to your email!

Now is the time for wineries to think BIG with online wine events

Since the launch of VirtualWineEvents.com, I’ve been stunned by the response. Even though the site has only been live for a few days, we’re going to hit more than 100,000 pages read by the end of today. We’ve haven’t even climbed to the top of Google search rankings yet. So nearly all of this is coming from word of mouth. However, the big driver behind the “pages read” number is that once users are on the site, they’re spending several minutes visiting multiple pages and clicking on events.
Chum salmon leaping photo by Photo: K. Mueller, USFWS. Uploaded to Wikimedia commons under CC-BY-2.0

Now, of course, there is some novelty at play. But as I noted in my last post, there’s no reason to think that audiences for online wine events are going to vanish as soon as things get “back to normal.” The horse has left the barn.

Every day, as consumers become more familiar with using Zoom and checking in on Instagram and Facebook Live events, new habits are being formed. While we all can’t wait to get the heck out of our house, eventually, the novelty of that will wear off too. Though (hopefully) quarantine-life won’t return, a new normal is already emerging. One that certainly involves more digital tools than it did before.

The fascinating thing about putting together VirtualWineEvents.com, as well as attending numerous online wine events myself, has been seeing the different approaches to these events.

Some have been very creative such as Peltier Winery in Lodi hosting “Wine and Comedy” shows featuring their winemaker with a professional comedian. Or Tinte Cellars in Woodinville doing Facebook takeovers with local musicians. Other wineries, shops and entrepreneurs are hosting cooking events, yoga, pajama parties, painting classes and even tasting parties centered around solving murder mysteries.

People are having fun, creating worthwhile and engaging events–taking advantage of digital platforms that give their brands a larger reach.

And then there are the folks who are thinking small.

While a lot of wineries are doing fantastic jobs focusing on retention and taking care of their wine club members with personal, one-on-one virtual wine tastings. Far too many wineries are limiting themselves to the same formula. Take a look at the listings on Virtual Wine Events or just Google and take a gander at Facebook event postings. You’ll see the same script.

Hey, we set up a special virtual wine tasting pack for you to enjoy. Order by _______ and we’ll get it sent to you in time for our next event on ________.

These events, in and of themselves, aren’t bad. Every winery should be doing them periodically to generate revenue. But the over-reliance on them, and making them the sole expression of their digital strategy, introduces the same problems that make the traditional tasting-room model unsustainable. You’re fishing from a small pond stocked with fish that likely already know your brand. You’re just playing catch and release.

Meanwhile, you have a whole digital stream of wine lovers spawning and flowing right past–and you’re not even casting a line.

Online wine events are brand-building bonanzas.

They allow consumers a chance to discover a brand without having to invest much commitment–just a little time. I don’t need to already be familiar with a winery in order to be intrigued by an engaging topic for a virtual event. Such as Pearl Morissette Estate Winery in Ontario talking about Cabernet Franc in the Niagara or Laird Family Estate’s Clone Wars. If it sounds interesting, I’ll check it out even if I don’t have the wine. If it ends up being boring, I can just leave. No biggie. It’s even more painless to drop in and out of IG or FB Live events.

That ease makes me more willing to check out news brands. For wine consumers, that low bar of commitment offered by digital is GOLD. It frees us to be adventurous because the barrier of entry is far lower than say, visiting a tasting room.

So why squander that gold by basically treating virtual wine events as tasting room visits?

Have you ever stopped to think about what wineries ask of consumers under that traditional tasting room model? How much of a commitment they’re counting on, just to discover a new brand? Let’s say someone has never heard of or knows very little about a winery, to get them interested in buying wine we expect them to commit:

Time
Planning
Travel
Money

…to come visit a tasting room, try the wines, hear the spiel and so on. All this, just to get to know your brand. You’re asking quite a bit, even for local consumers, much less of consumers in other markets. And this is just looking at it from a pure, self-interest consumer POV. We’re not even considering environmental concerns that will also diminish people’s motivation to travel across the country or oceans.

Now with the traditional VT script, the travel commitment is removed. However, wineries are still asking a commitment of time, planning and money upfront. Again, all this, just to get to know them and figure out if they’re a brand worth paying attention to.

No wonder so many wineries are fishing in a small pond.

Vineyard Chat

Jeff Harding, the Beverage Director at The Waverly Inn in New York, has been doing some great IG Live events with winemakers out in the vineyards.

To really buy-in to all the opportunities that digital offers, wineries need to think beyond the tasting room. Yes, the wine club and personal one-on-one virtual tastings are great. They can convey intimacy and personal attention, which will surely pay dividends. But that should just be one aspect of a broader digital strategy.

To maximize the massive potential of online wine events, wineries need to look beyond the pond. They need to expand the scope beyond just “Hey, let’s taste some of our wines–which we hope you already have!” Instead, they should be using these virtual events to show us the vibe and personality of the brand. Consumers want to know if wineries share their values and if they’re just plain likable or interesting.

These digital platforms are opening up new streams of consumers from across the globe and bringing them closer than ever to wineries.

Now is the time to be thinking big and casting lines.

Subscribe to Spitbucket

New posts sent to your email!

A New Tool to Help Promote Online Wine Events

My post last month on How Can We Make Virtual Wine Tastings Less Sucky? generated quite a response. While most of it came from wineries seeking honest feedback on their VTs, I also received numerous inquiries from folks wondering how I was finding these events. For me, it was relatively simple because they’re popping up everywhere on social media. But when I went to Google “Virtual Wine Tasting,” I quickly realized what a chore it was for consumers to find interesting online wine events.

Mobile screenshot from https://virtualwineevents.com/

Unless someone is actively following lots of wineries, wine schools, bloggers, etc., most of these events float under the radar. Yet, there’s clearly a growing interest even in a post-Covid future.

One silver lining emerging from this pandemic is that it has encouraged us to embrace digital tools like never before. Zoom is not going away, neither are Facebook and IG Live events. Everyday consumers are getting comfortable connecting with people and brands from across the globe on these platforms. Even when things get back to semi-normal, there’s always going to be an audience for online wine events.

We just need an easier way to find them.

VirtualWineEvents.com

I have to give credit to my wife, Beth, a former Google site reliability manager, for developing this site. She not only noticed that the domain name was available (as well as onlinewineevents.com) but that Google Trends was showing people searching for these terms. She had been itching to play around with wine-related technology in her quarantine downtime so, after a couple of weeks of work, we launched the site this weekend–already populated with over 200 events.

US Search terms

Google Trends in the US for Virtual Wine Tasting and Online Wine Tasting

Global search terms

Global results

This is a free tool for wineries, educators and other small businesses to promote their wine events.

While I will be managing the site and uploading events as I find them, it’s designed to be easy for anyone to use. All you have to do to upload an event is to create a login via FaceBook or Google. We also have an email login option that we’ll keep as long as it’s not being abused. The aim is to maintain some accountability on who is submitting events.

Once you’ve created a login, you can input an event on any date by filling in the details below. The listing will then need to be approved by admins who will make sure it is a legitimate event before going live.

Input page on Virtual Wine events

The timezone is based on the login IP of the submitter (in my case, Central European Time). For global visitors to the site, the time will be adjusted to their own time zone.

Future Developments in the Works

We just launched the site this weekend with several more features slated to be added–including some front-end design work and the ability to upload photos. But three significant items coming soon:

1.) Social media share buttons on each event listing so that consumers can easily post to their SM accounts events that they are interested in.

2.) An “Interested” icon that consumers can select to highlight events that intrigue them. This will contribute to a Reddit-style “Trending Events” listing that will appear on the main page to highlight future events that are garnering the most interest. While the homepage for today’s events will always list things in order of what’s coming up next, future calendar dates will elevate to the top more popular events for higher visibility.

3.) A back-edit feature to upload links to recordings of events that have passed. As I noted in my previous article, the long term benefit of virtual wine tastings and other online wine events is that this is content that can keep working for you.

Search results on Virtual Wine Events include several of the most recent past events that are relevant to the query. Like this example of what someone would see searching for a wine event about New Zealand.

NZ Search

Items that have a post-event recording available will have a special tag noting this for users to check out.

Another feature that will come a little further down the road is the ability to subscribe to be notified of events based on keywords such as a favorite winery or wine region. This way, whenever an event that matches is submitted, the consumer will automatically get an email notification of it.

How can wineries use this tool effectively?

Mobile view VWE

Mobile view of events.

While I highly encourage wineries to start using VirtualWineEvents.com as another promotion tool, you’ll quickly notice poking around the site that there are A LOT of online wine events happening. And more are popping up every day. So to maximize your reach, keep a couple tips in mind.

1.) Have a Catchy Title. Something more than just “Virtual Tasting with the Winemaker”–stuff. On mobile, all people are going to see at first is this title, so make it count. Do you have a particular theme like “The Battle of the Zins” or “Wines to convert Chardonnay-skeptics,” etc.? Think of something that is going to make folks want to click on your event.

2.) Have a Good Landing Page. This is the link that your event title goes to. Ideally, if it is an event that requires registration, you want the landing page to be that registration page. Consumers will lose interest if you make them have to click through multiple links.

3.) Make the Description Worthwhile. The search function pulls from the event title and description box. You want to make sure that if someone is looking for an event on Pinot noir, yoga, natural wine, etc., that they’re going to find you.

Any feedback or suggestions would be much appreciated!

As you can tell, this is still a work in progress. You can email me at amber@spitbucket.net with comments as well as hit me up on the Virtual Wine Events Twitter handle, @VirtualWineEvts.

This will definitely be a valuable tool for connecting consumers with wineries and other small businesses. The potential of online events is limitless and go far beyond just virtual wine tasting and webinars. There are folks hosting murder mystery parties, cooking and painting classes, R&B social events, trivia quizzes, watch parties for movies & YouTube premieres, etc. Long after we’ve emerged from our Covid slumber, there will still be consumers interested in online wine events.

Hopefully now they will be easier to find.

Subscribe to Spitbucket

New posts sent to your email!