Once upon a time, back before social media and broadband internet access, growing sales for your winery was much like growing the grapes themselves. It could take years of careful planning for your business to bear fruit. Clinching deals with distributors and being lucky enough to have people actually want to come visit your winery were cause for celebration.
But now, everything moves faster. Winery businesses unable to carve out their niche can quickly wither and die. However, those able to cultivate a positive online reputation can see their brand grow bountifully. Through clever winery marketing strategies, solid branding, and continual attention to your role in online conversations, your winery can find substantial growth and success.
The fact is that while competition is more abundant than ever, so are opportunities. The number of wineries in the U.S. quadrupled from 2002 to 2012, and premium wine segments have been seeing double digit growth in the past few years.
Many factors have contributed to this flourishing of winery businesses, but online visibility and reputation management for vineyards has played a huge part.
So what can your winery do to find its way into millions of glasses rather than die on the vine? Carefully controlling your online reputation like you would the fermentation of a rare vintage is key. Here are 11 critical strategies you can use to increase your chances of success.
1. Be a Destination
A winery is not just a place to grow grapes. It’s a vision of what the world should be like. If you aren’t sure what we mean, then think about the amount of people who come to visit and say, “I would give anything to live here like you do.”
That’s because wineries take us out of the rigors of our daily lives and introduce us to aspects of life we aren’t accustomed to seeing. Unobstructed views. Rolling hills of green. Nature and humans intermingling together. Life at a different pace.
These qualities are all what most people really go to a winery to experience. The fruity or dry vintages are just a nice way to top it all off.
To help your own reputation, pay close attention to how well your facilities capture this sense of peacefulness and magic. Try to evoke a simpler time in your architecture, and make nature the showcase of your grounds. If you want a more modern or industrial take for your vineyard, be deliberately artistic with this interpretation.
You can also create standout areas for your guests to gush over, such as a butterfly garden or a decorative pond with tranquil seating. Specified areas for dogs and young kids are especially popular.
The end goal is for every angle of your facility to be extremely photogenic. This will help sell visits to your winery through social media and on review sites. It will also encourage visitors to photograph themselves and share their experience with their friends.
Remember that going viral is a grassroots effort people see something they can’t help but share and that others want to experience for themselves. Even if your aim is to earn more sales through distribution, branding your headquarters can still affect how positively people see your brand and how readily they recognize it. Who can think of Disney now without thinking of Disneyworld?
2. Make Your Wine Stand Out
Wine should be like a good character in a movie — you want to be able to pick it out of the lineup.
Beermakers have the advantage in this sense in that they can introduce all sorts of crazy things during the brewing process, whereas wineries generally approach winemaking from a traditionalist point of view.
This is ok! What makes your wine unique doesn’t necessarily have to do with its flavor. It can be a unique design motif that appears on all your bottles. It could be that your grapes are grown in compost created 100% from recycled food scraps of regional restaurants. It could be that you classify all of your products as great culinary wines that pair well with particular ethnic cuisines.
As long as your wines have some sort of defining characteristic, people will remember them. They will also have a focalizing point in conversations, such as, “Oh, you mean the guys who use food scraps, right?”
Being distinguishable aids your brand’s efforts at getting awareness and recognition online while helping you own a particular niche of the market. Be bold, not subtle, and you will gain momentum for spreading your reputation online. This will help you earn winery visits, but it will especially help when people make choices at the store or at their local bar/restaurant.
3. Offer Unparalleled Customer Experiences
Having a solid reputation is as much about what you don’t do wrong as it is about what you do right.
Case in point: just one bad customer experience is enough to make your winery go viral for all the wrong reasons.
On the other hand, consistently positive reviews can strengthen your reputation and differentiate you from competitors, such as wineries located in the same area as you.
Remember that online reviews count for a lot, too. Over half of people consult reviews “always” or “often.” Also, more people trust online reviews as their most trusted source of information — even more than friends, family or colleagues.
Every review counts, and therefore every experience counts. Drill home the importance of consistent customer service to every member of your staff, and explain the need not to let small setbacks get in the way of their ability to deliver an outstanding experience every time. Dictate strict quality control throughout every part of the winemaking process, as well.
Define policies for moments when a disagreement or guest concern arises, and keep a professional face even if you have to say “no” to a request repeatedly. There’s a reason Disney World calls their workers “cast members.” They have a role to play, and breaking character is verboten — even in the event you have to ask someone (politely yet firmly) to leave.
4. Take Every Customer Complaint Seriously
Vamping off the previous point, there will be moments where your best efforts still go sour. You can’t please everyone, after all, and misunderstandings do happen.
In these instances, don’t go on the defensive. Instead, determine what the guest needs to feel like their issue was resolved. In most cases, the damage done to their experience has become emotional rather than some sort of objective concern. You will have to express that you do care about each guest and that their concerns are valid. Explain that you want nothing more than them to come back and see what your winery is really capable of.
Avoid disagreeing with their take or making excuses for what happened, lest the encounter devolve into “he said, she said.” The only exception is if you have a firm policy in place, which should have been clearly expressed to them at the time in the first place.
For people being truly unreasonable and whom you can’t console, you do have the option to have certain reviews removed. Contact the review site directly, and use as much concrete information as possible to back up your side of the story. Try as hard as you can, because each one-star or negative review is like a teaspoon of poison in the well.
You can look for other strategies for dealing with negative reviewers in this excellent OPEN Forum post.
5. Treat Online Reviews and Social Mentions as Valuable Data
Still on the subject of online reviews, you should consider them one of your most valuable sources of public feedback. Take the time to create notes based on common recurring positives and negatives you hear.
Important data points to consider are:
Praise for specific facility features.
Things guests wish you had.
Differences between local, regional and out-of-state reviews.
Mentions of specific events or limited-time product releases.
Descriptions of rude workers or of workers who were particularly helpful.
You don’t have to rely just on specific ratings-based reviews, either. Social listening tools can let you monitor mentions of your company name, your products, or your regional industry niche, such as the phrase “wineries near Sacramento.”
Compile all of this information into a document, and decide ways to act upon it when forming your quarterly or yearly marketing strategies.
For reviews of your products, don’t take them personally. Everyone has different tastes; your sales figures tell the real story.
6. Work With Others in the Community to Create Can’t-Miss Events
A great way to boost your reputation and generate considerable buzz is through an event at your winery or in your local area. The best events involve a collaboration with people in your local or industry community. Invite a locally famous band, or invite a restaurant out to run a pop-up catering event on your winery grounds.
You can also invite industry experts to give lectures or instructions on skills like wine tasting technique. These events can excite enthusiasts and possibly even draw others in your industry out, such as distribution reps or staff from other wineries.
Collaborating in this way effectively doubles your audience by marrying your existing influence base to whomever you happen to collaborate with. You also give people double the reason to come visit, and FOMO (fear of missing out) has become one of the strongest draws for people seeking to do something different during their week.
7. Use Smart PR Strategy to Evolve Your Brand by Giving Back
We hope this doesn’t come across as cynical because it decidedly isn’t. The fact is that charitable giving not only strengthens the image of your brand from multiple angles, but it also helps balance out your priorities as a business owner or marketing manager.
If you’re throwing fundraisers for local animal shelters or organizing a 5k for needy kids, then you end up focusing on more than just your bottom line. Instead, you’re meaningfully making your community a better place. You also help support causes you’re passionate about by synergistically combining them with your operations.
Charity-related events also bring coverage outside the standard social media post or “Events Around Town” mention. You could earn coverage from local news affiliates, a statement of appreciation from the causes you support, or a profile in industry publications.
To maximize attendance to these events and the awareness they generate, release a PR statement both before and after to relevant newswires. These releases provide significant exposure potential for SEO and help color your reputation when people search for your brand name online.
8. Make Every Piece of Content Picture Perfect
The biggest difference the internet made for winery marketing wasn’t search engines or review sites. It was content.
Just about everything accessible online is either content or a link to content. Heck, most blog articles these days are just sharing tweets the author found.
If you’ll notice above, a lot of the advice we’ve offered thus far has to do with shaping the content others post about your business. We advise making your winery more “Instagrammable,” providing conditions that lead to good reviews, tips for making your brand more identifiable, and so on.
The good news is that you can post content of your own that you don’t have to shape or guide indirectly. Instead, you get to pick what’s said about your brand.
That’s why getting content right is critical — both from a visual and language perspective. Everything you write should be professional and in line with your desired brand image.
If possible, try to work in your winery’s most defining characteristics within the words you choose for your blogs, web pages, social posts, and such. For example, instead of just writing about “Things to Do This Spring” and mentioning an event you’re hosting, open up with how important nature and sunshine are to the quality of your wines.
More importantly, try to provide a visual element to everything you post. Visual posts, like photos and videos, made up 80% of all Facebook content in 2016 and earned 92% of the share of all interactions. Visuals get people engaged, and they can shape the image of your brand as much as, if not more, than the text you use.
Smart use of visual content can be especially effective if you want to establish a particular connection to your brand. Announce a summer wine with an image of people picnicking, or a wine with strong berry notes surrounded by fresh fruit. Associations like these are easy to forge and hard to shake.
9. Keep the Conversation Flowing Online
Chatting with people at your winery is one of the best ways to make a solid impression, but you don’t have to be there in person to make these magical conversations happen. Instead, keep a watchful eye on engagement with your social pages or branded mentions people have. Take the time to thank at least a few people every week. Address others’ concerns and questions. Leave a comment at an event you attended saying, “Thank you! We had a great time!”
Actions like these spread your footprints around while making your brand appear more human. Both are essential to improving brand recognition and recall.
10. Develop Relationships With Others in Your Industry
Remember that wineries aren’t just marketing to consumers. You also have to woo distributors, grocery chains, restaurateurs, journalists, trade associations and others.
You can use most of the tactics above with some slight adjustments to win hearts and minds. Reaching out directly is even more important.
For instance, you can attend meetings for trade associations. Or, you could invite local chefs out for a special catered dinner at your vineyard.
Once you have a relationship with others in your industry, you can leverage them to expand your visibility online. Just imagine having a prix fixe dinner at a local culinary hotspot where each course is paired with one of your wines. Or, what if a chain like Safeway had a special on all your wines that they advertised online and in their local mailers?
Occurrences like these don’t just happen by accident. They are the result of hard work, attention to detail, and a commitment to making friends who can be in your corner when you want to seize business opportunities.
11. Ensure Your Social Media Marketing, Content Marketing, Branding, and PR Strategies Are All Aligned
Developing a positive online reputation for your winery is a team effort. We aren’t just talking about the people you work with! “Team” also refers to how your various marketing and business components work together to establish a visible, definable, and positive reputation for your business online.
As an example, if your winery has family-friendly facilities, why not extend that aspect of your other marketing assets?
- Business Blog: Write about fun things to do in your region with young kids.
- Distributor and Retailer Collateral: Use images of families enjoying themselves while the parents sip wine.
- Social Media: Highlight can’t-miss events for families coming up, such as a special kids’ screening of an animated classic.
- Website: Talk about how your staff and owners are all a part of the same family.
Consistency is key! Each interaction can reinforce the next, like mosaic tiles creating a picture of your brand reputation that is impossible to miss for people browsing online.
There’s no escaping social media marketing as a modern real estate agent. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and even Snapchat have become essential components of digital marketing for real estate.
No matter what your feelings are on social media or how you use it personally, the enormous audiences and powerful tools social platforms provide offer huge advantages no agent could pass up.
In fact, we thought of 14 huge benefits of social media marketing that make it a necessity for the real estate industry. For anyone who doesn’t want to invest their time in social marketing or thinks it won’t provide them enough returns, these reasons should provide more than enough motivation to change their mind.
So keep reading if you want to find out 14 ways social media marketing for real estate agents can provide big gains for your real estate agency as well as how to get the biggest returns from the least amount of effort.
Earn Access to Huge Audiences
The first thing to recognize about social media is that it’s absolutely staggering how many people use it.
According to Pew Research, 69% of the American public uses at least one social media platform regularly. People under 50 are well above this average, with 86% of those 18–29 using social media, and 80% of 30–49 year olds are using it, too. Perhaps most surprising of all is how many people past retirement age engage with social media. Pew data shows that 34% of those 65 and up have an active social account.
Facebook remains the most popular platform, with 68% of adult Americans having an active account. That’s nearly 172 million people in this country alone! Globally, Facebook has over 2 billion users who log in at least once a month.
Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter also all have fairly high use in the 20% range.
Imagine if a print ad or billboard had the potential to reach an audience of these sizes!
While logic may dictate that you won’t actually be serving content and ads to all 2 billion people, tools like targeted ads and hashtags can quickly earn you audiences of thousands — maybe even hundreds of thousands — of people strong.
In turn, you get massive exposure and reach for your listings, offers, events and anything else you want to broadcast to the world.
Social Media Helps Find Leads for Listings
The most obvious use of social media is as a tool for sharing home listings in your area.
Now, we advise against blasting everyone under the sun with new home listings throughout the week. Ideally, the content you create for your own social accounts is only 20% advertising/promotional and 80% oriented towards providing your audience with value. People refer to this unscientific maxim as “the 80/20 rule.”
That said, people who are looking for homes will appreciate the listing information when they stumble upon it. One of your social followers could also see the listing and share it with a friend, family member, or associate currently on the hunt for a house.
According to the latest National Association of Realtors (NAR) data, 44% of people start the home buying process by looking for listings online. 95% end up looking online for listings or information during the home buying process, including 99% of millennials and 89% of older baby boomers.
Services like Zillow and Redfin aren’t the only place people expect to see listings, either. Social media shares from friends, targeted ads, and general browsing all play a role in discovering new home listings.
These leads actually work, too — 43% of buyers first saw the home they ended up closing on within an online listing.
Create a New, Direct Point of Contact Through Social Messaging
Most social media platforms offer a direct messaging service. People feel more comfortable, especially those in younger generations, using these services compared to sending emails or placing phone calls.
In fact, some social media messaging tools have become as popular as sending a text. Facebook Messenger reports 1.3 billion monthly users globally, putting it neck-and-neck with the world’s most popular message platform, WhatsApp.
What does this mean for you? If someone has a question about homes or real estate agent services in your area, they can reach out directly to you through social. Social messaging offers convenience and near-instant gratification for them.
If you monitor your messages closely and respond quickly, you can easily gain new leads directly from social while skipping everything else in your marketing funnel. It sounds too good to be true, but people love contacting companies through social these days! It’s why Facebook added a “Responds to Messages” response time metric on business pages recently.
Targeted Ad Campaigns Help You Pinpoint Active Buyers/Sellers
You don’t want to annoy everyone with constant sharing home listings and self-promotion, but you can show listings to people actively looking for homes or agents online through paid ads.
Targeting features on sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn let you serve up low-cost ads to demographics of your choosing. You can share listings of brand new homes going up in a new community to locals, for instance. You can also target people in a certain income range with listings for gorgeous luxury properties. Heck, you can even look up people who recently “liked” or “followed” a competitor, helping you serve up ads that force the agent to share exposure.
By targeting the right audience, you dramatically increase the relevance of your messaging. You also avoid wasting money on serving ads to people who aren’t in the market at all.
When looking at specific platforms, the targeting possibilities get even more interesting.
Facebook Targeting Can Find People Going Through Life Changes
One of the top reasons people go out and buy a new home is that they’ve gone through significant life changes. They may have just gotten married and want to start a new life together, for instance. Or, they may have just had their first child — or second, or third, or fourth….
Sudden situational shifts like these put people’s lives in limbo. One minute, they’re planning a wedding. The next, they get back from their honeymoon and realize they don’t want to share an apartment. This makes them ripe for your ads and organic content.
People absolutely love broadcasting big life events on Facebook, too. They often directly signal this by changing data points, like switching their “Relationship Status” to “Engaged” or “Married.”
Facebook recognizes these changes, and they actively let advertisers select people who recently went through them. In other words: you can be the first home listing a newly engaged couple sees long before they officially cut the cake.
You can also serve ads to people who recently had a child or to empty-nesters who are thinking about downsizing. Getting creative with ad targeting can yield powerful recipes for generating leads — showing people the right listing or message at the exact right time in their lives.
LinkedIn Targeting Can Find People Relocating for a Job
Speaking of life changes, one of the other most common reasons people buy and sell houses is that they’ve had a job change.
LinkedIn can help you target these individuals. In fact, since people often indicate areas they have interest in moving to even before they get a new job, you can use ad targeting to help them hunt for a new home at the same time they hunt for new jobs.
Other options include creating groups offering locally based advice to new recruits in your area. You could even start a relationship with a recruiter and become their go-to gal or guy any time a new employee is moving into town. By helping make employee relocation easier, you’re actually doing them a favor, so don’t overlook the power of advertising directly to other businesses on LinkedIn.
Geographical Targeting Helps You Pinpoint Home Sellers Looking for Representation
Geography-based ad targeting provides you with a great tool to find home sellers in your area. You can broadcast your services regularly to your locality through regional and local targeting settings. If you play your cards right, you can generate leads for home sellers months or even years before they actually consider selling.
Finding home buyers for your region through geography-based advertising is a little trickier, but you can find people relocating. For instance, if you have properties in a desirable, up-and-coming area of a town, you can target people in older neighborhoods that have lost their lustre.
Additionally, targeting locals with home listings can facilitate sharing between friendly social media accounts. Just imagine the joy on someone’s face when they’re moving close to a friend or family member who says, “Hey! I may have found the perfect house for you!”
Share Gorgeous Photos, Videos, and Virtual Tours to Keep People Home Shopping Forever
Few people love ads, but nearly everyone loves art. And homes can certainly be among the finest works of art within a local community.
You can further accentuate the beauty of a home by hiring a professional photographer or videographer to capture it in just the right light — both figuratively and literally. Stunning architectural photos even have their own niche on platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. People who don’t have the slightest interest in home shopping may still want to see well-shot photos and video of homes in their area.
There’s also an intense level of consumer appeal to sharing this content. Many people who just buy a new car end up continually researching other models. Home buyers can also feel the same way — searching to see what else there is out there that they could dream about owning.
This aspirational researching and browsing can sometimes lead to both indirect and direct leads. Someone may decide that they want to move again, or they can share a listing with a friend while saying “Man, this is the house I wish I had bought!”
The level of interest can go up when you feature unique interactive elements with your home listing. Showcasing virtual tours of your home, for instance, can get people interested in exploring properties nearby. According to NAR data, half of people buying homes found virtual tours “very useful.”
Showcase Informative Industry Content to Keep Your Agency Top of Mind
Home buying and selling is a complex process that a huge portion of people nevertheless have to go through. Just getting started can be intimidating, and lots of people want information so they don’t make mistakes and don’t get “burned” during the process.
When looking for this information, most people turn to the Internet. In fact, the NAR says that 13% of people (and 18% of millennials) looked for information about home buying as their very first step.
A wealth of information real estate agents and their industry associates can share that people will find useful is readily available. Topics can range anywhere from “How to Spot Mold Damage” to “How to Save Money During Closing.”
Writing your own articles on a blog and then sharing them on social is therefore one of the best ways to drive traffic to your real estate website. You can provide benefits to people actively considering buying or selling their home, and you can also offer value to homeowners in general.
By getting people to read and engage with this content, you increase the chances that they remember you first when considering real estate agent services. You can also keep them regularly engaged with your posts so that they can get the occasional nuggets of information they love.
Earn Email Signups More Easily
The same tactics that can draw social media users to your website can encourage email signups and other conversions onto your marketing contacts list. You can direct them to your website through content teasers, for instance, and use a prominent lead capture form nearby to encourage them to sign up.
You can also earn signups directly in Facebook now thanks to their new Lead Ads format. This type of ad shows up as a banner and then turns into a sign-up sheet when clicked. Since people often don’t want to leave apps while browsing on their smartphone, advanced ad formats like these have transformed digital marketing for real estate agents.
Create a Hub Page for Events Like Open Houses and Local Sponsorships
By using social media marketing for real estate agents, you can provide a convenient anchor page and invite tool for any events you are hosting. Whether you have an upcoming property open house or you are participating in a local event like a charity fundraiser, giving people a convenient place to get event information is important.
Facebook and LinkedIn tools also let you send out invites to the event based on people within your followers and marketing lists. They can indicate whether or not they plan to come, giving you valuable data that provides you anticipates attendance numbers. Most importantly, anyone who indicates that they are “going” to your event can receive a convenient reminder when the time comes near.
Embed Social Links on Your Listings for Easy Sharing
Social media can benefit you outside of your social pages, too!
A great example is how you can add social sharing widgets to your listings and other content. By providing a convenient button for sharing, you can increase the reach for your articles, home listings and everything else on your website.
Some sites even allow for embedded commenting or post uploads, turning your real estate agent website into a hub for both listings, new informative content and social engagement.
Create or Interact With Groups to Boost Visibility and Leads
Social media groups provide guidance and support to community members. You can join these groups and participate as a voice of local knowledge. Groups you participate in don’t even have to be directly involved with real estate, either. For instance, if you have a hobby you can contribute your voice to fellow enthusiasts in the area.
Your participation drives up awareness of your brand and multiplies opportunities for people to be exposed to your content. And, if the group requests it or has an interest in real estate transactions, you can use group posts to keep everyone informed about home listings and upcoming events.
Earn Positive Reviews and Showcase Glowing Testimonials
Facebook and other social media platforms give you the opportunity to earn reviews from your past clients. After your page is properly set up, you can send out a polite request to everyone you’ve worked with for a review. You can also ask for reviews at the end of your transaction with a buyer or seller.
Remember that your peers can review you, too! Just remember to stay ethical by not telling them what to say or not suggesting that their review must be positive.
Social media also works well as a platform for showcasing happy past clients. You can keep Facebook and Instagram followers updated on recent successful closes, for example. Or, you can take a moment to interview your new happy homeowner or recent home seller to provide content for your social pages.
People tend to respond well to people-based ads and happy stories, so play up the human angle and emotion of these testimonials using powerful imagery combined with text.
Set Up Social Monitoring Alerts for Instant Lead Gen
Many other positive benefits and amazing uses of social media exist that you can explore for yourself. As one last note, though, we want to suggest setting up a social monitoring tool that alerts you to certain keyword phrases in your area.
For instance, you can set a tool Hootsuite to alert you anytime someone asks Twitter about “homes for sale near Ranchos Palos Verdes” or wherever you happen to sell homes. Even though the person may only be expecting an answer from their friend group, you can swoop in and politely direct them to your listings.