Videos from Jordan; learning to cook with Amelia Ceja

NORTH BAY – Wineries are starting to make extensive use of the Internet and social networks to keep in touch with customers.

“The media landscape has shifted where consumers are getting more and more information directly from companies,” said Lisa Mattson, communications director for Jordan Vineyard and Winery in Healdsburg.

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“Companies of all kinds, and wineries in particular, are trying to get closer with the consumer.”

She said just like in traditional marketing, there is the question of how to tell the story, but with photos and video, there is so much more.

Kate Shields has been the director of hospitality at Schug Carneros Estate Winery for eight and a half years. The winery is on Facebook and Twitter. She said she is not exactly sure of the return on investment yet, but it is useful in making customers aware of what is going on.

“It makes them feel like they are part of the winery,” she said.

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Where before people may not have thought about things like the harvest or bud break, now average wine drinkers can be involved in the process more fully.

“This time Sonoma County is leading the way,” said Ms. Mattson. “Usually Napa does things first.”

St. Supery, Ceja Vineyards and Jordan Vineyard and Winery are some of the wineries using YouTube to bring people even closer to the scene.

Jordan is posting videos weekly, ranging from the winemaker talking about the wine to the chef talking about recipe contests.

“If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then a video is with 300,000,” Ms. Mattson said.

Kim Stare Wallace, owner of Dry Creek Vineyard, has been blogging about winery life since January of 2008. Her blog, Wilma’s Wine World, talks about being the owner of a family winery, a Sonoma County resident and a mother and wife.

Ceja Vineyards in Napa Valley is also using social media to engage and educate customers across the country.

Ceja has videos featuring creation of the vineyard’s bocce ball court, free salsa Saturday events at the tasting salon and tours of the wine cellar.

Viewers learn to cook a meal and pair it with the right wine. The videos have been very successful in improving the customer experience and driving repeat business.

“Social media puts us on the same playing field as big companies,” said Amelia Ceja, the company president. “Without spending a lot of money, we can win potential customers and enhance customer loyalty. It gives us an opportunity to be creative in how we build our brand presence.”

Murphy Goode got a lot of press last year when the call went out for a wine blogger. It was an unusual post because it advertised for a $10,000 a month, six-month contract.

The winery hired Hardy Wallace of Atlanta for the job. He was already a wine blogger – Dirty South Wine is his creation – and has finished up his contract only to be offered a job with Jackson Family Wines.

In other areas of social media, last year eWinery Solutions, a company focusing on wine industry e-commerce solutions, joined forces with VinoVisit.com.

They are marketing an integrated visitor reservation system for wineries.

“We set out to build the first winery search engine with real-time reservations dedicated to making planning and booking visits to wineries fun and easy for wine country visitors,” said Dan Lintz, CEO of VinoVisit.com. “We offer visitors winery profiles, including thousands of exclusive photographs, visitor reviews and our proprietary multi-day itinerary-building with matching turn-by-turn directions.”

One challenge when looking for someone to represent the winery online, said Ms. Mattson of Jordan, is finding someone that understands your brand and can communicate in a brand-appropriate way.

“People are hungry for information,” Ms. Mattson said. “Consumers want to know what happens inside the winery, and that desire for an inside look lends itself to that kind of marketing.”

But she warns against just having anyone taking care of the Facebook and Twitter accounts.

“I really believe you can’t farm out your own voice,” she said. “You need to know your brand essence and know how to make it look good.”