Building a community online is now crucial if you are looking to sell wine or spirits direct to consumers. In fact it is important even if you are relying on traditional routes to market. Consumers are increasingly looking to get closer to the brands, retailers and services they trust and believe in. Jeremy Thomson, founder of Common Collective,
explains how brands and operators can use effective social media and content to create a community online that can eventually become your customer base and biggest fans.
As more brands and producers look to connect with their target customers online they are looking at ways they can build their own communities, explains Jeremy Thomson of Common Collective.
One of the things I see every time I talk to brands about communities is that they are not an overnight success – it takes time to build a team of advocates. You need to be patient and put some time and effort in for this to be successful. Saying that, the results you see when you do it properly can be staggering and, more importantly, forecastable. But to be successful building a community, you need a plan – a strategy everyone in the business can get bought into and get involved to make it work.
How to build a community
Start with your audience and base it around them. I wrote about defining you audience here, so run through the exercise on that post as a first step. You have to think about what they are going to find valuable, rather than just what you want to talk about. Next, think about your channels, you can find an overview of what is useful here but when it comes to building a community your most important will be social media and email.
Both these channels are content based which requires time and effort. One of the things I hear about content creation and creating regularity is that people don’t have any time (and that’s ok). There are companies out there that can do this for you, but you still need to be in charge of it and have some ownership, otherwise it will never feel like your brand. Experience has shown me that when you have a plan of action, you are much more likely to carry it out, so that is always the starting point.
A good rule to base your content around is an 80-20 rule. Eighty per cent of the time you should be giving something of value that people would want to read and engage with. Only 20% of the time are you allowed to sell anything. This is the same across all channels and is often where people fall down. You can probably think about some brands you follow or get emails from that you resonate with, and it won’t be the sales emails that bring you closer to their brand, but the content led ones, and it should be the same for your business.
The ‘why’ of building a community comes down to brand building and customer retention. This is an area where you can be completely unique in everyone’s mind. The normal person may not know enough about wine to tell the difference between yourself and your competition or to know if they like wines that have had malolactic fermentation or not, so the content you push out can give them an insight into the brand and help it go beyond your product.
Do’s of community building
DO – think of your audience first. This isn’t about you, it is about them. What do they want to see?
DO – think beyond social media. It is a great place to grow a community but there might be some other places you can do that.
DO – Use video! Video is huge on social media. Engagement figures of video vs picture are drastically different, and the social platforms are putting much more emphasis onto posts including videos in their algorithms, so they will make you much more visible. Behind the scenes, production, talking about how you make it – they don’t have to be long, they can be 30 seconds and filmed on a phone (I would just advise using a tripod rather than some shaky hands!). You can mention things that have gone badly – It is fair to assume you have probably had an issue before in your winery or business? Animals coming through and messing things up, a label malfunction, an epic wine spill or something else – the likelihood is that you will all have had something at some time. Turn it into a positive – film it get it out there. Let your consumers see what it is really like to do what you do, you might even get some sympathy!
DO – link your stories to your products where you can and where applicable – it just doesn’t have to be a sales message every time.
DO – push other people’s content – it isn’t just about you. Who is based nearby that you like and could promote? The favour will likely be reciprocated and then you are in front of a brand new audience.
DO – think about influencers. They can get bad press but they can be really useful – they don’t even have to be wine focused, they just have to be speaking to your target audience.
DO – think mobile. Most social media usership is now through a phone, so think about the screen size when you post.
Dont’s of community building
DON’T – Give it to an intern because ‘they understand all that stuff’. Think about your audience, they might not need to see the up to date emoji game an intern can bring. If you are targeting 50+ wine lovers they might need something different than an intern can provide. An intern can still do it for you, and they might have a better understanding of the platforms which can be great, but you need to provide them with clear guidance and a structured plan to carry out to make the most of it.
DON’T – just post sales images and look out for yourself, people will start ignoring you quite quickly.
DON’T – post irregularly or people will start forgetting you. You can start at once a week to make it manageable and try and ramp it up – but don’t forget.
Which platforms are the right ones
Social media is all about community so think Facebook, Instagram and potentially LinkedIn, depending on your focus. Facebook and Instagram have slightly different demographics so think about this when you allocate your time, but you can post on both at the same time. Facebook and, even more, Instagram are incredibly visual platforms so think of video and pictures to match the words. It is these things that stop people scrolling and lead them to read you words.
Email can’t be overlooked as a huge platform to keep in touch with people that might have experienced your brand, whether that is through cellar door, past purchases or meeting at an event. Grab their details to stay in touch and as long as you pass them genuine value it will work better than constant sales message. I worked with a winery that had a huge bank of emails but had never used them, and once we started, we found a huge community waiting to speak to, who were happy to be contacted because we did it in the right way.
How to monetise your community
Social media is not a direct response channel – you won’t see revenue for every post. You might occasionally, maybe if you are having a sale or something similar, but email is where you will make your revenue. People are used to buying in this method but remember the 80-20 rule and don’t make every email sales based. In my experience, I have seen email as a really forecastable way to drive direct to consumer revenue from your community that you can almost set you watch to.
- Jeremy Thomson runs Common Collective, a wine-based marketing company that helps brands get in control of their community and create a plan of action for growing it. You can find him at www.commoncollective.co.uk or on Instagram @Alexander_the_grape.