In 2008 in Wine: A Global Business (Second Edition), I wrote the following about Facebook:
Currently wineries are having a difficult time determining how best to take advantage of this communications channel. It may well be that the best way to leverage social networks and the vast amounts of data contained in them will be in interpreting, rather than influencing, consumer preferences.”
That was 2 years ago. In the period since, Facebook has tried to address the problem that wineries and other businesses were facing. Namely, “How do we use Facebook to sell stuff?”
Facebook’s answer, in December 2009, was the following: “We will give you unfettered access to folks’ public and private information.”
While this doesn’t specifically answer the question of how to use people’s private information to sell them things, it does answer the question of what business Facebook is in, and how they plan to monetize their user base. Moreover, it makes crystal clear the types of tactics businesses will be required to engage in to try and leverage the “vast amounts of data.” With this out in the open, it is now incumbent on wineries and brands to decide if they want to engage with Facebook on these terms.
The answer for all wine brands, indeed all business who value the trust and loyalty they have cultivated in their customer base, must be a resounding “No.”
The danger for wine brands in continuing to use Facebook as a sales and marketing channel are legion, but perhaps the most compelling reason is relationships.
Direct to consumer is now vital for the health and survival of even medium to large wine brands. This direct relationship is based on trust. While most users might not know it yet, Facebook is quickly taking on water. It is a sinking ship. Key influencers are deleting their accounts and the media, which loves to tear down that which it has built up, is quickly jumping on the bandwagon and beginning to dig in earnest.
Very soon it will become exceedingly clear that allowing random strangers, businesses, criminals and perverts to see photos of you that have been uploaded by “friends” without your consent, and who have then “tagged” you in them for anyone to find is a gross invasion of privacy. Indeed, there is only one set of people who stand to suffer more than Facebook after their ham-fisted and greedy attempt to monetize a service they don’t have the courage to charge access for: Companies.
Bottom line: Even if you never plan to advertise or otherwise leverage Facebook’s “social graph,” You do not want your brand tainted, even by association, by the sh*tstorm that is engulfing Facebook.
(You’ve heard about the movie, right?)
Many wineries and wine brands have been reluctant to embrace social media because they didn’t see the benefit. In short, they were risk averse.
I say unto you now, there can be no doubt that the risks of maintaining a presence on, and thus providing a tacit endorsement of, Facebook far outweigh any benefits you can possibly think to imagine. Act accordingly.
You can delete your Facebook account here: http://www.facebook.com/help/contact.php?show_form=delete_account .