Wine Influencers (Part I)
Behind the label
Social media has made some waves in the last decade, to say the least. Relatively speaking social media is still in its infancy and continues to evolve and change as influencers and creators look to tame the beast and understand the rules and nuances. Currently, Instagram users are locked in a battle with Adam Mosseri (Instagram’s Head of Underpants). Adam has been looking to change the platform into a video-sharing network as a direct competitor to Tik Tok.
So Instagram is over. It’s official. Before you finish reading this sentence, my blog post might be a piece of historical literature.
Whatever niche you’re into, books, beauty, brunch or booze. A corner of social media covers it, picks it apart, and attempts to offer it through an aesthetic lens. Wine lovers will undoubtedly have come across “winestagram” and wondered what in the Bonne Maman is going on with so called wine influencers.
I started my account to connect with wine lovers studying for WSET. I love writing, photography, and, as much as possible, making life look beautiful, even when by all accounts it’s not.
In the first few months, I would buy all my wine. All of it with my own money. I was curious and hungry (thirsty?!) to try as many different things as possible.
Slowly, the more I grew in followers and the more engaged my audience became, something interesting started to happen. Brands and PR companies contacted me regarding samples (that’s the wine). I’ve now reached the dizzying heights of checks notes 8,351 Instagram followers. So I’m a pretty big deal /s.
Why do they want to send you samples?
The client wants the wine in front of an organic audience that you have grown and cultivated. It’s an excellent way of reaching people they might otherwise not have contact with. Influencers get slammed on wine twitter for this, but it’s just advertising. It’s access to someone else’s Rolodex of contacts.
Do you have to feature the samples on your page?
Here is where things get a little murkier. Without a written agreement, there is no obligation for influencers to post about the samples you’ve received. Of course, the PR hopes you will feature their wine somewhere. Suppose you want to sustain a relationship with a brand or PR company. In that case, it can feel a little pressured to produce content so that you remain relevant and on PR lists. As you grow, you tend to feel protective of the audience and the relationships you have carefully cultivated. Access to them by brands should not be easily bought.
If you decide to feature a sample on your page, it’s a good idea to label it. My preference is AD | Press Product. This lets people know that you have been sent this wine and have not parted with your own money. A subtle but important distinction for those who promote wine on social media. Laura (a lawyer), and owner of What’s Hot Blog, has written a brilliant post on it here.
Ok, why does labelling matter?
Would you prefer to know what I’m drinking because I’ve been sent it for free or what I’ve parted with my hard-earned cash on? The influencers I love to follow are those who spend their own money because I know how incredible a product must be for someone to part with their cash. That doesn’t mean sampled wines are bad; if they’ve been featured, you can be assured the creator has enjoyed them. Especially if no monies have been exchanged.
Clarity and transparency never go amiss or unwanted. You can ask me if you want to know what I have purchased or if a post isn’t clear enough for you. I get it, and I’m always happy to clarify.
Do you turn down samples?
All. The. Time. I love wine, and I really love free wine. However, I won’t take the stock off a brand if I don’t have time to try or give it the attention it deserves, especially from small boutique brands. Hopefully, it will go to someone who will provide the value they’re looking for.
Do you ever get paid to feature wine?
Yes! Occasionally I will get a very generous offer. Still, as a lazy and haphazard creator, I often turn that down too.
Could you leave your full-time job to do wine influencing?
No, and I did some actual number crunching on the matter. I was close to giving it a go, especially when we were all locked inside throughout the pandemic. However, I would need to be independently wealthy or have some incredible numbers on social media. There is no way I personally could sustain the lifestyle I have and pay my bills. My full-time job is my priority and my focus. Wine and the (sorry for what I’m about to say) Instagram lifestyle are a solely creative outlet. I think that gives me an impartial edge to my content.
So you’re not in it for the money. Would you ever accept wine as payment for exposure?
Ah, glad you asked. I’ll see you in part II.