Episode 5:

What Wine Brands Should Post on Instagram

In today’s episode, we are going to talk about why people follow wine brands on Instagram, why they unfollow, and what types of content people want to see more or less of.


Listen, I love a lot of wineries but I don’t follow all of them on Instagram and until recently, I hadn’t consciously analyzed why that was the case. These wineries make awesome wine, often have really interesting stories, and are made up of really cool and talented people, so why don’t I like following them on social media? 


I went to a few winery pages that I know I’ve followed before, trying to understand why I was no longer consuming their content. And that’s when it all came flooding back to me… oh yeah, most of their content SUCKS.


Of course, being a social media consultant, I had to admit that I probably wasn’t being very objective. So, I took it to my own audience on Instagram and asked them to tell me what makes them follow and unfollow wineries on social media, what they wish they could see more of, and most crucially, what they wish they would see less of. 


Before we dive into their answers, it’s worth mentioning that the majority of the people who follow me on Instagram are directly involved in the wine industry or are at least in the adjacent industries of beer, food, and hospitality, so they aren’t exactly your average consumers.


That said, in my four years of marketing wine on Instagram, I’ve discovered that the answers they gave me are largely aligned with what tends to perform well for my clients, at least according to their analytics.


Alright, let’s get into it:


Why People Follow:

It’s probably quite obvious that most people start following a winery because they’re interested in the wine, like their vibe & culture, and want to stay up to date on the latest releases and specials.


What’s less obvious is that when these people first go to follow a winery, whether they’ve heard of them before or not, they will spend a few minutes scoping out their content to see if they even want to follow in the first place.


In fact, many people mentioned that good quality, compelling images plus interesting and educational content were often key for them in deciding whether or not they would start following a winery. So, even if they had a pleasant experience with a winery in person or the winery came highly recommended by a trusted source, they may not choose to follow if the winery didn’t make a good first impression on Instagram.


Side note, this is why it is important to optimize your profile! If you need a refresher on how to do that, go back and listen to Episode 1: How to Get Started on Instagram.

Why People Stop Following

If you did manage to make a good first impression and someone starts following you, there’s no guarantee that they will keep following you. The answers I got to why people will stop following a winery on Instagram were quite gratifying for me to learn, as they were exactly aligned with what I had observed.  


The main themes of why people unfollow include

  • The winery posts too much content
  • The content they share isn’t interesting, is superficial, or has no context.
  • In some cases, the images being shared are too contrived & overly staged or the photos are low-quality and don’t tell a good story.
  • And finally, many people will unfollow when the winery’s content is tone-deaf for the times.


I think that last point was something we saw a lot of in 2020 in particular. People’s bullshit meters on social media are higher than ever and since the pandemic has forced many of us to stay home, a lot of folks have been “Marie Kondoing” their feed and only keeping accounts around that serve them or bring them some kind of joy.


This brings me to my next point, that people want quality over quantity.

What should wine brands post?:

People want to see fewer posts that are more valuable and will help them survive & thrive. That might be a dramatic way to put it, so let’s get a little more clinical. There is a theory in psychology called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs that seeks to explain why people are motivated to do certain things. 


This 5-tier model is shaped like a pyramid with the bottom two tiers encompassing the basic needs every human has: Physiological needs like food, water, warmth, and sleep and then safety needs like security and shelter. The next two tiers encompass psychological needs, like love and friendship, as well as esteem needs like prestige and feelings of accomplishment. The very top tier is self-actualization, ie achieving one’s full creative and enlightened potential. 


Only when we’ve more or less satisfied the needs of the lower tiers can we move up the pyramid and reach self-fulfillment.


In her amazing blog post, “Stop Scaring the Newbies-A Look at the Wine Hierarchy of Needs,” Amber of the Spit Bucket Blog perfectly sums up the concept of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as it relates to wine drinkers with the following statement: 

“There are basic needs that enjoying wine can fulfill as well as the potential for more emotional and intellectual satisfaction.”


I have applied this concept to marketing wine via social media and like to call it “The Wino’s Hierarchy of Needs” which is laid out like so:

The Wino's Hierarchy of Needs

  • Level 1 answers a basic desire: I want to drink wine (typically this is the person who is looking at (but not following or engaging with) wineries on Instagram)
  • Level 2 gives us security: I want to buy wine that I’ll like (this is typically the person who has JUST started following us on Instagram and is willing to learn more and see if our winery is one that makes good wine. They are also the people scoping out the photos we’ve been tagged in on Instagram)
  • Level 3 answers our need for community: I want to enjoy wine with friends and a like-minded community (typically this is the person who is highly engaged on Instagram, is watching our stories, and commenting on our posts)
  • Level 4 is where we are reaching for a feeling of accomplishment: I want to learn more about wine (typically this is the person who is asking questions in the DMs and is joining your email list)
  • And then Level 5 is when that person has achieved complete self-fulfillment and considers themselves a “wino” (this is typically the person who is ready to throw down some cash on your awesome wine or is ready to join the wine club)
pyramid describing The Wino's Hierarchy of Needs

Your job is to move your audience up the pyramid by delivering high-value content, consistently. When I asked my audience what they consider to be high-value content from wineries they said that it comes in the form of behind-the-scenes of the processing and production of the wine, as well as more information about what’s actually in the bottle. 

They also said that they are looking for content that shows that the winery they are following has values that are aligned with their own.


I will argue that one of the reasons some wineries get so much pushback when they make statements in support of Black Lives Matter and diversity in the wine industry, is because they rarely, if ever, share their values publicly. And so when they do so in response to an event, like back in June of 2020 after the murder of George Floyd, it is seen as performative and disingenuous. 


By sharing our social and environmental values regularly on social media, in our emails, and in our actions, we tell our audiences not only what we stand for but also what to expect from us.  It becomes less “shocking” because we’ve consistently shown up in support of what our ‘why’ is.


Additionally, I will say that more and more people are voting with their dollars (and as I mentioned earlier, with their follows). In fact, a 2017 study shows that 87% of consumers state that they would purchase a product based solely on the brand’s values.  Literally, people will support you if you are open about the causes you support.


Now that we have talked about what content people want to see more of from wineries, let’s talk about what content people want to see less of:

What should wine brands post LESS of:


This is where the really juicy stuff is, which is why I’ve saved it for last!


OVERWHELMINGLY, people said that they want to see fewer bottle shots, corporate looking shots, and super salesy posts. If I can quote Amber of The Spit Bucket Blog again, this time from her blog post entitled “Why Do Winery Instagram Feeds Suck So Much”:

“If I wanted to see non-stop images of your wine bottles, I’d hijack your delivery truck and take it on a high-speed chase. News flash! People hate ads. That’s why we quickly turn the channel or flip the page.
So why in the world would I want to follow your feed just to see more time-wasting ads willingly? And that is precisely what your lovely, beautifully curated bottle shots in pastel locations are–ads.”


What Amber is getting out with this and what I’ve said many a time on this podcast: PEOPLE ARE NOT ON INSTAGRAM TO BE SOLD TO. Listen, a well-placed bottle shot that is part of the larger context of a story is okay, and even necessary sometimes, but a constant stream of what amber refers to as “bottle porn” that deliver exactly zero value, will make your audience tune out and eventually unfollow you (which is the opposite of what you want, right?)


The same can be said for overly staged photos of people standing in a vineyard at sunset with a glass of wine. Unless that is an actual experience that you offer your guests, that is not engaging content that people want showing up on their feeds, and it sure as shit isn’t going to help them survive and thrive.


The next thing people want to see less of are bad quality photos and reposts from people posting your wine.

Now, I don’t think that resharing posts you’ve been tagged in to your stories is a bad thing but if it is all you are doing, then that’s a problem. Much like bottle porn these reshares should be posted sparingly and in balance with higher value content.


The thing everyone agrees we need to completely do away with however is out of context photos and videos paired with fluffy, pointless captions that tell us exactly nothing.


Some common examples of these fluffy captions are 

“Rosé all day”

“Wine is bottled poetry”

and that one quote from Galileo about Wine being liquid sunshine. You know the one.


I was absolutely guilty of these pointless captions when I first started marketing on Instagram, and guess what? Those posts flopped and did nothing to help me attract my target audience.


Because, when you post fluffy, rosé-all-day content, you will attract fluffy, rosé-all-day customers. If that’s who you’re after, then good for you but if you’re after customers who are serious about wine and will be more likely to purchase again and again, then you’re going to want to share content that has more substance than that.


In the upcoming Instagram Field Guide Digital Course I am creating, I will teach you how to write a caption that has been proven to convert your audience into paying customers by delivering value.


Take Action!

Take some time this week to think about the questions you get asked most frequently about your wine. Write down 5-10 of those questions and then fill in answers around them that take people behind-the-scenes and give deeper insight into your wine brand.

Also, write down one or two of your company values as they relate to social or climate causes.


Here are some examples of topics you might cover based on some FAQ:

  1. “What wine is a staff favorite?”
  2. “What makes your winery unique or different?”
  3. “What is the story behind your label?”
  4. “Do you have any unique winemaking processes?
  5. “What’s the story of how you got started?”
  6. “Why did you choose the grapes you grow and wine you make?”
  7. “Why did you choose those barrels to blend?


That’s at least seven posts but I bet answering these questions will send you down a rabbit hole of other post ideas!


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