Surviving Social Media: Tips of the Trade for Best Practices Online


by Ian Silverstone

The rise of social media and online commerce has been a boon for nearly every major retail sector, the alcohol industry included. Using platforms like Twitter and Facebook, wineries can market their products, reach new audiences, and connect with loyal customers. Going digital brings with it legal issues that can make it tricky for businesses to promote their goods responsibly and lawfully.

Out in the real world, minors are kept out of places where alcohol is sold with the quick flash of an ID. Regulations also dictate where physical advertisements can be placed, and where brick-and-mortar businesses can be located.

Access to sites where alcohol is promoted and sold is only a few clicks away for virtually anyone. This makes the boundaries of acceptable advertising — in content and placement — a lot fuzzier.The digital space is still a free-for-all that makes it difficult for businesses to control their message and avoid the wrong audiences. For wineries, this makes keeping content away from the eyes, ears, and mousepads of those under 21 a top priority.

Unlike a physical ad, nothing online is fixed. Common marketing wisdom might tell you that the more businesses engage with customers the better. It’s probably fair game to discuss your products with the customers who wander into your business: in person, they can be age-verified. The same can’t be said for online, where age restrictions often don’t apply or aren’t confirmed. Anyone with a social media account can write on a winery’s Facebook wall, create a Twitter post using a winery’s hashtag, or comment on a winery’s Instagram photo, even if they can’t legally drink yet.

The new rules of social media are turning business strategy on its head. A winery responding to messages from online users may seem like good customer service on the surface, but could easily be contact with a minor. When that content is considered advertising, the chances of accidentally promoting alcohol to, say, a curious 16-year old are too great to risk.

WineAmerica has developed an information document on social media regulation for our membership. Please log in to the website to view it and if you are not a member you can join the organization here.


Questions? Contact Ian Silverstone, Communications Assistant,

WineAmerica is the national voice the American wine industry. Based in Washington, D.C., WineAmerica represents wineries in 43 states and leads a coalition of state and regional wine and grape associations.  As an industry leader, WineAmerica encourages the dynamic growth and development of American wineries and winegrowing through the advancement and advocacy of sound public policy

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