If you are a savvy winery owner, marketing or brand manager, you might be asking, “What is the ROI of social media?” or even “How does social media serve our brand?”

These questions are ones that have long plagued the wine industry since social media became a marketing tool.

To help answer these questions, we can look to data. According to a recent study released by Facebook, connecting mobile use and beverage purchases, one-third of people use Facebook and Instagram in restaurants and bars. And of that one third, more than 50% of those patrons reported trying a drink that friends and family posted about on Facebook. Knowing that there are now 2 billion Facebook users worldwide, that is a significant amount of people recommending beverages on social media.

Granted, wine isn’t the only beverage being recommended. This means a portion of these posts are related to beer or liquor. However, this study also reviewed the top hashtags used on Instagram during both April and May 2017, two of the top five hashtags were #wine and #drinklocal.

So let’s build a hypothetical situation. Let’s take that 50% of restaurant and bar patrons who are ordering a drink based on a social media recommendation and divide it equally between wine, beer and liquor. That means, 16.6% of people who see their friends and family post on Facebook purchase wine in a bar or restaurant as a result. Can you imagine if your winery held just 1% of the total recommended? That would have a significant impact on sales.

But how do you attribute that 1% increase in sales to social media?

While data can show us results based on specific activities, there is still the “social” element to social media which can’t always be tracked. Take for example, networking. What is the ROI of networking? You attend an event, meet new people and possibly get new business. But, for the most part you meet new people and increase your brand awareness, meaning more people know who you are and what you do. You don’t have an exact ROI but you invested time and resources, (business cards), into the transaction.

Your social media presence is much like networking. You are posting and creating dialogue with your current and potential customers. Yes, you might gain web traffic which leads to direct sales, but you are also gaining brand awareness. For example, if your winery hosts a Facebook Live Q&A with the winemaker and a new fan comments with a question, which then the winemaker then spends 5 minutes answering in detail, you have now provided huge value to this fan. Now let’s say, two days later, this new follower is in a restaurant and sees your wine on the list. They decide to purchase a bottle because they were so impressed with the Q&A and the time the winemaker spent educating them on their winemaking process. Not only that, but they take a photo and post it to Facebook recommending your wine.

Is there value in that? We’d say so!

What if 10 people who saw your Facebook Live then purchased your wine in a restaurant or bar within a week and posted a picture to Facebook? This perpetuates the cycle and that hypothetical 1% could easily become higher, solely due to YOUR presence on Facebook alone. Can you imagine how being present on Instagram, Twitter and various wine apps could also help move the needle higher and higher?

And if you’re still not convinced, another study by Hootsuite shows that “fans who have positive experience with your brand are 71% more likely to recommend it to their friends.”

So what is the ROI on social media? It’s substantial and can be directly impacted by your level of participation. In the case of the wine industry, not investing in social media, literally means leaving money on the table.

By developing a strategic social media plan, your wine brand can gain brand recognition, build customer relationships, and create brand advocates who help strengthen your bottom line.