Tag Archives: Steve Gilberg

Booze As a Digital, ‘Shop Local’ Story: Craft Spirits Exchange

A key part of the Shop Local movement in recent years has been sparked by the rise of Craft Beer, with many city and states dropping nuicense regulations inhibiting breweries from providing samples, selling food or selling take away bottles smaller than 22 ounces. At this point, the contribution of breweries, wine makers and craft spirts to local economies has been felt in hundreds of markets.

The role of digital media in promoting and selling local beer, wine and spirits has been a significant one, with social media rating products and creating buzz for products and events; directories pointing consumers in the right direction; and now, on demand services like Driz.ly delivering booze directly to your door (a fad, ok?)

One entrepreneur I’ve watched carefully over the years is Steve Gilberg, who created the Happy Hours website and then Facebook directory of bars and drinks, which partially inspired my creation of the Marketplaces research program for BIA/Kelsey; and then also created Wine Twits, a national happening of promoted wine with hundreds of local parties tweeting away.

Gilberg’s newest project is Craft Spirits Exchange, a website and app dedicated to promoting local craft spirits to craft enthusiasts around the U.S. He’s CMO for the Exchange, reporting to Luis Troccoli, a native New Yorker who was inspired to launch the exchange in 2013 when he moved to Florida and couldn’t get access or even news about his favorite spirits.

The Exchange is a spirits marketplace that combines bright editorial; more than 1,100 profiles of spirits products; community reviews; and marketing from local craft retailers. More than 40 states now allow direct shipping of spirits, acting as major contributors to local commerce. My own state, Oregon, has more than 60 spirits producers. Troccoli says a major role for the exchange has been to enable east coast consumers to buy west coast spirits, and vice versa.

Cool Twitter Event: WineTwit’s ‘Virtual Tasting’

Businesses do really well online when they create “events” — as local promotion companies ranging from Zvents to Active.com have discovered. Home Depot has classes. Those are events. Brew pubs have free samples. Those are events, too. And so are REI’s adventure trips. They all pop up on calendars, in search results, and in social media as well.

Brands can jump-start events too, sometimes in partnership with retail. Last night’s Georges DeBouef and Burger Night” produced by WineTwits was a stellar example. GD, of course, is the original wine event company, with an annual event built around the pent-up demand every year for the release of its Beaujolais Nouveau.

WineTwits boasts 62,000 followers on Twitter, and has produced a number of events for wine brands and distributors, tying in with wine influencers and local retail establishments. It is part of a broader entity that produces similar events for spirits companies and also provides happy hours promotions (the original model, incidentally, for Living Social’s deals).

Georges DeBouef’s goals in having an event were clear from the get-go. It is marketing several red wines that it considers perfect summer time fare for BBQs – but consumers don’t normally think of refrigerating red wine.

Working with WineTwits, GD put together an all star event. It hired Bob Waggoner from PBS’ ‘Ucook with Chef Bob,’ to match its wines with several burgers; and arranged for a live, one hour Rachel Ray-like cooking and tasting Webcast in NYC. It also heated up demand by FedExing a trio of bottles to key influencers around the country, along with the burger recipes – dozens of whom tweeted away.

There was, in fact, a great deal of pre-event buildup on both WineTwits and #GDandburgers. It was a lot of fun, as the tweeters discussed their expectations for the burgers, their related shopping activities etc. 3,500 people have registered to participate in WineTwits’ Virtual Tasting Network. Past virtual tasting events have involved wine bars (i.e. The Wine Loft) and wine restaurants (i.e. City Winery) and retailers (Stew Leonard’s).

WineTwits founder Steve Gilberg tells us there were ultimately”hundreds of parties going on nationwide, generating thousands of tweets” and an estimated reach of 1.75 million people. Gilberg estimates that the event was probably less expensive than “the cost of a TV ad or a couple of full page ads in leading publications. It is certainly easier than having reps travel around the country and host events, which has been the industry’s standard practice.”

More importantly, from GD’s perspective, “the …engagement with the brand is really powerful,” says Gilberg. “You see people talking about your brand. And it creates such momentum.”

For my part, my wife and I invited two couples over, and had a cookout featuring all three recommended burgers (which were quite excellent, although we liked the Portabella Mushroom Burger the most, along with the Beaujolais-Villages.) We got a real kick out of the Twitter stream before and during the event – there was a lot of interesting trivia given about the wines, and their native regions in France, as well as funny stories about individual events.

But we only paid attention to the cyber stuff for a few minutes. For one thing, we didn’t want to spill wine on the iPads and smart phones. Mostly, we just had a really good time. Was the event a success? We’ll certainly think about GD wines – refrigerated – for the rest of our summer meals.

BIA/Kelsey’s Parade of Verticals: ‘WineTwits’

Verticals that can engage certain demographics on a socio/geo basis and drive loyalty and conversion are the basis of our Marketplaces research program. A new one that has caught our eye is WineTwits from Happyhours.com founder Steve Gilberg. Three years ago, HappyHours and Lawn and Garden Search were among the first verticals that made us think there was another side to marketplaces beyond the big classifieds categories.

Gilberg tells us that the development of WineTwits started a year ago when his team was fooling around with Twitter to see what it could do for the online wine retailers that he works with. “We quickly had a few thousand followers, and we were moving cases of wine. In one 24 hour period, we sold $16,000 of wine,” he says.

As the site comes out of beta, it now has 45,000 followers. It is currently poised to promote wine more aggressively, and work local channels to promote wine stores, specials and wine events. “Our business model is to create a platform that will organize conversations around wine,” says Gilberg.

The WineTwits platform is essentially made up of two products: “WineTwits Mobile” and “WineTwits Live.” Mobile allows event planners, retailers and restaurants to create lists of wines being tasted at specific events, and build a feedback community, like a specialized version of Foursquare.
WineTwits Live allows event producers to project the tweets on screen, and upload interstitial advertising.

The platform has already been applied in November at The City Winery event in New York, where it was called “Spit and Twit.” The company is also in discussion to apply the tech for the San Francisco Vintners Market event in April.

The ultimate vision, says Gilberg, is to apply lessons from the WineTwits experience to several adjacent products. “CigarTwits,” “RumTwits” and “TequilaTwits” are all on the horizon.