Around 20% of UK regular wine drinkers say they trust recommendations from an independent wine blogger. Is this good news or bad news for the wine industry’s fastest-growing method of communication? Arguably we took the sensationalist approach: “Bloggers are one of the least trusted source of wine recommendations” said our press release last week announcing the launch of the Internet and Social Media report, in part because it was true (the six other sources we tested, from supermarkets to regional promotion agencies, had significantly higher trust levels) and partly because we wanted to generate some debate (and sell some reports).
Predictably, and understandably, the blogosphere didn’t take this lying down. For more details on our response to the e-vitriol that’s been flying our way, see the next issue of Harpers Wine & Spirit.
To summarize our position: we asked our normal sample of regular wine drinkers in three markets (USA, UK, France) a few questions about their internet and social media use. It turns out that many of them use the internet now to find out more information on wine, and a smaller proportion of them use more “Web 2.0” stuff – Facebook, blogs, and other interactive message-posting sites.
One widely reported criticism of the research is that if you have a small population using something, and ask everyone (users and non-users) what they think of that thing, the large number of non-users are often going to introduce a negative bias, and vice versa. Researchers call this the “double jeopardy” effect. Of course it is not universally true: ask 1,000 people whether they have driven a Ferrari, and you’ll get perhaps a 1% usage rate; ask them what they think of Ferrari the brand, and it’s likely that you’ll get a strongly positive response, even though 99% of the population have never sat in one.
In this narrow sense, the critics have a point: if, for instance, only 1 in 7 people use social media in the UK, trust levels in bloggers might be lower than they would be for, say, a supermarket’s website, which would be visited by a much larger proportion of the population.
But let’s follow this argument through. If we isolate those respondents in the UK using social media in the context of wine, we find that trust levels rise to 44% of users (as opposed to 19% for the total population). Unfortunately this still leaves the majority of social media users either distrusting or indifferent to the opinions voiced by independent bloggers, and also means that this source still comes 7th (out of 7) in terms of trustworthiness even among these active social media users – behind supermarkets, wine region promotion agencies, and brand owners themselves.
The other main criticism is that we didn’t ask the right questions. Clearly this is an area that we can debate- in fact we would invite critiques of our questionnaire if anyone is interested in making them – since we need to develop an effective assessment system for this medium in comparison with more traditional sources of wine information. I look forward to hearing your views.
Read the Press Release in question here.
Read about the Internet and Social Media report series here.
Tags: Social Media