Word of mouth promotes online wine courses - WineUncorked: Wine Reviews and Tips

Wine education may have gone online but finding out about the course is distinctly traditional - word of mouth recommendations and signed-up for newsletters are proving to be the top methods for how attendees for my online wine appreciation courses with Buckinghamshire Adult Learning are discovering the courses and deciding to enroll.

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Online wine events came of age during the early covid lock-down months of 2020 and are still going strong in 2021. While early events were mainly of the 'chalk and talk' type, with wine experts talking at their online Zoom attendees while showing far too many maps and unopened wine bottles, later events have become more participatory with the shared wine tasting experience having the top slot in the first 10-15 minutes (see How is an online class different to the classroom? and Who gets in the wine for an online tasting?).

But how do those attending find out about these ephemeral courses? You'd think that going on an online courses means responding to online promotion and advertising, but that is not my experience.

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The online world of social media and online course listings is not one used by the majority of the 45-65 year-olds attending what is a traditional adult education evening class that's been shifted from a dedicated adult education centre classroom in the middle of a town to an online setting that requires a high level of computing skills - being able to use computer business video conferencing software that's been perloined for learning does not mean that the rest of their world is online. Word of mouth recommendations (which may be face-to-face, via email, text message or telephone call) and reading about the course in a dedicated newsletter sent to those who've enrolled on other courses is proving to be the best method of hooking learners interest.

The serial adult education learner is one that shouldn't be overlooked in getting bookings for an online wine class. Those that enjoy learning for learnings sake are a valuable addition to any course but may hop on and hop off rapidly as they find that painting with oils or holiday French becomes just as appealing.

This is the classic model of adult education and evening classes in the UK. Or it used to be. The European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA) found that just 33 per cent of UK adults say that they have participated in learning during the previous three years, while 38 per cent say that they have not done any learning since leaving full time education (2019 Adult Participation in Learning Survey). Although the participation of adults aged 25-64 in education in the UK decreased from 20.7% in 2009 to 14.6% in 2020 this is higher than the EU average of just 11.1%.

But there is good news. The WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust) 2018 report Consumer Wine Education: Should the Wine Trade Care? prepared by Tim Jackson MW (Master of Wine) found that 6-7 million UK wine drinkers are interested in attending a basic wine course with 4-5 million willing to pay. And in even better news, the most interested are willing to pay over the going market rate for the wine course.

Their research also found that potential wine course takers are pretty evenly split by gender, but age makes a difference - with 25-34 year-olds making up the largest segment and the 45-54 age group being the smallest, with those living in Wales and Northern Ireland least likely to go on a paid wine course (similar regional findings reported by the EAEA in the 2019 Adult Participation in Learning Survey).

The WSET findings are not an exact match to the traditional adult education evening course attender, with these being more likely to be an older set of adults, but they do seem to want to know the same things:

  • How to choose wine in supermarkets and restaurants
  • Learning about the main wine grape varieties
  • Learning the tasting technique used by professional tasters (see How to taste wine)
  • Learning about the classic wine regions in the world

And getting a qualification came low down on their list of wants. Which is good news for those of us promoting the fun and hobby course angle of wine knowledge but less so for WSET.

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If you should want to use online promotion techniques for your online wine courses then here are a few suggestions:

JancisRobinson.com: Create an event in the Calendar listings

Virtualwineevents.com: Free listings run by Spitbucket.net: Virtual events, Webinars, Social Events and Instagram Live. Identify UK listings by BST time zone start times.

www.eventbrite.co.uk: Paid for listings of off-line and online events - a fixed fee is charged on each ticket sold through the site. Free events can be listed at no cost.

localwineevents.com: Free events and educational course listings. Mainly USA but some other countries shown.

Local Facebook groups: If your online event is aimed at a specific town or area then find, and join, the local What's On Facebook group. The Milton Keynes Noticeboard has over 19,000 members. Facebook also allows you to create an Event for free which is publicised within Facebook - can be a Facebook Live event or an external event with its own link.

Your own social media accounts: Promote on your own Twitter, Facebook, Instagram accounts - use hashtags like #onlinewineevents #wineevents #winetasting

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