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Beyond blogging: Facebook and social media as marketing tools


Part 1

Mia Malm, who I mistakenly identified last week as being with Cornerstone Communications (she’s actually with Icon Estate’s P.R. department), wrote to tell me that the Napa Valley Vintners had advertised a tasting event on Facebook “and in short order it got Twittered and passed along and they saw a big bump in attendance.” That prompted me to call Terry Hall, NVV’s communications director. Turns out when they had one of their Nightlife Napa Valley events earlier this year in Tampa, someone from a local P.R. firm down in Florida touted the tasting (which is aimed at Millennials) on her Facebook page. “And for that whole week,” Terry said, “if you Googled ‘Napa Valley,’ it was the top listing, based on how many people were hitting on it.” Terry hadn’t been expecting the event to sell out. “It was during Florida’s high season, and there were a lot of other events going on.” But it did sell out. More than 450 young people came.

NVV now is “trying to figure out if it’s appropriate for us to have a Facebook page,” Terry said. Like almost everybody else, NVV wants to know what this emergent brave new world of digital media is, and what their role should be with respect to it. “As a trade organization, what does one do?” he asks. NVV, obviously, is different from an “ordinary” blogger or social media user. It’s purpose is to promote the wines of its members, which means it needs to understand both what its members want (while educating them to the possibilities) and to understand what the public — mainly younger people — expect from social media. “This is our new ongoing role: to figure out how people want to get their information,” he says. It’s likely that sometime next year, NVV will be, not only Facebooking, but Twittering and blogging and who knows what else.

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For her part, Malm, who’s chair of NVV’s P.R. committee, sees social media as a “vital new paradigm” for marketing and promoting wine. “Twitter and other social media offer a forum for winemakers to talk to the people who drink their wines. Paying attention to the community creates loyalty which in turn generates multiple brand ambassadors at the grass roots level.” Malm points to Twisted Oak as a prime example. “Twisted Oak gets selected for featuring on Twitter Taste Live simply because the winemaker (Jeffrey Stai) has been interacting with the twitterati,” she points out.

TOMORROW: Jeff Stai on how social media is driving Twisted Oak’s sales

  1. Nice post, Steve. I look forward to reading your exploration of some of these aspects of wine marketing.


  2. Thanks for all your blogging and twittering Jeff, it is fun to watch.

    Why is NVV waiting until next year?

    I don’t think SSU’s Chile trip would have happened this year (we barely got 12) if I hadn’t created a facebook group to promote the trip:

    Most students I talk to aren’t on twitter though, it seems like students have established social networks and enough “events” to go to as it is. But, after everyone graduates…

  3. Dr. H., I’m not an authority on social media by any means, but when I look at the illustration in my post, above, of all the different ones, I wonder how people choose which to join. There are dozens. Is this why people under 25 seem to be fiddling with their cell phones 24/7? I’ve been on BART late at night, coming back from San Francisco, and the cars are packed with 20-somethings, every one of whom is on clicking away on their personal digital devices instead of talking to the person sitting next to them — even if it’s their date! So while I respect the rise of social media, it makes me worry that it’s breaking down traditional forms of human communication.

  4. How do people choose which music groups to listen to?
    Facebook is kind of like the preppy trendy group that got popular on college campuses, maybe like Weezer.
    Myspace is kind of like the boy band that was on top but had a fall from grace, but is still cool among the music a design enthusiasts who supported it early on.
    LinkedIn is like the vanilla Muzak that is piped in to your office or the elevator at work.
    Twitter has a techno, I’m always moving and doing something, feel to it.

    I agree, moderation is key to just about everything. TV, wine, fast food, and social media included.

  5. David Hance says:

    Steve: I don’t know why NVV would “wait until next year” to join Facebook. There’s plenty of wine on there now, and it can’t take more than a few minutes to set up a page (it is totally single-template driven). Although, having now taken a break to search “wine” on Facebook, it looks like a predominance of the wine activity is in the Paso Robles area. The PRWCA has a page, as does the Rhone Rangers Paso chapter. Several wineries, including Clayhouse (with which I’m associated, so that made me happy). I’m pretty active on Facebook, and it could, indeed, take up lots of my time. However, by investing maybe five minutes a day I keep up with many friends who are far away, and with whom I am not otherwise in regular contact. My emotional experience with Facebook (which I vastly prefer over MySpace) is rather like your epiphanette with blogging (very interesting presentation at the UCD extension class on Friday — Thanks!).

  6. David, I can’t speak for NVV, but it seems to me they’re a fairly conservative organization, and they don’t leap into things willy-nilly before analyzing them every which way. I think they’re also sensitive to the fact that Facebook is really for young people to personally interact, and NVV wants to be respectful and make sure that nobody would take offense if a big, rich organization comes barging in.

  7. steve – nice entry. these sorts of sites could be very important for the wine trade going forward. i can think of more than a couple of examples of brands that have built themselves successfully (albeit at small productions) with social networking and, for lack or a better term, “viral” marketing. the challenge will be balance…when a winery or individual tries too hard, it can come off as contrived. like NVV, so many folks are trying to figure how exactly to put it to work for them without a) alienating some of their consumers who haven’t the foggiest about what Twitter is or b) expending too much energy and money in the wrong places. it needs to fit you, your brand and your consumer base.

  8. Steve,

    Bravo for your post!

    I think it is important for wineries and companies to be visible and present in communities that their demographic has chosen to frequent. In the old days these were magazines, clubs, events etc.. today that means having visibility in new media (facebook, Twitter, myspace, bloggs, etc). These are the places where consumers are discussing products, getting opinions, and forming their loyalty/buying decisions, how exciting for wineries to be able to actively take part in this!

    I look forward to seeing how this develops, as it is my personal opinion that we are in the early days of this phenomenon, and the really exciting developments are yet to happen, think how e-commerce has changed since 1997 and you get the idea.

    Look forward to tomorrows post,


  9. Lisa Mattson says:

    Steve, all types of wine companies must adapt to this era. We can’t turn our backs on any form of communication with consumers. Five years ago, I worked as a wine event planner. I focused all marketing efforts on brand-specific messages because I believed that’s all that mattered to the consumer. Now I’m working for a marketing and importing company that has traditionally serviced the trade: retailers, sommeliers, distributors, industry media. As one of the business-to-business tiers in the wine industry, marketing agents want to market and sell their winery clients’ brands — not their own companies. Enter Facebook, Twitter, etc. Social media are transforming the way we communicate with our audiences — and who those audiences are. Lines have been further blurred with Google searches. Consumers can easily find out which agent markets which wine. The question is: Do they care? I say “yes.” If a consumer builds a relationship with our company because they’ve watched our wine films on Facebook, followed us on Twitter and searched for our logo on the back label of imported wines when they go to their favorite wine shop, then we’ve done our job. The road to building brand awareness and selling wine has far more direct (and indirect) routes than it did just two years ago.

  10. Lisa, thanks for that feedback. Readers, Wilson Daniels, which Lisa works for, has one of the most prestigious import and distribution portfolios in America.

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