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Chatting with the Napa Valley Vintners’ communications manager about social media


Joel Coleman-Nakai has been the Napa Valley Vintners’ Communications Manager for the past six months. “I was brought on to get vintners up and running with social media,” the 36-year old former New York-based network administrator told me. We chatted yesterday.

SH: Is Napa Valley Vintners [NVV] keeping track of what its member wineries are doing online?

JCN: Yes. We recently created a form where they can submit their social media accounts to us. We’re collecting the information now, and it will soon be displayed on the NVV website. We asked them about Facebook, Twitter and blogs. I think we threw in MySpace and LinkedIn. If they have those things, they send us the address, and that becomes part of their profile.

Do you have any idea how extensively wineries are using these tools?

I believe the breadth is wide and growing. We have over 50 wineries who submitted the information [so far], and I anecdotally know many more who haven’t submitted yet. And we just did our third social media workshop, and it sold out.

Can you characterize who came?

A mix. People who have been tasked with doing this for their winery, and winery principles who came to learn more for themselves. People who are very active and know a lot, and people who have not yet started and wanted to find out more. So a broad audience.

Does NVV engage in social media?

We have a Facebook account with 2,300 friends, Twitter with 1,100 followers, and our own blog, Unfiltered, which I have been writing until recently, when we opened it up to vintners to report on the harvest.

How did you decide on ideas for the blog?

There are programs that are important and matter to the organization that are under-represented through our other communication channels, like the adopt-a-school program.

Could you post about anything you wanted, or were you edited?

Yes, we do have an editorial process.

Are you personally active in social media aside from your job?

Yes, although we try not to talk about our own stuff.

What is the primary importance for NVV with this involvement in social media?

Well, we’d like to use these tools to create more direct relationships with consumers, so they can see what we, as an association, do, to promote and protect Napa Valley as a community and appellation. One of our goals is to promote our vintners, but they do a good job at promoting their individual brands, so we promote what they collectively do, such as helping the community through their charitable activities.

Do you know what kinds of traffic numbers the NVV site gets?

No. Unfortunately we didn’t get our Google analytics from day one. We recently started, but I haven’t checked in the last week or so.

Does social media serve a different purpose for a winery than for a winery organization?

Yes, because we’re not selling products, so we don’t have the expectation of a direct monetary ROI.

Do you think wineries are ahead of the social media curve, or behind it?

I think we are a unique industry in that we’re a product people care about enough that they invest time online to do this, and we have a lot of professionals who care enough who are spending time on this in ways that other package good companies are not. That’s also a function of this industry being a small family industry.

What’s next?

As we move forward into harvest, we’re hoping to use these platforms to talk about the vintage, and about our travels into the marketplace. We’re doing our first Tweet-Up in Chicago. Six vintners have signed up. [Michael Honig/Honig, Craig Camp/Cornerstone, Jason Alexander/Meteor, Lauren Sagalow/Quintessa and Faust, Jen Scott/Trinitas and Teresa d’Aurivio/ZD] They’ll be at a wine bar and hopefully consumers who will want some one-on-one with them will come.

How will you measure the success of this Tweet-Up?

I’m sure there will be a “what worked” review at the end of the trip.

What do you say to an older vintner who just doesn’t seem to “get” social media?

I don’t use that phrase; I hate it. It seems like the modern Scarlet Letter. I go back to, what is your business model? Some of our membership, it’s not in their business model to focus on consumer direct, and part of their brand is better served through time spent in different ways. So it’s not our job to push them in this direction, but support them if they want to go in this direction.

  1. You are becoming (or have become?) a social media expert!

    Maybe some of my students will get jobs in wine social media when they graduate!

  2. Dr., I don’t know if I’m an expert, but I’m interested, and I like to ask questions!

  3. Interesting side note, was ready to follow all the wineries you mentioned above but it appears most are not easily found based on the information available…

  4. Great conversation. His responses gave off a cool confidence regarding their efforts. I get the sense that he enjoys testing the waters of social media with activities like their upcoming TweetUp. When I read about “measures,” “what worked reviews,” and the like, it lets me know that Mr. Coleman-Nakai looks at this as a learning process. He’s not throwing himself into the river to swim laps, but he’s at least training in the local pool.

  5. Steve, thank you for shining your spotlight on a few of NVV’s social media accomplishments to date. And, as a long-time lurker, I am always impressed by the insightful comments left by people who read your blog. Dylan has hit the nail on the head: we have been investing time/effort in social media with cautious optimism and a kaizen attitude. (Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy of continuous, incremental improvement.)

    As an association, NVV sees social media as neither a fad nor a panacea…but rather as one communication channel of growing relevancy within a larger communications strategy which still places high priority on traditional activities like press releases, press conferences (to which, in the future, NVV will begin to invite top bloggers), hosting media “familiarization” tours, marketing of – and messaging at – tasting events, and training of our vintners as fact-based spokespeople for the Napa Valley appellation in addition to their own brands. The NVV continues to place high value in strategic relationships and knowledge transfer through complimentary programs such as Symposium for Professional Wine Writers, Society of Wine Educators, and others.

    Dylan is also correct that, personally, I’ve been having a grand time. With both a technology background and 8 years of wine sales & marketing in Napa Valley (relocated from NYC in 2001), these past 6 months have been a dream job. It’s as if I scored the original Really Goode Job, which (for me) will soon have run its full course, and I am excited to see where the NVV takes the early momentum from here. With energetic leaders like Tina Cao and Lesley Russell at St. Supéry, Craig Camp at Cornerstone Cellars, Devon Joshua and Judd Finkelstein at Judd’s Hill, Mitzi Inglis at Raymond, Regina Weinstein at Honig, and many, many others helping to steer the boat, the future looks bright.

    Jason, until we get the social media addresses added to our members’ profiles at you can go on Twitter and look up @NapaVinters. Most of the 350-ish people we follow fall into three camps: Napa Valley wineries, employees of those wineries, or wine writers / wine bloggers / wine PR consultants. Some of the folks you were specifically interested in are: @CornerstoneNapa, @Quintessa, @ZDWines, and @BSchuler (Meteor). You can also reach out to me directly with any questions and I’m more than happy to assist.

    Joel Coleman-Nakai
    Communications Manager
    Napa Valley Vintners

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