Drink Magazine

Tapping into New-Age Beer Marketing: Beer and Social Media (part 3)

By Bryan Roth @bryandroth

beer-social media

This is the third portion of a three-part series looking at beer companies and social media. Part 1 discussed Big Beer’s increased attention to social media and Part 2 covered examples of Big Beer’s efforts.

Part 3 looks at how smaller craft breweries use social media to connect with customers.

Like any new marketing tool, it always takes a while for a person or company to get the hang of best practices.

With social media, it’s naturally derived from the root of the platform itself – social. But as we’ve seen in part 1 and part 2 of this series, that’s not always the case. Somewhere along the line of building a brand and building a base of loyal consumers, it’s easy to get complacent.

Leave it to the “little guys” to get it right.

Maybe it’s because craft brewers are more akin to the local community movement these days. Maybe it’s because they have to try a little harder.

But no matter the reason, it’s clear that when it comes to the true nature of social media – the “social” part – smaller breweries are reaping the benefits of networks like Facebook and Twitter simply because they’re not afraid to interact, engage and listen.

One of the more impressive “large” craft brewers is Boulevard Brewing out of Kansas City. Their success isn’t necessarily due to large numbers of “likes” or “followers” they’ve accumulated, but rather the actual community you can find online.

In addition to a group photo pool on Flickr which allows anyone to share and submit their Boulevard-related pictures, you may find Boulevard providing witty replies on Twitter or posting about community events on Facebook.

What really stands out is their presence on YouTube, where Boulevard has a collection of “behind the scenes” videos, tasting notes with brewers and more.

“We want to be as transparent and genuine as possible with all of our videos,” said Julie Weeks, marketing communications manager with Boulevard. “We’re fortunate that our employees are able to just be themselves in front of the camera. Some topics such as our one-minute beer videos and troubleshooting segments work great as conversations, which are best told as a video.”

Josh over at Short On Beer has touched on the value of online video for breweries and the gist is this: it’s humanizing, it’s easy and it can only help provide greater information (and hopefully then greater interest) in your brand.

While they may not be as advanced as Boulevard in respect to video, Durham’s Fullsteam Brewery has been able to accomplish just that with success on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.

Since opening in 2010, Fullsteam has had a great advantage many of today’s smaller and newer breweries are afforded – they’ve essentially grown up with social media in their back pocket. As such, owner and “Chief Executive Optimist” Sean Lilly Wilson said Fullsteam has been engaging with audiences online from the get-go, using these three core principles:

  • Ask a lot of questions
  • Be fun and respectful
  • Keep it optimistic

“Many businesses aren’t able to make the leap of using branding as a conversation, but we’ve been very lucky in the timing of our brewery to coincide with the rise of social media,” said Wilson, who runs the @Fullsteam Twitter account. “Early on, I saw people cared, they were interested and they liked giving us ideas online to help shape the vision of the brewery. Why would you stop that once you’re open for business?”

… and they haven’t.

What impresses me about both Boulevard and Fullsteam is their commitment to engagement. Not broadcasting their latest products with one-way communication. While making sales is obviously important, it seems clear they’re interested in advancing the idea and community of their product just as much. Craft beer drinkers love to be educated, so it seems only natural.

Even further, creating connections with fans via social media is powerful because it creates brand loyalty. Having engaging conversations only improves the ability to connect and allow for a business to be more of a voice than just a brick-and-mortar location for transactions.

“That’s the beauty of social media – it lets you engage so you can get a taste of the business,” Wilson said. “Assuming we’re doing our job right, you’ll come to our tavern and anticipate your experience because of a conversation we had online.”

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