As a craft brewer, one of the biggest challenges you face is getting the word out and marketing your brewery. You probably realize that one of the main things holding back your brewery is getting more exposure for your beer. That’s tough though when you’re already busy brewing, running the business and managing your brewpub or tap room.
There’s a lot of talk about social media and how unbelievably amazing it is for all types of businesses and so a lot of businesses are jumping on the bandwagon without really knowing why or having any strategy.
The truth is, social media is probably not the best way for a craft brewery just getting started to market themselves. Social media often takes a long time to get going so you can expect to be at it for a while before you really see any significant returns.
However, for craft brewery’s that utilize effectively over a longer period of time, social media is an incredibly valuable tool. Done properly, it integrates into all the other aspects of running a brewery and so can pay off big long term without having to invest a lot up front.
Getting Started with Social Media
Social Media is an incredibly powerful because it allows you to take the message the you tell in person at you brewpub, beer dinners and beer festivals to thousands of people every single day.
It creates leverage by letting you to build the same powerful emotional connections that you do with someone face to face, but at scale.
The truth is, people are constantly having conversations about your brewery and you need to get involved!
But where to start you ask? Whether you’re just getting started or looking to take your social media marketing to the next level, this post will serve a step-by-step guide to getting your brewery up to speed on the most effective strategies and tactics.
Social Media Strategy
Focus on Telling Your Story
A lot of people fall into using social media as a purely promotional tool. The real power though is the ability to tell your story just like you would in person.
The rise of blogging and social media show much we love following people’s stories. Let those people that are most passionate about your brand see what’s going on and get them involved
Great content to share includes
- Pictures and Videos from your Brewery or Event you’ve attended
- Messages about brewing beer
- Notifications on Events (on or off premise)
- Anything going on in your brewery’s local community
Don’t be afraid to talk about your personal experience and work either. Craft breweries are small, family-like businesses and you’ll be a lot more interesting if you keep the focus on human stories and not bland, corporate sounding ones.
Boulevard Brewery does a fantastic job of this by talking about local community events that they’re involved in.
Keep Your Fans Up to Date
Your first followers are going to be your most passionate fans. That means they want to know what’s going on and what to expect.
Make sure to post updates of the latest news, information and goings-on.
Are you starting a new, innovative batch? Are you going to a new event? Did you just land a new retailer? Let them now!
It’s also a great way to spread the word and promote events. Let your followers know about that upcoming beer dinner and see if they have any friends that are interested in coming.
Get Involved in the Conversation
It’s not just about you though. Social Media isn’t just a broadcast platform, it’s an incredibly powerful tool for connecting with other people. Stay on top of your communities and actively become a part of the conversation. This doesn’t just help you by
Focus on your Local Community
One of the best ways to do this is to get involved with other people in your local community. Are there any major local events like a music festival going on? Is the local sports team making a playoff run?
Craft Brewers with a strong presence in their home market are both more profitable and more easily able to expand into adjoining markets.
Use social media to connect with other people in your local community through social media by participating in local events and discussions. By tapping into your local community’s pride, you can enhance your marketing and encourage those in your community.
Anchor Brewing does a good job of this, not just by interacting on Social Media, but doing in-person events about their story for people in the community. (Not a bad way to get their story out to their customer base…)
Actions Speak Louder than Words
You can also participate in conversations of communities that reflect your brand’s story. I’m betting brewing beer isn’t the only thing your passionate about.
in Atlanta is actively involved in championing clean water in the South East so they’re always finding ways to infuse their social media and marketing activities with giving back to that cause.
Being involved in those conversations and actively contributing to them lets them tell their story, not just in words, but in their actions.
Beer Lovers Unite!
The other community to get involved in is the craft beer community, of course!
One of the things that constantly amazes me about the craft beer industry is how willing the members are are to help one another out.
Use social media to promote and connect with other brewers and people in the craft beer community.
They’re likely to reciprocate and help you promote your brewery as well.
More importantly than just co-promotion, social media can start meaningful, long-term relationships with people in the craft beer community. And that’s WAY more valuable than just a little exposure.
Sam Adams made a point to give a shout out to all the other brands being served at the 2013 Beer Bloggers Conference
The Nitty Gritty – Social Media Tactics
So we’ve covered some basic strategy – focusing on your local community, getting involved in communities that embody your brewery’s story and connecting with other craft beer lovers and brewers.
This doesn’t leave you a whole to get started with though – what about the down-and-dirty tactics?
The first thing you need to decide is which platforms to get involved in. There are dozens of different social media sites out there and If you try and jump into all of them at the same time, you’ll more than likely end up overwhelmed
While my personal favorite is definitely Twitter (@PortableBarCo – hit me up!), Facebook is definitely the one where you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck in terms of connecting with your audience.
If you’ve got the bandwidth to manage a couple of different accounts though – Twitter has a much better one-on-one connection that make it a great choice for craft brewers to connect on a more personal level.
While there are a bunch of different ways to use Facebook for businesses, the most effectve (and cheapest. and easiest. It’s nice when those all come together, isn’t it?) is to set up a page. If you’re just getting started on Facebok and haven’t done that yet – Facebook offers a guide to get you going with your page
Once you’ve got your page started – there’s a few key pieces that you need to get set-up.
Short Description – This is the first thing people will read when they come to your page. Include a short statement about what makes your brewery unique and your story and then a call to action with why someone should like your page. A lot of people on Facebook are just browsing and if you don’t explicitly ask them to like your page, they’ll look around without ever doing so.
Web Page – Link it up to your website! You want to make it easy for people to get to your site and get more information about you and what you’re up to.
Cover Photo – Your cover photo is a great place to tell your brand’s story with an image. Pictures from recent events, your artwork, or banners about campaigns you’re involved in are all good choices.
Stone Brewery does a good job of promoting a new product with their cover photo and linking to their other Social Media Accounts in the description so people can easily follow them on whatever their favorite platform is.
What to Post
On Facebook, most people won’t ever visit your page again after they liked it for the fist time. Facebook users spend the majority of their time in the News Feed.
Which means – you need to make sure your posts are showing up in people’s news feeds!
To determine what shows up, Facebook uses a special formula called Edge Rank. By keeping your Edge Rank high, your posts will get seen by more people.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to geek out on “gaming” an algorithm.
Simply put, the most important factor for keeping your Edge Rank high and the content you share visible is getting interaction. Facebook wants to show people content that they’re interested in so they bias showing posts that have already gotten a lot of comments and likes.
So the short version is – post things your fans find interesting and engaging.
This means it’s important to focus not on just broadcasting, but creating a conversation and interacting.
- Ask lots of questions and participate in the discussion.
- Respond to comments to help create more conversation.
does a great job talking with their fans and adding a bit of humor to the mix:
More importantly than just making sure your posts show up in people’s feeds, this also lets you get people involved in your story and communicate with them one-on-one.
Facebook also biases rich media over plain text updates. That means photos and videos tend to get more visibility than plain text updates. This is great for you anyway since photos are an easy and effective way to tell your brewery’s story and show people what’s going on.
Instagram is now a part of Facebook so using Instagram to share pictures to Facebook is an easy way to make sure there’s plenty of photos going around.
Pictures are also a nice little way to encourage someone to grab a six pack. Don’t tell me this shot from Abita doesn’t make you thirsty….
Tips and Tricks
Encourage people to interact by ending your posts with Calls to Action. Instead of just posting a picture of the new batch of beer you’re working on, ask whether anyone else is in the mood to do some brewing.
Another popular tactic is to use likes and comments as a voting system. You could ask people to like a post if they’re planning on going to a local event or comment if they aren’t.
Utilize Your Tabs – Tabs are the things displayed just below your Cover Photo. You can post custom content like contests or other special things you want to feature. It’s a great place to feature special events coming up or videos of the goings on at your brewery
Like other pages relevant to your brewery like in your local community or craft beer community. Remember, it’s a conversation. It also makes it easier for people to find you since pages you “liked” are likely to reciprocate and their fans can more easily find you through their page.
While Twitter isn’t as large as Facebook, it’s still extremely popular and growing even faster than Facebook. Twitter is unique because it’s much more effective at helping you get involved in one-on-one conversations than Facebook so it captures more of the power of face-to-face, in-person interaction.
That makes it a powerful tool for both connecting on a more personal level with people in your communities as well your fans. It’s a one-on-one conversation and so people feel more emotionally involved when you talk to them on Twitter.
It’s not a bad way to get in touch with other brewers either. Sierra Nevada has a nice little crew they’re working with!
Another unique feature to Twitter is the ability to use hashtags. Hashtags are frequently overused, but extremely useful in the right ways like at events.
If you’re involved in events, follow and use the relevant hashtag to participate in the conversation. This is a great way to get noticed and connect with other people at the event.
Getting Set Up
Twitter set-up is about as easy as can be – there’s only 4 things you need to get started.
Background Photo – Use a photo that really captures your brewery’s message and story. Just like on Facebook, pictures from recent events, your artwork, or banners about campaigns your involved in are all good choices.
Profile Photo – While most people will tell you to use your logo here, I think you’re better off at the start using your own picture. People want to interact with other people and having a person as the face of your Twitter account lets you do that.
Bio – Write a short description (don’t be afraid to have a little attitude that helps tell your story) and try to include a reason for people to follow your account.
Location – It’s important to set your local location since it makes it easier for people in your local market to find you and reinforces your involvement in the community.
I personally like Flying Dog‘s quite a lot. They may not have followed my best practices list – but I think they get their attitude across.
What to Tweet
News and Events – Since an increasingly large number of people are using Twitter as their main source of news, it’s a great way to let people know about upcoming events or things going on with your brewery. If people are following you on Twitter then the odds are pretty good they want to know what you’re up to.
Personal Commentary – More than pages on Facebook, Twitter is a great place to let people know what you’re thinking. Whether it’s about the local basketball game or your day-to-day business, people want to see some human stories in your marketing. Lagunitas tweeted out a shot of this little critter that had crawled into their beer cellar.
Anything to do with beer? Not really, but still pretty cool looking!
Questions – If you’re trying to figure out what to brew up in the next batch, why not ask the people that are likely to be buying it? Not only is this an amazingly fast and cheap form of market research, it’s also a great way to get people involved.
Promotions – While no one wants to see nothing but promotions, your Twitter followers are likely to be interested in a half off pint night at the brewpub. If you have regular events or specials, consistently letting people know about them can help build momentum.
Shipyard gets the word out about their upcoming Seaport Beerfest.
Photos and Videos – Just like with Facebook, people love to see what you’re up to. Photos and Videos of the brewery, events and other goings-on are often popular.
Vine is a great way to do this. Vine lets you make super short videos and tell a quick, “bite-sized” story about what’s going on.
Show Your Expertise – Did you just try out a new beer you like? Been thinking about a good pairing recently? Let people know. Since you’re the beer expert, your followers are interested in your opinion and insight. You’ve spent years building up knowledge and expertise about beer and brewing and your most passionate fans are interested in learning more not just about your beer, but the field as a whole.
Tips and Tricks
Respond to Everyone – Don’t forget that the real power of Twitter is the ability to connect one-on-one. If someone is talking about you and your brewery, get in the conversation.
Ask for a RT – If you’re trying to get the word out about an upcoming event or promotion, don’t be afraid to ask people for a retweet to make sure their followers hear about it too.
Usa “via @” – If you share an article or piece of new from someone else, make sure to let them know. Using via @username or h/t @username (h/t is Twitter-speak for hat tip) will give the source credit and let them know you liked whatever they shared. Often, they’ll retweet you for mentioning them and help you get a bit of exposure.
Now you may have realized that I skipped a pretty important step – getting people to like and follow you on social media in the first place!
Ironically, the best way to social media get followers is in person.
Actively promote your social media accounts by offering news, updates and promotions on site and at off site events like beer festivals and beer dinners either by telling people about it or putting up signs.
One easy way to do this is to use QR codes at your brew pub or tap room so people can easily scan the QR code to follow or like you.
Share interesting stuff – Seems a bit obvious, but if you are sharing and putting out interesting content, then your existing fans and followers are more likely to share it with other people in their networks. Do it right and you might just “go viral.”
That’s part of the attraction of social media – you can magnify your message though your existing fans and grow fast.
Put social media icons on your website so people that come there to look for more information have a way to connect with you and stay in touch. This is another obvious one, but you want to make it as easy as possible for your fans to connect.
However, the most useful way to get more followers (and actual customers!) is to get involved in the conversation! Respond to everyone that mentions your brand. Sam Adams still personally responds to everyone that mentions them!
If there’s a local event going on, hop on in the hash tag conversation and interact with people.
It’s these kinds of one-on-one interactions that eventually creates the raving fans that will do your marketing for you a LOT better than you ever could yourself. After all, there’s nothing like a recommendation for a friend to try out a new beer.
One of the main dangers of social media is that it can very quickly turn into a time suck and since it can take a long time to build momentum, you want to use some tools to be as efficient as possible.
Tweetdeck is specific to Twitter, but is a great way to keep your twitter account organized. It lets you create columns where you can follow specific hashtags or lists of specific groups of people your following using Twitter lists to help you monitor and stay in touch with unique events and then jump into the conversation
For example, you can set up a couple of columns to monitor hashtags for events your involved in, one to monitor when people mention your brand so you can respond, and one to monitor the most important people in your communities so you know what’s going on and can participate whenever you have time.
Hootsuite is great for scheduling posts on both Facebook and Twitter. While they have a paid version, the free version is more than enough to get started with. If you’re sharing lots of content, it lets you schedule all your tweets in advance so you can do it in batches instead of having to check in throughout the day.
My personal favorite tool however is Buffer. Buffer lets you set a schedule for sharing your content so that whenever something comes to mind, you can just add it in and it will be dripped out over time.
You can install the browser plugin so that anytime you stumble across an interesting article or video, you just hit the share button and buffer automatically schedules it to go out according to a calendar that you set.
While it’s easy to get sucked into social media as a broadcast type platform, there are two massively valuable features of social media for craft brewers – the ability to tell your story at scale and the ability to connect one-on-one with your audience. You’re able both reach a lot of people while also deepening one-on-one relationships to create valuable contacts and raving fans.
The most effective place to do both these things though, isn’t on social media. It’s in person!
When it comes to in person events, our guide to 5 Steps to Fueling Your Brewery’s Growth with Beer Festival Marketing give you step-by-step tactics to:
- Grab attendees attention more effectively
- Arm your pourers with the information they need to tell your story
- Turn first time tasters into long-time brand advocates