21 Jan 2010 @ 10:39 PM 
 

Social media for breweries: Why it matters.

 

Back – way, way back in internet years – just after last year’s Craft Brewer’s Conference, I wrote a little piece about why and how breweries should be using Twitter. It was originally a bit of a followup from watching the internet panel at the CBC. I wasn’t confident that the panel really convinced people why they should be using social media. In fact, I’m not even sure if left people with a favorable impression. So passionate was I about this, that I got together with a couple of great people to put a panel together for this year’s conference.

I’ve been planning on writing a few columns in support of the panel this spring as I work through collecting my thoughts for later discussion. The first was going to be what I perceive as the effective differences between Facebook and Twitter, built for a craft beer business perspective. That’s still coming, but via the magic of the internet, I was pointed over to a thread on ProBrewer that kind of got me by the short hairs.

Let me see if I can summarize this thread for you:

“What’s this Twitting thing? Is that on the Google? I can’t understand what those kids are saying without my ear horn!”

It makes me want to slap people. There is nothing in this world that pisses me off more than willful ignorance. The idea that you can’t understand something because it’s new is a one-way ticket to stagnation and failure. In the end the real issue is that you’re scared. Grow a pair. It’s a plastic box with electronics in it. We call it a computer. You use several every day, probably even to make beer.

I’m sure that all of the guys that posted to this thread are smart. You have to be smart to brew beer and run a business. You have to know a good deal of chemistry, physics, and biology. You have to have business sense and be at least relatively decent with numbers, you have to be savvy enough with people to know your customers, know what they want, and know how to get them to buy your product. And then you put something out like “I could really give a s#$t if those who read our company tweets consume my beer. If they would take guidance from a simple message from a stranger, they’re idiots.”

Shit, man. You just described marketing. You ever watch a commercial? They’re on the television now. Oh, right- that’s another plastic box with electronics in it. Forget I asked.

Nevermind, the lovely irony of asking “Has everyone willingly given up privacy?” on a public message board using your real name as a username. Liam, buddy: Misdirected ire. You must have been having a bad day that day, eh? I hope I can get up to Yellow Belly the next time I’m in NL to try your beer, regardless of that fact that you’ve completely written me off as a customer. Hey – does that mean I can drink for free?

And I don’t really mean to take the piss out of Liam here, it’s just to easy to troll and be snarky when people give you such opportunities! Moving on:

Allow me to address a few of the points that I’m going to summarize out of this thread (and countless freakin’ others out there):

Social Media is for “young people”

Almost 40% of Facebook users are between ages 36 and 65.

60% of Facebook users are over the age of 25.

Those damn kids. They’re probably planning your 30th high school reunion using the Facebook. Maybe you should get in touch.

Social media is a fad.

Facebook reported hitting 132 million users in December 2009. MySpace reports almost 50 million. Twitter reports 23 million. They’re not all overlapping users, though many are (there’s the followup column I’m writing, see?).

Allow me to translate that into math:

If every drinking-aged adult in the country (~200 million) buys beer (they don’t), and craft beer makes up ~5% of the market share (they do), then more people over the age of 26 use Facebook (79.2 million) than drink craft beer (10 million) by a factor of a whole shitload. Fad. Sheesh.

I don’t have time for social media

I don’t have time to promote my business! I don’t have time to get people interested in my brand! I don’t have time to sell my product! I don’t have time to interact with my customers! Waaah!

Really? You know how long it takes me to send out a tweet? Like 25 seconds. To be fair: I type fast. Let’s say it takes you TWICE as long as me to type – no! Three times as long! Finger-pecker!

Ach! My aged fingers can not stand typing for over a minute! I can’t take 75 seconds out of my incredibly busy day to interact with my customers just once!

If you’re that busy, you’re probably at a point where you could consider hiring someone to help you. If you make the point of hiring somebody who’s not an anti-social curmudgeon, then chances are you could make managing social media part of their job and then you don’t have to worry about understanding anything fancy and new.

Look, there’s only one excuse for this type of response: You don’t get it. And you know what? That’s okay! It’s totally fine to not intuitively understand something the first time you look at it. To assume that it’s stupid because you don’t understand it is folly.

You don’t have to spend a lot of time on social media. Can you? Certainly! It can be borderline addictive. I’ll get into that in my next point.

It’s all anti-social crap for people with ADD!

You’re confusing social media with iPhone owners. (I kid! (Mostly!))

Social media is the opposite of anti-social. C’mon, people. “Social” is in the freakin’ name. Every interaction via any form of social media is essentially a part of a conversation. It’s not an update look-at-my-life-because-I’m-so-freakin’-awesome tool. It’s a human interaction please-talk-to-me tool. It’s not just:

“I had a Brooklyn Backbreaker at Tyler’s Taproom last week and I gotta say: pretty awesome.”

It’s also:

“Oooh, I’ve been wanting to try that one. Is it still on tap?”

People are talking about you. They’re talking about your product and they’re talking about your brewery. They’re talking about them a lot and having meaningful conversations about them. That is exactly why social media can be so addictive – interacting with people is fun. You do it in the bar all the time, right? Oh, right – I know: Only with people you know, or people who have the same interests as you, or maybe just the pretty girls.

Yeah, okay. Just like social media. Look, you don’t have to interact with anybody that you don’t want to. You choose who you follow and the people who follow you are enthusiastic fans of your business and your product. They are your good customers and your best evangelists. Not only do they want to have a conversation with you, they want to have a conversation about you to others. You can’t ask for better marketing than that – don’t you want to be a part of that conversation and have the chance to help guide it?

True story: I have met more new beer people in my area in the past year via Twitter, Facebook, and this blog than the previous 6 years I’ve been living here. And I’m talking great people – awesome people that I like to go hang out with after work and have a beer with, people that I have invited over to my house for dinner and drinks, and people that I hope I will not ever lose touch with because they’re such good people. Wow! Being anti-social is fun!

Social media is not a replacement for human interaction – it’s an augmentation.

It’s not a press release machine – it’s a customer interaction tool.

It’s an easy and effective tool that you can use to share your brand and your story with an eager-and-waiting audience and probably have a lot of fun at the same time. Use it. There is no downside and no reason not to.

Tags Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Categories: industry, marketing, media
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 21 Jan 2010 @ 11 30 PM

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Responses to this post » (6 Total)

 
  1. Chelle says:

    You are so right, and this lesson applies to so many industries, and not just breweries. (I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Scott Brown won the battle of the social media before he won the election in MA, for instance.)

    I had to click on the ProBrewer link, and wow, the resistance is just scary-blind. (Though there did seem to also be intelligent responses in the thread from brewers who do appreciate social media, which, strangely enough, makes me want to investigate their product.) I think you captured the reasoning behind it so well: I don’t get it, so I must be against it. Or worse, above it. Kudos for you for illustrating why it’s called “social” media, and that the two — using Twitter & being an active patron — are not mutually exclusive, but rather, the exact opposite.

  2. erik says:

    I suppose I didn’t really address why it matters – this is what you get when you write your title before you write your column. Let that be a lesson to… well.. me, I guess.

  3. As (hopefully) one of those awesome “new beer people in my area in the past year via Twitter” I think you are dead on. My connection with both the professional brewer(ies) as well as homebrewers in the area has been greatly expanded through social media. I enjoy being followed (that’s twitterspeak for a 2 way conversation) by brewers in the area (and nationwide) and this makes me feel appreciated as a customer (or future one). Breweries, beer bars, and bottle shops that embrace social media will get more exposure than those who don’t. Would you not want your product reviewed in All About Beer magazine or on beeradvocate.com? Social media is just media run by the people. Erik, as a friend and future provider of beer to my face, again, I applaud this post. To others who want their beer in my face-take notes.

  4. Brad says:

    Classic, quality rant — albeit a well-informed one with teeth.

  5. Steve says:

    I’m still surprised when I can’t find a twitter account for a brewery or beer bar or when I find one that hasn’t been updated in months. Its a free directed marketing tool. People have to opt-in to receive updates, which means the messages are going directly to people that actually want to receive them. Seems like an ideal situation to me. I know I’ve made visits to local beer bars based on their posts about what beers were just put on tap. At a time when companies are cutting costs and laying off employees, I just can’t understand why anyone would specifically choose NOT to use something that’s free.

  6. erik says:

    As far as I’m concerned it’s either got to be fear (I’m afraid I’ll do it wrong, I’m afraid I’ll look like an idiot, I’m afraid to break something, etc.) or a just an unwillingness to change how you operate. It’s an especially common attitude when you’re talking about new technology.

    There’s the giant element of, “I’ve always done it this way, and it’s worked fine – why should I have to do anything different!?”

    Technology is there to make things easier for us. A tweet reaches at least as many people as a billboard, but in a microfraction of the time and the cost comparison is ridiculous.

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