This column isn’t really beer related so much as it’s a long ramble of thoughts in preparation for a panel presentation at the upcoming Craft Brewers Conference. If you’re heading there, come see Storytelling 2.0: Social Media as a Conversation on Saturday morning where I’ll probably spend almost a whole minute talking about the contents of this column.
The reason that I’m focusing on Twitter and Facebook is that they are the two most ubiquitous forms of social media. Are there others? Yes. There are many others. It’s quite possible that one of them will turn out to be the Next Big Thing. It’s even more possible that the Facebook-killer is sitting as an unrealized dream in somebody’s head, waiting for VC and a team of developers. Let’s worry about the now.
Right now, Facebook and Twitter are kings of social media space. Very recently, Facebook logged more visitors than Google in a weekly metric for the first time. The media will write all kinds of grand, sweeping assumptions about what this means for internet usage, advertising markets, etc., etc. What it means to you and me is that a freakin’ lot of people are looking at Facebook. Twitter doesn’t see nearly that much traffic, but it’s equally as important. You just have to understand how it’s being used.
Social media is a unique medium. It is one in which you can’t necessarily target your audience, your audience targets you. That might not seem quite right up front if you think about traditional forms of media and advertising (television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and on and on) because you’re not in control of who is consuming your ad, right? Sure. Okay. But in all of those cases, the people who are selling advertising have a really good idea of the type of market demographic they’re reaching. They know their audience(s) and will tell you all about it. Television and radio change their advertising based on time of day because they have a good idea of who is watching or listening when. There’s a reason why sugary cereal commercials play on Saturday mornings and laxative commercials play during golf tournaments.
With Twitter and Facebook, you can only do blanket targeting a la, “I know that my target audience is beer-drinkers.” Certainly, using ads on Facebook you can target specific demographics quite effectively, but when it comes to someone “becoming a fan” of your business and consuming your day-to-day content, it is identical to Twitter where you have no control over who decides to actually follow you. It’s possible that down the road longitudinal data will be collected and statistics will be able to show you that, “Traditionally, 25 – 45 year old males use Facebook between the hours of 9 AM and 5 PM,” but that doesn’t currently exist. Or if it does, I’m not sure I’d trust it to be reliable, yet. There are broad sweeping rules that seem obvious: If you want clickthroughs, post to Facebook on the weekend… y’know.. when people aren’t at work.
In reality, I think that knowing your social media audience is about knowing their consumption habits.
Here’s my theory on Facebook v. Twitter. I have no scientific data to back me up. I have conducted no studies. I am just a big nerd that likes listening to himself type.
Obvious: Creators create content, repeaters aggregate and disseminate content, consumers consume it.
For the most part, every user is built of all three of these. However, the extent to which they do any given one of these vs. the others will vary greatly. 90% of content on Twitter is created by 10% of the users. Think about that for a minute. It’s not that those other 90% aren’t there (okay.. some of them aren’t there), they’re there. They’re consuming.
You, as a brewery, as a business, are a Creator. It is important that you are also a Consumer, or you will come off as a Douchebag, which is not good for business. It is also important that you spend time being a Repeater, because Repeaters create community and community is what you want, but your primary role is a Creator. Your task is to get information to the Consumers, and you will largely do it through the Repeaters. Many Consumers will find you directly, but chances are they will do so via a Repeater. So why is it important that you Consume and Repeat as well as Create?
Because social media is a conversation.
I mean, it’s “social” media for crissakes. Like any good conversation, it’s about give and take and balance. When you show that you are willing to interact with others, others will feel like you’re a valuable conversation partner and will disseminate your content as well. It’s about relationships – just like sales.
If you are only a Creator – if you use Twitter and Facebook as a press release machine – people will stop following you pretty quickly because you have no added value. You need to engage with people to be successful in this medium. You can’t just put stuff out there like it’s a billboard. It won’t work. However! It is essentially the largest, free-est billboard you have available to you.
Let me get back on topic: The difference between Twitter and Facebook.
Facebook, regardless of what their founders may have envisioned or would like it to be, is built (maybe even a little ironically) around privacy. That is probably the largest source of their success. It allows people to have an environment where they can be both social and more-or-less safe and private. People that are posting pictures of their babies and families don’t necessarily want that information to be repeated and shared to total strangers.
Twitter has no filter. Everything that is created goes out to everyone. People that use Twitter a lot revel in that. They are attention seekers.
Note: You can protect your tweets – lock them from people seeing them without your permission – but there is anecdotal evidence that shows that when you protect your tweets you essentially cut yourself off from viral community growth, which is the strength of Twitter. People won’t ask to follow you if they don’t personally know you.
In other words, Twitter is an extrovert tool and Facebook is an introvert tool. It’s a gross generalization, but it works.
Here’s a guess: I would bet that most Twitter users have a Facebook account but that most Facebook users do not have a Twitter account. Twitter users will talk to anyone and everyone, Facebook users only really talk to their friends.
While there’s a fair amount of content crossover between Twitter and Facebook, you have to use these tools differently.
When you post something on Facebook that people like, they will “Like” it to give you feedback that you’ve done something, or said something right. Some people may comment on it. For the most part, it’s only going out to the people that are following you as fans. These people are enthusiastic for your product, since they have chosen to receive updates from a business in the midst of their private and personal space. That is even more reason to not treat it as a press release machine. Remember: You don’t have to convince these people. They already know who you are and what you do. They’re already fans and customers. They’re following you because they’ve bought into your vision and they want to engage with you and interact.
When you post something on Twitter that people like, they will Re-Tweet it. Those people may not be following you because they’re existing customers. Twitterers are just as likely to follow you because you look interesting, you seem interesting, or you’ve Tweeted something once that they were intrigued by. They are also just as likely to stop following you because you’re boring or you’re annoying. They are the social butterflies of the internet.
When you post to Facebook, it’s your job to make announcements to your customers and start conversations. Ask leading questions. Get feedback. Invite people to events. Post photo albums. Most importantly: Consider that the information on your Fan Page takes a much longer time to move than it does on your user’s “Recent Posts” listing and that they can and will use your page as a time line to go back and read over recent, and even not-so-recent posts. Facebook is much more of an on-going time line that people will scroll back through to see what’s happened. Because they generally are only friends with people they know in Real Life, they’re likely to be following far fewer people than your average Twitterer. You can over-post.
When you post to Twitter, it’s your job to be a fun and interesting conversationalist. Ask leading questions, but also answer them. Create relationships, because those with whom you have good relationships will be your biggest fans. Post photos, but use them as part of your daily story line. Don’t assume that they’ll necessarily stay around for people to see later, because most people won’t bother finding them. Twitter is like a snapshot of life. Because of that, it might seem like a smart idea to repeat the same information over and over again so that others who aren’t looking at the snapshot when you post will see it, but by doing that you’ll antagonize the frequent watchers – and those are the big Repeaters.
On both sites, trust that information will disseminate. It’ll happen. These sites are the very definition of viral marketing. If you have something valuable, it will spread. Like any good conversation, people will revisit a topic later, especially one that they’ve enjoyed. Let them do it. The challenge is to create something valuable and to keep that conversation going.
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.”
“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.