With 1,716 craft breweries across the United States today, the harsh reality is that differentiating your brand has become more necessary than ever. Traditionally, this is done through the use of TV, radio, print, or outdoor advertising, but these mediums are often way too expensive for small companies. That’s where social media comes in. But, why should small local breweries use social media? Well, I’m glad you asked.
1. Brand Personality: Social media is branding in its purest form and allows a brand the constant opportunity to directly communicate who they are and why they do it. This is something that needs to be taken advantage of because it can really help one brewery stand out against the rest. For example, when someone mentions Stone Brewing Company, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For me, I think of liquid arrogance, my degree of worthiness, and even a bit of Greg Face. Brand personality is a very real concept and social media should be used as an avenue to reinforce that personality with each post.
2. Brand Awareness: It seams that each time I walk through the beer aisle, I find something that I’ve never seen before. While this is great for a consumer, it makes it even more important to have strong brand visibility. With all of the selection these days, consumers are turning to the internet to help distinguish the best products. Showing up in this search process is critical and can really help consumers recognize your beer over others. Also, showing up in their news feed every day is an easy way to keep your brand fresh in their mind.
Iron Horse Brewery point of sale displays are among the best uses out there with respect to a brewery using QR codes to engage with consumers. They’re helping consumers make the right decision about the beer that they’re looking to purchase (whether that includes an Iron Horse beer, or not).
3. Community Building: I’m sure you’ve already heard a million times that it’s all about engagement. That’s true but what does that even mean? Is it thanking each person that includes you in their follow friday? Running special offers and contests? Posting industry related links and articles? Ya, it can be all of that but no matter what, it’s about making everyone feel included in the community. While posting a relevant question can garner responses, its necessary to keep these conversation going. Social media is not a one way street.
Karl Strauss does a great job at this by posting a code each Friday for a discounted growler fill. Also, when people check in on Untappd, it isn’t unusual to get a response from Ryan Ross (@Karl_Strauss) asking me how I like their beer. This personal touch goes a really long way in building an engaged community. Use technology as a tool but never forget that what people really want is to interact with other people, not computers.
4. Cost Effective: Sure you can pay for advanced analytics, post automation software, and maybe even a dedicated employee but at its most basic level, social media is free. Unlike many traditional advertising mediums, which are often too expensive for startups, social media allows even the smallest of players to participate. For example, Hess Brewing is a San Diego “nanobrewery” that brews only 51 gallons per batch. Their 2,155 likes on Facebook is about 200 times the capacity of their tasting room, which is only open 4 days a week.
The potential to mobilize this group became clear with the release of their anniversary beer, Anno Unum. It was only promoted on Facebook and when it became available online, it sold out in 2 and a half hours. These are impressive numbers considering Hess is a small organization. Even our friends at Societe Brewing have 740 likes and they haven’t even opened their doors yet. Social media doesn’t have to be expensive or overly time consuming, it just needs to be personal and interesting.
5. Word of Mouth: Craft beer, like any niche product is highly dependent on word of mouth advertising. As a small brewery, it’s practically impossible to compete with the marketing budgets of the big players (Budweiser, MillerCoors). If however, you can get people talking about your next beer release online, it can really help boost sales. Whether you want to call it hype or social proof, it’s the same idea. Consumers like to be reassured that they’re making the right purchasing decisions.
As a brewery, it’s important to use social media to get discussions started and then remain in the conversation when it happens organically. Patrick Rue of The Bruery is often seen responding to threads on beer forums with questions about their releases. Having a presence can really help get the proper information out to the most influential customers. Social Media is a great way to capture a piece of the buzz.
Philippe Gagnon is the founder and writer for Craft Beer Culture. Currently residing in Orange County California, you can find him at the local brewery drinking craft beer or online through Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.