Why Social Media is Critical for Breweries.

A couple weeks ago Carla Jean Lautner (@beerbabe) started a twitter discussion on the importance of every brewery having a functional and informative website. Lots of great points were made and it led me to think about all of the pieces that go into a brewery’s presence online. While I agree that a website full of information is crucial, it is also very important for a brewery to set up and maintain active accounts on social media platforms. Social media is an amazing (and mostly free) marketing tool. if it wasn’t for social media I doubt that anyone outside of a few of my friends would ever read Hoppy Boston. in theory social media is easy, customers like your beer, or are interested in learning more, they follow your accounts on different platforms and it allows the brewery to keep these customers updated and engaged in the brand. Obviously brewing great beer is the most important thing, but success engaging with customers in person and online will be crucial as the marketplace becomes more crowded.

Some breweries do an amazing job on their social media accounts. Allagash has a steady stream of beautiful pictures that accompany information about their beers and events at the brewery. TreeHouse is so popular that could probably release their beers at 2 AM on Tuesdays and still attract massive lines, but they are still very engaged with their customers on all social media accounts and keep people well informed on release schedules and wait times. Other breweries are MIA, the accounts either don’t exist or they haven’t been touched in months. Here are a few necessities for every brewery on social media, feel free to suggest anything I’ve missed.

1. Have the necessary accounts:

Every brewery should have a Facebook, Instagram and Twitter account. It is amazing that a significant number of breweries don’t have all of these. I don’t see the use of LinkedIn (at least to communicate with customers), Snapchat or Tinder for breweries, but feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. I imagine there are other social media networks that I’m not privy to (these things make me feel a little old), but these “big three” seem to be the absolute minimum. Beer rating sites like Untappd are a different beast, I know they are important, but I am not counting them for this exercise. Just having the accounts isn’t enough, every brewery should have an employee who regularly posts on all three accounts and responds to comments and questions posted by others.

2. Have a designated person who runs social media accounts:

Bigger craft breweries tend to have a designated person in their marketing group that exclusively handles social media. A small start-up brewery probably can’t afford to hire a designated marketing person, but there should be one person in the group who takes on this role to start. This person should devote a portion of every day to the accounts, posting news, reminding people of beer releases or other special events, and most importantly interacting with customers. Social media allows direct and constant access to your customer base, and allows the brewers to get feedback on everything they put out. Building these positive online relationships can lead to repeat customers, and satisfied customers spread the good word to their friends, which leads to new customers.

3. Take good pictures:

It’s pretty awesome that we all carry phones in our pockets that come with solid cameras, you can capture any aspect of your life with a picture at any time (good God, am I glad that wasn’t true when I was in college, missed this by a couple years). While these pictures are fine, you can really tell when a talented photographer has taken picture with a high quality camera. Inevitably some of the day-to-day pictures in a brewery will be taken with phones, but every brewery should make an effort to engage a trained photographer to take professional pictures of their facility and their beer. There is no excuse for stock photos on the website or social media accounts. Chefs always say that people eat with their eyes first, and the same can be said with beer, quality pictures get you excited to try the beer.

4. On Facebook:

The brewery Facebook account should have all of the general information from the website (location, hours, etc.) but your Facebook page is NOT a replacement for a website. Posts should be frequent, but shouldn’t overwhelm the news feeds of your followers. Daily updates that include which beers are available and other special events are encouraged. Facebook is great for brewery events, you can invite all of your followers and their friends will be able to see when they respond “yes”, potentially attracting new customers.

5. On Twitter:

Twitter allows for much more regular updates, but it is important to do twitter specific posts instead of just sharing links to your Facebook account. The key to twitter is engaging with your followers. You don’t need to retweet every positive Untappd check-in (actually, please don’t do that), but it takes minimal effort to hit the like button when a customer says they love your beer, and a quick “thanks” takes just a little more time. Whomever is in charge of the twitter account should also regularly respond to questions and know when and where the beers they are talking up will be available. Twitter is also a good place for people to reach out with a QC issue, but don’t rehash the whole issue on Twitter for everyone to see, just pass along an e-mail or do it through DM.

6. On Instagram:

Instagram is pretty easy. Take cool pictures of your beer and your brewery and then share them. When others post cool pictures of your beer click the like button and say thank you. It’s also another good place to share beer release/special event info, but the key is quality photography that will catch people’s eyes.

Those are my key points, running successful social media accounts isn’t that hard, and the effort it takes will pay for itself between feedback that improves the quality of your product and the relationships you build that turn occasional customers into regulars. Plus, anytime the occasional negativity of beer social media gets you down just spend a little time on pages where people are arguing about politics and you will feel much better (about beer debates, not about the state of the world). Cheers!

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