Social Media Best Practices: Craft Brewery

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Social Media Best Practices: Craft Brewery

After researching several craft breweries in the United States, we have concluded that the most effective social media campaigns are conducted through the following social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. Below, I will outline several practices successfully incorporated by craft breweries, including Long Tail Brewing, Shiner, Monkish Brewing, Stone Brewing, and New Belgium Brewing. These practices include annual strategies for quarterly promotions, capitalizing on user-generated content, understanding different levels of social media engagement, having direct contact with consumers, and leveraging holidays. After touching on these strategies, I will overview best practices for each of the main social media platforms mentioned above.

According to UVM Out Reach, developing a yearly strategy that focuses on quarterly releases, key promotions, and special events is key in deveoping "buzz" around a brand. Long Trail Brewing focuses on social media outlets such as Facebook, Instagram Twitter, and their official website to promote new and limited releases. To maximize efforts on social media, the brewery has a specialist for each platform. They advise that writing posts should center on "great central story telling".

In order to use social media effectively, companies should capitalize on user-generated content, such as online comments, pictures, and product reviews. Also known as "earned media", user-generated content can be more powerful than market-prepared advertising. For example, Monkish Brewing found that when Instagram users tagged them in posts, exposure to their products increased. While these tags did not necessarily mean consumers had Monkish Brewing beer at that exact moment, it garnered interest in their brand both domestically and internationally.

The average post frequency for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are 0.8 times per day, 1.5 times per day, and 0.8 times per day respectively. However, engagement per post is five times higher on Instagram than on Facebook, and forty times higher on Instagram than on Twitter. By understanding which social media platforms are more likely to warrant engagement from consumers, breweries can capitalize more effectively on these platforms to spike interest in their products. For example, hashtags have far more impact on Instagram than on Facebook. Due to different user privacy levels, it may be more difficult to penetrate consumer circles on Facebook. Hashtags on Instagram are a far more effective way of increasing the exposure of a post.

One of the many strengths of social media is that it allows companies and influential figures to interact directly with fans and potential customers. Flashpoint Marketing recommends that brewers treat social media like an extension of their tasting room. The same way that tasting rooms allow beer fans to chat with brewers and learn more about the brewery, social media can facilitate a degree of connection between consumers and brewers. Comments on posts should be treated similarly to a customer walking into a tasting room; direct interaction over social media can also act as a kind of customer service.

Another form of direct interaction via social media constists of spontaneous announcemnets. For example, Monkish Brewing will use social media platforms to announce at 2pm that one of their products will go on sale at 4pm. Monkish then announces a line count on Twitter; users can then see that by 4pm, there are hundreds of people in line for the sale. Monkish uses social media to continue updating consumers on how much beer is left, how many people remain in line, and whether its worth joining the queue. Meanwhile, people in line are chatting with each other in the comments section of these social media posts, which serves to expand the brewery's influence, network, and even facilitate the development of a community. Soon after 5pm, the brewery will announce through its social media channels that the beer has been sold out. These kinds of "flash sales", which dramatically increase revenue, would not be possible without social media.

Holidays are a popular time for promotions, limited release products, and sales. By employing holiday-specific hashtags and tapping into hype over St. Patrick's Day, Christmas, or any holiday with popular seasonal flavors, breweries can dramatically improve exposure and sales. Sierra Nevada was particularly successful in capitalizing on St. Patrick's Day using #StPatricksDay on Twitter.
One important strategy to monitoring the effectiveness of a social media campaign is by checking click-through-rates (CTR). Generating a CTR to action ratio is important to understand how effective a campaign is. For example, it is important to compare the number of people who clicked on a post vs the number of people who went a step further and commented, or followed a link to the brewery's official website. Ideally, a brewery would be able to trace its product orders based on when it made a particular social media post or sent a particular email to subscribers. In the long term, breweries should aim to grow their subscriber lists among key demographics. All social media pages should be integrated in emails and on the official websites to allow opt-ins to drive relevant subscribers. It is also advisable to share content with incentives to current subscribers, to ensure they do not become disengaged. Monitoring social media for mentions of the brand, and using a brand hashtag, are also good ways to gauge social media presence and campaign effectiveness.
It is important to note that Facebook page followers only see approximately 10% of that page's posts. By maximizing engagement with a Facebook page, brewers can increase the likelihood that other page followers will see their posts. One effective strategy is to shoot live videos that make the fans feel more involved in the brewing process than they normally would. This can reveal aspects of brewing customers and fans are not typically exposed to. Live videos are also a popular method of unveiling new releases and improving branding.

Facebook is also an excellent platform to share articles and posts that may feature the brewery, give interesting information on craft brewing, or reinforce the brewery's values. However, it's important to note that hashtags are not as effective on Facebook as they are on Instagram and Twitter.

Another good practice on Facebook is to use the paid 'boost post' function, which Shiner employed to improve its average engagement. According to one study, Facebook engagement rate across twenty companies was 0.23%. Shiner Beer, however, increased this average to 15.9%, nearly 65 times more, via the 'boost post' function.

Facebook is also a moderately good platform to leverage user-generated content, especially pictures. Since photos are the most consumable media on Facebook, with higher engagement rates than other kinds of media, re-posting user-generated pictures may result in higher engagement. Taking followers "behind the scenes" with photos of the brewing process may also result in an engagement increase. Bell Brewery employed this strategy and experienced a 2.25% jump in engagement.
According to the Brewer's Association, engagement increases when brewers display more than just their product on Instagram; by posting photos of employees who make the brewing process possible, and applying the relevant hashtags, consumer engagement increases significantly. It is also advisable to use diverse hashtags to reach multiple audiences.

Unveiling new artwork for cans, bottles, branding, and new releases also generates a positive response from Instagram users. It is also helpful to use the Repost app to feature photos from fans and customers.
Instagram remains a popular platform for social media celebrities; by using celebrity promotion and engaging Instagram influencers, breweries can increase their exposure. For example, New Belgium Brewing saw their Facebook engagement increase by 150% when Jason Momoa posted a picture of himself and a friend drinking New Belgium. Very quickly, New Belgium's social media team reposted the picture through other social media channels. The Instagram post for this photo had 4.4% engagement, which is four times higher than the average for 20 other breweries.

However, in the absence of celebrities, brewers can always turn to puppies; Stone Brewing Co. improved its engagement to 3.27% by including puppy pictures in their Instagram posts. According to Craft Brewing Business, "puppies and kittens almost always cause spikes in engagement".
Twitter is an excellent platform for taproom updates, event announcements, job postings, and general interaction with fans. As evidenced by the aforementioned case of Monkish Brewing, Twitter can be a powerful tool for attracting fans and facilitating engagement.

However, unlike Instagram, it is advisable to use only one or two hashtags which are important to the brewery's fans and customers. Large numbers of hashtags may clutter the tweet and make it difficult to read. Breweries can also set up Twitter streams based on regional and local hashtags such as #gabeer, #cltbeer, and #pdx.
Using programs such as Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, brewers should set aside a small amount of time each day for tweets.
Like Facebook live videos, Snapchat is an excellent platform for engaging consumers on a more personal level. Beer drinkers who "value seeing their brewers up close" may be particularly inclined towards this form of social media outreach. Snapchat videos allow viewers to experience tours of tasting rooms, the canning line, and gives them the opportunity to ask questions about the brewing process. Rather than investing in product promotion, Snapchat focuses on brewery life, which many craft beer enthusiasts are interested in. New Belgium's Snapchat has taken this approach, which appeals to long-term customers, fans, and is "less likely to be censored", since the platform doesn't allow for restrictions the way Facebook and Twitter does.

Another advantage of Snapchat is that it allows for sponsored geofilters. These are colorful overlays that pop up when users create snaps from the same location. These can be made with a logo, the brewery's motto, a product name, or the brewery's address.

Social media has become an indispensable business tool for both craft and large brewers alike. However, for craft brewers, which tend to attract fans and customers that appreciate engagement and are genuinely interested in the brewing process, social media can vastly improve influence, and subsequently sales. Some social media strategies brewers can incorporate include: annual strategies for quarterly promotions, capitalizing on user-generated content, understanding different levels of social media engagement, having direct contact with consumers, and leveraging holidays. Furthermore, the above detailed strategies for platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat have proven highly successful for several small brewers, including Long Tail Brewing, Shiner, Monkish Brewing, Stone Brewing, and New Belgium Brewing.