Social Media and Beer: 3 Lessons for the Beer Industry

Living in Milwaukee has its perks. One being the beer, they don’t call us brew city for nothing. Recently I attended the PR + Social Media Summit at Marquette University. Naturally one of the sessions revolved around how social media is being used in the craft beer industry.

Like all effective social media campaigns, everything comes back to strategy and authenticity. I think panelist Mike Thiel, marketer for Goose Island hit the nail on the head when he said “For every beer that we’ve sold, we don’t do it through big advertising budgets…Everything we’ve done is through one taste at a time. So the way that we view social media is that is an opportunity to reach every customer, one point at a time and help tell a story.”

With that in mind, below are three authentic social media lessons the beer industry could learn from:

Show Personality
Whether big or small, craft or domestic, local or import – beer companies need to determine what their story is and how they want to tell it. Putting a personality
to a brand is one of the easiest ways to build relationships with customers. Beer companies have an amazing opportunity to profile their brew masters and provide insight into why their employees have a passion for their job. If the story surrounds sustainability or other goodwill initiatives, tell consumers why your company cares about that specific cause by sharing a personal connection story. Whatever the story may be, showing personality develops trust with an audience,
online or off.

Infuse communication with packaging
Often times when we think of social, we assume Facebook, Twitter and email are the only ways we can communicate with our customers. We need to break that mold and think about how we can integrate our offline and online communication. For example, Milwaukee Brewing Co. is integrating QR codes on all of their packaging. Although the fad for QR codes may be dying, I still feel they can add value if used appropriately. I honestly can’t speak to where @MKEbrewco is directing user engagement, but for a company that has branded each product with a unique personality, this is a phenomenal opportunity to continue the story and track analytical data for each product.

A picture is worth a 1000 words
Let’s face it, we are a visual people. When we find something we like, we want to see more of it. Today we are seeing more and more companies including visual components to their social media posts. Our consumers expect us to be at the same level as they are, and with the emergence of tools such as Instagram, they have become amateur photographers. According to panelist Dan Murphy, Milwaukee Magazine Brew City writer, “A few bars around [Milwaukee] have done a nice job with Instagram….They’ll take a picture of a new barrel that comes in and post it. I mean, to the beer geeks, it’s beer porn.” Breweries have the opportunity of providing a “sneak peek” at a new products or packaging before hitting the market as well. Recently Blue Moon Brewing Company gave their Facebook fans the opportunity to help brew the newest seasonal beer: Caramel Apple Spiced Ale.

By the way, if you haven’t heard of Untappd yet – I suggest you check it out if you want to try new beers and bars near you.

3 Takeaways from #PRSMS

Yesterday I had the fabulous opportunity to attend the 4th Annual PR + Social Media Summit at Marquette University with fellow LCers and other industry hot shots. The day was filled with exciting projections, eye-opening stats and strategy-driven case studies.

Here are a few of my favorite takeaways:

01 Humanize Brands

Mary Henige, Director of Social Media + Digital Communications at General Motors Company, kicked off her keynote by sharing how GM uses a “human touch” to handle their social customer service. Big brands often have a difficult time showing their softer side, but GM uses a company blog to share stories about their employees. In addition to the blog, they also have about 20 Facebook pages, 16 Twitter handles and a G+ account. More than 70,000 conversations about GM and its affiliated brands happen every month. By having a well-oiled social team and strong relationships with other departments (PR, marketing, customer service) they are able to monitor these conversations and take a proactive stance on customer service. Henige described social media as, “the canary in the coal mine.”

02 Burst Outside the Bubble

Augie Ray, director of social media at Prudential, gave a though-provoking keynote encouraging brands to burst through the social bubble. He urged us as an industry to turn a critical eye to social media crises. For example, when NBC broadcast the 2012 Olympics there was a bevy of social media “crises” that occurred:

  • They broke away from a tribute to the victims of the 7/7 terrorism attacks in London to feature a Ryan Seacrest interview of Michael Phelps.
  • They failed to broadcast newsworthy events like the heart-wrenching display after a South Korean fencer lost her chance at a medal due to a timekeeper’s mistake.
  •  Need I mention the flood of complaints regarding controversial the tape-delay.

But in the end, regardless of all these issues taking over the Twitter world there was no crisis. NBC still set the record for the most-watched television event in US history and broke even on the games due to higher-than-expected ratings + ad revenue.

03 Visualize Storytelling 

Before inspiring us all with her passion for Instagram, Dr. Daradirek “Gee” Ekachai, an associate professor and chair of the Department of Strategic Communication at Marquette University established her photo-sharing credibility by confessing that she has 20 photo apps on her iPhone + 847 photos shared on Instagram. She shared that there are over 10,000 photo apps in the App Store, but when it comes to visual story telling, Instagram reins king. According to Fast Company, users spend more time posting and editing photos on Instagram (257 minutes) than they do reading 140-character tweets on Twitter (170 minutes).  She also shared a fun fact that the first photo shared on Instagram was of a puppy, which garnered a collective “awe” from the audience.

To get a closer look at all the juicy things covered, take a peek at the #PRSMS hash-tag. (Which, might I add, trended nationally on Twitter all of yesterday!)

PR + Social Media Summit | Key Takeaways

Last week, a group of Laughlin staff attended the daylong PR + Social Media Summit, which focused on the convergence of strategic communications and social media.

While I found the entire day to be insightful, a few of my favorite presentations included Chris Barger’s ‘From Planning to Execution, the Story Behind GM’s Social Media Success,’ Jess Berlin’s ‘From Cirque du Soleil to American Eagle Outfitters: A Social Media Comparison’ and Augie Ray’s Glimpse Into The Future of Social Media, which LC’s @SarahVanElzen wrote about here.

A few key takeaways:

  • Don’t feel like you have to come up with a really big idea. You often find that the simplest ideas take off + drive engagement. (via @AlKrueger)
  • Redefine “influence” – treat everyone as if they have thousands of followers on Twitter / friends on Facebook. You can have the most impact in the small communities. (via @CBarger)
  • Shift from “Big” to Local >> Less expensive, less national push, but more directly effective. (via @CBarger)
  • Listen more than you talk, answer more than you promote and above all provide value. (via @CBarger)
  • Make ALL your content searchable – but more importantly, shareable. (via @CBarger)
  • Unexpected happenings can become the best part of your social media campaign – leverage them. Example: American Eagle’s “Denim Song”  (via @JessBerlin)
  • GET TO KNOW THE PEOPLE THAT LOVE YOUR BRAND! *all caps is necessary (via @JessBerlin)
  • What can your brand offer that users didn’t already know? Offer your social communities exclusive content. (via @JessBerlin)
  • The sharing economy is about to explode. Old: they sell, you buy + own / New: they own, you rent / Future: you own + rent (via @AugieRay)
  • Be real. Advertising cannot save brands that are inauthentic. (via @AugieRay)

Want more? All of the speaker’s presentations are available on SlideShare. Check them out here.

Did you attend PRSMS last Tuesday? I’d love to hear your thoughts + key takeaways @ckostrivas