Before drilling down to the different platforms and how each can be harnessed to complement your online strategy, it’s important to consider what you hope to accomplish. If you’re already brewing at capacity and aren’t focused on expanding your market, then maybe social media just becomes about retention and showing appreciation for the great people that drink your beer. You, my friend, can take a lighter, less involved approach.
If, on the other hand, you’re looking to grow, it’s worth spending a bit of time to figure out short- and long-term goals, social media as part of your larger marketing strategy and the right mix of tools to reach your targets efficiently and effectively.
The most important decision is staffing. Can one person run all your social media, or do you share the Twitter and Instagram passwords with your “brand ambassadors” so they can post relevant photos from (and thereby show support for) all your valuable clients? If your crew is large you’ll be changing passwords every time someone moves on and will still require a Social Media Manager (SMM) to handle the replies and messages, ensure consistency and track developments. A smaller staff can probably be trusted to be more selective and share the workload, but won’t drive the same volume of traffic.
The advantage of assigning an SMM is having someone who is responsible, and holds others accountable for their individual contributions. Social media can – and probably should – be shared among staff. The SMM oversees the plan to bring all the pieces together.
At my last job I did everything. For a while a co-worker in Montréal took care of the Instagram account… until she mysteriously stopped one day with no explanation or forewarning. She didn’t last long. Another co-worker, also in Montréal (we didn’t trust the Vancouver office), insisted on helping with Facebook, but I had to stop him because he wouldn’t adhere to the protocols and was costing the company valuable exposure. Because it was my job to be on top of everything, the Instagram account continued seamlessly and the Facebook page was cleaned up with almost no interruption.
Whether you’re looking to hire an SMM, contract it out or assign it to somebody already on the payroll, make sure whomever represents your brand understands your core product. Some of you may remember the flaw-plagued infographic that got tweeted by a local beer importer last summer. A few of the better known Toronto beer cognoscenti ruthlessly, publicly picked it apart, with one very prominent writer offering this to his 3,000+ followers: “It’s actually quite irritating, and @________, you should know better than to propagate this.” Obviously it wasn’t the company owner – a very likable guy, well known in the community – who sent out the tweet, but his name is also the company name, so right or wrong it reflected on him.
Next, give some thought to who you’re trying to reach. If you covet the 19-year-old drinker, get somebody who starts each tweet with “Guys, …” and hyper-punctuates each message. Want a more mature beer lover? Employ someone that communicates on their level. Whomever leads your social media should be the type of individual your customers would enjoy having a pint with. Your SMM has to be someone that can strike up and carry a conversation with a stranger, at the next bar stool or online. Personality is actually more important than technical ability.
Now consider the whole online / in-person relationship. It’s symbiotic. Social media isn’t meant to replace face-to-face experiences. Done well it should create more of them, just as someone having a positive, personal experience with your beer may inspire them to go online to seek out other opportunities to engage with your brand. When the SMM works in tandem with your sales and event staff to support your accounts and show appreciation for your / their customers, new connections get made at each level. When that happens you’ll start seeing growth occurring organically.
Think of it like your brain. Over your lifetime it continues to build new connections, while unused synapses eventually degenerate. The more active your brain, the more efficiently it builds connections while keeping old ones from dying. You want your brewery to be operating with a well developed, highly functioning brain.
A brainy way to build connections is by kicking your SMM out of the office. Ideally you want a field reporter – a correspondent that can take a laptop and file stories from your client’s bar, your taproom or the festival. Your customers (existing and potential) should drive the content, which again, is why your SMM’s personality is more important than their technical prowess. Social media platforms get more user-friendly all the time, and some third-party applications can make them even easier.
I’ll talk more about that, as well as effective placement of the SMM soon. First I’ll shed more light on the most engaging social media platform among Ontario brewers, Twitter. You can find that piece here.