As seen in Beverage Master Magazine, June/July 2016

beer faucets in a bar
Tweet the right tweet at the right time and thirsty customers will beat a path to your door, especially if it goes viral. Used properly, social media increases brand awareness and positively shapes stronger relationships with past, present, and future customers.

Are you still unsure that social media is worth the time and investment? No worries. There’s plenty of proof that a strategic social media campaign boosts profits by attracting the attention that all brands need to grow and prosper. Samantha Spector, the founder of SaloonBox, a cocktail subscription box service, reported that her company runs a successful Instagram page that effectively drives sales. You can view the company’s Instagram page at instagram.com/saloonbox.

On Saint Patrick’s Day, SaloonBox ran a successful Owl’s Brew artisanal tea cocktail mix contest on Instagram. To achieve high engagement, SaloonBox required its giveaway entrants to perform the following tasks:

1) Tag a friend in comment
2) Like this photo
3) Follow @saloonbox
To ensure social media success, Spector advises craft spirits producers to do two very important things—use relevant hashtags within the body of the initial post and post on a consistent basis.

SaloonBox utilizes Iconosquare, a marketing suite created exclusively for Instagram marketing purposes. Services such as Iconosquare are used to launch contests, track and respond to comments, and share Instagram posts across multiple social media platforms. Spector reported that Iconosquare helped SaloonBox understand certain metrics, such as the best time to post and the best hashtags to use.

Getting Social

There are numerous ways that a craft beverage company can harness social media’s sizable marketing power. Enplug, a digital signage software company streamed live Twitter and Instagram channels on TV screens in the Alaskan Brewing Company’s tasting room. Enplug’s Head of Growth, Colin Bovet, reported that businesses can also use Enplug to upload social media graphics and videos for promotions and events.

For Tiffany Starnes, the vice president of innovation at New Orleans’ digital marketing agency FSC Interactive, social media marketing success is all about focused messaging and strategic event promotion and partnerships. Starnes has handled a handful of beverage accounts and has experience with both craft spirits and craft beer.

To maximize social media’s marketing power, Starnes offers the following tips:

1. Define your audience and develop a focused approach to reaching that audience through demographic, lifestyle, and behavioral targeting. Create a niche persona of beverage enthusiasts or develop a campaign to reach and connect with fans of competitors and peers.

2. Offer content that is entertaining, informative, or able to provoke an emotional response.

3. Partner with relevant influencers who align with your brand’s goals and are able to meet specific criteria proving they have an interested and receptive community. Be sure that influencers meet legal regulations related to the craft liquor industry. Invite influencers to events to host and experience your craft spirit or craft beer and encourage attendees to share social content during those events. Use a specific hashtag to create a virtual tasting for audiences.

4. Monitor trending topics and capitalize on applicable trends specific to the craft beverage industry. Think about upcoming events that will appeal to your audience and develop content to take part in the conversation.

Is your ideal customer a sports fanatic? Do your customers head to the local pub to root for the local sports team with other diehard fans? Are you seeking to place social media marketing tasks on automatic pilot? Sharon Scrima, the chief operating officer at Sports Media 101, suggests that craft beverage producers tap into “ constant, consistent and non-invasive messaging” by sponsoring Sports Media 101’s weekly social media posts and online and offline sports team promotions.

Scrima reported that companies co-branding with Sports Media 101 via a recent pilot, experienced increased ROI and engagement, per dollar, spent on advertising—across many mediums.

Who Are You, Really?

Tara Skinner, the Director of Marketing at Big Rig Kitchen and Brewery believes that craft beverage social media marketing campaigns should be conducted in an unpretentious manner. Acting like a multinational brewing conglomerate is the wrong approach. Instead, Skinner advises craft beer producers to focus on authenticity and “owning their craft beer vibe.”

On its Instagram account, Big Rig posts photographs of its new craft beverages, behind-the-scenes videos, photographs of the raw ingredients used to create its brews, and other photographs that strongly define Big Rig’s brand identity.

“Steer clear of stock photos and lifeless posts. If it’s not awesome—if it doesn’t represent your brand to the nth degree, steer clear.”

Are You Brewing Up Business Or Legal Woes?

Social media marketing is an excellent way to gain attention for relatively low cost, but there’s a risk of gaining the wrong attention. Add alcohol to social media and marketing gets a bit trickier due to lack of knowledge about trademark use and state liquor laws. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) have crafted strict guidelines defining social networks as a form of advertising.

Candace Moon, Esq., is the founder of the Craft Beer Attorney, APC, and a California-based law firm exclusively dedicated to craft beer industry advisement. Because liquor laws vary from state to state, Moon is currently working on putting together a coalition of craft beer attorneys across the nation.

According to Moon: “What is unique to the brewing industry is an understanding or knowledge of the alcohol laws in regard to social media. For example, in California, you can’t use the word ‘free’. There are a lot of semantics involved whenever you are dealing with the alcohol agencies.’

Copyright restrictions are another important issue for bloggers and social media mangers to understand and follow. Moon warns that there are law firms that are always on the prowl for cases of copyright infringement because photographs are often grabbed off the Internet without gaining proper permission and infringement fines are often quite large. “It’s so easy to grab something and make a flier,” said Moon.

Sidestepping Legal Pitfalls

Below, is Moon’s advice for avoiding legal woes.

1) Don’t grab images off the Internet and assume you can use them because someone owns every image and you need the owner’s permission to use it.

2) If you aren’t knowledgeable about copyright, it’s safer to capture your own photographs because you’ll know for certain that you own those images.

3) Be extra careful about using trademarks and images connected to large organizations. In general, the bigger organizations are very particular about the use of their trademarks. Moon warns: “Some groups are a little weirder than others about that kind of stuff.

4) The monetary value of consumer giveaways are restricted by alcohol law, so always check to make certain that your giveaways don’t exceed your state’s guidelines on cost limitations.

Step It Up By Keeping Up

Ultimately, despite all of the handy tools and tips and tricks, social media marketing success hinges mainly on consistency and hard work. It’s a lot harder to maintain a Facebook company page than it is to set one up. While I was researching the social media sites of craft producers, I noted that several companies failed to post regularly or were slow to respond to connection requests. Many sites were dull in appearance and lacked captivating images. What’s the use of setting up a social media site if it’s not attractive and your social media manager isn’t updating your site or interacting with potential customers or media inquiries in a timely manner?

Social media is valuable when it is used properly, but the misuse, neglect, or abuse of social media can tarnish your brand. Before setting up a social media marketing campaign, it’s prudent to consult with an experienced marketing consultant or tap into essential information provided by useful resources, such as the sites listed below:

1. Thinking of running an Instagram contest? You might want to download a free Instagram contest guide provided by Iconosquare. You can grab a copy of The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Contests here:http://resources.iconosquare.com/run-successful-instagram-contest/

2. Craft beer brewers can brush up on social media fundamentals by reading The Portable Bar’s website useful article “The Ultimate Guide to Craft Beer Social Media Marketing” authored by Taylor McQuiston.