It's easy to get swept away in the rolling hype of social media. From endless reels of good-looking people drinking beer somewhere exotic to celebrity influencers paid to take selfies holding a can of your drink. Everywhere we look, social media seems to dictate terms. But is it really cutting through in the craft beer space? And what is working best? Jono Outred is on the case, chatting to everyone from influencers to retailers in this Kaddy-exclusive piece.
Craft beer and social media have many commonalities - both are driven by trends and hype. Is it little wonder that, in the modern world of marketing, advertising and sales, craft beer can be surprisingly reliant on the dominant and turbulent world of ‘socials’?
Whether it’s Instagram grids and algorithms to Tik Tok and live feeds via Facebook - brewers, retailers, consumers, and everyone in between has access to an advanced range of tools for promoting, selling and even buying craft beer via social media.
Rocky Ridge's simple, product-forward social approach in action
For brewers, social media plays its most important role in branding and engagement. But there’s plenty for those in marketing and sales to consider too.
Ricky Watt, Brand Manager at Western Australia’s Rocky Ridge Brewery, elaborates that sometimes it's not as simple as it looks.
‘Social media has become a one-stop shop and a major part in brewery/brand perception for punters who want a quick snapshot of a brewery's overall aesthetic. The power of social media for craft beer advertising is diminishing, but it still plays a very important part in what we do. We are having to become more inventive in how we reach our fans as the algorithm can work against us in regards to reach and engagement. People still use it as a reference for businesses in all realms and not just beer, so you have to be at the very least with the curve and not behind it.’
Dayvid Clarke, of Beermash in Victoria, echoes Ricky's sentiments and believes that engagement is key when it comes to social media.
‘I feel like everyone has different opinions as to what success is, and same with social media. For me, it's not numbers, it's engagement - not necessarily online either. It's when someone shows our staff one of our posts or a screenshot and says, "I want to drink that now!”. Social media has helped smaller, unique and independent brands/products find their target audience faster and more efficiently through AI.’
But, how simple – and effective – is social media really?
For the uninitiated, it can seem like more of a drain on time and resources. Conversely, social media can also be a valuable tool not only to move product but also to communicate with consumers, maintain a brand identity and convey the ethos and values of a business.
That’s not forgetting that, as influenced as consumers can be via the social media efforts of breweries, the reverse is true also, with many consumers curating their own social media identities to share and critique the craft beers they try. Brewers are acutely aware of this, and in many cases, a symbiotic relationship exists, where bloggers, photographers, writers and ‘influencers’ can help breweries boost their reach.
Daniel Rootman, who has amassed a considerable following as Daniel Loves Beer, explains:
‘(As beer bloggers) We have a different style of reach. We often get our content out to more eyes than the breweries do themselves. We aim to create fun and engaging content on the side- in our own time away from our daily jobs. We are a marketing tool, a very cheap (or free!) one at that. Ultimately, we try to aid & support the industry through the love of beer.’
These relationships can be tricky, however, with a trade-off between content and product often taking place. The ‘influencer’ realm can be grey, and (understandably) many working in this space distance themselves from both the label and the allure of free products or kickbacks.
‘There have been occasions where some questionable behaviour has been revealed by 'bloggers'. Asking for free stuff, for instance, is a big no-no and widely condemned. I can see why some have a poor perception of what a beer blogger is. Those that trash beers, drain pours etc. That’s terrible form. You must engage with your peers and breweries and get involved in the community.’ notes Rootman.
Outside of this niche (but growing) part of the industry, almost all business across the craft beer world makes moves within social media. And for good reason; in 2022, a staggering 4.62 billion people use social media across the globe, and 424 million new users came online within the last 12 months. It’s no surprise that when effectively used, social media can have a serious impact, often for little or no cost, which is important considering the competitive nature within an industry where engagement reigns supreme.
Tristan Jallais, the owner of Melbourne’s Natural Science Wine & Liquor, has seen social’s influence on beer firsthand.
‘Social media has had a huge impact on craft beer over the last five years, both good and bad. I think it has really helped to raise the profiles of small and emerging breweries by simply increasing the amount of eyeballs on their products and story. Any emerging brewery that isn't using social media will hamper their growth and impact beyond their immediate area. For regional breweries, I think social media is paramount to getting the brand and beers out there.
’We haven't done any major social media campaigns, but we do see people coming in to check out the store because they've seen it on social media or to buy things they've seen on our feed, so the awareness of our shop has been helped by social media.’ Tristan concludes.
For many, social media can be viewed as a waste of time or at least a medium with minimal impact. The reality is, from the perspective of breweries and retailers, social media is having a tangible effect on not only sales and branding but the entire landscape of an ever-evolving craft beer world.
Photos sourced from Instagram.