There was a time breweries ventured into communities as outside interlopers. Breweries shipped their beer hundreds if not thousands of miles as they churned it out in factories before it finally arrived in our neighborhoods. Breweries inundated us with ads, blaring down from billboards or broadcasted into our living rooms through the TV.
Over the past couple decades in America, that's changed. Now, most people live a short drive from a brewery and can often easily see the beer being made and talk to the actual people who make it. Breweries are becoming the social gathering places they once were before Prohibition wiped that out. Money spent on locally brewed beer is more likely reinvested into the surrounding community rather than transferred into corporate bank accounts. America's brewing revolution has done a lot more than simply create better tasting beer. It's created a culture were breweries are members of their community, interacting with their surrounding populace.
Dan Conley's question "Are breweries your friends?"explores a dimension to this recent phenomena on how breweries can most effectively interact through social media. Most small breweries use social media as a cost effective marketing tol to interact with their customers and potential customers in the immediate area. Both social media's and craft brewing's growth have roughly the same trajectory and that's not entirely a coincidence, since social media has undeniably provided fuel for craft beers popularity.
I follow a few of my local breweries on Facebook and Twitter and my advice for any aspiring brewery hoping I'll follow them is pretty simple: Act like a good friend. It's nice to hear from you from time to time but blast out five or more posts a day and I'll hit the "unfollow" or "unfriend" button pretty quickly. Rather than always talk about yourself, tell about your employees, some of your vendors, or other partners you work with. You can brag a little, but describing every single beer you brew as "AMAZINGLY AWESOME" gets old real fast. Show the beer being brewed, talk about the ingredients, and let the brewer explain how it was made. That's far more engaging than just blaring out "HAVE WE GOT AN AWESOME NEW RELEASE FOR YOU!!!"
Take advantage of the full interactivity of the medium. People like getting brewery responses and "likes" to their comments or Tweets. You can learn a lot from a conversation with your customers, and learn to take criticism well and with a thick skin. You don't have to be selling your beer, just talk with people, ask questions, and listen to the answers. People are more likely to purchase beer from someone they've gotten to know.
If I decide to follow you on Social Media that means I'm interested in hearing your story and the beer you make. You can let me know about new releases or brew pub specials but don't turn me off with lots of hard selling. If I get to know you and your beer, in the not too distant future I will pay you for it.
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