Thursday, March 7, 2013

Social Media and the Alcoholic Beverage Industry

This is a post I've been meaning to write for awhile and now I finally have the impetus to do it. Being part of the IBM My Smarter Commerce program for (almost) the past month has left me with a lot of thoughts. Aside from the self-depreciating ones like "why did they pick me?" and "what do I have to offer?" and "why am I talking to myself in my room?", the biggest one is "what is good social media and what has it done for me?" And then I realize.

It's built my brand. Or whatever you want to call In With Bacchus at this point.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that without Twitter, I don't think I'd be half as known as I am now and a quarter as popular as I am (maybe I'm exaggerating those two numbers but I'm just gonna say that they're small to begin with). It's allowed me to do so many things with so little monetary investment. When I first started this website, I had no Twitter followers and it was just a way for me to write down what I liked and didn't like. Now I have 3000+ followers and people actually listen to me. LISTEN TO ME! HOW WEIRD IS THAT?! But how? And why? After a month's worth of thinking, of ruminating, of pondering...I think I got it. The key is twofold: good social media practices and interfacing. Here's how they work.

What Is Good Social Media?

First off, what is good social media? I'm not talking about "what's your favorite platform". I'm talking about how it's used. For me, this ties directly into what I love so much about the beverage industry. You see, even the most industrial spirit...require something special. They require hands on. Hands on is a big thing for me. So many places these days don't make anything anymore. They ship it out, the automate it, they streamline it. But for the majority of the alcoholic beverage industry...that's just not how it goes. Sure, you may have your rectified spirits cut down to make vodka. But at the heart of that are a few guys and gals who check the grain in the grain quality office and decide whether or not its suitable for ethanol production. There are the guys and gals that mill the grain. The people that pump the grain into the mashing vats. The people that pump the water in. The people that check the strike temperatures of the water going in to make sure the enzymes convert the starches to sugars. The men and women that work in the yeast propagation labs, mixing proprietary yeast strains into nutrient media and letting the yeast divide and conquer its way to volumes suitable for fermentation. There are the men and women that dump the yeast and and watch that fermentation. The men and women that fabricate the short, squat pot stills or the stories tall column stills. All of it requires hands on. It's just the nature of the beast. No matter how industrial a company gets...there's always someone there checking, watching, waiting, and using their experience to guide the process to a better product. And that's amazing.

It is no coincidence that good social media programs should be the same way. If you follow me on Twitter (if you don't you should), you know that I spend a majority of my day on Twitter. I love Twitter because it allows me to have hundreds, thousands of micro-conversations in real time with people all across the world on topics I love. Whisk(e)y, gin, cigars, pipe tobacco, you name it. There are people out there that I get to talk to about anything I want and that's super cool. And I get involved. I get hands on. I don't send out blanket Tweets (well, very, very rarely I do), I engage people in one-to-one or small conversations, I answer questions and pose new ones. I treat it like a conversation. That's what people and companies do wrong. A lot of people complain that "Twitter is all Tweets about what people ate for lunch." Yeah, you get those. But fundamentally...that's what you want. You want it to be personal. You want to put yourself out there, get your hands dirty, and use your knowledge and expertise to put your spin on things. Everybody's got something their passionate about. EVERYBODY. You may not think it but there's something out there that when someone mentions it your eyes light up and you start to talk faster. Everybody's got it. Twitter is where you should flaunt it. Where people (mostly companies) go wrong is when they don't share that passion. They don't interact. Blanket Tweets, shilling ads, funny PR quips...they're not good. They don't add anything to the conversation that is Twitter, they just clutter it up. Are you someone super excited about plastic molding? I'm sure there's people out there on Twitter that would gladly listen to what you have to say. But you NEED to get involved. I've seen so many businesses and brands START on Twitter and become successful on Twitter just because they interact, they converse, they hang out in the e-cafe that is Twitter. And that's cool. It also brings me to my next point.

How Does It Help?

The alcoholic beverage industry is MASSIVE. It's more massive than you can possibly imagine and in ways you may not understand. Sure, you have your large companies in the alcoholic beverage industry. They produce dozens of brands, if not hundreds. That's fine and dandy. But there's also the little guys as well. The small production, locally sourced guys. The mom-and-pops of the liquor industry, I guess you could say. And this is where social media shines.

Over the course of the 4 years I've spent on Twitter, I've ran into so many brands NOT associated with large companies its staggering. I've talked with them on Twitter and watched them grow. Imbue Vermouth, Cro Magnon Cigars, Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Bitters, Drew Estate Cigars. I've been able to interface with these brands and watch their growth as I've puttered along on the blog. Twitter is amazing for smaller brands to directly interface with their consumers and get their sweet, sweet liquor and cigars into my mind. I think about them. I want them. They maybe thousands of miles away from me and all they really have is a website and a bunch of stores that sell them but the fact of the matter is is that I've talked to the people that own them, that make their stuff, and had conversations with them. We've chatted. Kind of a big deal. I dunno, I find this part especially hard to put into words. The first part is easier because it reflects what I love about my industry but this part has that certain je ne sais quoi about it. It's awe inspiring to watch brands grow on a social media platform. Using the ability to say "Hey, what about our stuff" in an era of massive advertisements for big brand products is pretty cool. Being able to talk to the people making the stuff is even cooler. And the fact that I can do it at 2am in my sweatpants is probably the best part. But shhh, don't tell anyone that.

1 comment:

  1. Scott, right on the money as far as how I feel about twitter. Facebook and Google+ just don't allow the same level of micro-conversation.

    I think the best analogy I've heard is this: Twitter is like a bar-if all you do is walk shouting how great you are, everyone eventually ignores you. But if you engage others with intelligent conversation, then others at the bar might listen in and even share their knowledge.