Dear rising stars of the beer merchandising scene. Where do I begin? I'm talking to you breweries. Not all of you, but pay attention and you'll know if it's you of whom I'm speaking. I have something to get off my chest, so here it is...consider it some friendly advice, if I may be so bold to suggest.
I nearly tweeted this out today in 140 characters or less:
Rant time! Today I am unfollowing twitter accounts that never follow/reply back. Talking to you, breweries. Step up your social media efforts.I thought better about pulling the trigger on that, but still, there is a nagging reason behind it. I now write about craft beer, ales and all beer for that matter, full time since quitting my job. I have a vested interest in beer, like you. Although I am not a brewer of beer, nor a marketer or merchandiser or distributor or even a retailer, I just like the stuff and have for as long as I can remember. I am one of many on the sidelines that cheers your efforts on, and do so by blogging about it from all angles. So what is my beef?
Beer is first and foremost a "social lubricant" which brings good people together for good times. In other people's words, "Beer is what you do, when you're doing other things." The craft beer scene burst out in the mid-eighties, about 30 years ago. It wasn't long after Jimmy Carter had signed the home brewing exemption law. From that point on, micro, nano and pico brewers have sprung up. Numbers in the thousands now - numbers not seen since the turn of the 20th century. In fact, this week the Great American Beer Festival celebrates its 30th anniversary which is about as long as this craft explosion has been occurring. There have been a couple of contractions and expansions in the past thirty years, but craft beer has had phenomenal and expansive growth. It's pervasive; in every nook and cranny from brewpubs to breweries with tasting rooms, pizza and beer pubs. It has even begun to creep into restaurants, being paired with great food, just as with wine.
Now, at the heart of my gripe is what I explained before. Beer is a social thing. In the past thirty years we have also seen the explosion of another phenomenon, namely the internet. And as beer heads into its biggest expansion phase coinciding with the recent advent of "social media" on the internet, something has become all too apparent. The "social" part has given a new meaning to how we, the beer consumers, have given rise and credence to these emerging craft beers.
Okay. Enough background. What frustrates me is that pico, nano or micro, you need to realize this and stop using Facebook and Twitter and the rest as just an electronic billboard. Behind the Fan Pages and name handles are your real consumers. Stay connected, damn it! I have been following so many brewery accounts for so very long, yet, they are loathe to follow back or at the very least reply to intelligent requests. Set a social media policy just as you would a business plan or disaster contingency. If you don't, you not only risk losing your fan base, (your consumers), but also the demographics you can reap from it.
I started writing out of love for beer and being able to put a few good words together on a blank screen of pixels. It is frustrating to me, that a business such as yours tends to ignore rather than engage your audience of fans. I am not suggesting answering back every post or tweet, but at least you can acknowledge the meaningful. After all, How many of you sport a quarter million "likes" or "followers" anyway? There are few out there that have those numbers. But those that do have discovered it is better to have a person relate to those fans, than to ignore and lose the customer base. And as one who seeks this type of employment in your industry, I am shocked at times as to the governance and seeming lack of care with which many of you ascribe.
Though I have met many brewery reps, owners and brewers and have connected with them personally, I don't think that everyone should require this to get occasional attention. The better business models are built on making the business grow one consumer at at time. I am grateful to those that communicate with and mutually follow myself, as this provides tremendous insight when it comes to writing about your particular beers, ales, restaurants and all the other ventures and collaborations involved.
With all humbleness and humility, I hope that the handful of folks that read and interact with my blogs will get this message. Sometimes it can feel like your screaming in a vaccumm. Thanks for letting me vent.
How about we all discuss a bit more, perhaps over a beer?
Not Firkin Around...