Could Facebook Destroy the Brewing Industry?


Back in May when I was visiting with Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers at Founders Brewing, the topic of brewcations was brought up for discussion. It was a smaller portion of a topic centered around how craft beer has become even more popular today than it was in the 90s. In the discussion it was decided that the vast majority of brewcations have been brought on through the brewery knowledge distributed to consumers via social media.

Know, you’ll read a million articles talking about how the consumer has altered its mindset and there is a more local-focus for buyers. But in truth, what has really assisted the growth of craft beer has been the Internet, and more specifically, social media.

In the conversation one of the co-founders contributed a lot of the success of craft beer to Facebook. Prior to Facebook, brewery owners could only reach consumers through certain avenues. They could go to beer festivals – which Dave Engbers vehemently despises, but that’s for another story – or they could take out large advertisements in consumer publications which could cost a whole lot of cash, which could be extremely rare in a startup brewery.

Facebook truly changed the whole game for the brewing industry. It allowed breweries to design pages, get fans from all over the world and share with them new beers and events at the brewery. In the beginning this was a game-changer. No longer were breweries restricted to getting distribution in a state to have raving fans there. Instead, they could have thousands of fans from states where they didn’t even distribute. Additionally, they could hold bigger and better events because the word could travel faster. These were the golden years.

Now for the sad truth. I believe Facebook could potentially ruin craft beer. On my own personal Facebook account, a person that spends the vast majority of his day researching, writing and thinking about the brewing industry, still rarely gets all the updates from breweries that I follow. Why would that be? I follow these brewers for that very reason – to get their updates!

However, Facebook has to make money some how, which I completely understand. We too have an advertising model and understand how vital advertising is for a business. But where breweries could have once reached all of the people that Liked their page, now they have to post and pay to reach even a portion of the individuals that have liked their page. This cost could be anywhere from $5 to hundreds, even thousands of dollars.

What this will remind you of is how beer advertising worked in the early years. Major beer companies that had endless marketing funds could take out major consumer advertising. They could develop popular television ads and draw in consumers that way. You can even look at the most recent Budweiser campaigns – and I’m not knocking them, they simply have more money than anyone to get their brand out there.

Where we are going is back to a day where the person with the most money wins, not the best tasting beer or the person with the coolest page, brand or most followers. Now you can have trillions of followers if you have enough money to buy them – and those aren’t even bots, it’s simply advertising and dollars at work. However, if you can’t continue to spend on those followers, they may still never receive your posts – it’s a multitiered marketing system.

At this point there really isn’t a great solution for how to combat this problem. We all are forced to play the game in the ballpark where everyone is playing. It’s Facebook’s ball and if you don’t play by their rules, you go home – it’s simple as that.

While it’s not fair, the strong will survive – or the ones with the most money. It’s more vital now than ever to get your brand out there, develop marketing campaigns that are unique and draw attention. And while this will only do so much for you, there’s always us and we’ll be here to help you get your word out, that is as long as Facebook tells us what you’re doing.


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