Making Your Digital Presence Work for You

Craft beer’s surge in popularity and the evolution of the Internet’s role in product sales and customer engagement have arguably shadowed one another, with both occupying space and having significance that neither did approximately 30 years ago.

While websites and social media can be great tools to engage with customers when done effectively, it’s not difficult to get behind on trends when social media platforms and their features evolve seemingly every day.

No approach to sleuthing the challenges presented by the rapidly evolving social mediasphere is going to be one size fits all because breweries are different sizes and have different goals. Several breweries shared insights into tackling their websites and social media, integrating new technology, and engaging with customers in the digital space.

The Roles Websites Play

Benny Boy Brewing is a relative newcomer to the craft beer scene, having been in business just two years, but before opening the cidery/brewery prioritized ensuring its website had the tone, feel, and messaging it wanted.

“We knew we wanted to establish and maintain our identity from the very beginning and be able to articulate the in-person brewery and cidery experience through online language and content,” co-founder Chelsey Rosetter said. “Key elements of our website that have been priorities for us since day one — beyond the basics of who we are, what’s on tap, contact information, and hours — include a function for newsletter sign-up (because email is gold), buttons to our social channels to help with follower growth, and accessibility to ensure every person is equally able to access and use our website.”

Shortly after opening in late March 2022, they made their homepage more dynamic with video to get people excited about the in-person experience. As they began to line up new and recurring pop-up food vendors, they added a calendar of events as a resource for future guests and to provide further exposure for our vendor partners.

When they launched their Pippin Pommeau — their very first bottle release — they debuted Benny Boy’s online shop in time for 2022 holiday gifting with shipping available throughout the continental United States.

“The online shop was an important feature to us because it allowed us to expand our reach to potential customers who might not otherwise have a chance to try our products,” Rosetter said. “The online shop also helped with streamlining the process for ticketed events, both on our end and for the user.”

Bill Wetmore, Sales and Marketing Director for Fat Head’s Brewery, said they were preparing to completely revamp their website.

“The evolution to mobile and people’s reliance on social sites like Facebook and Instagram as de facto websites are the biggest developments/challenges,” he said. “As well, I think content needs to be more concise and impactful than ever before because I’m certain “linger rates” have never been shorter on the conventional web. Info is so readily available at the fingertips of so many different places that I don’t think websites have to work as hard on deep content delivery as they once did.  

“But with that in mind, it’s probably more important than ever that your website is completely current in real-time because if it’s in conflict with info from other sources, that’s definitely going to reflect poorly and erode consumer trust.”

Managing Your Social Media

SingleSpeed Brewing Company made the move to have a third party specializing in branding and 360 marketing manage its social media accounts in 2022, noting that the time had come to outsource those duties.

“While we’ve successfully had someone on staff grow our accounts up until then, we found that — with the outlook of our brewery operations and reach in the greater Iowa community expanding — we were ready to have someone who lived and breathed the digital landscape from a 360 marketing and brand identity point of view covering our social media and marketing operations,” Marketing Director Natascha Myers said. “It’s easy to get focused on the number of followers or email subscribers you have, but if those followers don’t feel a part of a cultivated community, it’s going to be difficult for them to invest in what we do and what we brew.

“We realized that, if we wanted to build a strong community that translated both on our digital platforms and in our sales/taproom traffic, we needed someone who was equipped to do so in a strategic way.”

One or all of SingleSpeed’s social media accounts are being updated in some way almost daily. “Whether through feed posts, story updates, polls and questions, event discussions, or general platform engagement, we find it important to maintain a presence that feels personal and consistent,” Natascha said. “While the frequency and volume vary based on what’s going on in our taproom and brewery operations and best strategic practices as algorithms shift, our true north is to be as personable as possible.

“For this reason, we regularly comment and respond to messages from our community as if we’re sitting across from them with a brew in hand. So much of what we do is on the basis of creating connection in our community, and we aim to accomplish that even in our digital operations.”

Wetmore said Fat Head’s chose the full-time, on-staff social media coordinator route and hasn’t looked back.

“We recognized early on that done well, this is a critical and full-time role that is focused on keeping our messaging current and top-of-mind and helping to actively bring our brand to life for consumers,” Wetmore said.

Driving Customer Engagement

Sarah Gottleib, Marketing Director at Bale Breaker Brewing Company, said that when driving social media engagement it was important to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and ask yourself why you would follow an account.

“Our customers love to see the behind-the-scenes of a brewery and hop farm,” Gottleib said. “Of course, there are things we need to utilize our accounts to point out — things like beer releases, event updates, and hour changes.”

“But we try to adhere to an 80/20 split – 80% fun, unique, interesting content that we would personally enjoy seeing from other breweries, and 20% advertising, informational updates, etc. Bale Breaker is no stranger to embracing social media trends but said creating consumer-driven content was more important than trying to figure out tricks to beat any algorithms that may exist.

“A quick glance at our Instagram will show you we definitely have been dipping our toes in reels, and previously went all-in on Instagram lives and on stories when they launched,” Gottleib said. “We even used IGTV quite a bit back when that was a thing. But what we’ve found is that playing the algorithm’s game is not nearly as important as just knowing our customers and thinking about what they want to see.”

Reels on Facebook and Instagram — short micro-videos — are one thing Bale Breaker has included in its social media repertoire.

“One aspect of that is that we knew we needed to evolve to keep up, but we also genuinely enjoy creating/showcasing our products that way and have found some creative freedom in letting go of still images and walls of text all the time,” Gottleib said. “We’re also very aware that something new is likely just around the corner, and a part of successful social media marketing is keeping an eye on trends and adjusting them — but keeping your brand top of mind first and foremost.

“If it makes sense for your brand to expand into trends like reels, why not give it a try? A lot of the times we’re resistant to a change at first and then discover that it’s actually a really fun, easy way to communicate more clearly with our customer base.”

Video content has also helped Von Ebert Brewing engage with its customers, although they said the subject matter was what mattered most.

“Above all, we’ve seen that we get the best engagement when we are community-minded,” said Hayley Jean Marie, whose firm Genesis Creative Company manages marketing for Von Ebert. “Posts that feature the big personalities in our team here at Von Ebert, collaborative posts with other local brands, and posting content according to social media trends have been huge for us.

“It’s important to us that our social media feels fun — just like it feels when coming into one of our locations for an award-winning beer or a bite from our scratch kitchen.”

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