Tuesday, May 13, 2014

How craft beer venues should use social media

I consider myself a cheerleader for the Capital District craft beer scene, so much so that I started a Facebook “like page” and a Twitter account called Albany Craft Beer as a way to help promote all the craft beer-centric venues and events happening in this area. Much like this blog, it’s not done for money, I just do it because I enjoy it.

However, I’ve noticed a lot of craft beer venues do not understand how to use social media to their advantage. Heck, many places do not use it all, which is baffling because a good portion of their customers incorporate social media into their lifestyle. When done properly, there is nothing to be lost and much to be gained by having a strong social media presence.

There are books, even college courses, dedicated to the how’s and why’s of a successful social media campaign, so this blog will be more of an overview than a step-by-step/how-to guide. Most of these tips are applicable to any small, local business; they’re not restricted to craft beer establishments.

Show us your taps!

First thing’s first: If you’re a craft beer establishment you’d better be changing out your taps regularly. When one keg kicks, you don’t just put on another keg of the exact same beer, do you? Therefore, it would behoove all craft beer establishments to let their customers know what’s on tap on a frequent basis (e.g. weekly or semi-weekly). Websites are fine for this, but a social media status update is even better. Though there’s more to it than simply posting a message or sending a tweet. My friends at The Bier Abbey in Schenectady are the absolute best at showing off their tap list on their Facebook page:
This is what I would consider a perfect presentation for a tap list, for three reasons:
  • It colorful, eye-catching, and easy to read.
  • All 30 taps are listed on the same board.
  • The prices and pour sizes are clearly indicated.
I wish every craft beer bar had a tap menu like this (in both appearance and selection). Some have a similar-looking list, but not all in one place, and/or they don’t post their entire menu on social media at once. Notifying us of a single tap change is nice, but it’s unreasonable for anyone other than employees to know all the beers that are on tap at any given moment. Also, posting a link to your venue’s listing on beermenus.com is also nice, but an all-in-one, easy-to-read graphic like the one above is better.

Facebook and Twitter should supplement – not replace – a website

Every bar, restaurant, tavern and brewpub should have a website. Every one. I do notice some places only have a Facebook and/or Twitter account, but no website. Using these outlets instead of a website makes me think the establishment is stingy. If they cut corners on literally projecting their image to the world, what else do they cut corners on?

The problem with social media feeds is that there’s no organization to them – everything just appears in reverse chronological order. A professionally-designed website offers a variety of choices in an easy-to-see, easy-to-browse format. I should be able to go to yourvenue.com and see links to the food menu, beer menu, events, hours, location, about us, etc. Trying to find these things on a Facebook page can be something of a wild goose chase.

So few people actually see Facebook and Twitter posts

As an addendum to the previous point, it should be noted that businesses should not expect that every post and tweet will be seen by every follower. Most analytic reports show that the average share on social media is seen by only 5-10% of the followers at most! For example, if your business has 1,000 likes on Facebook and you post something about today’s special, only 100-130 people will likely see it (though, how many actually take the time to stop and look at it is another story). With Twitter, the reach is even smaller.

On social media, everything is “in the moment.” It is not a remotely “permanent record” like a website. On Facebook, a post from 12 hours ago is “old,” a post from 24 hours ago is “really old,” and anything beyond that is just archaic. Therefore, it is rather ridiculous for the average bar, restaurant, brewpub, etc. to post a list of events and specials for the entire week on a Monday under the assumption that their customers will: 1) see it when it’s posted and remember all the different details for the different days; or 2) they will come back to it later; or 3) they will that they will see it all (Facebook tends to show you only posts from pages it thinks you would want to see).

Facebook events can be helpful

There’s nothing wrong with posting events on a business website, but since events are timely they’re better promoted through social media. One of the best features of Facebook for a business is the ability to create events and invite guests. While it’s true that actual Facebook posts don’t get as much traffic as you’d think, events can be targeted to specific people by inviting them. Plus, attendees can invite their friends, which help get the word out even more. A Facebook event is also helpful through the smartphone app whereby a user can simply tap on the event and add it to their calendar.

The downside, though, is if you invite too many people too often you run the risk of being blocked by those who feel you’re spamming them. Additionally, it looks bad when an event indicates that 1,387 people have been invited, but only 20-30 have actually RSVPed.

Businesses should use “like pages,” not profiles or groups!

This is one my biggest pet peeves of social media. Whenever I see a local business using a profile page instead of a “like page,” I immediately facepalm. There are so many reasons this is bad form, because:
  • It indicates ignorance of how Facebook works and makes the business seem out of touch.
  • Facebook profiles are limited to 5,000 friends, but “like pages” can have an infinite number of fans.
  • The customer has to wait for the business to actually accept their friend request and may not be able to see the business’s posts in the meantime.
  • According to Facebook’s user agreement, personal profiles are not allowed for business use anyway.
Lastly, if you’re using a group for your business’s Facebook presence, it looks like you prefer 2400 baud dial-up modems and electronic bulletin boards to modern technology.

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