Beer Bloggers’ Conference: Best social media practices

If you are joining us for the first time, our heroes Alan & Elaine, on an epic beer geek road trip that has taken them through Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and now Boston, have just finished feasting on a four-course beer & food paired lunch.

We somehow grudgingly found the wherewithal to slowly stagger back to the conference room for the afternoon’s single seminar: “Best Social Media Practices”, presented by Jeff Wharton of Drink Craft Beer & Tamre Mullins of the marketing firm Round Peg. I was very glad we made it back from lunch — this turned out to be an excellent overview of valuable cross-platform strategies for the beer blogger hoping to raise his or her game closer to a professional level.

Herein a summary of their presentation:

Right off the bat, we got the #1 Secret to Social Media Success: It’s All About the Content. People are looking for interesting things to read, so give them a reason to tune in. Don’t copy & paste, or repeat other people’s views — give your reader original content.

(This was also echoed Cindy Mochalny’s earlier presentation: Google ranks original content higher in searches than copied material.)

  • Ask yourself, why should the reader care about your blog? What are you offering that nobody else does — insight into a niche market, a unique viewpoint, access to places that are closed to your reader? Add your own flavour, location and perspective.
  • Everyone has a favourite author who writes with a certain style. As writers, we are tempted to emulate that style — but don’t. Your reader doesn’t want you to sound like someone else. (For instance, sweetie, you looked like Trouble when you walked through the door, so pull up a chair and pour yourself a shot while I describe how I sometimes write amusing little scenes in a faux Raymond Chandler style. But I would never think of making that “my voice”, since I would just sound like a bad imitation of Raymond Chandler. Long story short: Be you. Develop your own voice.
  • “Cross-platform” is the current buzzword — that is, reaching your audience across all of the social media — but be aware that each platform has its own voice, tone and preferred content. You can’t just hop from platform to platform, cutting and pasting the same content as you go. (More about the various social media below.)
  • Grow your community: share other people’s content. One of the outstanding charactersitsics of the craft beer movement is its collegiality. Brewer A is not afraid to tell the world that Brewer B makes an outstanding beer, because the more beer both of them sell, the greater the market penetration for craft beer overall. Likewise, making your reader aware of other good beer blogging content will not reduce your audience, but conversely, will make them aware that there is a larger world of craft beer commentary, and attract more viewers.

What then followed was a breakdown of the various platforms, and their distinctive needs:

Facebook:

1. Not everybody sees every post you make. As a matter of act, depending on your post content, very few people might see it. You see, Facebook decided a while ago that Facebook knows more about what the reader is interested in reading than the reader does. So despite the fact that you’re my Friend, Facebook decides which of my posts you will see. Facebook does this using a simple algorithm called “EdgeRank”: Affinity of Reader to Poster + Weight of Post + Time Decay.

  • Affinity is measured by how much the reader has interacted with the poster by Liking or commenting on previous posts, and how long the reader and poster have been Friends. If you’ve only been my Friend for 30 minutes and have not Liked or commented on any of my posts, you have a much lower chance of seeing my next post than someone who has been a Friend for three years and who has commented on every one of my posts during that time.
  • Weight of Post means that a simple Like has lower weight than a post or action with more content, such as a Comment, a survey, a post with a photo, a link to a news story, etc.
  • Time Decay: the older the content, the lower the ranking. So linking to a blog that was published 5 minutes ago has a greater impact than linking to a 3-year-old Youtube video.

This means if you simply Like a comment made by a brewery three days ago, very few of your readers will get that Like added to their News Feed.

Basically what it come down to is the more that you engage your Friends with timely, content-rich posts, the better chance you have that they will see it. More Engagement = More Views

2. Hand in hand with the above, figure out how your posts can engage your audience.

  • Talking WITH your audience has far more engagement value than talking AT your audience. Avoid text-only posts, which talk AT your audience and have a low engagement factor. Surveys and caption contests, on the other hand, demand reader interaction.
  • Photos have an engagement factor 1.8 x greater than text. Jeff gave us the example of one recent post on their Facebook page that was accompanied by a photo. Of 66 comments, slightly more than half were about the photo rather than the content of the post.
  • Questions are the exception to the text-only rule — they have twice the engagement of photos! Tamre gave the example of a recent Facebook post asking about summer beers that had generated 37 responses.
  • Don’t just post a link and expect your reader to click on it. Engage your reader by explaning what the link is about.

3. Who is your audience? What do they love (and what do they dislike)? Once you have this figured out, tailor your posts to them.

4. Don’t inundate your reader with posts. We all have Friends that we’ve quietly dropped because they post 673 items of low-interest quality every day. Be selective. Choose your best and most engaging content, the stuff that promotes your “brand” and style.

5. More about photos:

  • Photo albums are great,
  • Don’t forget to take advantage of technology: tag your photos!
  • Make sure your photos are of neat stuff. Don’t just take photos of people drinking beer or standing on front of a piece of equipment. Show people doing things. Show interesting items.
  • Share your photos across other platforms.

Twitter:

1. Twitter is what is happening right now, so give your Followers some insight into your life as a beer blogger as it is happening:

  • What are you drinking right now?
  • What food are you pairing your beer with, and how is that working for you?
  • Give them the good stuff — even mundane can work. Just ask why your Followers will care.

2. Hashtags

  • Great for organizing discussions. An example is the weekly #beerchat discussion on Thursday nights.
  • Also great for enabling your tweets to be found.
  • However, don’t overuse them. Anymore than 2-3 per post becomes confusing.

3. Pictures are great on Twitter. However, use Twitter’s photo editor rather than Instagram:  Instagram photos currently are not embedded into your tweet, meaning your Followers have to click away from Twitter in order to see the photo. They are much more likely to look at a photo embedded in a tweet rather than leave the Twitter feed and return.

4. Tweets have the lifespan of a fruit fly. People tend to only read the latest stuff. If they have been off-line for 6 hours, they will probably NOT scroll down to catch up on what they missed. So don’t tweet just once about your latest blog post.

5. Share the love: Retweeting other people’s tweets increases the likelihood that yours in turn will be retweeted.

Instagram:

  • Forty million photos are posted to Instagram every day. That’s an incredible number and well past the point that anyone has any chance of randomly coming across your photo. Engagament on Instragram is driven by followers and relevant hashtags. (The #craftbeer feed now has 750,000 photos. Wow.)
  • Unlike Twitter, Instagram plays nicely with Facebook. Instagram has also introduced a video feature for Vines (6 second video loops.)
  • Like developing a voice for your blog, find out what makes you unique on Instagram and deliver that to your audience.

Pinterest:

If you are looking to add a new platform to your group of media, check out Pinterest, which may have several points of interest for beer bloggers:

  • This relatively new medium, which is great for photos, has 50 million users.
  • In the U.S. its demographics skew to female.
  • The most popular topic is food.
  • Greatest hours of use are 7-9 p.m. on weekdays, and during weekends
  • It plays well with other social media and

Best of all, it has a high level of interactive engagement. Check this out:

  • On Facebook, 40% make a purchase after liking a photo of the product
  • On Pinterest, 69% make a purchase after pinning a photo

Here’s some suggestions for increasing your reach:

  • Curate a board (i.e. top 10 summer beers)
  • Find images from your blog and mix with images from elsewhere.
  • Link all pins to original content.
  • Share boards on FB & Twitter

Tumblr:

This is a community-driven platform. Proceed with caution. Think of it like high school: It can be hard, as a newcomer, to break into established groups. Try using hashtags, and (like high school again) follow influential groups to build some cred. Realize from the start that it will be harder to drive traffic to offers or websites than with other social media.

Google+:

Jeff and Tamre characterized Google + as still in its infancy, and more of a search tool at the moment than a viable social media site. However, like eating your vegetables, having a presence here is necessary, if not fun. Copy your Facebook strategies on Google+.

There are some cool toys, Google Authorship being one of the coolest. You can link everything you publish everywhere; everything you publish on your own or another blog is credited to you. Author Rank then takes into account quality content combined with Authorship. (This means your content will rank higher in Google searches — yay!)

LinkIn:

LinkedIn is about business, so only post beer content here if if pertains to business, or if you can find a business slant. Definitely separate your personal and professional lives and concentrate on the latter here. Obviously the business side of brewing is perfect for Linked In.

There are some great craft beer groups, usually focussed on sales and professionals.

Bringing it all together: An Integrated Strategy

Look at your social media. Then look at your audience. Don’t think of your social media portals as completely separate parts i.e. I have a blog and a Facebook page and a Twitter account and a Pinterest presence. How can you use all of them together to full effect? How can they work together to tell your story better? For instance, cross-promotion increases engagement on every platform.

The other important thing is to get your brand on all social media. If you have a blog and a Twitter feed called Greatest Beer Dude Ever, then nail down identically-named accounts on Google+, Pinterest, Facebook and Tumblr. This isn’t just so you can increase the presence and recognition of your brand as you start using these other platforms — and it will — but it also ensures that someone else doesn’t make a Facebook account for Greatest Beer Dude Ever, then start posting pictures of him and his high school buddies drinking to excess — not only will this clash with your brand values, but it will cause some people to equate the two brands — you have just become a wasted high school loser.

——-

All very interesting stuff, and doubtless much more could have been said. However, we had been without beer for at least and hour and a half, so it was time to get back on the Bus of Beer and head off to “Live Beer Blogging”.

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2 Comments on “Beer Bloggers’ Conference: Best social media practices”

  1. Canageek Says:

    Alright, as a long time Twitter user (Joined: Halloween, 2008) there are some things I thought I should add:

    Hashtags: Excellent point. If you want to follow a discussion the best tool I’ve come across is http://tweetchat.com . It has some problems with links and counting how many characters they take up, and it doesn’t do replies in the modern way, but it lets you follow the entire discussion in a way that is far more convenient then the twitter default.

    Now, this is great if you want to follow a specific discussion at a set time: For example, #RPGChat happens at 3 and 6 pm Thursdays, pacific time, for a couple hours each time. I can log in at Tweetchat and join in at these times. But what about discussions like #RealTimeChem that are going on all the time? The best tool to follow those is Tweetdeck (https://web.tweetdeck.com/#). It is an in-browser based client that works on multiple columns that update in near-real time. So I’ve got mine set to have (from left to right) my twitter feed, @mentions, Private Messages, a search on all the chemistry hashtags I follow (#melodramaticlabnotebook OR #overlyhonestsyllabi OR #sciconfessions OR #OverlyHonestMethods OR #Realtimechem) which lets me follow all these thematically-related discussions in one column, a search on #RPGChat (For when it has off-time discussions), and then a column of gamers I follow (using twitters under-used Lists feature) and a column of scientists I follow.

    Now I’ve got in one view everything I need to see on twitter, clearly organized. It also has features for managing multiple twitter accounts, for those of you with a professional one and a personal one.

    Alright, technical discussion over: now a point that is often missed: The thing most valued on twitter is authenticity. Twitter took a long time for corporate moneyheads to understand, since it is weird. Therefore it is an intensely personal medium, and one where you don’t want to come off as a company; you want to come off as someone who works at, or owns a company, not AS a company, if that makes sense. So don’t keep 100% of your posts about beer; that makes you sound like a shill. So also tweet about your trip TO the beer convention, about hobbies you enjoy drinking beer while doing, even about some non-beer things. This makes you sound like a person who likes beer with twitter, rather then a drone. No one likes a drone.

  2. Canageek Says:

    Now Google+. I don’t know Google+ as well as twitter, but it gets a really bad rap. It has a much smaller user base then just about anywhere else, but it has a very, very good technical backing. Think of it more as a platform then a network.

    For example: You can do hangouts, which is basically a free Skype video call among a bunch of people (and it works better then skype, as long as you use Chrome, Firefox has trouble with it). That sounds useful, but you can make these On The Air meetings, which means that anyone can watch them in real time, and you can set them to automatically upload to YouTube. So, for example, you could have a beer discussion panel with people in 4 cities, with free streaming to a live audience, and it automatically uploads it to YouTube for you, rather then you having to trust that your recording software is working, and then figure out compression yourself.

    Now, the lack of people USING Google+ means you are going to have to get the audience for this yourself, but just because no one USES Google+ doesn’t mean they have accounts: If you have a YouTube, gmail, etc log in then you can use that to get onto Google+ and watch. So you can use your Facebook/Twitter/Blog to get people to come see your event, and be confident that they will be able to watch.


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