When it comes to craft breweries, arguably no place is better for brand promotion than social media. On the Internet’s various platforms lives a legion of beer nerds holding down the many corners of the sprawling tapestry that is the craft beer scene. Virtually en masse, they are sharing links to brewery news, posting photos of what they are drinking, posting video reviews of the latest releases and selfies — they post a lot of beer selfies.
Out of the hundreds of groups dedicated to beer on Facebook, over 130 have greater than 1,000 members, and dozens have 5,000 or more members. If you search “beer” on YouTube, almost a million and a half channels are queried. Narrow your search to “craft beer” and you still get back 6,549 channels. At peak time, in the evenings on Twitter, the hashtag “#craftbeer” is used about a thousand times, and “#craftbeer” has been used in over 11 million Instagram posts at the time of this publishing and most likely promoted by various people and business who may use targeting software like Kenji!
It’s safe to say that the BeerNet never sleeps, and craft beer brands have taken notice. They know well that the conversations being had about beer and brewing in social media spaces are helping to shape the course of the industry in a big way. Adept businesses in the niche have been able to tap into trends or even guide the conversations about styles, general industry issues and of course their specific beers.
The Wikipedia entry for Social Media Marketing states: To use social media effectively, firms should learn to allow customers and Internet users to post user-generated content (e.g., online comments, product reviews, etc.), also known as “earned media”, rather than use marketer-prepared advertising copy.
Although many breweries have been able to see serious engagement through their own social media activity, they have also seen the marketing power of user-generated content. Borrowing from social media marketing best practices, those same brands and many others have realized that a more efficient awareness strategy can be had by being noticed and promoted by craft beer influencers.
If you’ve ever seen the sitcom “Frasier,” you may have caught an episode where Dr. Frasier Crane is berated by Seattle’s local society columnist. Then and for years prior, the local big city newspaper was the reference point for all things trendy. Restaurant columnists of particular power were rumored to be able to have a new eatery shut down within weeks. Art columnists were said to be able to jump start a young painters career. And nightlife columns were often times the proving grounds for the chance to be “[Enter City]’s Hottest New Club!”
Today, this isn’t so much the case. Newspapers have been reeling for years, slashing staff and streamlining, making it very much safe to say not many legacy publications are staffing the type of egghead Dr. Crane once swore he’d win over. In their place is a new type of influencer. Today’s society columnists are bloggers and mobile phone photographers. Night clubs can be put on the map by a Tweet from the right celebrity and chefs and restaurants can live and die by reviews from popular Yelpers.
But who are these people today? What do they get out of this? And why do they bother going through so much effort for some likes and some followers?
The social media space is something many use but few understand. Because of this, few can grasp why exactly certain things take off on the Internet and some don’t. To shed some light on the topic, I talked with Chris Strub, a self-made social media guru and the first man to SnapChat and live-stream in all 50 states.
“We’re all famous to a few people,” Strub said. “Influence is all relative. There is no defined parameters to influence. Everyone in some form or fashion has influence over people in one form or another.”
To put this into a beer-spective, Strub likened the nature of social media influence as a small-town bar. In these bars are pictures of people, young and old. And to those who frequent that bar, those people are famous. They are influencers. They are the ones whose actions and choices resonate with those privy.
When it comes to breweries, these influencers and other social media hits are noticed by brewers and breweries around the country. Not many breweries understand the power of social influence quite like Monkish Brewing of Los Angeles.
“For Monkish, all of the Instagramers that tag us in their posts and share our beer multiplies the amount of people being exposed to our product,” reads a statement from Monkish Brewing Co. “While it doesn’t necessarily get our beer into their hands, it creates interest in the beer and makes people from across the country, even around the world, desire a taste of our beer!”
This sort of reaction from a popular craft beer brand such as Monkish is evidence to how Strub sees social media and brands coming together to prosper jointly. He sees social media as a vessel for more transparent and healthier discussion surrounding a brand but one said brands cannot dictate, rather “understand and interact.”
Going forward, Strub — a craft beer fan in his own right — sees social media as a positive influence on beer and beer culture.
“Today, brewers can be like ‘Why is my new beer only averaging 3.1 stars on Untappd?’ Imagine if that was a thing 30 years ago? Imagine how much better the beer industry could be?” Strub said.
To better understand the phenomenon of the craft beer influencer, I reached out to users on various platforms, who are embracing their social media popularity and integrating it into their lifestyles. If you’re a beer fan and don’t follow or engage with these individuals already, you may want to consider it.
Base of operation: Silicon Valley/San Francisco Bay – area
Favorite style: IPA but “… if they list a stout or sour at a high ABV, I am gunning for the higher ABV.”
Main Platform: Instagram (@louiebaton)
Other handles: Untappd (louiebaton)
The mysterious Lego engineer known only as “Louie Baton” has cultivated a cult following at the intersection of the beloved toy and serious craft beer. To his 33.3 K followers, Mr. Baton provides little glimpses into his whimsical imagination, bringing his thoughts on the beer to life via painstakingly executed Lego-brick vignettes.
But it’s not all fun and games for Mr. Baton. Away from beer and Lego, the man behind the bricks is a stay-at-home dad who has managed to balance raising a child and furthering the online mythos of @louiebaton.
“There’s a quiet time when my kid, now almost 4 years old, goes to sleep and I wait a bit and I can then bust out my Lego and build something for a couple minutes, maybe an hour,” Mr. Baton wrote in an email. “I get most of my ‘work’ done in that little window of time before I pass out myself.”
Soft DK Imperial Stout 10.4%, Evil Twin Brewing The idea for this beer was sparked by brewer Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø (no not the bedroom dresser set at Ikea) one morning when he was changing his son’s diaper. Dookie reminded of him of black silky smooth molasses. I just think of the days before my kid was potty trained, we always played “is that chocolate?” whenever encountering any stains on our clothes, furniture, or carpeting. It never was.
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As an influencer in the craft beer media space, Mr. Baton finds himself in a unique situation that allows him to be “Louie Baton” much more than other influencers are able to. Despite the demands of being a stay-at-home dad, the stream of free beer and time to build Lego and visit bottle shops lends him much more time to develop his craft than others he shares the craft beer conversation with.
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The support of this lifestyle by his family is embraced and supported to the point where family trips must involve trips to breweries or beer spots. Despite his fame among his considerable following, Mr. Baton likes to keep his trips outside his home low-key. This avoidance of the spotlight generated through social media is one Strub says is not uncommon among social media personalities.
“I don’t like making a scene so I never call ahead and boast who I am and such,” Mr. Baton wrote. “I show up, find a nice quiet corner, take a little pic and post. I have gotten caught twice, but I laugh it off and quietly go back into hanging out mode … I like to remain anonymous. I don’t believe in ‘beer celebrities’ or whatever they are called. The beer is the celebrity. The brewers are the celebrities. All the rest of us just like to enjoy beer, and a few of us look good near a beer, which really has nothing to do with the beer.”
Base of operation: Pembroke Pines, Florida
Favorite style: “Can’t pick just one … love them all if they are made well.”
Main Platform: Instagram (@mermaidontap)
Other handles: www.mermaidontap.com (blog)
“I don’t really pay attention to the number of people following me,” Monica wrote in an email. “That’s not the reason I made it.”
Despite having just under 14,000 IG followers, when it comes to her life as a craft beer personality, being such is not as important as the experiences she gains through her beer fueled travels. Introduced to craft beer by her boyfriend, Monica posts to share her passion with whoever cares to listen. With her there are no gimmicks. No fronts to put on to attract fans. Just a “normal chick” in pursuit of the greatest beers she can manage to find.
“I do this for fun,” she wrote. “It is something that me and my boyfriend love so it brings us closer together … Take [from my content] that I’m a real person who has a deep passion for beer and its community.”
This beer-first concepts can be seen in her content. Frequently, Monica is obscured in the background of her photos with the beer in shocking focus, occupying the foreground of the shot. If not that, she captures the moment in which she’s living let it be spending time with her boyfriend, taking in a festival or simply doing “normal chick” things.
Ready for our Thursday share! Who’s thirsty? #ThirstyThursday #DFPF @jwakefieldbeer #JWakefieldBrewing #MermaidsDrinkBeer #MermaidOnTap #BeerSnob #BeerBabe #RedHairDontCare #BeerGirl #DrinkCraft #DrinkCraftNotCrap #Beer #CraftBeerGirl #DrinkCraftBeer #TheBeerNation #CraftBeer #CraftNotCrap #Mermaid #BeerPorn #BabesWithBeers #Redhead #RedHair #BeerGeek #ILoveBeer #Instabeer #DrinkGoodBeer #Beertography #Beerstagram #GirlsDrinkBeer #StayCraftyMyFriends
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An avid trader and festival goer, the wide spectrum of her taste is fueled by these interactions. As a purveyor of craft beer, she tends to shy away from no style, snapping selfies with Russian Imperial Stouts in one post, a hazy IPA in the next and maybe a mouth-puckering Berliner weisse thrown in for good measure.
“We have a lot of friends in the community,” she wrote. “[We have a weekly bottle share every Thursday at my house. We all share what we get through trading so variety comes with the territory … I like to try everything at least once to see if I like it. I don’t like to stick to just one style.”
Going forward, Monica will not change. For her, it will always be about exploring all the “craft-mosphere” has to offer with her beloved boyfriend. All of us on the other side of the screen are simply along for the ride.
“I do not see anything coming from this,” she wrote. “I don’t get paid. It’s just a hobby … I’m just a normal chick who enjoys sipping on great beers.”
Follow me on my new Snapchat: MermaidOnTap. We are cracking this @hoofheartedbrewing #EveryoneWantsSome open before the share we are going to later this afternoon. Lots of beer Definitely the recipe for an awesome Snapchat story #HoofHearted #Cheers #BottleShare #TheSnapChatChronicles #MermaidsDrinkBeer #MermaidOnTap #BeerSnob #BeerBabe #RedHairDontCare #BeerGirl #DrinkCraftNotCrap #Beer #CraftBeerGirl #TheBeerNation #CraftBeer #CraftNotCrap #Mermaid #BeerPorn #RedHeadLife #Redhead #RedHair #MermaidLife #Mermaidians #DyedDoll #BeerGeek #DyedDollies #ILoveBeer #Beerstagram #StayCraftyMyFriends
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And to the other girls out there raking in the likes through craft beer hashtags, craft beer’s own Ariel hopes you’re all in it for the right reasons.
“I have seen a flood of accounts being created recently,” she wrote. “I really hope this is for the love of beer growing and not their goals of just getting attention and more followers … I welcome all women to drink beer and fall in love like I did. I hope all their objectives are above just growing their social existence. At the end of the day that is not what this beer life is about.”
Base of operation: Illinois
Favorite style: “I am all IPA!”
Main Platform: Instagram (@veenatnora)
Other handles: Untappd, Twitter – @veenatnora
“I post what I post … what you see on Instagram is pretty much what I’m doing, eating, drinking. It’s pretty much me.”
With just under 10,000 followers, Veenat makes this list not because of her number of followers or all the likes she gets but because of the richness of her story and work and effort behind each post she makes.
Her posts are often simple. They mostly comprise of fancy glassware, world class beer and the surface on which both sit. That’s about it. If not that, then the post is probably of food. Had it not been for her profile picture and the few none exclusively beer pictures, little besides a love of IPAs would be known to us, her followers.
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Her profile info speaks volumes to the type of person and beer personality she is, however.
“Don’t let my lipstick wearing, eyeliner drawing, beer drinking ass fool you; After all I’m only a woman drinking beers in a boy’s world.”
And, most importantly.
“No New Trades.”
The last three words are integral to how she functions as a social media influencer and as a beer fan, in general. Veenat has built her surging following on the strength of her sprawling network of beer trading friends, namely her rich connections to the West Coast scene.
“I got into trading and it took me about two or three years to get the great beer friends I have now,” Veenat said. “Social media has brought so many people around, I feel like I have the best beer friends there are. They’re like a beer family.”
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Number of followers, comments and likes be damned, Veenat has yet to find herself on a single Ale Mail list. For her, it’s all her own hard work and the generosity on the other end of her trading list.
“If there is such a list, I need to get on that list,” Veenat said. “There’s a couple people on the Net who have taken care of me and I have taken care of them … Mainly, I want to share what we have here and [my friends on the West Coast] will do the same. But if there is a magical list, I do really want to be on that list.”
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A read through her conversations under her posts or the overall vibe of her IG live streams and SnapChat, tells a story very similar to Strub’s metaphor surrounding the regulars at the local watering hole. Without much imagination, you can picture Veenat bellying up to the bar with her commentors, discussion all the beers they’ve tried and making plans for the weekend. It’s so organic. It’s refreshing.
Scattered throughout her hundreds of #beertography pics are glimpses at the life of the girl behind the camera. Sometimes she’s hungover and mow chowing In-N-Out Burger with her girlfriends in Las Vegas following a bachelorette party. Sometimes she’s drinking Starbucks instead of something from Monkish. Or maybe she’s just really pumped abut the new skillet she just bought. Either way, her content is tangible and human. Not the list bit snobbish.
“After meeting a lot of people there is that validation where they’re like ‘no, I’ve drank beer with her, she’s not a snob. She’s clumsy. She falls off of chairs. She spills beers on herself,'” Veenat said. “I just want to be here to have fun and meet people. “
“I hope I’ve contributed to a positive community,” Steltz said. “I hope I spread the word of craft beer. I hope I spread the word of ‘don’t be a dick about craft beer.’”
Chris is probably the closest thing we’ll get to a household name when it comes to this niche of the craft beer landscape. For the past seven years, Chris has been delivering beer reviews, home brewing tips, beer scene commentary and more to his 40,000-plus subscribers.
Despite there being bigger channels such as The Craft Beer Channel, Chris is unique in his every-man’s approach to beers ranging from Rolling Rock (ABI owned) to some of the biggest whales on the market like Sam Adam’s Utopias, Founders Brewing Co.’s KBS, The Alchemist’s Heady Topper and more. On his page, the reviews and content for either end of this spectrum are right next to each other and for good reason, albeit a blunt one.
“It’s a f*cking beer,” Chris said. “It’s not the Holy Grail. We’re not solving world peace. We’re not stopping wars. We’re drinking beer. We’re talking about it as a conversation. It’s not War and Peace.”
What makes Chris’ success and longevity more impressive is the often times toxic nature of the platform on which he operates. Across the Internet, many a meme have been made about the awfulness that can be the YouTube community, manifested in the comment section below each video. For some vloggers, the stakes are too high, causing them to be perpetually combing their comments, deleting the most serious offenders or straight up disabling comments all together. Chris, on the other hand, has kept a positive tone to his content from day one and as a result, his following has developed into a comment section rife with conversation and support and one that also polices itself.
“Beer, in general, is a positive karma generator and I think you either get that or you don’t,” Chris said. “The people who comment are always really cool. They’re always like ‘I found this. Have you tried this?’ Whether they agree or disagree with my review, they’re still part of the community, they’re still feeding into Beer Geek Nation and I think that’s a big part.”
Zeroing in on a decade as an influencer in the craft beer arena, Chris is in a unique position to take stock of where this cross-section of media is heading. According to Chris, the future will be a mix of promoting your local region to a global audience and more editorial style content. Referring to the realm of reviews as a “crowded room,” Chris sees the future of BGN being in content more along the lines of cultivating a discussion of the nature of craft beer, rather than how great one beer after another is.
Going forward, Chris will continue to be the every-man of the craft beer movement. Hoping to avoid becoming the “f*cking hardcore” guy who chases down whale after whale to simply boast and trade, BGN and it’s captain will be working to “get out of the basement,” go on more brewery visits and get some more home brewing in, time and life permitting.
“I see the craft beer world divided into two categories,” Chris said. “Let’s say, on the left, you’ve got BeerAdvocate and RateBeer and you’ve got guys that are so fucking hardcore … And then there’s the other side which, I hope, I’m on that side where it’s like, look, if you can get local beer and it’s good, f*cking drink it, share it, tell people why it’s good. Sing it from the top of the mountains but don’t pressure people into drinking craft beer.”
To say this is a small sample size is an understatement. In the quest to pick the minds of these four beer loving social media leaders, dozens of other users were considered but were passed up on for various reasons.
Despite the app used to view a given influencers’ content, the fact of the matter is simple: craft beer breeds a mind-numbingly vast pool of followers and fans. So vast that the Lifestyle section editors of old would be hard-pressed to find a columnist with enough time and tenacity to aptly cover the beer scene of a place like New York City or Chicago or Los Angeles. But today, through the glory that is the Internet, craft beer consumers can piece together a custom load-out of social media influencers that will get them the information they need. And in the vessel that suits them best.
“Today everybody is a newspaper columnist,” Strub said. “20 years ago this wasn’t something that happened. 30 years ago, people either worked at a newspaper or they didn’t. They wrote a column or they didn’t. Today I can open my phone, push a button and broadcast live to an audience.”
*Chris Strub is a social media pioneer, focusing on shedding light on some of the nation’s most important non-profit organizations, namely those assisting or nation’s youth. In 2015 he completed a 100 day trip that covered all 50 states, during which he worked with at least one youth group in every state. He’s since written a book chronicling the journey, “50 States, 100 Days: The Book.”
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