Today’s article comes from an interview I did with Bryan Van Den Oever of Red Bear Brewing Company about social media marketing for breweries. Neither of us are experts at social media marketing for breweries, not yet at least, but we are the social media marketing guys for our respective breweries. I thought it would be a great idea to bounce some ideas around and share things we’ve learned about social media marketing for breweries. I hope you enjoy the unique conversation that follows.
Bryan, thanks so much for working with me on this. Can you give me a brief background on Red Bear Brewing Company, your role and just for kicks a beer style you’re obsessed with right now?
Red Bear brewing is under construction, we started at the beginning of September and we’re scheduled to open around February 2019. We’re located in the Uline arena building in the heart of NoMa, Washington DC. Red Bear comes from our love of the outdoors and the love of beer. Our goal is to bring fierce flavors and bold brews, always. We have a large taproom with max capacity of around 300 thirsty people. We’re also super proud to be a 100% gay owned brewery as well as majority veteran owned brewery.
As for my part at Red Bear, I’m one of 3 owners, which means I wear a lot of different hats. My main roles are Front of the House (FOH), marketing, social media, events, and community outreach management.
As for beer style I’m obsessed with now, I’d have to say it’s a beer Simon, my business partner and brewmaster, is developing, a Brut Kolsch. The Kolsch itself has great white wine/grape notes in the yeast esters. That is combined with the German Blanc Hops, which also have those same white wine/grape characteristics. Yeah, this beer is turning out to become something special.
That Kolsch sounds delicious! I’ve been obsessed lately with dry-hopped sours, in part because of the collab we did with Right Proper, and Oktoberfest because it’s Fall. We often talk about how Silver Branch and Red Bear are on a similar development timeline for our respective breweries. We’re both hungry start-ups and we’re slated to open at a roughly similar time. You and I also have incredibly similar roles for our respective breweries because we’re the forward-facing individuals and will likely be the face people see in the taproom. At what point did your team realize someone had to be responsible for social media marketing for your brewery and that person was going to be you?
When Simon and I hatched this crazy plan, I was always going to be the FOH person and be the “Face” of Red Bear. Little did I know what that all entails. First off, I am not a writer. I never liked it in HS or college. We are going on 3 years plus of us working on getting Red Bear open and I’ve always been tasked with developing our social media and other community facing materials. At first, it was a way for us to gather a following and generate excitement that we’re “coming soon”. Of course at the time, the only people interested were our personal friends and family, but we have steadily generated a following above and beyond people we know personally. Which is awesome!
Now, I’m really enjoying digging in and really trying to get our message out there. Our team makes it a point to talk about our branding and our messaging at every Red Bear meeting, it’s one of our bullet points that we take seriously. My hope what we are doing and saying is as meaningful to our audience as it is to us.
I couldn’t agree more, sometimes the most difficult part of social media marketing is coming up with content and finding the right words to communicate what we’re trying to say. It’s also oddly rewarding when you put a post out there and you get a lot of positive responses as a result. It’s clear that we both recognize the importance of establishing a social media presence even before being open. How did your team identify that getting out to the world would be an important first step even before being open? What do you believe are some of the advantages of familiarizing yourself with beer lovers on social media before being open?
This question has an easy answer. We already saw it done successfully with the launch of Odd Otter Brewing Company in Tacoma, Washington. My business partner, Cameron, and I know the owners of Odd Otter and watched their kickstarter and social media presence come alive as they were building out their space. By seeing what they were doing, it made us want to be involved and to support them in their kickstarter campaign and follow their story.
By posting to social media, we’re telling our story to the world in hopes that people find what we’re doing compelling enough to follow along with and even participate by becoming patrons of our brewery. It’s very important that we get buy in from our community because we cannot do this without their support and patronage.
The advantage of familiarizing ourselves with beer lovers is to have those same people interested in coming to Red Bear on day one of being open. Then, hopefully keep them coming back with our awesome beer and brewery amenities.
Once it occurred to me that I would oversee social media marketing for Silver Branch I decided to start finding resources to help me learn about this. Very quickly I fell down the rabbit-hole and felt like I was drinking from a firehose. I wanted to know how to do everything marketing and everything related to social media marketing for breweries overnight. I started cramming podcasts and found a few I really liked, some brewery related and others not as much. What were some of your favorite social media marketing resources that helped you understand how to begin tackling social media marketing for your brewery?
It seems like everyone has their own opinion on how to market on social media. It all boils down to your content. What information are you providing people? Is it interesting or thought provoking? Why should people care? Once you have the content, make sure you have a visual of some kind that is relevant to the content and keeps your audience engaged.
Bryan’s favorite resources for learning about and implementing social media marketing for breweries:
- Hootsuite: It allows me to see Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in a handy format. I can post, reply, schedule post directly from Hootsuite as well as check who’s mentioning Red Bear in their own posts, look up #’s being used and all sorts of other useful things that happen on our social media.
- Sunny Lenarduzzi: Sunny shares information on how to use social media effectively. She helped me figure out that content is key, but also gave me helped me figure out the unique nuances of posting on social media. I didn’t learn everything from her, but I have picked as choose what topics I needed to learn about and watched her videos about it. She is also quite motivational.
- Google: When I don’t know how to do something in a post, I tend to google search, but I try and make it as specific as possible. Rabbit holes exist, but if you can narrow down what you are trying to do, your success rate improves.
I couldn’t agree more with the CODO branding guide and Good Beer Hunting. Those are two resources I’ve used quite a bit, I’ll have to check out Sunny Lenarduzzi’s stuff, thanks for the tip! I’ve added a few more of my favorite resources here as well because you can never have enough.
Brett’s favorite resources for learning about and implementing social media marketing for breweries:
- Mailchimp: Mailchimp has been the easiest to understand and most valuable e-mail list manager I’ve worked with. Building a strong e-mail list and communicating brewery happenings is something I learned would be incredibly valuable early on. They have several articles on FAQs to help you get “un-stuck” whenever you don’t understand something. Building good looking e-mails is incredibly intuitive using their content creation system.
- Podcast: Social Media Examiner w/ Michael Stelzner. Social Media Examiner is special because Michael Stelzner interviews a new social media expert every single week. Sometimes the content is incredibly technical but often broken down into a digestible format. The beauty of it is no matter which episode you’re listening to you will absolutely take something valuable away from it.
- Podcast: Market the Brew w/ Steve Schmidt. Market the Brew talks about the two things we’re interested in: marketing and breweries. Some great insights here, I love the emphasis on getting “butts in seats” with respect to driving traffic into the taproom through marketing initiatives, truly a gem. This is also nice because it broadly covers marketing, not just limited to a social media focus.
I’ve begun uncovering a few tricks and formulating a few theories that I’ve learned about social media marketing. What are one or two of the ‘secret-sauce’ things you’ve learned about social media marketing for breweries?
Always have a visual of some kind that is relevant to the post. People lose interest pretty quickly as they’re inundated with information, so get to the point of the post quickly. I also have two amazing resources to fall back on, a good friend of mine does the social media for her company and my boyfriend was a marketing major in college. I’m always asking them for advice.
Visuals are so important, I couldn’t agree more. I like trying to almonst always get humans into photos because we aren’t open yet and people respond positively to smiling face. Alright, so you’ve let me lead the questions thus far, it’s your turn to put me in the hot-seat. What do you want to ask me?
Social media is just one aspect of Brewery marketing. I’ve delved into creating a newsletter for Red Bear Brewing as well as Press releases and also meeting members of the press for coverage in the various news outlets around DC. What else is Silver Branch Brewing doing to get their name out there?
Nothing replaces being out and about to talk about beer in front of real, live humans! Whenever we have homebrew or collabs that we’re able to serve or test on people that’s a great opportunity for us to really shine and explain who we are. I think people form a strong connection with a brewery very early on in the process so being out in the world is an important step. Below is a photo of one human from Silver Branch and one human from Red Bear, both smiling, drinking beer, serving at a beer festival.