Keyboard Warriors: Q&A with craft beer social media managers
They are the first responders of the digital age, crafting content to win our attention while manoeuvring through a minefield of current events, activism and online trolls. But how does each day go down and how much work does it take behind the scenes to snap the perfect Instagram post or create a meaningful tweet in 280 characters?
We spoke to some social media managers in the craft beer industry about their day to day roles, what makes for great content and separating the personal from professional.
What does a standard working day look like and how much time is actually spent on your socials?
Eve, Communications Manager at Northern Monk:
"Communications is so varied that ‘standard working day’ definitely isn’t a thing! It covers so many different aspects of the business (internal and external), and when that business is as fast paced as Northern Monk, anything can crop up!
The way we structure working on social is probably quite unique, as three of us work on the content, including the founder of the company. Social media is incredibly important to us as a brand, so we work together to make sure that each post, and each response, is reflective of the business as a whole, rather than it being one person’s sole responsibility to manage everything. We put a lot of time into social – it can easily take up to half a day, every weekday, depending on how many posts we’ve been tagged in, how many messages we need to reply to, and what content is going live that day."
Candy, Social Media & PR at Beavertown:
1. Wake up, check our Twitter to make sure nothing has exploded over night. Run over to Instagram and Facebook to check our profile; any comments I might need to respond to.
2. Start my laptop – check emails.
3. Check the social plan for this week to ensure it’s still relevant to what might be going on currently.
4. Open Photoshop – but first tea. Gotta have tea. Then it’s creation time baby.
To be very honest with you, a lot of time is spent on planning and content creation. One thing we’re known for is our awesome artwork, so a lot of time goes into creating really cool visuals our audience can interact with and enjoy.
In regards to actual time spent, don’t get me wrong, it’s super important to check your platforms throughout the day but for me it’s impossible to get anything done if you get trapped in the black hole of scrolling so I check in the morning, midday and a few times in the evening."
Cal, Marketing and Events Coordinator at Five Points Brewing:
"Usually cycling between one of our three sites in Hackney: the brewery, the warehouse and our pub The Pembury Tavern, and working out of each of them. Most days will involve shooting whatever’s going on in the company, working on posts for the Five Points and Pembury socials, designing assets and whatever anyone else needs a hand with really. Pre-Covid I also worked all of our events and beer festivals."
It’s always nice to check in on socials to see what other breweries, pubs and local businesses are doing when you can. Keeps you informed. But I don’t usually have enough time to be on them for too long.
Also I’ve always used Sprout for every social media job I’ve had and couldn't recommend it enough!"
Vik, Brand Manager at Magic Rock:
"The day always starts with a coffee, and from there on in that is the only constant in my day. My role is varied – one day I might be shooting the next promotion with some of our locals to the taproom, or the next I’ll be working on strategies with the LLWB marketing team. Socials are something that always happen – we try to be as responsive as we can be, but sometimes is a bit of a juggle between other roles. I plan a lot in advance so that I can concentrate on engagement, but like to keep a couple of slots each week so we can show ‘real time’ brewery news, or respond to things going on – it is social media after all!"
With the rise in digital, particularly throughout the pandemic, how important has social media been for the brewery?
Eve: "It’s been vital. At a time when customers weren’t able to visit our physical tap rooms to experience the brand, we needed to bolster our digital presence to ensure that we were engaging our followers in content. We also found that during the time, people were actively looking for updates from brands they followed about how they were responding to the pandemic, and being able to instantly post updates, and answer questions quickly through social, was so important.
In a lot of ways, our Instagram account is the ‘shop window’ of the Northern Monk brand, and generating engagement through social ultimately results in online sales, which is what many breweries, including ourselves, were relying on to keep them afloat during the pandemic."
Candy: "Social has become more important than ever for Beavertown. Much of our business was hit overnight as pubs had to close their doors to the public.
However, with the use of social media, it allowed us to offer more than beer. We were able to have different conversations with our audience and use our online community to navigate through the weirdness we were all experiencing.
It also gave us the power to adapt to the current climate. There have been a lot of lows during this time, so we wanted to give a few highs and entertain and add value to our audience. We started our weekly segments of #4pmWithBeavertown, this was where we held different forms of live entertainment for 30 minutes on a Friday to sign off what might have been a stressful week."
Cal: "We definitely noticed an increased interest in our social media during lockdown, which was great. We obviously had to try and drive traffic to direct sales via the webstore to make up for lost revenue from pubs and bars but we really didn’t want to make it all about that. People tend to switch off if you’re just selling to them all the time.
We did a series of doorstep interviews with as many staff as we could visit by bike during lockdown, and that was really fun. That helped to break up the feed and for people to see how our staff were getting on, we’ve since started doing a similar series on pub landlords as they reopen.
For The Pembury, we filmed a Pub Quiz every Monday and put it out on our Instagram Stories, that helped keep the pub relevant while it was closed and our community engaged during lockdown. It did so well we had hundreds of people playing each week, doubled our followers and even the Mayor of London got behind it!"
Vik: "Absolutely crucial. It has been our link to the ‘outside world’ and the messages of support that have been sent, or we have been tagged in have been wonderful. We were working on bringing the web shop in house prior to the pandemic, but this just gave us the opportunity to bite the bullet. Socials have been where our main messaging for Covid-19 were released, promoted our taprooms, lifted morale sometimes and shared our releases."
What inspires your content and what content resonates the most with your followers?
Eve: "We’re incredibly proud of our Northern roots and want that to be evident in our social posts. A lot of our content is inspired by iconic Northern scenery, giving people an insight into the beautiful places and sights around the North. Aside from that – of course it’s the beer! The majority of our posts are product-led, our social accounts are the places where we post updates about all of our new releases. The beer release side of things is definitely what resonates the most, we tend to find engagement is highest when a beer reminds our followers of a specific experience, e.g. when a beer is related to a well-known, or nostalgic flavour, or memory. Messy food shots that visualise the flavour of the beer always go down well too!"
Candy: "Inspiration usually comes from what’s going on in the world. Last week we had a crazy heatwave, so we created Lift Off Lollies. So many people loved the idea of having a Beavertown flavoured ice lolly to help them cool down. Our artwork resonates the most I would say. So it helps to intertwine our artwork into our posts."
Cal: "Content about us as people seems to resonate a lot more with our followers, sometimes far more than the posts that are just about beer! I think people enjoy seeing the people behind the beer – plus all our staff are genuinely lovely people so it’s not hard!
People also love seeing when things go wrong. The other week we accidentally drove a forklift into the warehouse shutters and broke them – it was the night we opened our new taproom. I took a photo of our staff sat together enjoying a beer in front of all the mess, and it ended up being one of our most popular Instagram posts ever – I guess it shows people we’re all human!"
Vik: "Everything – I’m constantly looking at what other brands (not just breweries) are doing and how we can use it to our advantage. Rich Norgate’s design always get great feedback, but the most engagement we get is through Instagram stories and on Twitter – because of the instant nature of both platforms, they give a much more authentic view of the business and people that work here."
Do you get a lot of trolls and what’s your method when it comes to handling them? Any favourite “mean tweets” you’ve received?
Eve: "We don’t actually get loads, but of course there’s always the odd few – online trolls are something that every brand has to deal with. The response completely depends on the severity. We have a zero-tolerance policy for anybody that makes derogatory remarks about our staff or our community – if that happens, we’ll block the user.
There’s a few accounts on Instagram that like to heckle us now and again, you quickly come to learn who these people are! We post responses on a case-by-case basis, as there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach to dealing with trolls. Usually, trolls expect you to react with anger at their comments, so if you take the piss a little bit and approach from more of a sarcastic angle – a lot of the time they don’t know how to respond. Humour can actually be really effective for diffusing these situations! Aside from that, if the person just wants an argument, sometimes the best response is to say nothing at all."
Candy: "Of course lol.
It shocks me how upset people get about beer. A lot of the time I respond back to them using gifs. It’s a fun and lighthearted way to show people that we don’t take their comments too seriously.
My favourite mean tweet would be back when I first started at Beavertown. I mistook The Joker for The Mask (I know, like how?) and WW3 broke loose. “Fire your social media” was probably my fav"
Cal: "No, I feel like we fly under the radar for trolls luckily! A lot of the people who tweet, comment or message us regularly either live locally and come see us at the pub, or know us from the industry and beer festival circuit – there’s not a whole load of meanness there!"
Vik: "Not a great deal. I mean, we do get lots of jabs about our acquisition, but at the end of the day, we’re the same people, doing the same jobs, so we just take it with a pinch of salt. We did have a recent tweet saying that Salty Kiss, our Gooseberry Gose should have that it is sour written on the can – it literally does – we had a good chuckle at the brewery about that one!"
Is it hard not to take negative comments personally when you are the one dealing with them every day? How do you separate work from your personal feelings?
Eve: "I think there’s a really big misconception that when you say mean things to brands over social media, it doesn’t matter, because the troll sees the company as a whole, they don’t see somebody frantically checking notifications on their laptop. In breweries, it’s usually one person, or a very small team, working on social, and it does genuinely hurt when you receive negative comments – let alone the anxiety crafting and sending the response can cause.
I think that, especially when you have a lot of passion for the place where you work, it can be really difficult to separate work and personal feelings because for a lot of people, including myself, those two things are intrinsic. You just have to remember that it isn’t a personal attack on you, this is a person wanting to share anger on a public domain, and that’s no fault of yours."
Candy: "Not really. Those “mean” comments that I see from time to time aren’t directed to me personally. I think what works to my advantage, is that I don’t come from a background of beer so when I see unfair comments, I’m able to respond from a place understanding and offer knowledge. Rather than to respond with emotion."
Cal: "It rarely happens, I’ve been pretty fortunate to have really good experiences working in social media. But on the odd occasion something negative pops up online you obviously have to deal with people’s concerns with respect, and I guess if it’s genuinely nasty for no reason you just have to laugh it off. It’s only beer at the end of the day."
Vik: "You just have to - yeah, sometimes comments get to you – I think the people posting negativity forget that there is someone reading them at the other end! But I try not to let it get me down. Luckily, we have so many nice things being said that significantly tip the balance, so I like to focus on them."
Do you feel that breweries have a responsibility to use their platforms to highlight and campaign for issues they feel strongly about, or should they stay away from controversial topics and political conversations?
Eve: "I think our stance is pretty obvious on this! We have strong beliefs about community, and always using our platforms for good where we can. We’re a values-focused business, and our social media channels are a key way in which we communicate those values. We recently gave the Racial Justice Network (who are an amazing cause, and one of our most recent For The North Foundation grant recipients) our Instagram platform for a day, and they used the account to spread the vital message of racial justice and equality to our followers. Did we lose a few followers? Yes. However, the people that unfollowed clearly don’t see eye-to-eye with our values. If we feel passionate about a topic as a brand, then we will use our social platforms to raise awareness of that topic."
Candy: "Not just breweries, we all do. We all have a shared responsibility to highlight important conversations. Emphasis on the word conversations! As there may be topics we have no expertise in but it’s always important to discuss and learn from others."
Cal: "I definitely think it’s important for breweries to discuss and campaign for issues they feel strongly about – if you have a platform, you should use it to do good.
But as a social media manager, you always need to remember that you’re representing a brand, and that means representing the ethos of the company and the people within it. As long as what you say is representative of those values, and not just your personal beliefs, you should add your voice to the conversation."
Vik: "100% - I think anyone with a platform should use it for some good. Watch this space…"
And finally, aside from your own, what brewery’s socials do you admire and why?
Eve: "As a team, we’re huge fans of Allagash’s social content. The cohesiveness of their Instagram grid, and the consistency between imagery looks amazing. The way they anchor their content in the beauty of Maine is great. Aside from that, it’s fair to say that (like a lot of people) we all enjoy a scroll through Pilot’s Twitter account!"
Candy: "Twitter – Pilot Beer, these guys are incredibly funny.
Insta – Trillium Brewing, I need to find out what camera these guys have. Love their photography."
Cal: "It’s gotta be Allagash’s social media that I admire the most, and to some degree it’s their social channels that made me want to do this as a job. I think they tell the story of where they’re from perfectly, and it just looks incredible. Closer to home, I think Harbour are doing it really well too – makes me want to go visit Cornwall!"
Vik: "I love the consistency of both Camden and Thornbridge – great, engaging content that are true to each of the brands. I love Harbour’s Instagram – it captures the Cornish lifestyle so well and makes me want to go down and drink Harbour Hells in the back of a pickup watching the sunset – absolute perfection. But there are so many more – I love looking at the way that brands use social media to sell their story."
Cheers to all the beeroes out there making exciting craft beer content for a digital age!
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