Social media is a brewery’s friend both for the cost of entry (pretty much free!) and the direct access to customers. For a community-driven industry, being able to instantly speak to fans when you want and how you want is powerful.
Social media traffic and engagement has a way of feeling like a bonus because of its price tag, but that’s a trap. These direct communication tools should not be an afterthought but a major focus. With the right plan in place, your social media channels can be key drivers in solidifying your brand amid the noise of the marketplace.
But where do you start? How can you judge success? Luckily, the social marketing analytics and insights group Rival IQ did all of the research for us. Let’s start by looking at the top craft beer brands on social media. In this research, Rival IQ analyzed 6,000 social media posts across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the top 20 breweries by sales volume across the 90-day period commencing February 1, 2017.
Top craft breweries by total social media follower count
This basic number is a great start, but it’s just that. Any asshole can get a big following count that is 50 percent fake. The realness is in the engagement — just how social is that media of yours?
Well, back up. How are we defining “engagement?” Well, you might have your own methods or favored stats, but Rival IQ gauged measurable interactions on social media posts, including likes, comments, favorites, retweets, shares and reactions. Next, it came up with an engagement rate, calculated based on all these interactions divided by total follower count.
“This chart demonstrates a trend we’ve seen in every single study we’ve done: The more followers you have, the lower the average engagement,” the Rival IQ squad notes.
Here’s how the that engagement looks across each platform.
Boost your posts like Shiner. The average Facebook engagement rate across the 20 companies studied was 0.23 percent. Shiner Beer managed to beat this average by 65x, with one post getting 15.9 percent.
Rival IQ software’s machine-learning algorithm detected that all of Shiner’s top performing posts were being boosted — and getting results.
Leverage user-generated content like Ballast Point. The data shows that photos are the dominant post type on Facebook for good reason; they also see the highest engagement rates (0.28 percent on average).
But photos require more resources to create than a link or status update. Ballast Point is making the most of its engaged community by re-posting user-generated content across multiple channels. A recent photo garnered thousands of likes, and an engagement rate of 2.43 percent — 9.5x higher than average.
It’s important to note that if you’re going to be reposting content from anywhere, you absolutely have to attribute the source.
Take your followers behind the scenes. People love to peek behind the curtain and see how their favorite beers are made. Bell’s Brewery took advantage of this natural curiosity with a photo of their beer-making process and saw a 2.25 percent engagement rate. Bell’s then took it a step further and engaged with their fans in the comments section, providing more in-depth information and even more behind the scenes pics.
Celebrities are always a good idea. New Belgium Brewing consistently kills it when it comes to engagement. In fact, they recently increased their Facebook engagement by 150 percent. When Jason Momoa posted this selfie of him and a friend drinking New Belgium after his truck broke down, New Belgium’s social team was quick to notice and capitalize on the opportunity, reposting within hours. This Instagram post had a 4.4 percent engagement rate, 4x the average (1.1 percent) across all 20 breweries.
Everyone loves a puppy. Stone Brewing Co. garnered a 3.27 percent engagement rate, with a recent puppy pic, and it continues a trend Rival IQ has noticed in almost every industry they’ve researched; puppies and kittens almost always cause spikes in engagement.
Know your hashtags. Yuengling Beer’s average engagement rate across all 66 Instagram posts was 2.55 percent, which is 2.2x higher than the average. Further investigation revealed the brand consistently used a diverse set of hashtags to reach new audiences, resulting in an 8.9 percent growth in followers in the same period.
“Studies have shown the optimal number of hashtags to use is seven — Yuengling hits this number in almost every post,” notes Rival IQ.
A friendly rivalry can go a long way. Big sporting events are the most common form of this. Samuel Adams’ Tweet challenging SweetWater had one of their highest engagement rates: 0.45 percent. SweetWater rose to the challenge with a picture of their team all decked out in Falcons gear, their reply earning a 0.33 percent engagement rate. SweetWater actual grew its audience by almost 1,000 followers that day.
“Twitter is the best place to engage in this sort of activity, or any co-marketing, because you can reply and retweet,” Rival IQ notes.
Get in on the action with the right hashtags. This Anchor Brewing tweet had an engagement rate 13x higher than the average (0.38 percent x 0.029 percent). Anchor’s marketing team employed a few tried-and-true tactics to get this tweet to the top. First up, they’ve partnered with one of the best NBA teams in the country with their limited edition beer.
Anchor has also tagged the Golden State Warriors, used a branded hashtag (#RaiseYourAnchor) and pushed themselves into Warrior fans’ Twitter feeds with the #Dub tag.
Know your data and use it to make better decisions. Sierra Nevada’s best-performing tweet tapped into the St Patrick’s Day mania that envelops Twitter every year. Rival IQ’s hashtag analytics tool showed that posts tagged #StPatricksDay got an average engagement rate of 0.057 percent — double the industry average. Sierra Nevada’s team may have noticed that Tweets with images performed twice as well as status updates or links (0.045 percent vs 0.0215) and factored this into their content creation, resulting in one post that saw a 0.12 percent engagement rate — 400 percent higher than average.
Cool — where do I rank?
One of the best ways to get ideas for new content or social strategies is to check out what other institutions like yours are doing, and you can do this through a platform such as Rival IQ. Right now you could start a seven-day free trial and start tracking what your peers are doing, see how you compare and maybe find a few ways you could improve.