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How effective is your brand’s social engagement?

  • 7 min read

Wine Road meeting for social engagement emailI attended the Wine Road of Northern Sonoma County’s annual meeting yesterday as a sponsoring vendor and was reminded of the challenges faced by all segments of craft beverage. With nearly 200 wineries and over 50 lodging partners represented, the Wine Road is an association that protects and promotes the interests of their members. The room was energized around the discussion of driving tasting room traffic and social engagement, especially within the younger segment (21-40-year-olds). I was happy to talk with attendees about storytelling their brands and how a small shift in their marketing activity can actually have a huge impact on how they are discovered by new guests. Enter Market Your Craft, stage left.

“Market Your Craft” is my new brand, born out of the idea that craft wine, spirits, beer and non-alcoholic are all competing: for attention, relevance and customers. 7 months into my LLC I’ve learned from clients and contacts that the craft beverage business is changing at breakneck speed and what is needed is guidance on how to prepare for and approach the new selling environment. This “truth” has helped me focus my efforts on what’s of most use to brands in this space, continuing to help them stand out through effective storytelling strategies but with 3 very distinct selling propositions:

  • Drive traffic by making your brand DISCOVERABLE
  • Give them moments WORTH SHARING with their friends
  • Capture NEW SALES by planning for growth

Market Your Craft, and its new home at, will focus on delivering valuable tools and resources to help you and your craft beer brand address those challenges with confidence. And while it’s not possible to entirely future-proof your marketing, the goal is to help you build your marketing chops internally and to constantly evolve your efforts to meet the changing needs of your customer. Like I said to the Wine Road members yesterday: your customer has changed, has your marketing? Most would agree that they are in fact behind and they’re nervous that winter is coming (literally and figuratively) where industry disruptors like Foods threaten to alter the future course of wine selling/buying as we know it. Sorry, didn’t mean for that to sound so doomsday…but it’s a real concern for them, and one that their annual meeting keynote speaker addressed directly.

Paul Mabray is the CEO at, providing data-driven insights for the wine industry. He comes from a significant wine background, including such notable companies as, Inertia Beverage Group (now WineDirect), VinTank and others. His presentation was electric, and he confronted the elephant in the room head-on, calling the current wine market, “the most competitive in history.” He explored trends that are universally true for craft beverage (although the wine industry is arguably more mature/established than others) and focused attention on some important themes:

  • Tasting room traffic is down.
  • Wine buyers have changed the way they shop, and most wineries haven’t kept up.
  • Not everyone lives wine, so it no longer works to just target the aficionados. He labels wine, “a substitutable category,” for that reason, and talked about brands that are winning with simplified product and benefits messaging.
  • The customer is in control, so you have to be omnichannel in your marketing (be everywhere they could find you, within reason).
  • There is no longer a traditional sales funnel – it’s more of a “loyalty loop” that you must actively attract customers to enter, then work hard to retain. Aka, invest in marketing as an asset, not as an expense.
  • Winemakers need to create an emotional connection with prospects in order to hope for visit, trial and sale.
  • Wineries can’t compete with the likes of on the basis of speed, but they can on service.

Powerful stuff! And a lot of overlap with what we’ve been discussing for how to engage customers at your company. Proof positive that the strategies we’re discussing are being used across beverage segments. The speed of change topic inspired today’s email topic: what social engagement do your customer expect?  The stats and studies are all over the map, but one site that I find particularly reliable,, states 42% of your followers expect a response to their social media post within 60 minutes! There are a lot of caveats there, as you can imagine, like normal business hours, international business dynamics, etc. But the fact remains that customers expect more from their social engagement with your craft beer brand.

Annoyed Lady photo for social engagement emailIt’s not always possible or practical to respond that quickly as a company that runs lean with team members wearing many hats, as is the case with many craft beverage brands. So, to Paul’s point, when you can’t compete on speed, be sure to differentiate yourself on service level. I believe a good way to do that is to streamline the process of social engagement via listening and other tools that help consolidate the experience for users: one interface for responding/posting to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Many services are available to help with this, including popular packages like Hootsuite and Sprout Social. With features liked Saved Messages for example, Sprout Social speeds up the process of responding to commonly-asked questions across your accounts. Facebook has a Messenger Chatbot that helps with customer self-service before initiating a chat with the brand, which is free for business pages.

Designate one or two people in your business to handle social engagement, assigning them “roles” within each of the platforms which allow them respond to posts from a customer service perspective. Start out with a reasonable guideline for time-to-react, say within 24 hours, and gradually work your way up to more immediate response. Customers will appreciate the consistency and effort and ultimately let you know if their expectations aren’t being met. Always try to take conversations private or off-wall whenever possible and stay away from hashtag use for customer service response unless first introduced by the customer.

Sprout Social publishing interface image for social engagement emailWhen time is on your side, it’s a good idea to plan out a calendar of proactive posts to occur throughout the month. I recommend trying (not forcing) 2 posts per week per channel. When you have a schedule, you can use tools like this one from Sprout Social to queue the posts up in advance of their publish date, freeing you up to concentrate on more real-time posting for timely, topical happenings. I like to use a simple Word template for creating calendars. Leverage each channel for their unique storytelling capabilities. For example, I like Twitter for new releases and timely event announcements; Facebook for longer-lead events and text-heavy posts; and Instagram for the photos that help tell the visual story of your brand. A quick reminder to keep text concise and photos formatted – here are the general guidelines:

  • Facebook: 1-80 characters, 1200×628 pixels
  • Twitter: 71-100 characters, 1200×675 pixels
  • Instagram: 138-150 characters, 1080×566/1080 pixels

Sprout Social Discount
If you haven’t already, visit, a tool to help monitor, grow and track social media efforts. I’ve evaluated a number of tools and I find this to be the most insightful and easiest to use, with access to a single interface for posting content to all major social platforms. As an advisor, I qualify for discounted pricing of $150/month for up to 2 users and 3 social profiles (i.e. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) for Enterprise-level services. Additional profiles and users can be purchased.

What I’m reading this week:
1. A quick shout-out to our friends in Columbus, Ohio, this week. Actual Brewing Company has some creative storytelling via email lately, but I was most impressed by their visual representation of the special beer release event, Sourpuss 2018, on December 15. Check it out!

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