The influence of social media on our society, and our industry, is unmistakably at its peak.
From hop farmers to specialist craft beer retailers, influencers – whether they be charismatic staff, friendly business partners, paid celebrities or keen enthusiasts – are now a core part of marketing communications.
The reason for the swift adoption of influence in beer is manifold. Some offer large audiences to reach with content promoting a new product launch. In contrast, others can provide ‘instagrammable’ (now officially in the dictionary!) content when you lack the knack for creating relevant content for your social media channels and website.
Influencers are playing an increasing role in driving commercial activity too, promoting eCommerce for breweries and bars – and increasingly impacting the business-to-business (B2B) environment amongst manufacturing, agricultural and service firms in the beer industry.
While you may frown at the rampant use of influencers by beer brands big and small, particularly in the United States, it is better to engage with the new marketing tactic and leverage it to your advantage.
Create A Smart Influencer Strategy
Rather than rushing head-first into throwing money at B-grade celebrities relentlessly promoting everything from shampoo to KFC, start by thinking about tricky business or brand problems that you’re currently grappling with.
Does your beer brand lack drinkers in a particular demographic? Are you struggling to reach buyers in a specific country or city?
Focus initially on identifying a business problem or need – and start thinking about how partnerships with influencers could potentially help you.
For breweries, the launch of a new packaging format or seasonal release is a good time to focus on awareness and reach – a task that will likely require partnering with Instagrammers and YouTubers popular with beer drinkers in your market.
Suppose you’re focused on B2B market and have a much smaller target audience. In that case, you might want to focus on being recognised for thought leadership and sparking a conversation with buyers on LinkedIn or the download of a white paper or case study. An excellent resource for further reading on this is LinkedIn’s B2B Institute research.
Having a clear idea about what you want to achieve – reaching a wider audience of drinkers, driving sales of an exclusive or limited product, recognising your business’ prowess – then helps you craft your strategy for working with influencers.
Structuring & Scaling The Impact Of Influence
There is a range of ways to structure working with influencers beyond reaching out to a big celebrity or personality in your market.
Once you’ve identified your business challenge or problem, start mapping out opportunities and ideas for how influencer activities could help resolve or address it.
Asia Pacific Breweries briefed a ‘squad’ of Instagrammers to promote the launch of Edelweiss in Singapore, a common tactic in other FMCG categories and one that is increasingly adopted in the beer industry.
The power of the partnership is demonstrated by the fact that the Instagrammers consistently followed a clear brief that matches Edelweiss’ brand identity of being “born in the heights of the Austrian Alps”, creating a powerfully distinctive look versus other beer brands in Singapore.
While APB likely paid these Instagrammers to participate, you can also use other levers – free exclusive product, beautiful customised packaging, a friendly message or phone call, exclusive experiences – to motivate influencers to work with you.
Even if you lack funds to spend on similar partnerships, your existing customers and staff can be opinion leaders. We’d previously talked about the power of micro-influencers:
Incentivising customers to checking in at your taproom and post photos on Instagram can be a valuable way to build location visibility (as many Instagram users now use the platform for location search), in addition to growing your positive word of mouth.
Finally, staff and business partners offer a vast untapped area of influence for businesses of all shapes and sizes – mainly when used consistently and meaningfully.
Challenge your colleagues to grow their own influence networks by sharing thought leadership, blog posts, and relevant content to the beer world.
CLS Farms do a wonderful job across social media platforms at using their staff as micro-influencers, showcasing their expertise and giving a personal touch to their communications. If farms can benefit from active influencer marketing, your business can too.
Another great example is consultant Chris Maffeo. who uses LinkedIn to share best practices and advice for beverage brands – another way to engage with potential clients and build a bigger audience by adding value.
Before jumping into execution, ensure influencer activities must work hand-in-glove with your existing marketing calendar to maximise impact. They must be adequately amplified, too: shared on your social channels, given paid media support, promoted with traditional and digital media, etc.)
Effectively Executing Influencer Partnerships: Final Thoughts
Having worked with influencers throughout my former career in advertising, I’ve seen the full range of success and failure.
From the highs of partying with rappers in Singapore to the low of managing a rogue celebrity openly using an iPhone during a Samsung campaign, here are a few rules of thumb I learned in the process.
- Focus on building partnerships with those who gatekeep influence – agents, managers and ‘connectors’ – these relationships will deliver incredible value in the long run and open doors you’d never imagine.
- Create a small but fixed set of ‘mandatories’ when you work with influencers of any kind: your product should be featured in a particular light, for instance, and a specific hashtag must be used.
- Be straightforward but flexible when working with influencers: the ‘authenticity dividend’ is critical, so don’t put words into people’s mouths or dictate them to be somebody else.
- Explore ways you can get influencers invested in your success: rewards for hitting a certain level or reach, revenue sharing of sales and leads, etc.
Get out of your comfort zone and take some measured risks with your influencer activities: you never know how much of an unexpectedly positive impact it may have on your business.