Craft Beer and Data Science: Adapt or Die
When we began this company, we didn’t really know where our brand would move, what kind of content we’d be creating and who would like to listen to it or consume it. The big idea was naturally to generate content to improve our sales in the long term and position ourselves as the quirky craft beer retailer of South Africa.
We’re an online retail company, that sells craft beer, we’re also passionate South Africans with an affinity for technology, so when we found some insight on the development of the craft beer industry in the United States through a social listening platform, we began to salivate incoherently.
Data Analytics and the American Craft Beer Festival
There is a “social media listening tool” called Crimson Hexagon. Social media listening tools, as the name suggests, let’s companies understand large amounts of social media information and conversation online so that they can either make better online campaigns or react to a social media conversation where their brand is relevant.
From time-to-time, Crimson Hexagon analyse industries and online conversations around aspects of interest. They recently did an analysis of the American Craft Beer Festival, the biggest craft beer festival in the NorthEast US. According to Crimson Hexagon writer Molly Moriarity: “With over 15,000 attendees each year, in Boston’s Seaport district. Over 140 breweries showed up to share their favourite brews with thousands of beer lovers.”
Crimson decided to monitor the online conversation to see if the Twitter sphere and conversations around the festival we’re effective in driving brand recognition, topical engagement and the interests of the people attending the event and so on. This is what they found, based on the original blog article, with my comment on it’s potential correlation to South African Craft Beer Festivals:
- “Most of the Twitter discussion surrounding the beer festival came from breweries who were excited to attend“, not unlike our local beer festivals where the social media waves are dominated by either the top breweries at the event, your collective of beer bloggers and a few true craft beer enthusiasts.
- “Twitter conversation among consumers and attendees gradually picked up throughout the month of May, with the volume of responses exploding in the last few days before the event, and during the festival itself”, This is typical of most well managed or promoted events in South Africa anyway, especially when there are competitions involved.
- “Brooklyn Brewery topped the list of the most Influential Twitter Authors with a Klout score of 80″.
- “The most-mentioned handle was, perhaps predictably, @BeerAdvocate with over 530 mentions, followed by @treehousebrewco“, again we see the strength of relevant social media accounts pre and post festival, in our case, our small but passionate beer blogger community.
- “They also found that 22% of the entire conversation was female users”, It may surprise you, but most conversation on social media we’ve had have been women, and a the majority of beer bloggers in Johannesburg and Cape Town happen to be women, so sit down boys, the girls have got this!
- “Of the people tweeting about the event tend to have strong affinities for niche topics around brewing beer; home brewing, breweries, markets etc.”
What Does this do for South African Craft Beer Festivals and Bloggers?
When it comes to South African craft beer festivals, it’s usually a hit or miss when it comes down to online marketing or traditional promotion and comes down to one primal metre of measurement: Did we sell enough tickets.
There are very few, if any Festival organisers that user social media listening tools in any way to improve their follow-up or adjust their marketing to -up-and-coming events based on public social sentiment.
There needs to more to it than just: “Did we sell enough tickets“, what about the quality of event, post-event concerns, complaints, challenges, angry Twitter king pins, what did everything think of the event before they even got there, why did some not attend, who did attend and what are they telling their friends afterwards?
Then if the festival survives, there is always the public opinion shifters post-event to contend with, which can make or break any future events. Unlike most parts of the world, word of mouth and the opinion of bloggers or social media influencers have the strength of resonance to shift the perception of the public behind or against a brand or an event.
Some Festivals have taken what bloggers say to heart, but would it have mattered if they didn’t. Or is the price of a good review the cost of a few drafts of free beer at the door? Both bloggers and festival organisers need to know more, they need to be listening better.
For Craft Beer Festival Organisers:
Craft beer festival organisers need to understand that this is where the market is getting their information from about the event. Those organisers also have the responsibility to react to the public perception or points of view of some of the more impactful bloggers or credible journalists.
For festivals, using social listening tools similar to Crimson Hexagon couldn’t be more important than ever to target the right market, promote within the right conversation and manage the online tidal wave of tweets and grams that festivals generate.
If that can be accomplished, answering: “Did we sell enough tickets”, becomes more of a question of: “What brands we’re most popular” or “Did we have enough tokens?”.
For Craft Beer Bloggers and Posters:
For craft beer bloggers and festival writers, this also presents a responsibility.
The fledgling beer blogger community need to know that their word is not only heard, but also accountable. If the shift in this kind of thinking and adoption of listening tools takes place in the beer and festival industry as it should, no longer will bloggers be able to hide behind an alias or a community of hundreds or thousands of “followers”, festivals will know who’s trolling and blegging, and who’s talking about a real first hand experience.
Festivals will know who’s words matter and who’s shooting up wind.
As a community, it is our responsibility to our customers, our readers and our festival goers to not only embrace new technology to better our own blogs, events and brands, but to provide the best experience possible to those using our services or reading our content.
Companies, breweries and brands who don’t won’t be around long enough for me to tell them: “I told you so”.
Also published on Medium.