Small businesses all over the world are using social media (primarily Facebook and Twitter) to market their business’ product or service and connect with customers, as my first post demonstrated with the seven craft breweries in Chicago: Dry Hop, Atlas Brewing, Finch’s Beer Company, Pipeworks Brewing Company, Revolution Brewing, Haymarket and Begyle Brewing Co. As much research demonstrates, small businesses, often with tight budgets that leave little to no room for advertising, can benefit greatly from using social media correctly as “cashless promotional campaigns” (Kaikati, A., and Kaikati, M. 47).
The problem is that research and usage also show that many small businesses do not have a plan in place for how and why they are using the social media tool, as Sam Dickey recommends as part of his tips in “Small Business Lessons: Getting the basics down” (22). This plan not only includes knowing which channels you want to promote yourself through, but also who you are marketing to, what exactly you are marketing, how you will attract followers, the image you want to create for the brand, and the type of content you will make.
For every small business, the type of content you put out on social media can have a major impact, both positive and negative. So, it is important to “add value” to any conversations, whether started or continued, that you participate in (Lacho and Marinello 132). And, just as no one likes to talk to someone who only brags about themselves, no one likes it interact with a company via social media if it’s all about them and there is no mutual benefit.
The last post I made pointed out that one of the challenges for small businesses is generating content, especially this content that is not promotional of just your own business and views. Such original and promotional content – expressing one’s one views only and promoting only the company’s services, other social media platforms, products, etc. – offers little benefit to anyone but the company, and it surely does not encourage users of social media to engage with the business. It’s therefore important that small businesses engage with users and others in the industry with a mix of content types, including promoting content other than their own, or what I will call “outside content.”
The seven breweries I looked at did engage, for the most part, in a variety of content types, including promoting outside content. The topoi of outside content were very similar across Facebook and Twitter for all seven of the breweries I looked at, and could be categorized into four sub-types of outside content. Although I list them as separate sub-categories, you will notice that many of these breweries mixed the sub-types of outside content into one post, and rather effectively, I think for the most part.
Connecting back to users who connected to the brewery first
This pattern was most often seen on Twitter with retweets and mentions in tweets. For example, both Dry Hop and Begyle retweeted to followers that mentioned them in a tweet first. This is effective in making sure your fans, customers and potential customers know that you notice them and connecting on a “more personal” level.
It also encourages followers to tweet to the small business if they have the incentive of being retweeted or mentioned in a tweet (and thus, helping to boost that follower’s own account visibility or have that retweet show up on their account, since, of course, everyone has a motive and wants a benefit). If a brewery like Dry Hop never retweeted back at followers, they would not do it in the first place, and would perhaps not even connect via social media in the first place.
On Facebook, this pattern was mostly seen with comments back to users who commented or liking a comment that a user posted.
Local or current events
To some extent, the breweries all followed this sub-category of outside content topoi generated on Facebook and Twitter. The posts on Twitter and Facebook were very similar, though the breweries’ posts on Facebook tended to incorporate their products (or, beer, at least) more into the post than did the tweets about current and local events. Sports (the Blackhawks) and holidays were commonly promoted on Facebook and Twitter by all the breweries.
These are not only timely topics to the social media audience, but they are also likely important to the local audience, since someone looking for craft Chicago beers is probably a fan of other things related to Chicago, too. General topics like this, such as Memorial Day, are also a good way to draw new followers, potential customers, to the brand, and thus, effective for these breweries, since it is very common that people drink on Memorial Day.
Industry-related events or causes
Just as local or current events were used as types of outside content promoted by the Chicago craft breweries, other industry events or causes were similarly promoted across both Twitter and Facebook by each brewery. Some breweries did, in fact, post just the industry cause or event on their Facebook page; Dry Hop used Facebook as a means to gain public support for local craft beer in Illinois making no mention of their products.
Other breweries, such as Atlas, subtly did advertise their products, which I don’t think made the post too much about the company (which would not be outside content) in this specific case. Others, such as Revolution, shared a photo from a restaurant about Tap Takeover event, but then made almost entirely the rest of the Facebook post about the company. Overall, a mix of these styles for promoting industry-related events and causes were used most successfully across the breweries, though Revolution did the most mixing its own promotional content with outside content.
Other small businesses/breweries in the industry
It was actually surprising to look at how much interaction there was between the companies in the craft beer industry on Facebook and Twitter. Fairly even on Facebook and on Twitter, the outside content of this type ranged from tagging other industry companies in posts un-related to the company on Facebook or Twitter to mentioning other companies involved in the same (non-industry-related) cause to, most surprisingly, promoting new products of the other small breweries. This type of outside content is an example of how social media can be used for free to advertise cross-promotional campaigns. It can also be an effective tool for gaining new followers on social media, hence, potential customers, since someone that likes one type of Chicago craft brew may likely is a fan of others, they may just not be familiar with those brewers yet.
Overall, I found these to be the most common types of outside content generated by the seven craft breweries in Chicago I looked at. They were definitely not exclusively used, but they were instead most effective when mixed together. Just the same, the techniques for generating outside content were not used exclusively on Twitter or exclusively on Facebook but were seen in both social media platforms. I don’t think I could choose one brewery as “most effective” since there are many ways to gauge that.
However, from my research, I think Dry Hop did the best job of varying content types – including the four sub-content types identified within the topoi of generating outside content – across social media platforms…Or, maybe I’m just biased because it’s down the block from me, and I’ve been following the updates religiously (via social media, of course) in anticipation of its opening next week. It could be that, too.