By: Chris Mulvaney, President, CMDS Marketing Agency
In the past, reviewers and critics were the ones who determined what foods you wanted to eat and what movies you liked to watch. Then, when you turned on the TV, you would see a product-endorsing celebrity tell you what you wanted to buy.
Now, not so much. You still have celebrity endorsements, sure, but you are much more likely to see them on social media than on prime time. With online technology far surpassing any printed newspaper, tv commercial or critic comes the birth of a new legion of opinion-swayers – the social media influencer. And, when it comes to craft beverages, there is no better place to be for brand promotion than having your product in one of their hands – and selfies – on social media.
This new breed of influencer is not necessarily a celebrity. In fact, most aren’t. They are bloggers, cell phone photographers, Yelp reviewers. All someone needs is an online platform to post. Take that platform, add a determination for a large following, sprinkle in an enigmatic personality and the right “look” and viola! The new ”influencer” can take a brand like yours to an insane level of success.
This proven method is exactly why the craft beverage industry is utilizing the social media influencer to further their reach and skyrocket their sales. On the internet’s various platforms, such as Instagram and Facebook, lives a world of craft beer influencers, liquor afficianos and self-promoting humans commanding attention in the space.
Whether they are self-proclaimed writers, brewers, distillery fans, liquor conoissors, beer sommeliers, beer-tenders, models, advocates, happy hour fans, or just plain-old well-respected craft beverage lovers, they are, in short, people we deem influential in this world.
And, as of December 2020, there were 2.3 billion of them on Instagram.
By strategic use of tagging, sharing links, posting photos of what and where they are drinking, sharing videos, stories and reels of new releases, encapsulating the crowd ambiance and engaging your audience with filtered selfies – they will make sure your product gets the ultimate endorsement advantage in hand and puts your online following on speed-dial.
So Why Are Influencers So Important?
Social media sites like Facebook and Instagram were built with connection and humanity as its purpose and are primarily meant for person to person relations.
And, those people will typically buy for two reasons:
1. Recommendations from someone they trust, and
Influencers have an established credibility and can persuade others by virtue of their trustworthiness and authenticity. Your brand’s target influencers are users that employ your brand hashtag and who have the largest number of followers. What they like, buy, share and post will sway their followers to do the same.
Influencers can be useful in three main ways for craft beverage businesses:
● They can create content
● Their audience can associate themselves with them, and
● They can provide exponential revenue growth.
In addition, this past year alone shows the skyrocketing success of the craft beverage hashtag. The following hashtags were used over and over by influencers all over Instagram:
● #craftbeer: $29million
● #cocktails: $28.9 million
● #supportlocal: $26.6 million
Influencers are also a great way to achieve a great engagement rate for your brand.
As of July 2020, 35% of online adults in the US used Instagram. The average engagement rate of a video post on Instagram was 1.45 percent, which is considered a good engagement rate. Additionally, image posts on the photo-sharing social site had an average engagement rate of 1.74 percent. Carousel posts (multiple photos on one post in succession) had a higher average engagement rate than single slide posts.
How to Choose An Influencer that is a Good Fit for Your Business:
Before hiring an influencer, it is very important to make sure that they fit in with your business model and ethical strategy.
Ask yourself these questions:
● Are They a Natural Fit for Your Products or Services?
● Does Their Performance Data Align with Your Campaign Goals?
● How Engaged is Their Community?
● Do They Align with Your Budget?
● How Are They Working with Brands Already?
● How Do They Disclose Sponsored Posts?
Keep in mind, an influencer can become synonymous with your brand, so if it doesn’t feel like quite the right fit, always err on the side of caution.
Micro vs. Macro Influencer’s
Here is where a marketing agency can be of huge assistance. Once you decide to use an influencer for your brand, then you have to decide what type of influencer will work best.
Surprisingly, the most successful influencers are not always obvious celebrities. In fact, in a report by mediakix listing the 30 most influential influencers in 2021, an Instagram personality by the name of Mr. Pokee (@mr.pokee) made it to #18. Why is this newsworthy? Mr. Pokee, with over 1.3 million followers to date and whose page is run by Litha Girnus, is a world-traveling … hedgehog.
So, it’s best to use the focus of your brand and test that out with various influencers because you never know what will hit best with your audience.
You also have to decide whether or not to use a “micro” or “macro” influencer.
Micro influencers cost about $1,000 for a one-feed post, two IG stories and an audience reach of 50K-100k. A Macro influencer costs an average of $50K with an average audience reach of 500K to one million. After doing math, the micro-influencer in many cases makes more sense. However, performing your own metrics or having a qualified marketing agency do this on your behalf will assist with what type is better for your business, brand, size and goals.
Marketing agencies can also help with locating the influencers using sites like thisishey.com, tagger.com or clouthq.com, and taking on the evaluation and decision-making process on your behalf.
Testing out various influencers is the best way to see which one is most effective for your brand. It is always best to have around five to start with.
A great process for you to use is the following:
● Find one influencer for each focus in your brand strategy, run them, and test to see what is most effective.
● Use unique UTM tags for each influencer
● Offer to pay to advertise the post to their lookalike audiences (this can only benefit your brand so is a win-win)
● Have them post on the weekends when engagement will most likely be higher
● Identify winners, then put money into the influencers that are bringing returns.
● Share metrics with influencer and work with influencer to optimize videos, etc.
An additional option is to let the influencer in on a revenue share, in which they provide more content but you pay the ad spend.
Once you find an influencer who meets all of your criteria, you must be aware of the laws governing their posts.
In 2009, the Federal Trade Commission published its Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising and followed by a 2015 FTC Enforcement Policy Statement on Deceptively Formatted Advertising. These regulations state that consumers must be aware that the influencer is compensated by a marketer and that an influencer does not hide any connection with the brand or marketer.
FTC guidelines also state that an influencer’s sponsored posts (even on their own website or under their own social media account) must be considered advertisements as well as noting a “material connection” between the influencer and the brand.
Recently, the FTC has also taken an interest in controlling influencer-based marketing. Any Influencer must be aware of four points the Federal Trade Commission issued in its “Updated Guidance”:
1. Clearly disclose when you have a financial or family relationship with the brand.
2. Don’t assume that using a platform’s disclosu tool is sufficient.
3. Avoid ambiguous disclosures like #thanks, #collab, #sp, #spon or #ambassador.
4. Don’t rely on a disclosure placed after a CLICK MORE link or in another easy-to-miss location.
The FTC has also given guidance to brands who use influencers. In a 2017 Consent Order, the FTC required a brand to:
1. Provide influencers with a clear statement of his/her responsibility to make clear disclosures of material connections to the brand.
2. Establish and maintain a system to monitor and review influencers.
3. Terminate influencers who don’t comply.
Being aware of these regulations will save you and your business from any potential (and hefty!) lawsuits in the long run.
The Last Gulp
To Recap: In simple terms, influencers provide:
• Content creation
• Brand elevation/Product validation
• Revenue Growth
In turn, your craft beverage brand can use that for:
• Paid social content
• Organic content
In order to be successful in your craft business, you need social media. It’s the absolute best way to grow your brand, engage with your customers and achieve tremendous sales growth. And, using an influencer is critical to this business strategy and can help you reach an insane amount of success.
Finding the perfect influencer partner for your brand can take some time, but with careful consideration and a strong strategy, you can avoid having any big setbacks that can cost you money or put your reputation at risk.
And, allowing your customers to associate a trusted influencer with your brand, in addition to having all of the above factors work together on social media, will increase your craft beverage sales exponentially. And that’s a notion that goes down real smooth.