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Top 10 brands ruling social media

Across many areas social media has become an increasingly important avenue for promotion and the alcohol industry is no different.

Last year a leading expert told the drinks business that social media is now so important to the wine world that wineries who put off using it will experience “digital Darwinism”.

Social media gives brands a fresh way to communicate with their consumers; Twitter and Facebook offer a scale of brand-consumer interaction that has previously not existed.

While some brands are clearly better than others at using social media a recent study by the L2 think tank showed that beer brands in particular are lagging behind other industries. The think tank assessed the digital competency of beer brands in the US and found that just two, Heineken and Budweiser, earned a “Genius” ranking.

L2’s report said: “On the social media front, Heineken had very little competition, nabbing the top spot for most Facebook fans, most Facebook engagement, most Twitter followers (aggregate global feeds), biggest YouTube community, and most individual YouTube channel views.

“In fact, Heineken is so dominant on YouTube that its biggest competitor on the platform, Budweiser, had less than half of Heineken’s views when data was collected last month.”

So which alcohol brands are currently making social media work for them? We have looked at Twitter followers, tweets, Facebook likes and overall engagement to come up with our list of social media-savvy alcohol brands.

10 – Coors Light

A Coors Light Facebook posting

Twitter: 13k followers, 2k tweets –

Facebook: 300k likes, 21k talking about –

The Canadian brewers were in a close call with Möet & Chandon for this spot in our top 10 and just sneaked ahead because of their levels of engagement. Möet US has slightly more followers on Twitter, but has made far fewer tweets and the two brands have a very similar number of Facebook likes, but more people are talking about Coors Light.

The Coors Facebook page publishes photos from users and uses fun photos to gain a high number of likes and shares on the social media site.

In the L2 research into the digital competency of US beer brands, Coors was given a “gifted” status after L2 rated its website, digital marketing, social media and mobile.

The final clincher for Coors over Möet was the respective YouTube pages. The Champagne house has 620 subscribers and 196k views on its channel, but Coors has 1,600 subscribers and 1.7m views.

9 – Carlsberg

Twitter: 5k followers, 255 tweets –

Facebook: 1.2m likes 18k talking about –

It would seem to be a case of “watch this space” for Carlsberg and its social media. With well over one million likes on Facebook the brand has a mix of brand marketing and consumer engagement on its page. There is a strong sport presence as well, which reflects the sponsorship deals the brewer has with various sporting clubs.

It looks like 2013 has seen the brand decide to take social media seriously with increased postings on both Facebook and Twitter. The brand has several country-specific Twitter accounts – the Carlsberg UK Twitter account has 3,300 followers and has tweeted nearly 1,000 times.

If the brand is taking social media more seriously then it already has a very strong base of numbers to improve on and should become a serious player in the area.

8 – Jack Daniel’s

This photo received 20,000 likes on the JC Facebook page

Twitter (Jack Honey): 6k followers, 700 tweets –

Facebook: 4.8m followers, 93k talking about –

Jack Daniel’s appears to have invested a great deal more time and effort in its Facebook page than it has in Twitter; and 4.8m Facebook likes is very hard to ignore. The FB page predominately uses a range of iconic brand images to engage its users and it appears to work. This mirrors much of the brand’s advertising strategy, which tends to be more storytelling than hard selling.

The image shown here was recently posted on the Jack Daniel’s Facebook page with the simple text: “Distilled. Mellowed. Matured. Tasted. Enjoyed.”. It gained nearly 20,000 likes.

YouTube is other social media outlet that Jack Daniel’s have worked on, with between two and three videos (on average) published on its channel each week. The channel currently has 514 subscribers and has amassed nearly 650,000 video views.

In 2012 Digiday reported that Jack Daniel’s made the decision to switch its Facebook strategy from selling to storytelling.

Phil Epps, brand director at Jack Daniel’s said: “Ever since we’ve made this conscious shift, we have seen that our engagement on Facebook is increasing at an incredibly fast rate. Are we selling more product? Well, that’s difficult to measure as I am sure you know. But as the brand is more top-of-mind, we will see an increase in sales.”

7 – BrewDog

Twitter: 25k followers, 6,700 tweets –

Facebook: 33k likes, 2,300 talking about –

Scottish brewers BrewDog’s presence in this list proves that social media is not just about numbers. Engagement and using tools to interact with your consumers on a large scale is also important.

Although at 32k BrewDog’s Facebook numbers are smaller than many on this list it does get a lot of comments, shares and likes for the regular news and photos that it posts on its page.

But it is Twitter that sees BrewDog make this list as a strong social media brand. BrewDog has over 25,000 followers and has tweeted more than 6,000 times.

It has been a busy time recently for BrewDog as it opens more pubs around the UK and has recently moved to a new brewing premises and it has used social media to keep its fans up-to-date with a lot of this information.

The brewer has also looked to its fans and consumers for help with funding and with finding new premises in recent times and using social media effectively has helped it to be successful in this area and also helps to improve its already strong brand loyalty.

6 – Budweiser

Twitter 12k followers, 220 tweets –

Facebook 3.9m likes, 195k talking about –

Given the number tweets that Budweiser has made it seems quite strange that it already has over 12,000 followers, but that would seem to demonstrate the power of the brand.

This appears to be a brand that has taken its Facebook work seriously and like Jack Daniel’s has taken to posting brand photos on its page, rather than trying to sell products. Budweiser also publishes user pictures on its Facebook page, which also proves popular.

YouTube is also a key area for the brand and this worked very impressively for it during the Superbowl in the US. Forbes reported that Budweiser saw a 145% increase in its social engagement in the week leading up to this year’s Superbowl and a massive 634% increase on the day of the match.

The Budweiser YouTube channel currently has over 12,000 subscribers and can boast over 15m video views, with Superbowl viral ads and the brand’s Clydesdale horses driving huge amounts of that traffic.

Earlier this year Anheuser-Busch ran a social media campaign to name one of the Clydesdales, which proved extremely popular and saw the foal named “Hope”.

5 – Jim Beam

Twitter 22k followers, 5k tweets –

Facebook 1.5m likes, 28k talking about –

Jim Beam is another brand that uses social media to tell stories rather than to sell products. Rob Mason Beam’s director, US bourbons, Beam global spirits & wine, recently told digital agency iCrossing that one of the key factors for Jim Beam was choosing its social publishing platforms wisely. Mason said that while it has 400m members, Google+ “does not create the same amount of engagement for Beam that Facebook does”. Mason added: “Facebook gets more visitors than our website.”

In 2011 Jim Beam embarked on its “Bold Choices” marketing campaign, which encouraged fans to use platforms such as Facebook, to share stories of the bold choices they had made in their lives. To get into the spirit of the campaign seventh generation Beam family distiller, Fred Noe said he would get a Jim Beam tattoo if the brand got one million friends on Facebook. They got the million and as the picture shows Noe got his tattoo.

Afterwards he said: “I can’t believe I pulled off this bold choice for the fans. I guess if you say you’re going to do something, you’re supposed to do it, so I did it.”

Mason also said that a key for Jim Beam was to be timely with its social media. He said: “Think about it: we’re a spirits brand. No one wants to get engaging content from a spirits brand on Monday morning.”

4 – Ciroc vodka

Twitter 30k followers, 6k tweets –

Facebook 1.8m likes, 50k talking about –

Ciroc’s close association with music superstar Sean Coombes, or P-Diddy, gives it a slightly different edge and Aubrey Flynn, brand content director for Ciroc, recently told digital media company, Digiday, that “keeping our finger on the pulse of pop culture makes our approach unique.”

The brand uses Twitter more extensively than we have seen with other brands and that strategy is reflected in the 30,000 followers that Ciroc now has.

Ciroc uses brand ambassadors, including the likes of Coombes, to promote the brand and to engage with users on social media. The recent hashtag #IheardDiddy, sparked huge numbers of tweets with users tweeting things like “#IheardDiddy was the first man on the moon” and “#IheardDiddy single handily beat the 1992 dream team”.

On Facebook the brand uses a mixture of product promotion, photos and promotion of its brand ambassadors to engage users. Flynn added: “Our brand ambassadors are cultural participants that live and breathe the brand’s celebratory lifestyle credentials, keeping the content and the conversation around it mobile, social and entertaining.”

3 – Bacardi

Twitter 40k followers, 4k tweets –

Facebook 4.2m likes, 64k talking about –

One of the keys to Bacardi’s social media strategy has been to create an online experience that “encourages people to get together in real life”. This has seen the brand create Facebook and Twitter pages for different countries, which have proved increasingly popular. Bacardi’s UK Facebook page has 4.2m likes, while Brazil and India each have one million.

Bacardi launched its “Like It Live, Like It Together” marketing strategy, with the aim of “bringing people’s Facebook likes to life”. The campaign saw fans able to vote for a series of likes, which Bacardi then brought to life in a series of events around the world. With this behind them the brand saw active user rates rise from 331,000 in May 2011 to 2.5 million in June of the same year.

The brand’s main Twitter account has 40,000 followers, but individually Bacardi has 3,000 followers in the UK, 5,500 in Canada and 9,500 in Mexico.

It is a very active Twitter account that asks regular questions of its followers. Things like “True of false? The weekend is never long enough” and “What’s your go-to #Bacardi mixer?”. But the brand does also adopt a responsible approach regularly tweeting “With great rum comes great responsibility. #DrinkResponsibly #Bacardi”.

2 – Smirnoff

Twitter 13k followers, 4k tweets –

Facebook 9.1m likes, 178k talking about –

Smirnoff is another brand that uses its social media to market offline events and bring people together in both online and offline communities. The Smirnoff Nightlife Exchange encouraged social media users to share details of their favourite clubbing and nightlife experiences. Smirnoff then brought all these together and and created the “ultimate nightlife experience”, hosted across 50 countries in 6 continents.

Last year an Australian court ruled that branded Facebook pages should be subjected to the same rules as advertising, and this includes third party comments. In the case, which involved Smirnoff, the judge ruled: “The Facebook site of an advertiser is a marketing communication tool over which the advertiser has a reasonable degree of control and could be considered to draw the attention of a segment of the public to a product in a manner calculated to promote or oppose directly or indirectly that product”.

Smirnoff has taken a much more responsible attitude to its social media since the ruling. As well as campaigns such as the nightlife exchange, Smirnoff uses its social media to create brand awareness and let people know about the range of products and flavoured vodkas that it has available. The picture shown here was posted with the comment “Spring is so close we can almost taste it. Who wants a sip?”.

With the sheer scale of numbers Smirnoff deserves a top spot on this list (Smirnoff Ice also has 1.3m Facebook likes), and the brand has also had over two million video views on its YouTube channel.

1 – Heineken

Twitter 56k following, 2k tweets –

Facebook 11.8m likes, 335k talking about –

Heineken’s digital presence was given a “Genius” status in the L2 think tank’s recent report and it has the largest Facebook presence of any alcohol brand. Its Facebook page brings together Heineken drinkers from all over the world and looks to promote the brand’s history as well as highlight its marketing campaigns.

Heineken’s senior brand director, Olga Osminkina, recently told CNBC “We don’t want people to leave us behind by just pressing Like. That’s not the end, that’s the beginning. One of the number one drivers of conversation in the beverage industry is relevancy, and the idea that ‘this brand speaks to me’ and that all starts with a dialogue with the consumer.”

She added: “One of the things we learned was that the Heineken consumer forgets what Heineken’s backstory is and the richness of tradition behind Heineken.”

In 2012 Heineken allocated 15% of its overall marketing budget to social media and CNBC reported that: “On Twitter, Heineken routinely has the highest share of voice based on average mentions when measured against other major beer brands.”

On Facebook the brand promotes its sponsorship of events like the Champions League and asks its fans to predict scores and outcomes of football matches in the competition. But for all that effort and engagement the photograph shown here is the most liked posting of the last month on Heineken’s Facebook page, gaining over 33,000 likes.

In speaking to CNBC Osminkina highlighted the brand’s social media strategy. She said: “We are a big brand and the challenge is to make sure we keep our message consistent and clear to consumers. There is so much opportunity to engage and to have a conversation and it’s not a one way street like when you are on TV.”

And finally…

One thing that became noticeable in researching this was that many wine and Champagne brands are lagging behind the spirits and beers brands when it comes to social media.

Although Möet nearly made it onto the list, they were the only wine or Champagne brand that came close.

Last year Paul Mabray of winery social media index Vintank told the drinks business that the wine industry was “the last to have not succeeded online.”

Ryan Opaz of wine marketing agency Vrazon added: “You can’t survive without [social media], there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle. If you don’t embrace it, you’re back in the Stone Age.”

In July last year db reported that 47% of US wineries said that Facebook helps them to generate sales, but one of the things that has emerged from looking at the successes of other brands on social media is that the really successful brands are using social media to create awareness and engage with their audience. The strategy being that by engaging consumers you create brand awareness, which impacts their offline behaviour. This looks to be a more successful social strategy than using it to try and create online sales.

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