November marks one full year since we kicked off our beer blog, Ale Adventures. In that time, we’ve had a lot of incredible opportunities and highlights which we shared about in our last post. But we’ve also learned a lot about beer blogging and utilizing social media.
Here are five things we’ve learned in our first year of beer blogging that might just help you on your own journey.
1. There’s Strength in Numbers
Although we thought we were at the start, we quickly realized we weren’t the only beer bloggers out there. As we began exploring the craft beer community online, we discovered countless others doing the same thing locally and around the country. Had we known it at the time, we might not have begun blogging our “ale adventures” at all. Instead of being discouraged, though, we resolved instead to set ourselves apart from the rest. One of those ways was by building our credibility and clout through numbers.
When it comes to social media, we’ve learned that numbers are huge — the more Followers, Likes, Shares etc. you have the more credibility you (seem to) have. While numbers aren’t always accurate or reliable, they do add a degree of authority and influence to who you are and what you do. For instance, we felt much more confident and had better response introducing ourselves as beer bloggers when we had 2,000 Instagram followers than when we had just 200. This month, we passed 5k followers on Instagram (with an additional 200 followers on Facebook and a handful of WordPress subscribers). We used a combination of self-work and third-party service to increase our Instagram interaction, engagement and following. As far as our goals for the first year of blogging went, our efforts paid off — the more our numbers grew, the more opportunities we were presented with.
All that to say, there really is strength in numbers. Our advice is to carve out time weekly or even daily to interact (ie. Like, Follow, Comment) with other like-minded people online. Or, find a legitimate, trustworthy third party to do the work for you; we highly recommend Jumper Media. Either way, it will require time, effort and/or finances, but if done right, it will pay off (literally).
2. Add a Human Element
A piece of advice we were given early on was to “include a human element.” Adam’s sister Abigail is a professional marketer who has been able to apply her knowledge and skills to her fly fishing and baking hobbies. She found that photos that included a human element (ie. her hand, another person etc.) got a better response than photos that didn’t. We’ve found this to be true, too. Despite Adam’s keen photographic eye, creative shots of a taproom or glass/bottle of beer usually don’t do as well as a photo of a beertender pouring, or musician performing, or Katie sipping from a glass.
As we’ve developed our own social media strategy, we still include static shots of taprooms, breweries, brewing spaces and beer; but we intersperse those with more active shots that include human elements. Play around and see what works best for you.
3. For Better or Worse, Sex Sells
We’re not exactly crazy about this, but if we’re being honest the numbers don’t lie — images of women with beer and cleavage do perform really well online, which makes sense — the craft beer industry is hugely dominated by men. Even though most of the non-brewery accounts we follow on Instagram are women, 66% of our own followers are men. We’ve found that no matter how creative or unique a photo of Adam with beer is, a photo of Katie with beer almost always does significantly better. It’s also clear through observing trends from fellow Instagram beer blogs, that the more skin a woman shows — especially her cleavage — the better that photo does.
Katie is a proud ambassador of Girls in Craft and loves promoting and encouraging women in the craft beer community. Some of our favorite beer bloggers and social media influencers are women who create awesome content. But we personally find the exploitation of women or oversexualizing of content for results, is a cheap means to a cheap end. Some may be upset to hear that — and we’re not pointing fingers or shaming anyone out here — but we know we’re not alone in our sentiments.
In a recent display of self-respect and feminism, one female beer blogger we admire publicly called out another account for its oversexualized profile image. “What does your profile image have to do with your account?” she asked. The tone of her question wasn’t lost, and after a quick look at the account, it was clear that the sexy profile image was unrelated to and unnecessary for the otherwise unsexy, unoriginal, generic beer-related photos.
Then again, we’ve recently been made aware of another popular female beer blogger who was excluded from an industry event because of how she portrayed herself publicly (namely, by the way she dressed). Again, we’re not here to name or shame, we’re simply sharing the facts: in short, sex sells. Ultimately, your content is your own, and you’re free to post whatever you want; but know that that the world is watching and free to have its own opinions as well.”
4. Predictably, Algorithms Are Unpredictable
If you’ve spent any amount of time on social media — Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or otherwise — you know that the algorithms are nearly impossible to understand much less predict. With Instagram being owned by Facebook, at least you may see some algorithmic similarities between the two. But aside from that, we don’t have much in the way of advice to offer.
As far as Facebook’s and Instagram’s Insights go, we do suggest checking those every now and then — knowing who your audience is, where they are and when they’re online may give you some insight into what and when to post. To complicate things, however, we’ve also found that our Instagram insights can be dead-wrong — a photo posted on the day and at the time suggested for high results can absolutely bomb, and a photo posted on the day and at the time suggested for low results gets great response. Basically, find what posting strategies and insights work most consistently for you and stick to them.
5. Be Relatable
People like feeling like they connect with someone. They like relating to someone. They like having something in common with someone. Be that person. While there’s definitely a time and place to #Humblebrag what you’re drinking or the taproom you’re visiting or the beer-mail you just came home to, make the effort to get to know your followers and let them get to know you. Ask questions; share stories. The more someone feels like they connect with and relate to you, the more likely they are to come back and continue engaging.
Social media is an ever-evolving animal. It can be demanding and frustrating, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. These five Instagram tips are just a few things we’ve learned or discovered for ourselves in the past year that have led to what we consider success. We hope they may help you on your own journey to a successful beer blog, too!
What have you learned that you might add to our list?
Also, be sure to follow @aleadventuresmn and @porchdrinkingco