Beer and Social Media - A Suffolk Perspective 

A couple of weeks ago this - Beer and Social Media - appeared in my Feedly. It's well worth a read, not a long post, well written, and interesting ideas raised. Essentially it is suggesting that many pubs fail to make good use of social media, and may ultimately fail as business as a result.

Now I agree that social media can be a good platform for promotion, but my gut reaction was rather sceptical - especially in the context of the rurla area where I live. The blog linked above is from BeersManchester, so clearly the blogger's experience is urban.

I got to thinking about two local pubs that I like, and their use of social media. The Theberton Lion uses Facebook (214 followers) and Twitter (141 followers) as does TheSweffling White Horse (1,231 / 405 respectively). Both use social media fairly frequently, but there have only ever been a couple of occasions when that has influenced my decision to visit them. Perhaps they have other followers who are more influenced by their posts than I am but I doubt that their use of social media makes a significant impact on their turnover. 

I decided to take a look into the Twitter followers of the Sweffling White Horse. About half of them seem to be accounts of breweries or other local pubs. The breweries might retweet but I rather doubt that the pubs do. Of the 200 'people', about half of them seem to be long distance followers, as the pub has a glamping site out back which is very popular with people from London and further afield. So that leaves about 100 local-ish followers, but many of them, like me, probably live a good half hour's drive away from the pub. 

Suffolk public transport
How significant will social media marketing be in this context? My best guess is that it is likely to be of limited value. Of course it is free so it makes sense to use it, and it needn't take a lot of time. I suppose it is just a matter of making it a habit. It probably also takes a while to develop a critical mass of active followers, and that may be particularly challenging in a rural setting.

What really prompted me to write this today though was my frustration about social media failings last night. Quite randomly this popped up on my Facebook feed:

Just four miles down the road I thought it might be worth a visit. However, I wanted to know what would be on offer. No information was available on Facebook, or on the website. I posted on the discussion about the event asking what beers they would have on; 19 hours later there has been no response. I had a bit more luck on Twitter, where a photo of the stillage showed the pump clips next to the barrels with just enough detail to enable me to guess 4 of the 8 beers. Asking the same question on Twitter confirmed my guesses and gave me the other four names, albeit not from the official White Lion account. As it happened all eight beers are good beers, but not enough to tempt me. They will probably be attractively exotic to the London based weekenders who flood into Aldeburgh for a bank holiday weekend.

As far as social media promotion goes though this was far from being the biggest fail of the weekend. A little search on the UK Beer Festival Calendar led to the discovery that there was a beer festival at the Wenhaston Star. This is a good pub that I have visited a few times, although it is a little further afield. Again, there was no information on the pub website, but this time there was no Twitter or Facebook presence at all. I could have phoned but thought they might be busy on a Friday evening so I didn't bother. 

Success - I got to a beer festival eventually!
Then, out of the blue, I got a text from my mate Harry - Did I know there was beer festival on at the Engineers? No, I didn't. Not only was this a social media fail, it was actually an analogue self promotion fail! I had been in the Engineers on Thursday evening and hadn't seen any information about this weekend's beer festival. Being just a five minute walk down the road I was happy to take a punt on it, even though my expectations were fairly low. Actually there was a very reasonable selection.
Beer selection shown on shed door.

The Engineers is a very down to earth community boozer, so I was gobsmacked to see that they were offering third of a pint measures. As it was we went four halves and sampled four beers each. That was four new brews on Untappd, with two others that I could have added, and the others I would have been very happy to drink as well. All the beers we drank were in good condition.

It was fairly quiet, so we had the chance to chat a little to Darren and Anna. They are trying to improve their social media presence and accept that they have a way to go. However, some of the problems that they have had were interesting. There is a Facebook page for the pub, but it was set up by the previous landlords and they haven't been able to get access to it, or to get it closed down. Apparently they have also had problems with Google listing an out of date phone number for the pub, which has now been reallocated to another property in the town. 

Going back to the original blog and its point that some, or even many, pubs don't use social media well - it is probably right; certainly that is the case for the last three pubs that I have mentioned above. Would it make a massive difference to the success of those businesses? I'm still not sure that it would necessarily, but it might help a bit. In some cases though, perhaps the people involved just don't know how to do it better, or who to ask for advice.


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