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Jul 09

Use your beer bullhorn to reach mainstream

Consumerism has changed drastically during this age of social sharing, with the balance of power shifting noticeably from big business to the person on the street. We’ve become collaborative consumers, sharing with one another, across a multitude of networks, the best and worst product deals, the most competent and incompetent services, the good, the bad, and the ugly treatment we’ve received from the companies with which we’ve dealt, and a whole array of other critical factors that shape the consumer experience — and dictate the profits of large corporations. To say that the modern consumer has a voice would be a gross understatement.
—Charles Harrow, from his guest post on The Social Media Marketing Blog

As you’re likely well aware of by now, I’ve been mulling over the topic of the relationship between beer bloggers and retailers. I’m on the panel of the “Networking with Local Breweries, Distributors, and Retailers” at the 2012 Beer Bloggers Conference. And I want to do right by these bloggers. I want to give them information that will help them better connect with retailers, and for retailers to be able to better connect with them.

Today’s thoughts are on our shared audience: The beer drinker, the consumer.

The consumer with a voice

Review sites are everywhere. In the world of beer, there are business sites like Yelp, publicity contest sites like CityVoter, directories like BeerAdvocate and RateBeer, and blogs. Some companies even write testimonials for their own products and services. How does a consumer know which are legit? Who has an axe to grind? And in the world of beer, who’s had a few too many before they jacked up their courage to be, well, “critical”? When I read reviews, I can’t help but wonder why so many don’t realize that being a critic doesn’t mean you need to “put down” a product, service, or business.

Technorati’s Go Travel, blogger Kaleel Sakakeeny asks, “Who Will Review (and Rank) the Review Sites?” He talks about fradulent and unverified reviews as well as review bullies demanding special services, and points us to a reputation-protection site. Yes, online reviews have gone that far. Far enough to demand businesses that specialize in proof of quality for promoting and protecting reputations!

As a small business owner, I understand this: The need for reputation protection. There are bad reviews of my business online from competitor’s staff, people I have never seen in the store. There are bad reviews by people who have attempted to bully us into selling them more than the daily limit on a rare beer. Some of these people share their identity, but most are under disguise. How does the reader know who is legit?

As a freelance writer, I also understand this: The falsification of good reviews. I’ve been contracted by some online companies to write various consumer reviews on products and services, using different voices. Often for products and services I’ve never used, and sometimes for companies who my only contact has been with on a paid-to-write basis. How do you know if it’s a real consumer review?

Thus, there are reasons to be a bit skeptical when reading online reviews.

And where am I going with this?

The blogger has street cred

Share your beer theory! You have a bullhorn -- your beer blog. You have a strong voice.As a blogger, you have power. You’re not a faceless entity. You’re not out to bully or falsify. You’re out to share something you love: Beer. You have an online identity. Your blog shows your credentials. You are a consumer with a voice. A very strong voice, with readers and followers; with shared posts and retweets.

You have knowledge, experience, information. And you have a bullhorn: Your blog.

“You have the ability to create global awareness and change on any given topic…just by being online, and being yourself…

What impact do you want to have?”
Will Hale, Developing a Professional Online Identity

Any retailer who doesn’t think a blogger has power is fooling themselves.

At my beer store, many people come in searching out beers they read about online or in a magazine. Some bring copies of articles, others have lists of beers jotted on paper scraps, others pull out their smartphones to retrieve the post. Some beers are available; others not.

More and more, writers are impacting what drinkers are asking for. And they’re not just touching beer geeks, collectors, traders, and hobbyists. These beer writers are reaching mainstream.

That’s huge.

Yes, craft beer is reaching mainstream.

Mainstreaming means there’s a lot of education to be done.

And, my dear beer blogging friends, we retailers need your help.

Writing for mainstream

When writing for mainstream, you’re pulling the relevant into your writing: What’s hot now?

Social Media can easily be one of your greatest tools. Pop in at any given time and you can take a pop-culture temperature to see what the bulk of your friends are talking about. Let Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook be your muses.
Andrew Kardon, Tying Mainstream Content into Everything You Write

By now, I hope you’ve caught on that I’m not just talking about “writing beer reviews” but writing about how beer impacts lifestyles, society, the world. The place that beer holds in everyday life.

Beer is no longer the root of all evil on college campuses. Beer pong is no longer just a drinking game; it’s gone pro. There are brewing universities and beer appreciation clubs at places like Columbia University and the University of Illinois. Yes, college students are learning to appreciate beer!

Soccer moms are looking for new beverages to share at their barbecues, Mary Kay and Miche purse parties, turning to Martha Stewart for advice on throwing a beer tasting party! Martha also took it a step further and shared recipes for tasty treats. Are you taking your beer blog a step further?

What is beer’s place in your lifestyle?

What beer topics are you talking about on your blog, shouting from your bullhorn?

How are you putting mainstream relevancy into your beer blog?

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