Friday 13 January 2012

Breweries and Social Media - Facebook

Last weekend I posted an article comparing three UK craft breweries, BrewDog, Magic Rock and Thornbridge.  Rather than focusing on their beer, I looked at how they used Twitter as a vehicle for engaging with customers and promoting their products.  Each was found to have very contrasting styles and there were differing views as to which was most effective both in the comments and on Twitter. What wasn't contested, however, was that Twitter is a very effective vehicle for breweries wishing to engage with consumers and get their message out there. Magic Rock's MD, Richard Burhouse, noted:

There was agreement from Hardknott's Dave Bailey regarding the impact on his business. In a future post, I'm going to look at this impact in more detail but in today's post, I'm going to turn my attention to the behemoth of a social media network that is Facebook, using the same three breweries' fan pages. The depth and reach of Facebook far exceeds that of Twitter, with this BBC article suggesting 10% of the population has an account. This was driven home to me recently when I received a friend request from my mother!

Facebook clearly works very differently to Twitter on many levels, but fundamentally the principles are the same for a business wishing to reach out to and engage with consumers. Facebook provides private and business users with the ability to create 'fan' pages. Users can then 'like' these pages and the updates the creator (and optionally others) post to them will then appear in their 'news feed'. Users can comment on and 'like' posts to these pages to engage with the creator and other 'fans'. 

BrewdogMagic Rock and Thornbridge all have fan pages with differing numbers of 'fans', as shown below along with the growth rate:

As a relatively young business, Magic Rock has the fewest Facebook 'fans' with BrewDog far and away the most. Looking at growth over the last month graphically shows the following:

The first thing to consider is how frequently each brewery posts to their fan page. The below graph shows the number of posts split by day of week for the period from the 1st to the 12th January 2012 inclusive:

So BrewDog posted 28 times, Magic Rock 6 times and Thornbridge 35 times in that 12 day period. Thornbridge, as observed in the previous post, usually posts exactly three times per day during the week. BrewDog vary their posting rate and Magic Rock seem to prefer Twitter to Facebook.

Facebook provides in-depth analytics to owners of pages which allows them to understand the engagement and reach of each post they make and there are many articles out there which detail how to do that. However, comparing engagement across pages you don't 'own' is more of a challenge. This article caught my eye as it contains a formula for systematically measuring and comparing the engagement of posts across pages with differing numbers of fans. The formula is as follows:

The comments are weighted double compared to likes as the assumption (which seems reasonable) is that a comment takes more effort and therefore suggests more engagement. So, let's compare the engagement each brewery got on average across the posts they made:

This suggests that Magic Rock's engagement is high, despite the number of 'fans' and posts being relatively low. Reasons for this could be many and I'm not going to speculate on those. What is interesting though is that BrewDog and Thornbridge have similar overall engagement and a similar number of posts, so let's look at those in more detail. In order to do that, I analysed each post and classified them by type. The below tables compare BrewDog's and Thornbridge's engagement across each type:

In both cases 'questions' are the most engaging posts.  The below graph averages the posts of both breweries to illustrate this:

Questions are a clear winner compared to the other categories. Let's drill down into the most engaging posts from each brewery. Below are the three most and least engaging posts from BrewDog and Thornbridge:

BrewDog's three most engaging posts
  • [37.7, Question] If you aren't having a dry January, 'like' this status
  • [34.4, Question] What would you most like to see 1) A BrewDog Lambic? 2) Nara on Twitter 3) A Triple IPA 4) A Grandiloquent Fox? 5) A BrewDog Scotch Whisky?
  • [16.1, Question] What are you drinking tonight?
BrewDog's three least engaging posts

Thornbridge's three most engaging posts
  • [19.3, Question] Do you prefer the traditional interior or a modern finish in a local pub?
  • [19.0, Statement] We started the week brewing Jaipur. We're sure many of you will approve!
  • [17.8, Question] The price of beer is.....?
Thornbridge's three least engaging posts
  • [0.3, Statement] The winds are still going strong watch out out there!
  • [0.6, LinkReal Ale in 140 (and some). Thornbridge - Versa Weisse Beer [link to blog post]
  • [0.6, Link] A speachless review of Thornbridge Kipling.... [link to blog post]

Perhaps finding that links lead to the least engagement is not surprising as Facebook users may simply click on them rather than comment and/or like. It's clear though that asking 'fans' questions is what really drives engagement which makes perfect sense.

The final thing I wanted to analyse, was whether engagement on the two fan pages varied depending on the day of the week. The below graph depicts that data:

This is pretty interesting. Engagement seems to be better towards the end of the week.  So, what have we learned through this analysis:

  1. Fans are most likely to engage with questions, especially those related to the products or industry
  2. Fans are least likely to engage with announcements and links to other external content
  3. Fans are more likely to engage towards the end of the week

How do you engage with breweries on Facebook? Do you prefer engaging via Facebook or Twitter? If you're a brewery, how much importance do you attach to each and does this impact the effort you put into the respective social networks?

If anyone's interested in the raw data (I can't be the only one who loves a good pivot table!), I'd be happy to email the excel spreadsheet. 

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