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Red Oak Brewery #GSO5 Tweet Up

Red Oak Brewery The next Greensboro Tweet Up at the Rioja Wine bar, or #GSO5, run by Rebecca Cochran and myself is on Thursday, July 22nd from 6:00pm to 8:00pm. Devin Singley from Red Oak Brewery will be sharing his experiences with using social media to build relationships with the brewery’s community.

To give some more background to Red Oak Brewery's use of social media, I chatted with Devin about how he started at the brewery, his use of social media, and how he uses social media to connect with the brewery's audiences.

John: Tell me about your background with Red Oak Brewery?

Devin: That one’s an interesting story.  Before working for Red Oak, I was a fan of the product.  Near the end of graduate school I wound up being the IT guy for a parent company who owned a few bars in Greensboro.  In a round about way that led to me finding at job with the public library in Charlotte.  There, I taught computer classes for seniors and ran my branch’s Facebook and blog.  When the county was forced to layoff large numbers of librarians a few months ago, I decided to take my technical skills to breweries.  I managed an interview with the owner of Red Oak and he asked me if I knew anything about Facebook.  I demonstrated my familiarity on my iPhone and now I’m the brewery’s computer guy.

John: Tell me about your background with social media?

Devin: In terms of using SM for work, I got started as a page admin for a bar in Greensboro.  We used Facebook to place a few ads.  The ads got a good amount of clicks, so part of my job became to manage those accounts.  After beginning at the Library, I was quickly made master of all the branch’s web presence.  I formed a strategic plan for our blog and shared that idea with other branches.  That led to me making a poster presentation at a small library conference in Charlotte on how to effectively use Twitter and Blogspot to increase a branch’s exposure and decrease paper use.  I got picked up to be on the Library System’s Social Media Team and when that went away I was hired to run Red Oak’s social media accounts.

John: What social media does Red Oak use to connect to audiences?

Devin: Since I came on board, lots.  Not everyone would call it social media, but my first project was to create a Wikipedia article about the brewery.  I put the brewery on Yelp and added pictures and contact info.  I added us to Google Places- to make sure the map pointed to the spot and so our picture would come up.  I update Facebook several times daily, and I respond to all comments.  We get several questions daily- mostly people wanting to know where to get our products.  If it’s a restaurant I’ll send them a direct message with phone numbers, and if it’s a fan of the beer, I thank them and encourage them to take the tour or try other versions of the product.  To a similar but less extent we use Twitter the same way.  

John: How does Red Oak use social media?

Devin: My main goal in social media is to keep the conversation going.  Rather than just have one person make a comment about liking the beer, I respond and add to it with lists or maps about where that beer is.  It keeps the name out there and builds on what was started by a fan.

John: What’s been the ROI from social media so far?

Devin: We’re seeing an increase of people stopping by the brewery during normal hours.  I featured on our Facebook page a jelly made from our wort.  Shortly after people came by the brewery just to get the jelly.  Bottles have been very popular so I made a video for Youtube of the bottling line and made public Google Maps of where bottles are sold.  The bottles sold great before, but now we can barely keep up with demand.  We’re also in effect crowd sourcing research for where to add bottles.  Facebook tells me where someone is, so where lots of people in an area are craving a store that carries our bottles, we know that will be a good market. 

Considering we have spent zero-dollars (other than my salary) on social media marketing, the return has been very high. 

John: What are your plans for social media?

Devin: I’m working on growing our Facebook fans- first and foremost.  Those are the most engaged fans.  I want to tag restaurants and bars who carry our product on Yelp, so a search for Red Oak there will display where to get our beer.  Hummin’ Bird (one of our beers) is growing rapidly in popularity.  I’m working on feeding that beast by trying to get groups to meet with me (“A real Red Oak Brewery Rep”) and informally have a beer somewhere that has us on special that night.  It’s my plan to grow this group of “Bird Watchers” and get to a point where there are small groups of regular fans who meet and drink our beer in a few cities (Raleigh, Greensboro, Burlington, Charlotte, Durham, Winston-Salem).  That is probably going to be a long range thing.  I’m also working on more videos for Youtube.  I hope to have something to showcase our dark lager before the colder months are upon us.

John: Who do you follow in terms of learning about social media marketing and Sales 2.0?

Devin: I listen.  I listen to what I hear people say in bars and online.  If I sit down at a  bar and see someone sign in on Yelp or update their Facebook status, then I know that’s a thing.  I look to see what my friends’ Facebook pages link to.  If suddenly everyone on Facebook is Like’ing or linking to something, then that tells me I have a channel.  I listen to several podcasts from the ‘This Week in Tech,’ folks- which is where I first heard of Twitter (years ago).  Lastly, I am on the Board of Trustees at a Greensboro private school.  In those meetings, the very forward thinking head of school does a lot of research into using the online collaborative tools for education.   In that role I also find out what sites have been blocked because students used them too much for goofing off during the school day- ironically, that turns out to be valuable research for me in finding out what sites are where internet consumers go to for information. 

John: Thanks for sharing your insights into social media and marketing at the brewery!