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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

New Belgium's Social Media Strategy Was Wise After All

Since I assume most of you (sanely) don't read the Facebook page to this blog, you may have missed the stiff rejoinders I received in response to yesterday's post. (Thumbnail: New Belgium's spending real money on a social media campaign, and I questioned its value.) Dave Selden, whom you know as the media titan behind 33 Beers wrote this:
I work in advertising and have for about 15 years. I have specialized expertise in digital marketing, so I feel pretty well-qualified to comment on this. I can tell you this is a perfectly reasonable and well-advised spend. A one-day shoot for a big beverage company (including beer) television commercial could easily cost $250K, and wouldn't include any actual media buy - just the cost of having cameras, crew, lights, permits, actors, a team of Clydesdales, writers, directors, etc. And then you've got post-production ... If you don't have that kind of money, TV is out, out, out (unless you're Old Milwaukee, but I digress ...).

Interactive as a medium is far more targeted (less wasteful) and in general, a cheaper buy. So if I didn't have a 7, 8 or 9 figure budget, I would definitely focus on the interactive medium, and Facebook as a channel would be at the top of my list. On a much more direct level, my beer-tasting books have been linked to from New Belgium's Facebook feed and I saw an immediate and very large spike in orders that I could quantify in dollars (but I won't for modesty's sake). It wasn't $250K but it wasn't 1K, either. That was from them linking to me from one post to ~70,000 fans. Imagine what the value of that hyper-targeted audience is over a week, or a month, or years. They don't sell beer online (which would allow them to directly tie spend to return), but $250K seems like a great investment from where I'm sitting.
Kari Chisholm, who has for a decade made a living trying to influence people on the internet (he was into social media before we had a term for it) agreed:
Yeah, I'm with Dave here. $250k should translate to roughly 250,000 fans on Facebook. Over the long term, that's much more valuable than $250k on TV ads, which could disappear in a whiff over a weekend. The advantage of Facebook is that once acquired, you can communicate long-term with those fans. And for beer specifically, it's such a whim-of-the-moment product, you really need to be top-of-mind every single day. If you can't advertise like Budweiser, then other tactics must be brought to bear.
After a bit of back-and-forth, Dave expanded his thesis
Well, a "like" is valuable to a marketer in a purely tactical sense, the consumer has agreed to be marketed to. Brands that I like start to appear in my news feed, just as yours do. So that $1 spend to get the customer is more like an investment. It allows me the marketer to talk to (and uniquely with Facebook, WITH) my current and prospective customers at will. I'm not bound to a magazine's publishing schedule or a TV budget.

I can literally talk as much as I want. As with a friendship, you generally want it to be two way, and make sure you're adding value to the relationship. Many brands use Facebook to invite people to exclusive events, give away schwag, etc. How does that all translate to dollars? We tend to spend more time (and money) with the people and businesses we have relationships with. Seeing a brand's messages mixed in with my friends helps humanize and strengthen those messages, and does so in a place I generally consider to be a safe place, in a way that TV or radio just aren't.
A day later, I'm more or less convinced: New Belgium has spent its money wisely. Perhaps a better lesson is for small brewers to whom ten grand is a king's ransom, but useless in traditional ad markets. By Dave and Kari's logic, it would be a good use of limited funds.


  1. We are definitely living in a different world than we were even 5 years ago. $200,000 seems like a ton of money but when you consider the fact about how strategically targeted the ads can be I think it's money well spent. New Belgium especially, has thrived in our viral culture with their Tour de Fat and Clips of Faith Series. I think this only reinforces them as a company.

    -Mike Burns

  2. We have a couple of startup breweries that are using social media here in Flagstaff, AZ. quite effectively. They certainly don't have tens of thousands of followers, but for the cost of a computer and internet connection and a little time from an employee, they have the ability to let several hundred interested customers know when new beers are available, and what is going on with the brewery. in my experience as a small business owner, social media is much more effective and less expensive, at least on a local level, interesting to see what NB is doing.