By Marcus Leach

Hot on the heals of the first drinks industry debate came the second, this time with the focus being on how social media is shifting our relationship with drink and the drinks industry, and the effect of consumer behaviour above and beyond marketing — and what the future holds for the industry.

Once again Julie Sheppard, Imbibe’s Associate Editor, moderated proceedings, as she was joined by a panel of industry experts including Cleo Rocos, Author of The Power of Positive Drinking, President of The Tequila Society and creator of award winning AquaRiva Tequilas (and yes, Co-star of the BBC TV Kenny Everett show!), wine journalist Jamie Goode, Greg Saunders of experiential consultants White Label UK, Tom Ollerton, the Marketing Director for We Are Social, and Susanne Currid, author of Build Your Tribe - the new marketing manifesto for restaurants, bars and cafes, and Jeremy Waite, Head of Social Strategy for Adobe.

Which platforms are currently working?

CR: In my experience Facebook is really important because the bartenders use it a lot. There is freedom and space for text and images, and they [bar tenders] are great at speaking their minds and giving their opinions.

JG: I think blogging has a lot of promise and [people became famous through their blogs. In wine most of the bloggers are just talking to others and thus the reach was small. I think for drinks trade we need to reach beyond that bubble we get stuck in. For most people reading about wine is too abstract. In wine there is a challenge to engage normal people, and not just those who are wine enthusiasts. Blogging is a useful tool for me but if I want to communicate effectively I need to use a range of tools.

SC: For bars and pubs they are drawn to Twitter as it's the easiest thing to get up and running for them. Facebook is a lot more hard work, even though it has a greater reach. What I found most pubs and bars gravitate towards Twitter and will gain fairly good success on that platform. The Ship in Wandsworth have mastered it, they have over 12,000 followers and use it in a very sophisticated way. It isn't just selling the drink but communicating the personality of the brand itself to keep people engaged.

JW: We are talking about alcoholic drinks, yet the best drinks brands, who are doing the job so well, are the non-alcoholic brands like Red Bull, Coca Cola and Starbucks. On the platform front I don't understand why Instagram isn't the best platform out there given the number of users.

TO: We are preaching to the converted. If 40,000 people like a Heineken post it is because they are fans of Heineken. The focus needs to be less on the worship of brands and more on the partnerships.

CR: My brand is a year old and I haven't had a budget for social, I have used Facebook on Twitter and at the moment it is having a great effect on starting to spread the word. For me when people respond to my brand it's because people genuinely like it. With the big brands it's almost automatic that people like them, which isn't always a good thing as they are not all high quality, just big.

TO: Starting from zero is a powerful position to be in. You can target the right people with the right message and then you can understand the value of them. Where as if you have ten million fans you question how many of those are your target audience?

Audience: Can you elaborate on the preaching to converted point Tom?

TO: If you are going after the lucrative younger audience it is about a partnership between your brand and their brand as individual. The content therefore needs to create a connection between the two parties. We look to find the sweet spot between the brand's message and what the audience want's to talk about. If you get that wrong it doesn't work.

How do we make the best use of the data relating to our social channels.

SC: It is vital. You need to know who your audience is and what they want to hear. There are some great tools out there and no matter what size of business you are you need to be looking at the data an using it to your advantage. The people who follow you on different channels are different, so you need to know who your audiences are.

JW: It comes dow to the 'who, what, when, where and why' of the conversations happening around your brand. Who said it, what did they say, when did they say it, where was this said and why did they say it. If you understand this you are almost there with social.

So what about the future? Where is social heading?

GS: I think closed social communities, it is about being online and offline. It's about creating online communities and then taking that offline and building relationships. People will be about building a community and then doing something exciting offline. It's about creating intimacy through live events.

CR: I think social will start flushing out anybody who isn't high quality. That's not to say luxury brands, but brands who don't take it seriously and are not committed to it. With social media, it doesn't matter what gimmick you have, if you have a bad product you will be found out.

There are many ways you can educate and entertain your customers, how do you best interact?

SC: Brewdog have gone one further than anybody else and created a beer based on a full Twitter campaign. They involved their audience entirely in every decision about the beer and it is a perfect example of collaboration between brand and audience.

Jamie, let's look at the wine industry. Where is that heading?

JG: The key is segmenting the industry effectively. What's applicable at one end, say the fine wine niche, isn't at the other, the commodity end. All are valid and have a place, but they all want something different. Social media has made it so easy to have incredible conversations with people about totally niche topics within your industry. I think thew future for social and drinks is cross fertilisation between different areas. Social has enable me to connect with serious beer people, which otherwise wouldn't have happened. These sectors might normally be quite separate but with social we are starting to see a cross over, which is for the benefit of all.

What trends have you seen emerging?

TO: The next successful agency will be brilliant at mobile and social, which are to me very different entities. The two should be absolutely combined and at the centre of any strategy.

JW: We can't talk about alcohol without talking about Gary Vaynerchuk. He built his following, which is in excess of two million, from scratch and he knows more than anybody on how to grow a brand from scratch. It is different building a community rather than just replying to everyone who posts about you.

Audience: How do you deal with negative comments?

JW: The best brands in the world, outside of drinks, can use crisis comms to their advantage. Some of the big drinks brands are on this already and if you can convert a hater, that is so powerful as they are so much more likely to then talk about you, because of the conversion of their views.

TO: Crisis comms should be proactive and not reactive. Plan for the worst scenario, so if anything happens you know what to do in that situation.

Do you think consumer demands are increasing and can social help to meet those?

GS: With social everybody is in the conversation now, which means brands are trying to be friends with people, which can lead to issues. They want to engage but they need to stay a certain distance away so that they are still a brand and true to their principles.

JW: Instagram is so great because it is the only one that transcends language barriers. As a drinks brand I would be obsessed with having the best strategy around that.

10% of all pictures ever taken have been taken in the last 12 months. What part will visual play in future?

TO: The most exciting channel for me right now is SnapChat. This is exciting as it is intimate and scarce. So that communication you get has such a short life span it becomes unique, scarce and intimate and thus fascinating. I might not be SnapChat but it will be about images that have a short life to create intimacy.

What about vine, does that have a future?

GS: I think it just fell off a cliff when Instagram developed their video element. Before that it was huge, and had potential. The video model is really interesting and visual language is huge in the drinks industry.

How easy is it going to be for drinks to stand out in the future?

RC: Quality of brands and provenance. If you are a quality product then you will last, that is fundamentally important.

SC: It is about learning to tell stories better. Brands who can tell a story are going to be miles ahead. It's a long game to engage people but it is one that will help you win every time. It's about taking people on a journey, it is so powerful.

Five, ten years down the road which platforms will hold the most potential?

JG: I'm coming from a different perspective as a journalist and it is all about conversation. It isn't about expert speaking down at people, it's about conversation. Who knows what the future holds, nobody can predict that, what we can do is keep conversations going. It's about having a voice and telling stories.

TO: Jeremy was right, we can't predict the future. We are just going to be very mobile based, that's all I know.

RC: These guys are right, we can't predict what will happen. But when you think how far we have come already it is scary to think where we will end up.

Social Media is an important part of any businesses digital marketing strategy. If you want to keep ahead of the pack and make sure that you have access to the latest ideas and information then register for

Join us on
Follow @freshbusiness