Anyone that knows me knows I like a pint. But it has to be the right pint and to that end I tend to choose craft beer or real ale. It’s a useful hobby as the small brewery and craft beer as industry sectors are much changed through the advent of social tools and so I can sometimes combine business with pleasure.
Within the sector we can see some excellent examples of how small brands have been able to tap into their social presence to create value. This might be small brands punching above their weight, it might be exploring new markets, product innovation, or even crowdfunding – so well demonstrated by the Brewdog breweries achievements. Craft beer drinkers are often passionate about their tastes and so make potentially fertile ground for a brewery to develop a strong social asset.
We sought to stress this opportunity and reinforce the point about how social tools can bring consumers and producers closer together when we ran a Social Beer Tasting event at Glasgows WEST brewery last year in SMW11.
But it’s a mistake to assume that the awareness and penetration of social is as wide as we might like to think. Research we carried out seemed to demonstrate that, despite its promise, the craft beer sector in Scotland had at that time still to take advantage of the opportunities on offer.
And it seems that there are other challenges too. It is easy to forget that whilst the penetration of social is getting wider and deeper there are still many who don’t, won’t and can’t get it.
This was brought home to me again just this week as I read one of the publications of CAMRA - a UK based campaigning group that seeks to advocate and support real ale production. In an edition that included an article advocating using Facebook for branch meetings the letters page in this edition was stuffed with members correspondence bridling at the society’s advocacy of social tools generally and specifically to its use of an online petition as a mechanism to gather support for a campaign against, as they see it, punitive tax rates.The response was prompted in part by an item lamenting that some 90,000 of its members (the majority) had yet to sign it.
The correspondence was along the lines of “not online, don’t want to be so unless you widen out the way I can sign the petition I won’t be.”
Now lots of folk will probably say “luddites”, “technophobes”, “old fogies” or something similar but I would counsel caution. Social tools do not exist in isolation. To generate value they need to be part of a mix, and tub thumping declarations about socials exceptional spread cuts little ice if a campaign fails.
We need to recognise that there is still a significant number of people who are denied access to social tools for reasons of social exclusion and deprivation, fear, disability and and a range of reasons. To that end we are planning a series of access based events in Social Media Week Glasgow aimed at helping people not yet digital to get so.
This won’t entirely solve the access issue, but we hope that we can get a few more online. But in the meantime, for all the advocacy of social don’t forget that many still aren’t.