The following is a guest post from Bub Gourmand's Matthew Wright. As a two-year attendee and Marketing professional, Matthew sees the value of the Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference extending well beyond the beercation that some may see at first glance. Except where otherwise noted, all images courtesy Jessica Miller at heybrewtiful.com.
I’ve attended the Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference for the last two years and have heard from several marketers in panel discussions. Most of the them offered valuable advice on how to expand an audience, but none in my opinion have addressed why those audiences are so important, or what marketers have to gain from our influence. Here are three reasons why BBC is more than just a good time.
For some bloggers the event isn’t any more complicated than that: a place to drink great beer and do a little networking. Everyone in the room is listed online as an official attendee, we’re getting mentioned by other bloggers and talking to the breweries we love. Exposure is great!
There’s more to it than that, though. Marketers know how much more, and that’s why they’re attending BBC. They know the people in the room are just a fraction of the big picture. The bloggers see the crowd in front of them. Marketers are excited about all the people following along at home.
I’m a beer blogger, but I’m also a marketer. I don’t like to tell people that without some context, because marketers often have the same reputation as personal injury lawyers. Most of us, fortunately, aren’t that ethically shaky. I can tell you as a marketer that BBC is a dream, a captive audience made up of some of the beer world’s most influential writers. Millions of people love beer, but only a sliver of those write about it to a waiting audience.
To a marketer, conversion is key. The audience for traditional advertising is often largely passive. If a brewery spends a few thousand dollars on an ad in a magazine with 10,000 readers, they may only convert 100 of those exposures to actual sales. More people trust the independent opinion of a beer blogger over the pushed agenda of a traditional ad. Which one is more important to you when you’re deciding what beer to buy?
The audience for a blog is engaged. It doesn’t have to be as large as a magazine’s to have a significant impact. Maybe you only have a few hundred regular readers, but they comment, retweet, share, reply, and favorite. As a blogger, when you rave about a beer, many of your readers go out and try it themselves, and perhaps more importantly, recommend it to their friends. In that way a beer blog with an audience of a few hundred can convert substantially more readers to sales than a magazine can.
Think about that in terms of a room full of bloggers writing reviews and raves and social media mentions at BBC. To beer brands, that’s priceless. I’m not complaining. As a blogger I don’t feel used and I’m proud to be a part of a grassroots movement. I think the vast majority of participating brewers are generous with their time and not just there to push their beers on us. Even the brewmaster from AB InBev was a class act.
It’s good for bloggers to realize, though, that every brewery participating at BBC is getting as much out of the event as we are. Maybe even more. The marketers working for breweries are constantly amassing statistics and data about influence. You might know how many people visited your site today, but a marketer with access to the right platform knows where each visitor came from, where they went, what they like and dislike, what they buy on Amazon--everything up to and probably including what they had for breakfast.
Sierra Nevada recognized the potential value of a blog to brands. The welcome that BBC attendees received at the new brewery outside Asheville was mind-blowing. The owners and brewmasters were waiting at the door to personally greet each one of us: they shook our hands and treated us like royalty. It was classy, it made a huge impression, and it was exactly how brands should treat beer bloggers. As the market for craft beer continues to grow, bloggers will continue to be an important factor in education and awareness, playing a key role in determining which breweries will survive in the years to come.
Most bloggers write about beer because they love it, but that doesn’t make it a public service. If in a hundred years a lousy brewery is forgotten, but that hidden local gem you’ve been writing about today is a household name, well, you’ve made the world a better place. Once your audience is established and growing, you’re more than just a fan. You’re an advocate. People are listening and making buying decisions based on what you have to say.
Maybe you get a book published, or land a job at a brewery, or you get to rid the world of a few horrible-looking websites. The point is that it’s more than okay to want something for yourself. Your audience and voice are valuable. If you’re writing about beer and people are reading, you’re a vital part of the craft beer movement.
Matthew Wright is half of the dining duo Bub Gourmand. He and his partner Molly live in Western Massachusetts where they write about the local food and craft beer scene. When he's not blogging, Matthew writes fiction and runs a small web and marketing cooperative. When relaxing, he and Molly can usually be found working on their own kitchen projects or doing something outdoorsy with their energetic foxhound rescue.
You can read more about Matthew and his co-writer Molly over on their blog, Bub Gourmand.