A Study in Trade Show Social Media Marketing

This April, McLernon & Co. had the opportunity help a  Reno-based international business, BrewUSA, make the most out of their trip to Craft Brewers Conference in Washington D.C., the biggest and best craft beer trade show in the country.

The Situation:

BrewUSA, founded in 2015, needed to attract potential customers to their booth at Craft Brewers Conference where they introduced the PSS Svidnik Brewhouse to the North American market for the very first time. In short, the PSS Svidnik Brewhouse is a state of the art Slovenian brewing system that allows for large scale production without sacrificing quality, meaning less time wasted on overseeing production and less need for manpower across multiple machines.

McLernon & Co.’s primary focus was to genuinely engage with brewers attending CBC 2017 across Twitter and Instagram, turning those engagements into booth visits, where the BrewUSA team would have the opportunity to do what they do best and sell brewhouses. To do this, we compiled a list of brands that fit the mold of potential customers; small to medium sized breweries that were ready to expand their production but lacked the manpower to oversee multiple brewhouses at once. So no, we didn’t try to get retweets from Anheuser Busch or praying for regrams and likes from SABMiller (although that would’ve been super neat).

Once we compiled a list of potential leads/our audience, we dove into who they are. Who are the face behind craft breweries? Spoiler alert, they’re some of the most fun and passionate professionals we’ve encountered online. We found that the majority of craft brewers and craft beer influencers were males ages 30 to 45 who took on brewing as a passion project before turning it into legitimate business ventures. Brewers take their craft very seriously, but for the most are love to joke around and have a good time, meaning this project was ripe with opportunity for fun and engaging content. However, we knew we had to flirt the fine line between playful and passionate.

Pictured below: The BrewUSA team out enjoying the local brews while at Craft Brewers Conference in Washington D.C.

Brew USA Team

The Tactics:

Once we had a list of who to target and idea of how they wanted to be engaged with, we hit the ground running on Instagram and Twitter (we launched a Facebook for the brand as well, but our focus was almost entirely on Twitter and Instagram for this as our research showed that is where our best opportunity to interact with potential customers was)  with a series of specifically crafted posts and loose scripts for commenting/replying. We were fortunate enough to have a client who relentlessly sent us photos and videos to use for content across both channels while they let us know who they were actually speaking to while at the conference and which beers they were enjoying the most. This allowed us to craft genuine, accurate voice on the brand social channels which resulted in great engagement that turned into many sales leads at the BrewUSA booth in Hall 2.

Instagram Tactics

We started BrewUSA’s instagram from scratch, so before we could use the account to attract any CBC attendees to the booth at the conference we had to drive traffic from brands and brewers to the newborn Instagram page. We relentlessly like and commented on almost every hashtagged photo related to the brand including but not limited to:

#craftbeer | #beerstagram | #beersofinstagram | #brewyourown | #beergeek | #nevadabeer | #homebrewing | #ilovebeer | #tahoebeer | #newyorkbeer | #ipa | #craftbeerlover | #usbeer | #craftbrew | #craftbeer | #beertography | #craftbeernotcrapbeer | #craftbrewbros | #craftbreweries | #brewpix | #craftnotcrap | #stout | #beerporn | #beeroftheday | #beersofinstagram | #beerpics | #beertography

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We understand how annoying it is for your Instagram page to be pinged with random emoji-only comments with no context or semblance of genuine interest. In order to build real relationships, we made sure all of our comments were as genuine as humanly possible. Every comment came from a place of actual excitement and interest that users responded to very positively. On top of aggressively liking and commenting posts from potential customers, we regrammed appropriate images from similar brands. This not only provided extra content for the new followers we were accruing, but allowed us to continue to build trust and authenticity. Using the photos provided to us by the BrewUSA team on the conference floor, we create original content of our own that allowed us to more directly highlight the PSS Svidnik with a slightly more overt call-to-action of having attendees visit the booth. We watched our followers pile up over a few days, eventually gaining 78 followers during the span of the four day conference.

Twitter Tactics

Like Instagram, we were starting the Twitter from nothing, however our goal was different on this platform, since Twitter allows for more rapid and ever-changing engagement. With Twitter, we were less focused on accruing followers and more focused on simply engaging with other brands. We retweeted, liked, and followed one brewery after another using the same hashtag techniques as instagram to track down our audience. However, we took it a step further by having fun with the brands we were following and interacting with. Whether that meant highlighting a great new draft the BrewUSA guys discovered, stressing the importance of hydration with Spongebob gifs, or getting in full-blown .gif conversations with brewers we ensured that the BrewUSA name was going to stick in users minds whenever they interacted with us.

From large breweries to household names (for craft fanatics, that is) these genuine engagements boosted our reach on twitter and led to real traffic at the BrewUSA booth. Additionally, we were able to craft a voice on Twitter that matched the voice of the BrewUSA team, making the transition from Twitter interactions to real-life meetings seamless which is often lost in transition between social media and real life.

The Results:

Craft Brewers Conference generated multiple new leads for BrewUSA. Prior to the conference, the company had struggled to make lasting connections with their audiences on social media and had a hard time getting in front of the right brewers who are primed to expand their brewing operations, however the conference allowed BrewUSA to get in front of that audience both physical and on their social channels thanks to McLernon & Co. Despite being located in Hall 2 which was harder to access for CBC attendees, BrewUSA experienced a high volume of foot traffic from brewers and craft beer fanatics, with one blogger in particular raving to BrewUSA about how she had to come check the booth out after seeing the company Instagram page.

Being that the PSS Svidnik brewhouses are massive systems that takes strategy to package and ship, BrewUSA was more concerned with obtaining sales lead from the conference than they were with moving units while at the conference. Since the conference, BrewUSA has sent out a plethora of PSS Svidnik quotes to multiple breweries across the country with many deals on the verge of closing.

So what is McLernon & Co.’s advice to effective trade show social media marketing? It’s Simple really, know your audience or more specifically the audience of the trade show and genuinely engage with that audience. People don’t want to be bombarded with sales pitches on social media, leave that at the booth. Instead, use your social channel to get to know your audience, have fun with them, and build a relationship with them in order to get them interested in simply saying high to your brand at whatever trade show you are at. Even if that simple hello doesn’t lead to a sale, that genuine interaction void of a sales pitch will stay in their mind, and the next time they have a friend who needs your product, your brand will be the first they think of.