By Johnnie Campbell Perhaps not the first place you'd imagine a Social Media Week conference to be taking place, the Hippodrome ...

'The Future of Social media in the Drinks Industry' @ Social Media Week #likeminds


By Johnnie Campbell

Perhaps not the first place you'd imagine a Social Media Week conference to be taking place, the Hippodrome Casino in Leicester Square was rife with mid-day slots revellers and snooping pit bosses. Quickly though, the SMW crowd made themselves known, huddling outside a conference room door furiously tapping away at their smartphones – it didn't take long for me to join in. I was attending a #LikeMinds event entitled 'The Future of Social media in the Drinks Industry', in which a panel had been constructed from the disciplines of Tech, marketing, journalism, entrepreneurialism and…marketing. 

The event itself got off to a fairly slow start. Upon being asked which platforms the panel thought to be relevant, one panelist responded with 'Facebook is quite important I think'. However, eventually debate did start to flow, and universally it was agreed that Instagram was providing the greatest level of engagement for the size of the audience, and that certainly for 2014 it was going to be a real focus. The only trouble being that Instagram has little to no penetration into the 35+ demographic, so whilst we're seeing a great response to our work, it's with technically the 'wrong people' (a point that itself is up for serious debate). Under the same umbrella of questioning conversation moved to SnapChat. For me, SnapChat is the first real step away from traditional social networking, 'traditional' meaning the Facebooks and Twitters of this world. One chap from We Are Social (sitting on the panel) brought up the debate around SnapChat which was met with scoffs from the journo and entrepreneur – but actually touched upon some very valid points. He likened SnapChat's transient nature to the kind of 'wow, now it's gone' reaction you got from a great TV ad (rarely) before the advent of the Digital age. At present I think SnapChat needs more scale to make anything worth while, and we'd struggle to know enough about the audience we were talking to, to validate any activity. However, this kind of quick, transient and most importantly unobtrusive advertising could replace much of what we know as Social Media marketing in future years to come.

Perhaps the most poignant part of the afternoon was the discussion around meaningful engagement. Particularly a point made by the same chap from We Are Social, who suggested that posting 'Who wants a beer?' on a Friday afternoon will get Likes, but it's not actually doing anything for the brand involved. Funnily enough this then sparked a heated debate on the @GravityThinking twitter feed around whether brands can be built on Social Media channels at all – take a look here. Keyboard warriors unite. 

When asked about particular campaigns that interested them, the panel brought up the same old examples such as Brew Dog's #MashTag – a crowd sourced beer which caused a fair amount of noise earlier in the year. Interestingly though, one panelist referred to Laphroaig's Friends of Laphroaig as a Social campaign, which to a certain extent is true, but let's all save ourselves an argument and call it RM? Regardless of where it sits in the marketing shitosphere, it's a fantastic campaign and has helped Laphroaig create / nurture a healthy database of users, willing to engage with them on a regular basis. For example Laphroaig had nearly 50k users log in to watch their latest Laphroaig Live video stream, quite astonishing really for a drinks brand to effectively become a broadcaster like that. Moving away from the alcohol industry, the panel brought up Evian's use of #LiveYoung on Twitter as a great example of a brand utilising a cross media strap line and planting it into everyday vernacular. The only other examples I could think of that match #LiveYoung in terms of widespread use in everyday conversation were I'm Lovin It and Kodak Moments, both of which have been activated on Twitter extremely well. 

Things took a turn for the bizarre (although interesting) when Jeremy Waite from Adobe started to talk about future tech. Predictions such as 'Amazon will be the biggest social network in 3 years time' and 'soon I'll be able to order coffee with my face, rather than my voice' (paraphrased slightly) made me question if we were still talking about the drinks industry. Nevertheless, he brought up an interesting debate around the value of a positive and negative mention online. Apparently Dell had run a study to work out the average monetary value of each of these - $4.45 for a positive mention, and $42 in lost revenue for a negative one. Interesting, but practical? I can only imagine the look on the poor statistician's face when they were asked to equate this.

Overall I was a little disappointed by the event. There seemed to be a lack of narrative, which is understandable in a panel debate such as such, but I did leave wondering if we'd achieved anything? Certainly there were some interesting discussions and thought provoking points around new tech / new channels and how to 'squeeze money from a print budget into a social budget'. For me the event could have focused more on what was really important for drinks brands now, rather than try to predict the future. I'm firmly of the belief that you should nail down what's going on now, and react to changes as they happen. I seem to remember being told that Google+ would overtake Facebook by 2013…what happened there?

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