Whether you love it or hate it, I think we can all admit that social media is here to stay. Selfies, never-ending foodstagrams, motivational quotes, awkward personal shares, duck faces, yoga posing army figurines all around the world — you name it, and social media has it covered. But as a distiller, what does this mean for you? You know that social media is important for small businesses, including distilleries, but you may be wondering, Why? How? When? Do I have to?!

Why You Have to Be on Social Media

Yes, you have to. As a distiller who wants to reach consumers who will discover, enjoy and then passionately share your brand, you have to be a part of the social media game. Honestly, the earlier the better. Consumers love being taken on the behind-the-scenes journey of how a small business comes to life! And (bonus) when you are ready to sell your product, you’ll already have a base of interested consumers following along.

Already established with a great product? Perfect! Craft enthusiasts are always looking for new spirits and distillers to support, so it’s time to make sure they know you and your story.

But really, what’s in it for you as a distiller? Why put in the effort when you have so many other things to do?

First and foremost: awareness. Think back to when you were in high school or college and were totally crushing on a cute football player (stay with me here, men!). For weeks, it’s like you see his football number everywhere! Every bus that passes by is the #27, you ring up at the grocery store and it’s $27.27. It’s a sign!

At its best, brand awareness is almost like this. When something is top of mind for you, subtle things make you think of it, look for it and talk about it to your friends. This is precisely what you want your potential consumers doing with your brand.

Beyond awareness, social media helps you pull potential consumers along the purchase funnel until they finally try, buy and then even share it with others. At bars, restaurants and bottle shops, your customers will ask about you when they order their next vodka soda. And that, my friend, is a win-win, because now the staff at that location also knows about you. When they’re in town, if they’ve connected to your story emotionally, they’ll remember to visit you. And then you have a captive consumer just waiting to be romanced and locked into happily-ever-after with you.

While some of you may already be sold on these benefits and are social media rock stars, many of you are either avoiding it entirely or struggling to be successful with social media. And it is true: If you’re not careful, social media can turn into a time suck with little to no value. Taking the photos, editing the photos, choosing what to say about the photo and when to post it, researching hashtags, tagging other people in your posts, actually remembering to post it. Yeah, it can get overwhelming fast.

And how do you even know to do all of those things in the first place? You got into distilling to make amazing spirits, not to be a marketer! I get it, and I imagine that for some of you just reading this far has begun to stress you out. But believe me, I’m here to help.

Good Strategies Make Good Managers

Like most things as a small business owner, if you have a good strategy in place you can minimize the time you spend on something while getting better results. So the question is: How do you manage social media effectively as a distiller? What are those key tips and tricks to keep your social media humming along while you tend to your stills and spend more time on what you’re passionate about?

The key to effective social media is having a plan and sticking to it. We all know that batching is efficient, yet I often talk with distillers who are trying to remember to post day by day and are flying by the seat of their pants. They get frustrated when they realize they haven’t posted in a week or their following isn’t growing. Consistency is key with social media; you have to be there for your audience regularly with engaging content to become top of mind and attract new followers.

So my number one tip for distillers who really want to leverage social media to help grow their business is to get set up with a social media scheduling tool. Every client I have worked with on this and who really stuck to the plan we created has seen great results while also being able to breathe a sigh of relief. But before we can even get to a scheduling tool, let’s make sure we have a few key basics straight.

1. Consumers connect with people and stories, not products or brands.

First, we have to talk about the importance of storytelling. Consumers connect with people and stories, not products or brands. Your product has to be amazing, of course, but then you need to draw consumers in and help them remember you by connecting with them emotionally. And since the dawn of time, that has been done most effectively with storytelling. But before you can tell your story, you have to know what it is. And no, the fact that you’re a local craft distiller in whatever state you’re in is not a story. What’s your unique angle? What will your potential consumers remember and love about you? What problem can you help them solve?

2. Know Your Potential Consumers Deeply

Next, you have to deeply know your potential consumer in order to decide which social media platforms to choose. No, you do not have to be on every social media platform under the sun. Start small — one or two, max. But make that choice based on where your consumers are engaging, not where you engage personally or where you think you should be based on what others are doing.

3. Content Is King

Now that you know your story and which platforms you’ll use, it’s time to gather and curate a ton of content — which today means images and video. This sounds like a daunting task, I know. But, honestly, if you sit down for a couple of hours and just scroll back through your own photos, I bet you’ll find at least 50 related to your business, your distillery, your story, quotes and more that is shareable once edited. Don’t forget about stock photography and reposting others’ content as well!

4. Keep Your Sanity with Scheduling

We’re back to the social media scheduling tool! Now that you have these first three elements in place, it’s time to develop a process to efficiently bring it all to life. Set up or hire someone to set up and train you on a scheduling tool. Move your content into the tool and then keep uploading new content there in real time from here on out. Then block one full day on your calendar each month to schedule all of your social media for the next 30 days.

I find it’s often helpful for clients if they have a theme and stick to it. For example, maybe every other post has the distiller in it. Or Mondays are always quotes, Tuesdays are behind the scenes, Wednesdays are a product feature, etc. This kind of structure helps ensure you’re not starting with a completely blank page every month and helps you find the right content faster. Remember, social media is for building relationships, so you should only be promoting about 20–30% of the time.

When it comes to writing your captions, go back to the first tip: Storytelling is key. This takes some practice, but let’s make up an example to bring this to life.

Original post: Distillery open tonight 5–10, great food trucks and live music. C’mon down and join us!

Story reframing: Already missing the weekend when it’s only Tuesday? We hear ya… that’s why we’re opening up tonight at 5 p.m. with live music, great food trucks and, of course, our locally sourced craft spirits. #weekendonatuesday

Lastly, don’t forget to research and add hashtags (huh? There is a whole article on this starting on page 144) and other social media accounts to tag. These two seemingly small steps can be a game changer for increasing your followers and engagement.

Now you’re ready to schedule your amazing, engaging posts across all of your social media platforms for the month and go back to making and selling spirits. The first few times you go through this it will seem overwhelming, but stick to it, keep it contained to one day a month and you’ll be a social media pro at growing your business in no time!

As you get started make sure to share all of your marketing successes, questions and frustrations with us by using the hashtag #ADIsocial on Instagram and Twitter so we can support and engage with you!