Getting Schooled in Social Media with Dogfish Head’s Mariah Calagione

5/15/2018

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Not many breweries have reached a level of social media success quite like Dogfish Head.

However, true to its “off-centered” ethos, Dogfish Head co-founder and vice president, Mariah Calagione, brought the brewery into the social media seas in a rather usual way: Commandeering a fan’s page.

“At the time, there were several Dogfish fan groups on Facebook,” Calagione said. “This one had the largest audience, so I reached out to the page admin, introduced myself and asked if she would have any interest in making me a co-admin so that I could keep things up-to-date with events and give followers a heads-up about beers coming out. She said yes.”

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the brewery joined Twitter in a less than traditional way, either. A prospective job applicant set up the brewery with an account as an act of goodwill and hopeful karma.

Since these initial off-centered starts, Calagione has grown Dogfish Head to the third largest craft beer brand on social media in terms of followers. Its Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube channels have a combined audience of more than one million consumers. That’s not including the more than 14,000 fans of the Dogfish Head Inn or the 4,000 Dogfish Head Distilling fans.

So how did Calagione guide Dogfish Head through the stormy social media seas? We asked her to share some of her insights.

Pinkish colored Dogfish Head cocktail in wine glass adjacent to stacked peanut butter jelly sandwiches
Vivid high-quality imagery like this photo of a Dogfish Head cocktail is a great way to create engaging social content.

Think Local

Mariah Calagione: First and foremost, social media is something you have to want to do. Before you even get started, however, you need to research any local restrictions you might have in terms of what you can and cannot post before you start creating social pages.

After that hurdle has been cleared, I suggest creating a Facebook page, if only because of locations on Google Maps and all that stuff. It is true that it is now harder to reach an audience with Facebook unless you're paying for it, but I still think it's relevant to be there because that is where your customers are.


Use Twitter to Listen In

When I first got onto Twitter, I used it mainly to listen to our customers. I didn’t have any content to post, so instead I replied to comments, answered questions and just listened to what people had to say. After a while, I discovered that Twitter was no different than a really big beer festival where we would normally be engaging with consumers. Twitter was the same engaging conversation, but on a much larger scale.


Identify Your Voice and Tone Early On

You need to know what your brand voice is and then stick with it. Since the early days of Dogfish Head, we've always had a very conversational tone, both in print and online. We write content as if we are just talking. We use contractions, pauses and all those little things that you use while you talk. We make sure that all our writing and materials – from press releases to our restaurant’s menu – keep to that tone. That has been intentional since day one and today, the people we hire need to be able to demonstrate that they can write and communicate in that tone.

Two male Dogfish Head employees pouring hops into a keg as a woman looks on from the background
Dogfish Head employees brewing beer outdoors for National Homebrew Day

Use Hashtags to Connect with Your Audience

We’ve had a lot of success on Instagram with the hashtag #beergeekery, which we use to highlight all the geeky science stuff behind the scenes. A lot of our followers relate to it through their own jobs. Like, "Oh my gosh, I'm a chemist at a pharmaceutical company and we have the same kind of equipment in our labs that you have at the brewery!"

Lately, we've noticed some other breweries jumping on the hashtag, which I guess is a good thing, but then when I look at it, I'm like, "Wait, these aren't even all of our posts anymore." So it’s cool to see the hashtag grow and take on a life of its own outside of our brewery.


Sell the Story, Not the Product

Social media is most impactful when it is used to build a brand, not sell a product.

If you're a retailer and you're trying to sell a product, craft your messaging to highlight what it is about the product that's interesting, instead of just telling people that they need to come buy it.

There’s this trend lately that I keep seeing where all an account posts is a picture of the new beers that came in that day just sitting on the counter. Sure, that post gets the message across that those beers are now available at the store, but if you're trying to create engagement and create a relationship with customers, it’s going to fall short.

If you really want to engage with people, you need to give them something to engage with. So, mix up your photography or maybe introduce them to your coworkers. Make it personable and you're going have more people engage with you.



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Images courtesy of Dogfish Head's social media

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