Tito’s Handmade Social Media

Mar. 28, 2018

Tito’s Handmade Vodka is one of a kind. On the one hand, it’s hard to imagine today’s spirits landscape without the long shadow cast by the Austin distillery; but on the other hand it feels almost like Tito’s just came out of nowhere. The truth is somewhere in between. Tito’s has been around for a while, nearly 20 years, growing slowly by word of mouth. But something happened in the mid-2000s, something that turned their slow, organic growth into an explosive, viral takeover of the vodka category.

Over the last ten years, social media came into its own, and with it came Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

And while it’s no surprise that social media can propel a brand to unprecedented growth, the success of Tito’s does warrant some additional investigation. How did this small outfit from the heart of Texas capitalize on the emerging technology so expertly while so many larger brands stumbled and failed to rack up wins in the new arena? Obviously it takes a quality product for this level of success, but there’s an X-factor at play, one that others in the industry would do well to heed. 

Social Media =/= Advertising

In a case study by Sprout Social, Tito’s Web & Social Media Coordinator, Katy Gelhausen explained the Tito’s ethos. “We never viewed social media as another way to advertise,” she said, “We’re on social so our customers can talk to us.” Engagement is the north star which guides Tito’s social media strategy. That strategy involves creating great content, as even a quick perusal of the brand’s Instagram feed reveals, and then talking with consumers about it. It sounds simple, and it is. It is simply a lot of work, and it takes a simple, wholehearted commitment from the brand in order to make it work.

How to Start the Conversation

Tito’s Handmade Vodka is remarkably clear, and made with simple, pure ingredients. The same cannot be said for social media. To foster an authentic, real, engaging conversation with an online community, you need to start with search engines, keyword searches, and algorithms that monitor social media networks. Tito’s knows what vodka lovers want to talk about, and how to talk to them, because they’re making full use of social media technology. By leveraging their data into an actionable social media plan, Tito’s was able to go toe-to-toe with industry giants and come out on top.

Just Be Yourself

Over the last two decades, Tito’s Handmade Vodka has cultivated a reputation for authenticity that resonated strongly with consumers, and the brand was able to carry that reputation over into their social media presence. Consumers, like children, can tell when they’re being pandered or talked down to, and nothing sours a social media identity more quickly than the stink of phoniness. Tito’s interactions with consumers on social media aren’t a sales tool. As Gelhausen said, Tito’s is on social to talk with consumers, and that means interactions that don’t ever come near selling, or touting the brand’s qualities. By building rapport online, Tito’s is helping to foster demand in the real world. A quick search of the #LoveTitos hashtag on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram will demonstrate how robust Tito’s rapport is with consumers.

Real world demand is, ultimately, what keeps a brand in business. But Tito’s has realized that today, much more than in decades before, the story behind a brand is one of the most important ways the company has to foster demand. By building an online community of Tito’s lovers, the brand has created an organic foundation of demand.

It’s not easy, and it’s not cheap. According to AdAge, Tito’s spent zero dollars on TV advertising in 2016, but burned through $13.9 million on measured media. By taking a hands-on approach, and by spending money strategically, Tito’s was able to grow faster and stronger than their organic growth rate would have predicted, recently taking the top spot among all spirits brands.

Naturally, these results are not typical, and reflect a combination of hard work, luck, and long-range planning that not every brand can achieve. But we at Breakthru are proud to work with Tito’s, and to be your source for his handmade vodka. Talk to your Breakthru sales consultant about how to grow your business with Tito’s and other Breakthru brands.
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