I have a highly embarrassing confession to make: I drank a lot of Coors Light in college. I think the beer gods have mostly forgiven me at this point – I was young and stupid! But thankfully I’ve graduated to the world of craft beers and microbrews. I’m currently partial to Magic Hat, brewed in South Burlington, Vt., but my Midwestern pals on Twitter are continually singing the praises of Bell’s Beer out of Kalamazoo, Mich. I can’t find it in Upstate N.Y. and thus I have yet to try it. So since I can’t do a blind taste test, I’ve decided to pit these beers against each other and see how their social media strategies fare in a head-to-head (get it?) competition:
Round 1: Twitter
Both beers are on Twitter: @magichat and @bellsbeer (along with more than 50 other craft beers, btw). So far, despite both acquiring legions of followers, neither brand is terribly engaged with its fans. Here’s the shakedown:
Magic Hat: Following 3,110; Followers 2,829; Tweets 71
@magichat’s first tweet was nearly 11 months ago and so with only 71 Tweets, it’s not a terribly active account. Tweets have included some coupons, a few twitpics of a recent promotional event, a couple of contests, and links to some videos of its brewery. There are some replies sprinkled throughout its Tweetstream, but not many. If you look at @magichat’s statistics from TwitterFriends, it earns a CQ (conversation quotient) score of 14.9 percent, versus a 41.8 percent average. Its LQ (link quotient) is 53.6 percent. Its Twitter rank is 3329 out of 56585.
Bell’s Beer: Following 1,469; Followers 1,509; Tweets 56
@bellsbeer started Tweeting in July of last year and with 56 updates, it’s also not terribly active. It ranks 9500 out of 56585 according to TwitterFriends, but its conversation quotient is much higher than @magichat’s, scoring a 33.3 percent. Its Tweets are primarily informational – where to find their beers, info about beer events they’re attending, answers to questions. But Bell’s Beer does seem to be more engaged with its fans – more replies and a more conversational tone. Its replies tend to be answers to people’s questions on everything from where to find the beer to nutritional information to how to find the date each beer was brewed.
Point: Bell’s gets the point for engaging with its customers via Twitter moreso than just pushing out information.
Round 2: Facebook
Each brand has a Facebook fan page. Magic Hat has 8,924 fans and the page is chock-a-block full of activity. A video post of a recent Mardi Gras parade it sponsored and 47 accompanying photos. An event announcement for Philadelphia Beer Week. An info center with graphics that link back to pages on the company’s web site (including its “Sip Code Locator” to find beer in your area). There are dozens of notes posted to the page that announce new beer variety packs, upcoming events, contests, and new distribution locations for its beer.
Bell’s Beer currently has 16,901 fans. Its wall includes 359 posts and there are three discussion boards. One is a forum for fans to discuss changes made to the variety of hops used in its Oberon brew. Bell’s hasn’t weighed in on the discussion at all. The photo section only includes images of each beer case design. There are 40 fan photos, many of them of a cycling team wearing Bell’s jerseys.
Despite the fact that the Bell’s Beer fan page has almost twice as many members, it doesn’t appear to be utilizing the space very well. Magic Hat is creating buzz about its beer and using Facebook as a platform to showcase its fans and customers using the product – pictures of people at Magic Hat events, for example. Its fan page makes you want to engage with the brand, while Bell’s Beer is pretty static.
Point: Magic Hat, hands-down
Round 3: Web site
Magic Hat’s Web site design is right in line with its trippy Vermont roots. If you click on the “People’s Place” blimp that floats across the screen, you’re taken to the “epicenter of all things Magic Hat.” There’s a blog (called a “glog”) that repackages some of the Facebook notes found on its fan page. You can create a login to become part of the community and see Magic Hat events in your area. The site includes polls, photos from both Magic Hat and the site’s users, an FAQ section, and an online press center. Badges on the left side of the page direct you to Magic Hat’s online presence on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and MySpace.
Bell’s site is a much cleaner and more traditional design. The beer itself is what dominates the site – just about the only images are of beer bottles! You can find during which season each of their varieties is available, purchase Bell’s shirts and products, and find a local distributor. But the site itself doesn’t lend itself to connecting with other Bell’s fans. There’s really no interactivity. You can sign up for an RSS feed of Bell’s Beer news items, but you can’t comment on them. The site doesn’t direct you to its Facebook fan page or its Twitter page. The design is nice, but in the end, it’s your basic static Web site. To beer fair, the home page claims that the site will be updated in the coming weeks.
Point: Magic Hat, for creating an online community that highlights its customers and allows them to connect in several different ways.
Round 4: Other social sites (Flickr, YouTube, etc.)
I couldn’t find a YouTube channel for either beer. Magic Hat has a Flickr account with several albums. The images feature the brewery and several Magic Hat sponsored events. I couldn’t find any sort of official Bell’s Beer Flickr account. Magic Hat’s MySpace page counts 3,746 friends and includes links to its “glog” posts. As far as I could tell, Bell’s Beer does not have a MySpace presence.
Point: Magic Hat once again
The Final Verdict: Magic Hat is clearly outpacing Bell’s Beer in the adoption of social media platforms to reach out to and connect with its fans. Magic Hat’s brand image is quirky and funky and it probably skews younger than typical Bell’s Beer fans, so maybe social media was less of a stretch for the company. I’d love to see Magic Hat become a little more engaged on Twitter and really interact with its fans in that space, rather than using it more as a platform to push information. And it would be great if Bell’s Beer could tap into its rabid fan base on Facebook and create a more interactive and engaging site.
But whether you kick back with a Two-Hearted Ale or a Circus Boy, either one definitely beats a Coors Light– and there are apparently thousands of fans online who agree.
Image via Flickr user dnolan36