Alcohol brands must take their social media marketing seriously and not be tempted to just dabble, or they could risk their reputations and a run-in with regulators.
That was the message that emerged from a seminar in Birmingham attended by representatives from 10 brewery and alcohol brands and the Advertising Standards Authority.
The power and the pitfalls of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, when it comes to complying with strict rules on the marketing of alcohol, were outlined at the seminar staged by Birmingham-based communications agency Seal.
Delegates were advised it was easy to be seduced by the low cost and huge reach of social media channels and its value in engaging and interacting with consumers.
Jason Navon, digital strategist, said: “Social media channels are powerful marketing tools but they need to be treated with caution. It is not simply a case of jumping on board because others are. It requires an investment of resources and the kind of care and attention you would pay to other forms of communications.”
The round-table discussion was chaired by Gordon Johncox, marketing director of Aston Manor, and delegates agreed social networks needed to develop better frameworks if they wanted to monetise their offering to the drinks sector.
It was also felt regulators must talk to social network operators to apply pressure for the functionality the industry required, particularly when it came to restricting access to content to the over 18s.
Hayley Fletcher of the Advertising Standards Authority said alcohol businesses could fall foul of regulations and codes of practice if they did not monitor social media keenly and used channels whose audience comprised more than 25 per cent of under 18s. She advised if businesses not feel comfortable using something on an advertising billboard then they should not put it on a Facebook page.
The dangers posed by the amount of user generated content was also demonstrated in a Seal case study where the firm evaluated one alcohol brand’s Facebook page.
It found a lack of control and monitoring had put it in breach of ASA regulations and the site was teken down temporarily to enable content to be removed.
Lucy Kemp, Seal’s deputy MD said: “We found you cannot leave the content to your consumers; it needs to be monitored so it does not damage your brand but it cannot be completely sanitised either because you will lose the engagement.
“An uncontrolled environment is a dangerous environment. Do not just jump into social media; you need robust guidelines and processes in place. It is not something you can just set up and leave alone, you need to be active not passive.”