Content has become a key component of most consumer brands’ marketing plans, setting in motion a fierce competition for eyeballs on branded stories. Brands in the spirits industry have an even bigger challenge to be seen in social, as they juggle industry rules and regulations governing where, how, and to whom they can distribute branded content. Social media is especially fraught with risk of encountering underage users, so determining how to effectively and thoughtfully speak to the legal drinking age demographic on social can be a challenge.

We asked some of our Sprout All Stars—Fritz Klug, Digital Content Specialist at Bell’s Brewery, Katy Gelhausen, Web and Social Media Coordinator at Tito’s Vodka and Adam Palmer, Director of Digital at RumChata—how they create compelling content and engage with customers on social, and how that works in tandem with marketing compliance in their industry.

What are the basics to get started in social for a spirits brand?

Fritz: For folks who are starting off, make sure you know all of your local, state and federal regulations related to marketing craft beer or other alcohol. This is important. And never, ever market to minors. While it may seem unnecessary from our fans’ point of view, setting up age-gating on your accounts is very important and a responsibility we take very seriously.

Adam: Really get to know the analytics. Know them better than anyone else and compare them to what the company’s goals are. Figuring out a ‘voice’ will come more naturally after this. Also, study the legal behind your industry. Wine vs. spirits vs. beer—they’re all different and have different (but many times similar) regulations. You will be expected to be an expert.

How closely do you work with your company’s legal department for content approval?

Adam: We train our content team extensively in DISCUS (Distilled Spirits Council of the United States) rules and regulations. However, if there are any questions, we send it to our legal team. Outside of that, they are not usually involved in our content process. As mentioned, we are expected to know the legal ourselves.

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How do you ask for User-Generated Content?

Fritz: Our fans are amazing and inspire us daily with the photos and stories they send in. They bring our beer to places and take photos that we could never imagine. We like to ask for their permission before using the content as a sign of respect and to make sure they know we’ll be sharing it on our platforms.

Katy: We collect UGC by engaging with our fans directly. Whether it’s a beautifully shot cocktail or a swagged out dog, we ask that they email us the photo so that we can follow up with additional questions and spark a more in depth conversation. This one-on-one communication allows us to truly connect with our fans on a personal level while opening up even more opportunity to foster relationships.

Is your engagement strategy different from other industries because the use case for your product is different?

Fritz: We’ve used the Sprout Queue to help us target the times our fans are most engaged. Checking in and engaging with our fans in real time is very important and we make that happen as often as we can which can be challenging with a small team. Even if it’s as simple as a “thank you” or a “cheers,” we want our fans to know that we hear them and appreciate their support.

Adam: We are typically a non-work hours product (typically!). However, we promote during work hours in order to stay top of mind and get them excited to have a RumChata drink when they leave work.

How does your brand’s point of difference work into your broader content strategy?

Katy: We’re unique in that we only have one product, vodka flavored vodka. Rather than focusing on new product promotions we get to have fun and get really creative with our content around this one single thing. We focus on educating our followers about different pieces of the brand and our history – from Tito, the man behind the bottle, to classic cocktail recipes, from DIY infusions, to our Vodka for Dog People program. These passion points create different hooks that draw people into the Tito’s Handmade Vodka fold and continue to keep them there.

How do you use video to tell your brand’s story?

Fritz: We use video in several ways, but it all comes back to telling our story. Whether it’s the story behind a beer like Two Hearted Ale or breaking down the ingredients that make up our summer seasonal Oberon. Lately, we’ve been using videos to help answer common questions from our fans, having experts at our brewery and in the industry provide answers.

Katy: Since the early days, video has been a great tool for us to help fans connect with Tito Beveridge, Founder and Master Distiller of Tito’s Handmade Vodka (and yes, that’s his real name.) On our website, you’ll find old videos of Tito in his home kitchen teaching you how to infuse Tito’s naturally with your favorite flavors. For our 20th Anniversary this year, we produced a series of videos that feature him telling different parts of the brand story and history, while expounding upon some of his classic “Tito-isms.”

Adam: The style, the wit, the colors, the feel. All of that tells your brand’s story. Be sure to know your audience, eg: bartender vs. at-home-bartender.

What are some ways you bridge social media with in-person events or promotions?

Fritz: Our marketing focus at Bell’s is non-traditional, meaning we like to concentrate on one-on-one interactions with our fans more than traditional forms of marketing. We sponsor several events across the country and are there with our staff, engaging with fans. To bridge that gap between in-person and social media, we sometimes use signage with hashtags, but a lot of it goes back to that personal interaction, inviting them to follow us on social media for the latest news and content from the event we are attending.

Adam: Live-tweeting from an event sounds cliché, but it’s an easy and effective way to ensure interaction with fans. Many would say doing live videos since they’re very ‘in’ nowadays, but you can’t control the elements enough in an event-based environment.

How do you partner with other brands in order to diversify content?

Fritz: At Bell’s, I produce a lot of the photos and videos we use on social media. Sometimes, we bring in different photographers and videographers to lend a different eye on our brand and to mix up our content.

Adam: Partnering with other brands is a lot about awareness to new consumers. Yes, you get the opportunity to utilize new content, but it still has to meet both brand’s standards.

How do you showcase company culture through social marketing?

Fritz: Bell’s culture and the people who work here influence everything we do, from the beer we brew to the content we produce. We want to invite people to the wonderful places that are our Comstock Brewery and Eccentric Café, to meet the people who make, package and ship the beer they love and see and see what it’s like to be in a brewery. We also talk about the ways we give back and connect with our community, as well as highlighting practices such as sustainability that are important to us.

Katy: Tito’s dream has always been to make the world a better place and vodka just happens to be our medium. Today philanthropy is at the heart of everything we do and we use our social channels to not only shine light on our partners, but also encourage our followers to join us in real life by attending the philanthropy events that we support all across the world.

Looking for the next step in managing your social community? Check out our field guide for community managers.