How Backlash Beer is Redefining “Social Drinking” with Social Media

  • April 24, 2012 by Caleb Wojcik
  • 15 Comments

A couple months ago, Steve Kamb from Nerd Fitness told us about his friend in Boston who successfully launched a beer company through social media.

Now that’s unique.

Helder Pimentel built the brand and demand of Backlash Beer purely through social media. And they sell out of each batch to bars and liquor stores within days. One of which sold out in just 4 days.

We just had to hear this story first hand from Helder, so keep reading to find out how he has carved out a piece of the highly competitive beer market in New England by using Twitter and Facebook.

Caleb Wojcik: What made you want to start Backlash Beer in such a crowded niche? Were you nervous about it at all?

Helder Pimentel: When I first began to toy with the idea of starting a beer company, it was mostly driven by the fact that at the time, I didn’t really connect with any beer brands. They all seemed kind of old-timey, rooted in some sort of historical or nautical theme. I felt like there was a hole in the craft beer market in terms of brands that appealed to a younger, more edgy demographic.

I was really nervous to start. I think taking that initial leap of faith is the single hardest step in business. I wasn’t sure if Backlash would be well received, but I held onto the hope that if I could create a product I love, then there would be others like me out there somewhere.

CW: How did you build a following of targeted potential buyers on Twitter before the launch of your first beer?

HP: So, just about the time I was considering launching Backlash, I began using Twitter. At the time, my handle was @BrewingBoston, and I really just used that outlet to connect to other local beer drinkers by providing industry news and beer reviews. I think I got up to something like 800 followers just by doing that for a little while.

CW: How do you use your blog to promote your brand?

HP: Mostly I try to share behind-the-scenes stuff with our audience, in order to continue being very transparent and humble. Being that the voice of the brand started as essentially my own voice, I think blogging is a good way for us to cement our brand identity with our audience, as well as just staying personable and real.

CW: What have you done via Social Media to connect with other business like Bars & Nightclubs?

HP: A lot of our connections with potential customers are made via Twitter. I have setup appointments solely via Twitter, but more often than not it’s actually one of our followers who will recommend we reach out to a certain bar, and then @ them on Twitter. We get a ton of leads this way, learning about places we might not have known about otherwise. If we do meet with a particular bar and make a sale, Twitter again helps us out by allowing us to stay in touch with that bar, and know in a very real-time way when our beer is on draft. We can then share that information with our followers and make it easier for them to find our beer.

CW: How do you ensure that you and your brand’s “voice” is congruent with what you do on Twitter?

HP: At this stage in our development, it’s not very difficult. I am obsessed with Twitter, so all of the tweets come from yours truly. Again, because the voice is basically my own, it’s pretty simple to keep everything congruent. It’s pretty much as authentic as it gets. Light hearted, sometimes funny, sometimes angry… pretty much me in a nut shell.

CW: Can you explain the step-by-step process you would use online to launch a new beer?

HP: I started my brewing career by brewing at home. I still do a lot of home brewing, especially while developing new recipes. While I prefer to keep the recipes themselves confidential, I keep all our followers in the loop as to what styles I’m working on. Once I’m happy with a recipe, we begin to promote the beer on Twitter. We have in the past polled our Twitter/Facebook audience to help us decide on the name of a beer (we ended up going with “Convergence” for our Super Saison). With the recipe and name nailed down, I’ll then brew the beer full scale, tweeting pictures along the entire process to give people a behind the scenes kind of look and (hopefully) get them excited about the beer.

After that, we promote launch parties and tastings through our Facebook and Twitter accounts, while trying to connect to as many people as possible who are drinking our beer. We even use QR codes on our labels and coasters which take you to a mobile website where you can review the beer you’re drinking. All reviews are sent to my email where I can read them and gather feedback. I’ll use the feedback to try and coax out common suggestions and improve our beer.

CW: In what ways do you try to compete with the bigger beer brands on Social Media?

HP: I wouldn’t say that we’re consciously or directly competing with any larger brands via Social Media. Part of the reason we’ve been so successful with Social Media is that we’re a 2 person operation, and because Social Media is free, we put all our focus into it. I also think that because we’re the first generation of Twitter users, we *might* have a slight advantage over companies who are trying to “figure out how Twitter works” or maybe don’t see any real value in Social Media at all. Crazy, right? I know… hard to believe those companies exist.

CW: How important is Twitter to your bottom line?

HP: Extremely. I mean, at the end of the day, it’s all about making great beer. But, a lot of people make great beer. Twitter allows us to stay in contact with our existing customers and reach new potential customers, one at a time. People love that sort of attention- and I love giving that sort of attention. Bundle in the fact that you’re establishing and maintaining a brand voice/image along the way, and I really don’t know how we could operate without it.

CW: How important do you think being passionate about what you do online is? Could you give as much effort if you didn’t care as much about your cause?

HP: I don’t think you can do anything noteworthy without passion. Period. I am passionate about reaching as many people as I can in our quest to Reclaim Beer. Passion is what keeps me checking my phone every few minutes for Facebook and Twitter updates (or is that Obsession… hm). I’m not a person to even feign that I care about something when I don’t. I guess it’s just not in my DNA. If I didn’t legitimately give a shit about every bottle of beer we sell, as well as every individual who buys that beer, I would shut down Backlash tomorrow. Social Media is just another way to show how much we care.

CW: What’s next for Backlash Beer?

HP: Right now we are gearing up for the re-release of our launch beer “Groundswell”. We’ll be busy promoting that across the entire state of Massachusetts now that we are state-wide. After that, we’re looking to do some cool community engagement projects and donating any proceeds to charities. We’re also going to start sponsoring concerts to help support local music. We’re very well connected to our audience through Social Media, but it’s hard to beat hanging out over a couple beers, so face to face events are going to be another focus.

***

Thanks Helder!

If you have any questions for Helder, feel free to ask them in the comments below.

Written by . Caleb Wojcik is one of the 3 C's at Think Traffic and Fizzle.co. He writes at CalebWojcik.com and hosts the Cubicle Renegade Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @CalebWojcik.


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Melinda Rodriguez April 24, 2012 at 7:16 am

I love this article! I’m somewhat new to the concept of using social media for business and I’m really diving in to effective communication around it all. I’m also new to drinking beer :-) I recently went on a beer tasting adventure with a friend and really enjoyed it. Its the personal touch exemplified here that entices me to want to try this beer. But I also really appreciate what’s being said here. I’ve recently jumped into blogging and aiding in social media efforts for the company I work for. They have outsourced their marketing efforts and when I read past blogs and FB posts, I don’t see any relevance or connection to the readers because it is written by someone outside of the company who has no real passion for what we do. Not the writers fault really, but I’m trying to input my passion to assist their efforts without trying to make them feel like I know it all and they know nothing. I’ve forwarded this article to them in the hopes they will see my point. Thank you!!

David Mitchell April 24, 2012 at 8:28 am

Great Story, social media is very powerful if you use it correctly and I believe it helps to plan a strategy for it. Wish Backlash Beer all the best :)

Thanks
David

Janet April 24, 2012 at 8:51 am

Great interview and very inspirational! It really shows with the right amount of determination and passion that success in any niche, no matter how crowded or competitive, is attainable. Congratulations Helder!

Jenna April 24, 2012 at 9:16 am

Can you get Backlash beer outside of MA?

Dickie April 24, 2012 at 9:35 am

I’m actually heading out to Boston on July 1 for a wedding in Jamaica Plain and will definitely be on the lookout for Backlash. What are some bars around there that feature it? My buddy who’s getting married lives 2 blocks from the Sam brewery to give you an idea of the area we’ll be in. Anyway, I really like your use of social media in polling your followers and fans on what the name of new beers should be. You’re using a lot of great strategies, some of which I’ll mention to my wife about implementing in our business here in NY. Thanks.

Steve April 24, 2012 at 9:38 am

This is so awesome.

And yes, I’ve had a few backlash beers; they are amazing. Excited for it to jump outside of MA and start taking over the US.

One day, when I own an island, the only beer on tap will be Backlash :)

-Steve

Casey Ayars April 24, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Incredible article. Helder – Do you have distributors in Delaware? I’d love to buy a six pack.

Helder April 24, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Melinda- What you’re saying is totally on point. A company simply cannot outsource the process of making connections with its audience. You need to own it and make it genuine.

Jenna- Not yet. Soon we hope, check out the “Taps” page on our site (www.BacklashBeer.com) to cheek where we’re available!

Steve- looking forward to the beer monopoly!

Dev @ Blokube April 24, 2012 at 8:39 pm

Fantastic story, Caleb. I really liked the way they used social media to reach existing and new customers. It shows the real power of social media sites like twitter & facebook.

ralph@cantankerousoldcoots.com April 25, 2012 at 10:44 am

I love this kind of story because I really don’t get Social Media, especially Twitter. Getting this kind of connection with someone who uses Twitter effectively is what I need to get over my hangup. Thanks.

Cheryl Pickett April 25, 2012 at 6:45 pm

Just wanted to pop in and say how could someone not be inspired by that!? Thanks for sharing Caleb and best of luck to you Helder.

Jeff @ Digital Nomad Journey April 26, 2012 at 9:59 am

This is awesome!

Two things stood out to me:

“I really just used that outlet to connect to other local beer drinkers by providing industry news and beer reviews.”

“…more often than not it’s actually one of our followers who will recommend we reach out to a certain bar, and then @ them on Twitter”

This boils down to:

1. They provided unique content to an interested audience.
2. In exchange, their audience reached out to the community and helped them out.

That is not only synchronicity, but a smart low cost way to get the word out. Of course, craft beer drinkers are *passionate*. This technique probably wouldn’t work as well for local plumbing company.

ishu bhatia April 27, 2012 at 1:20 am

When are such products going to reach india.
We are tired of having the same “old-timey” brands.

Helder April 30, 2012 at 8:34 pm

Thank you so much for the kind words everyone! You are all an inspiration to me.

Consistency is really king when it comes to social media. We try to be as involved and in-touch with our followers as we can. To us, that means responding to each and every person who reaches out to us, or even just mentions us on Twitter. We really aim to make our customers/followers feel valuable, because.. well, they ARE. We can’t financially reward or incent them, but we can interact with them. A personal connection with a brand you already like, as a consumer, is a home run. Everyone loves that sort of attention.

Ishu – We’re only about 8 months old at this point, so international distribution is a long way away. Although believe me, I am beyond flattered that there is any demand there at all. Thanks for the motivation!

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