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