Amazingly, it was less than five months ago, on May 30th, that we announced the first-ever Beer Bloggers Conference. We now have 90 people registered to attend the conference, have generated a website that has increased quickly in popularity (our Alexa rating stands at 324,558 today), and have 996 followers on Twitter (@beerbloggers).
It is that last part that ties into Ashley from Drink With The Wench, our Chief Blogger for the conference. We first met Ashley at one of our Wine Bloggers Conferences, communicated with Ashley two weeks after the BBC was announced, and asked her to take on the Chief Beer Blogger role. She accepted and has served as our sounding board and chief enthusiast ever since. She also took over the Twitter account and grew it from zero followers to almost one thousand in five months. Not bad.
We followed up with Ashley to ask her a few questions.
How long have you been beer blogging and what is the most rewarding aspect?
Drink With The Wench was created in February of 2008. It is crazy thinking that it has almost been 3 years. The entire experience and evolution of my blog and my brand has been a real whirlwind. The most rewarding experience of becoming a beer blogger is the relationships that I have developed as a result. And I am talking about relationships with all types of people — from brewers, to fellow bloggers, to hardcore beer geeks, to people just getting into craft beer.
Why did you attend the Wine Bloggers Conference when you were a beer blogger?
Isn’t that an interesting question? I would love to say that I was a spy from the beer industry, infiltrating the wine bloggers conference. But in reality, the majority of my work experience comes from the wine and restaurant industry. Actually, the reason I got into beer was a direct result of my love for wine.
You see, I started studying for my sommelier certification straight out of college. I ended up landing a management opportunity in a restaurant, where I was put in charge of the entire beverage program. My owners were very young and conscientious. We served mostly sustainable, local foods and they would only carry craft beer. Naturally, in order to perform my job, I was forced to learn about beer. And I have been obsessed with it ever since!
Back to wine. Being a social media geek and wine enthusiast, I am a big advocate and follower of wine bloggers. Although my blog is mostly focused on craft beer, I use my other social media platforms to advocate my passion and love of wine. I actually have the Twitter account @TheWineWench, but I never use it. Some of my best friends are wine bloggers.
I remember enviously watching the tweets from the first wine bloggers conference. It was pretty much imperative that I attend the 2nd conference. Ironically enough, I ended up moving to wine country as a result of the wine bloggers conference. What can I say? The wine bloggers conference was a life-changing experience for me and I am hoping that the beer bloggers conference has the same effect on both myself and others.
What explains your knack for social media?
I pride myself in being an early adopter of social media. I am a member of the first generation to be born with the Internet. When I was a child, my father worked for IBM. I had a computer and Internet access since the early 90’s. As a kid, I spent a lot of time on Internet forums, chats, and AOL instant messenger. I have played around with many different tools but, as with most people, I have my core (preferred) platforms. It is easier to become an expert at 3 or 4 tools, than so-so at everything. Kind of like the jack-of-all trades, master of none idea.
In my opinion, social media was revolutionized with the invention of Facebook. I was in college when it was launched and, at the time, the platform was exclusive to college students. I was on Facebook for at least 2 years before the rest of the public gained access, which has given me a tremendous advantage over other users. Watching the evolution of Facebook has been a trip — let me tell you. There are still certain aspects of Facebook that I avoid like the plague.
I would have to say that Twitter is my tool of choice. And it is weird to admit this but, at first, I didn’t “get” Twitter. It wasn’t until I saw a presentation on how to use it, that I really understood how to use it. When I was living and working in Columbus, OH, I was a part of a local club called “The Social Media Cafe”. We met on a monthly basis to discuss the latest trends in social media. At each meeting, someone would get up in front of the group and present the ins and outs of a different social media platform (wordpress, flickr, facebook, podcasting etc…). This is how I learned about Twitter, which was still relatively new (maybe 6 months old) at the time. Needless to say, this was a pivotal moment in my social media history (shout out to my boy Alvin @wyliemac for being the man to educate me on Twitter and to my good friend Tim @timjeby for being the one to sign me up and force me to use it!)
On a final note, what has truly made me successful at social media is a combination of 1. proficiency 2. branding and 3. personality. Social media is just that — social. The real key to success is engagement. Period. End. Of. Story.
What importance to you think the BBC will have for the community of beer bloggers?
My background and passion for wine has me spending a tremendous amount of time in the industry. Something that continuously blows my mind about the wine industry is not just its extensive understanding and use of social media, but also its respect for the blogging community. Wine bloggers are often viewed as being more influential and important than traditional wine writers — which is really exciting to observe.
The industry considers wine bloggers to be legitimate members of the press community. More and more wine bloggers are getting the same respect and acknowledgment as well-established print writers.
Unfortunately, and I hate to say this, the beer industry is trailing sluggishly behind the wine industry when it comes to social media and support for its bloggers. Which is really weird since the craft beer industry does not have “deep pockets” like the wine industry, and is forced to get creative and find new grassroots, inexpensive methods to market to consumers. Supporting and appreciating bloggers is a very cheap and effective way to do this.
I think that the establishment of a Beer Bloggers Conference will help bring the importance of social media and blogs to the attention of the craft beer industry. By bringing attention to the community, I hope that the BBC will help to legitimatize the work of beer bloggers and raise awareness about social media’s importance.
The BBC is also a way for beer bloggers to organize themselves, become a stronger voice as a whole, and share knowledge, advice and stories with each other.
Where is The Beer Wench headed in the future?
Excellent question! I don’t want to kick myself in the foot by committing to an answer, but I can say this: no matter where I go and what I do, I will never stop advocating and promoting craft beer. For me, craft beer is more than just a hobby and a passion, it is a part of who I am.
I think part of what makes the persona of The Beer Wench so interesting is the air of mystery that surrounds my life. Maybe one day I will write a book about my adventures, but until then … you will just have to follow them on the Internet!