Spirits brands have long mastered splashy campaigns and all-encompassing branding, but they fall short in creating platform-specific social media strategies that resonate with consumers.

Part of the problem is due to regulatory boundaries on these platforms, resulting in most brands leveraging multiple region-specific handles rather consolidating audiences on a global handle. Most brands tracked in Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Spirits have been unable to effectively scale their social media reach, with Instagram handles averaging under 100,000 followers and 178,000 interactions for the year. Comparatively, brands in Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Beverages and Beer averaged 405,000 followers and 1.5 million interactions on Instagram, underscoring the gap in reach and engagement. Index leaders find reach and engagement through social media by effectively tailoring content to consumer preferences and backing it with spend to drive reach. These leaders also play to each platform’s strengths. While Instagram is the key social platform for engagement, Facebook drives the most desktop traffic from social platforms to Index brand sites. Pinterest and YouTube are also key platforms for driving site traffic but require different content strategies for success. Publishers, retailers and luxury brands in other industries offer a peek into how spirits brands can drive the conversation around their brand and products through social media.

Partnerships with third-party accounts is a key way for spirits brands to find organic reach and new audiences on Instagram. Gifted brand Ketel One partnered with celebrity lifestyle brand Goop, which has an Instagram community fifty times larger than Ketel One’s, to promote the launch of its Botanical range. The initial post by Goop saw nearly ten times more engagement than the brand’s average across its multiple handles. Bombay Sapphire works with bartenders to punch above its weight class on Instagram. It highlights this influencer content on its own handle to capitalize on these partnerships. By closing the loop between partnership content and the brand’s own presence on the platform, Bombay Sapphire proves it understands the need for a unified social strategy Innovators adapt these Instagram strategies to YouTube, where they match content to consumer trends. Laphroaig sponsors long-form scotch review videos to meet what viewers were searching for, as half of the top ten YouTube search terms related to scotch whisky in the past year were educational (e.g., “best scotch”).

By tapping into the educational content most popular on YouTube, the brand proves its ability to optimize content for social platforms—something others in the Index can learn from and follow. In an increasingly pay-to-play environment, brands must ensure their platform-specific strategies match consumer behavior and push relevant content most likely to resonate with followers.

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