Instagram is becoming an increasingly important tool for many businesses. In the beer world, it's also the platform being embraced by a new form of beer blogger, where words are secondary to photography and artwork.
Some beerstagrammers are embracing the opportunity with both arms (and a clutch of cameras, lens, editing tools and props). Earlier this year, we launched a series focusing on Australia's most avid and creative and, as Sydney Beer Week heads into its final weekend, Guy Southern talks with one of Australia’s best photo bloggers, the Harbour City-based Jakkii Musgrave.
Jakkii goes by the handle slybeer and has utilised the platform for more than just sharing beer pics; notably, she used her account to issue a call for greater inclusivity in the beer world last month in a post shared by this site and the Independent Brewers Association. Here she is to tell us more about her love of beer and Instagram – as well as how to make the most of it.
How did you get into sharing your beer love on Instagram?
When I first started working in community management I worked in social media communities, so I’ve used Instagram on and off for years. You wouldn’t know it to look at my profile, though, as I only really started using it a bit more regularly over the past year or so and most of my old photos are archived.
I wanted to separate my beer photos from my other photos, so I cleaned out a lot of old pics – including old beer photos that weren’t very good – and started up a new Instagram for non-beer photos that gets badly neglected in favour of my beer account.
What’s your typical setup like?
I shoot everything with my Samsung S9, which I chose earlier this year because of the camera. I keep thinking about switching to my old DSLR, but ultimately the best camera is the one you’ve got with you.
I travel a bit for work (and for fun), and love getting out and about in pursuit of beer in Sydney as well. A lot of my shots are at the mercy of scenery and lighting available wherever I’m visiting. Bar lighting, especially at night, is the bane of any Instagrammer’s existence! At home I use lamps, with the very recent addition of a cheap light box, mostly shooting on top of the fridge or kitchen bench.
Modesty aside, can you describe your style and suggest a couple of images that best represent your account.
I’m still learning and figuring out my style. My photos are a mix of beer on the go at breweries, bars and pubs, and shots of beer taken at home or wherever I’m staying. I’ve been experimenting a bit lately with prop styling when shooting at home which I’m enjoying, but otherwise I tend to favour simple setups of beer poured into a glass and shot with its container.
Changes to social media platform algorithms can create headaches when it comes to engagement. How do you stay on top of this constantly shifting digital sand?
There are a lot of issues with the structure and design of algorithms on social media platforms, particularly from an ethical and transparency perspective, but when it comes to engagement I think we get a bit too hung up on them. It can be frustrating to see huge changes in your stats, but what’s important is what your objectives are on social media and how they tie back to your business goals.
Algorithm changes might mean you need to tweak your tactics, but broadly speaking aren’t as likely to impact your overall strategy. And, if you’re just using Instagram for fun, then it’s easier not to worry about algorithms at all – getting too concerned about how many likes you’re getting or followers you have can suck the fun out of Instagram pretty quickly.
What Instagram accounts do you follow and what makes them special?
There are a lot of people with great Instagram profiles so narrowing it down is a huge challenge! Aside from the author and previously featured beerstagrammers, a few I really appreciate: @the.art.of.beer who creates illustrated labels for each beer, @pintsandpanels who posts short panel cartoon beer reviews, @crafttourist and @girlnamedjake for their location-based beer shots, and @beerlabelsinmotion and @beerstagram_au who make some amazing beer label animations.
I almost exclusively follow beer-related accounts on slybeer, but I follow a lot of travel & food bloggers on my other account.
Hashtags are synonymous with Instagram yet have zero influence on other platform. What are some of your favourites and what’s one of the weirdest ones that you’ve seen or used?
I’m a hashtag glutton – I use tons of them on every post. I have preprepared lists of hashtags that are a mix of well-used and less-used tags I can copy and paste, then I’ll add some extras that are relevant to the post such as style or location hashtags.
A couple of newer hashtags that have made me smile recently are #TeamLactose and #TeamNoLactose – apparently not everyone’s a fan of a Milkshake IPA!
A lot of businesses see social media as time consuming. How long do you typically spend on your posts and what could a new brewery, venue or retailer do to stand out on Instagram?
Most of my photos take maybe five minutes to set up and shoot. In a major photography faux pas I don’t spend much time editing my pictures – they get a little tweak in Instagram (or Snapseed if I’m feeling particularly enthusiastic) and then they’re ready to go up. Depending on the beer, I might spend time doing some online research about the beer and/or brewery before putting a few words together. All up it’s maybe ten minutes for most of my shots – not including the time spent enjoying the beer, of course.
What’s most time consuming about social media is engaging with people, and that’s where many brands fall short. If you really want to stand out, invest the time in engaging with people around beer and around your brand. Developing those connections and sense of community are what drive brand advocacy and loyalty on social media and is what will give you the biggest bang for your buck, far more than just growing the number of followers or likes you have.
How do you choose which beers to feature?
If it’s not dictated by what was on tap wherever I happened to be, then it’s driven by what’s in the fridge I felt like drinking at the time. I usually post either the photos I like best, or the beers I’ve most enjoyed. I’ve only posted a couple of beers I didn’t enjoy, and rather ironically one turned out to be the most liked post I’ve ever had.
Instagram has the potential to engage brands beyond traditional marketing methods. What do you see as the benefits for beer businesses getting involved with Beerstagrammers?
Social media offers incredible access to customers and potential customers, and allows you to use authenticity, personality and storytelling – both written and visual – to develop a strong brand identity and increase brand awareness. Most importantly, it builds community and advocacy around your brand and beer, in a way that can often be more effective, including potential customers outside your local geographical market than traditional methods might allow.
What tips do you have for anyone keen to, as they say, crush their Beerstagram game?
You don’t need to be a professional, but on the whole the better your photos look the more likely people will hit that sweet double tap or the elusive follow button. Simple things can make a huge difference.
For starters, make sure your subject is in focus! It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many photos are kicking around where the background is in focus instead of the beer.
Make sure your glasses are beer clean – rinse, rinse, and rinse again! When they’re not beer clean, not only can it impact the taste of your beer, you’ll get a ton of bubbles clinging to your glass which look terrible in pictures. And light is your best friend – but avoid using a straight flash whenever you can, especially if you’re shooting with your phone.
Move to where there’s more light or enlist a friend to help you get more indirect light by holding their phone’s torch above your beer. Try to post consistently, don’t be afraid to use hashtags, and spend some time liking and posting thoughtful comments on other people’s posts.
And any Instagram faux pas people should look to avoid?
The biggest ones: don’t buy followers, don’t repeatedly follow and unfollow people trying to get them to follow you, don’t use robo-commenters – it’s super obvious, no matter how simple you keep the comments – and don’t repost people’s photos without credit.
Robo-commenters notwithstanding, don’t ignore people who’ve taken the time to comment on your photos. Even if you don’t have much time to comment in return, at least throw their comment a like in appreciation. And, businesses – put your location details in your profile, or at least a link to where people can find out more online. You’re there ultimately to make a sale, so don’t make it difficult.
Note: It should go without saying but all photographs published in this article are the work of Jakkii Musgrave @slybeer.
You can read other articles in the Aussie Beerstagrammers series here. If you would like to be featured – or have an account you love and would like to know more about – let Guy know. You can also check out Guy's beerstagramming at Goodtimes Craft Beer.