I know it’s been a while since my last ‘Social Media Distilled’ interview, but we were all busy – after all, Spring is the Festivals season (Did you follow my Feis Ile 2014 project?), and many new products were launched by distilleries keeping their staff and PR persons very busy. But things has cooled down a bit and I managed to recruit another whisky social media figure for an interview.
Today I’m happy to interview Lukasz Dynowiak. You may know him from the Edinburgh Whisky Blog or the Tweeter Tasting he leads, but today he’s represented here under his professional hat as the director of Alembic Communications which handle social media for Inver House brands.
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a lover, not a fighter. Drinks lover and a foodie. Live in Edinburgh with my hot wife and super-smart son.
What is your exact position in Inver House? Could you tell us a little about your journey in the whisky industry? How much of your day to day activity is dedicated to social media?
Although you rightly associate me with Inver House brands, I don’t actually work directly for the company. I’m a consultant for the brands and a free electron brand ambassador which suits me perfectly at the moment. As to the whisky journey, when I was at uni I worked part time at The Scotch Whisky Experience. There I met my good chum Chris Hoban and we started writing Edinburgh Whisky Blog. After a while the site became relatively successful, largely thanks to the wonderful community that grew around it, and that’s how I met loads of great people in the industry. When I graduated a few years ago, instead of sending out hundreds of CVs I managed to bully the lovely folk at Inver House into letting me help them with various bits and bobs.
How much of your day to day activity is dedicated to social media?
Too much! Haha. I’d say about a quarter of my time is spent dealing with social media content and strategy. The rest is mostly PR, copywriting and brand education.
How do you manage to handle 3 separate distilleries where each one has different profile and activities?
Actually I manage 5 brands: Old Pulteney, anCnoc, Balblair, Speyburn and Hankey Bannister so It’s pretty hard. The various brands I work with all have their own personalities, their tone of voice as we say, so you really have to stay focused. But the fact that they are solid brands with great stories behind them really helps.
.How do you see and define the audience on the different social media networks? From your point of view, are there any differences between Facebook, Twitter and other sites?
That of course has been discussed in various places at length. From my experience I’d say that the most interesting and in-depth discussions happen on Twitter but the strict character count limit means it’s much harder to produce good relevant content for that channel that really conveys the brand tone of voice. Some brands do it well, some don’t.
Did feedback from users on social networks impact your marketing and business decisions? If so, How?
Of course! One of the things social media revolutionised is the way the consumers give you feedback. Many brands no longer spend money on focus groups and other qualitative surveys as often all they have to do now is look through their Twitter feed to identify what people like and what they don’t like. It’s not a representative sample of course but it can be a very useful indication.I can give you a cool example of how social media changed the way products are developed. When anCnoc 35 Year Old was in the pipeline we organised a little preview tasting on Twitter for a group of friends and commentators and we loved the tasting notes they produced so much that the official notes on the pack are a selection of what was said at the event. On the scale of the product development cycle this is instant responsiveness. And that’s what social media is all about, isn’t it?
What are your goals when engaging the audience via social networks? How do you measure success?
I can’t let you in on all the secrets now, can I? But seriously, I think you can set yourself KPIs (Key performance indicators) and employ wonderful tools to measure how well you’re doing, we do all that as does everyone else, but for us it’s important to also keep in mind at all times the first and most important goal of being on social media which is supporting your real world activity.
Can you point out any other distillery/group that works well in social networks? What are they doing right?
I’m going to root for the small guy and say Compass Box. They are chatty and relaxed on Twitter which is what I like to see..
How can distilleries and independent bottlers distinguish their activity and brand on the net? Are there any other areas, besides Social Networks, in which you can promote your brand?
We do a wide range of stuff online, from competitions with partners to building highly usable sites and online shops. I don’t see social media as a complete tool in it’s own right, it should never exist in vacuum. It’s there to support anything and everything we do elsewhere.
Are images as effective as text in social networks? Or maybe even more effective?
Image speaks a thousand words. It’s a cliché but it’s true. A Facebook post without an image just won’t perform. Twitter is different but still images help a great deal there.
What was your highlight moment with your Social Networks work? Which parts of it do you enjoy, personally?
The highlight was definitely the tweet tastings taking off like a rocket. Today you probably associate them more with my great colleague Steve Rush but it was in fact our brands that pioneered the use of the format in a commercial/official sense. Now of course Twitter is a bit saturated with them so we tend not to overdo it but back in 2010 and 2011 it was pretty innovative stuff. Definitely a highlight and massive thanks to Inver House for letting me run with it. As to the things which are most enjoyable to me personally, it has to be meeting social media buddies in real life. Whisky shows are great for that. Maltstock last year was ridiculous.
What were the weirdest and funniest (separately!) interactions/contacts you ever got through social network?
I wouldn’t want to comment on specific weird interactions that our brands have but suffice to say there are some troubled people out there, haha. As to funny, people make us laugh literally every day. It’s funny business, whisky.
Do you remember your first whisky dram? What was it? Did you like it right away?
I had my fair share of terrible teen whisky experiences involving a certain Famous blend and another one that should ring the Bell. Didn’t think much of it at the time but definitely knew that I preferred whisky to vodka and the rest of it. When I eventually decided to have a proper experience with a fine whisky, it was Highland Park 18 Year Old that popped my cherry. It was spectacular, I’d never tasted anything so good in my life and I was instantly hooked.
What’s your current favorite whisky? Where do you like to have it?
Right now it’s really hot in Scotland (12° on my way to work this morning, taps aff!) so I’m enjoying Balblair 2003 a huge deal. Elegant, youngish, bourbon cask Northern Highland single malt really keeps me happy these days. Of the recent releases, I liked Ardbeg Auriverdes.
Do you have any ceremonies or quirks related to drinking whisky?
Yes. I use my mouth.
Do you prefer drinking alone or with others?
With others, I’m a social animal.
Do you limit your drinking? If so, in what way?
Common sense, really. It’s a serious issue of course and everyone who works with booze has to be careful. I’m invited to a huge number of tastings and events every year and you just have to make sure you don’t overdo it. But I’m not counting units, if that’s what you mean.
Do you get to drink on the job? Do you HAVE to drink on the job? 🙂
Yes, of course. When I’m hosting a masterclass and not driving after, I usually take a sip or two here and there. I’m a whisky geek first and foremost. I’m also involved in creating a lot of tasting notes which involves sampling.
Do you have a professional dream?
I do but I can’t tell. You’ll know when I get there.