Wow, It’s been a while since the last interview in the Social Media Distilled series but here comes another interview with Ashley Westgate, the Online Marketing Manager of the The Lakes Distillery which will start distilling whisky next month (oh what an exciting moment it will be!).
So far the Lakes distillery released a blended whisky called The ONE and last week released their first Gin release (I’ll review those in the coming few weeks).
As a newcomers who needs to build a brand from scratch and considering the fact they are an English distillery and not Scottish, I was wondering how they are going to tackle this issue and if their attitude and focus on Social Media will be a major part of it. Enjoy!
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I have a love of travelling and photography, a fear of spiders and clowns and an absolute hate of mushrooms. Originally from Essex, I now reside in the North East of England with the wife.
What is your exact position in the distillery? Could you tell us a little about your journey in the whisky industry?
I’m a relatively new boy to the Whisky Industry in a professional capacity, but I have been working in various guises within Marketing/PR for a number of years and have experiences from a wide range of industries. My current role is the Online Marketing Manager for The Lakes Distillery where by part of my role is looking after our ecommerce, social media and online strategies.
How much of your day to day activity is dedicated to social media?
Looking after our social media is continuous activity – while I plan ahead as much as possible to free up time to work in other areas, I still monitor performance throughout the day and keep a close eye on the engagement that we receive.
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?
Each social media platform interacts with its users in different ways – or allows for its users to interact with companies in different ways. For each of our campaigns or messages I find it best to tailor the approach depending on which platform you are using, not everything can or should be duplicated across these channels, or you’re in danger of losing engagement or flooding your audience with the same message.
How often do you checks social networks notifications (mentions, Direct messages, FB tags)? Every day? Once a day, twice a day? Whenever the phone beep/vibrate?
I monitor activity throughout the day – and do my best to be as responsive as possible. I like our customers and friends to know that there is always someone here who is happy to help.
Did feedback from users on social networks impact your marketing and business decisions? If so, How?
Direct feedback or passive feedback from non-engaging content will always have an impact on what we do, we aim to messaging our audience with content that they are interested in, anything else is just wasting everyone’s time.
What are your goals when engaging the audience via social networks? How do you measure success?
We have some key targets that we set in order to grow our audiences, I keep a close eye on not only the messages that we put out, but what level of engagement they receive (like, retweets, shares or comments). We do not want to be in the habit of ‘spamming’ our audience with unnecessary or interesting messaging so judging on the level of engagement we adapt our strategy.
Can you point out any other distillery/group that works well in social networks? What are they doing right?
There are a lot of distilleries using social media – some do it well and others have a lot to learn. I find the best results is not to rely on social channels as a sales outlet, but to use it as an engagement tool, sharing general industry information, or interesting articles, recipes or places of interest always go down well. Not everything has to be ‘me me me’!
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?
There are plenty of opportunities to engage with your audience offline – the key is ensure that your fans and customers are aware of your brands and that you have consistent messaging. Having good ambassadors that communicate well, and a visible and identifiable presence in the offline world is important.
Are images as effective as text in social networks? Or maybe even more effective?
Both are effective – but I find it depends on what the content is. If an images tells the whole story you might not generate a click through – so you have to make it intriguing to attract attention in the saturated messaging space. Whichever option you choose it has to be of interest.
What was your highlight moment with your Social Networks work? Which parts of it do you enjoy, personally?
Personally it’s the engagement you get – seeing activity that generates continuous discussion within the community is great, especially when the audience gets as excited as us!
What were the weirdest and funniest (separately!) interactions/contacts you ever got through social network?
In all honestly I haven’t had any weird or odd experiences that are relevant to this role – our community is pretty well behaved and down to earth.
Do you remember your first whisky dram? What was it? Did you like it right away?
I wasn’t really introduced to whisky until my mid-twenties and I only really started to appreciate it when I met my father-in-law who is a big fan.
What’s your current favorite whisky? Where do you like to have it?
Not really a whisky, but my favourite drink is an Old Fashioned, and my favourite place to have one who be anywhere where I can look out over water!
Do you have any ceremonies or quirks related to drinking whisky?
Not really, though I like a good ‘heavy’ whisky glass, something with a thick layer of glass at the bottom.
Do you prefer drinking alone or with others?
Surely no-one likes to drink alone? Exploring a new drink with friends and family is a sound way to spend some time!
Do you limit your drinking? If so, in what way?
Yes of course I monitor my drinking – I wouldn’t say I count every single unit, but I keep in moderation.
Do you get to drink on the job? Do you HAVE to drink on the job? 🙂
Knowing your whisky is a part of the job, you can’t really marketing something unless you know everything about it. I’m not saying it’s a party like atmosphere, but when we have a new product we do get to try it.
Do you have a professional dream?
Cheesy as it may seem, we are on the cusp of opening our doors to the public, and unveiling new spirits set to launch next year. Just being part of the incredible journey that The Lakes Distillery is taking is fulfilling my dreams at the moment. I can’t wait to see us grow and develop our brand further.