For those not familiar Connecticut State Senator Andy Maynard and Representative Diana Urban introduced a bill in January 2011 to establish a “Connecticut Beer Trail” modeled after the success of the Connecticut Wine Trail. Personally I think this is a fantastic decision. What could be better than supporting local breweries?! However, after the bill passes the CT House, breweries must be prepared to launch a collaborative social media and mobile marketing effort, one that doesn’t request any state funding. The CT Beer or Brewery Trail has a lot to learn from the CT Wine Trail (the CT Wine Trail still has yet to capitalize on social media).

Smartphone usage is growing rapidly and so is the use of apps and mobile sites. Breweries should encourage patrons to “check-in” using Foursquare, Gowalla, Shizzlr, or Facebook Places, which offers a group check-in feature that breweries will find extremely appealing. When a person or better yet multiple people check-in to a local brewery their friends will know about it. If I head down the road to Cottrell Brewing in Pawcatuck, CT with a few friends and I check-in on my iPhone I will share with my 500+ Facebook friends and 400+ Twitter followers that I am about to taste a few quality local brews! Let consumers help you in your marketing efforts. It’s local word of mouth amplified. If you’re really worried about negative reviews… STOP. They’re not the end of the world. In fact, when you respond correctly to negative reviews, they are a wonderful opportunity for you to prove to everyone how much you truly care about your customers. I’ll go into detail about responding to negative reviews in another post.

Not everyone is going to ‘feel’ like checking in. So offer incentives! 15% off a  6 pack or for a group check-in you might reward the entire group with a case of beer for FREE. I’m pretty sure they’ll love you for that and they’re more likely to tell their friends too. Require people to check-in a certain number of times to unlock a deal too!

Connecticut Breweries (and Wineries) should team together (or not?) to create a CT Brewery & Wine App or mobile website. If they go the app route it better not mirror any website created by either organization. The purpose of creating a CT brewery or wine trail app is to further educate customers. The app should add to their experience while they’re on location, on the go, or sitting at home planning their weekend adventure.  Some ideas for an app might be to include and encourage taking pictures or video during the tour, local brewery and winery trivia, suggestions for pairing beers or wines with meals, and a review section for each brewery and winery.

How do you think the CT brewery trail and wine trail can better use social media? Please share your thoughts and ideas below!