It’s a big enough challenge to create just one online presence for a company. MillerCoors is building two.
Digital Media Specialist Sonal Mehta explained the process to an audience at SocialMedia.org’s BlogWell Chicago conference. On one hand, Mehta said,
there’s the MillerCoors brand itself, which the company has never marketed as a brand, even though Miller and Coors merged in 2008. On the other, there’s
Tenth and Blake, the company’s craft-beer division.
The two sides of the company generally stay separate and maintain vastly different personae—one more corporate, the other more personal—though they have
crossed over in dealing with a crisis.
Mehta said she keeps a content calendar for MillerCoors, whose Miller Lite and Coors Light brands only joined Twitter
in the past few months. She says those accounts are intended for media, distributors, employees, and consumers with the purposes of brand building, crisis
prevention, and consumer affairs in mind.
The company is still working on social media guidelines for employees, said Mehta, who uses an enterprise version of Hootsuite to manage the accounts.
Meanwhile, Tenth and Blake’s Twitter presence has almost entirely been one personal account: Digital and Consumer Media Outreach Specialist Lisa Zimmer’s @Zimmerino. That’s soon to change, Zimmer said, when the @TenthandBlake account becomes fully active.
Zimmer focuses more on brewers, beer bloggers, and beer connoisseurs, she said.
Her challenge is to prove that Tenth and Blake is a collection of authentic craft brewers under the MillerCoors banner, she said, not faux craft
beer made by a big company. Zimmer said she regularly directs people to information about the Tenth and Blake brands, which include Blue Moon and
Leinenkugel’s, which don’t have their own Twitter presences.
She’s constantly warding off accusations of being phony. For example, when one brewer joked on Twitter that he was going to start a company called “11th and Blatantly Fake,” Zimmer stepped in and simply asked him to be her friend. He couldn’t help but acquiesce.
“I look at about 100 beer blogs a day,” Zimmer said, as she looks at ways to help brands move into social spaces.
Mehta also finds herself on the defensive sometimes, but for different reasons.
In the waning hours of 2011, she asked for users’ New Year’s resolutions, offering that MillerCoors plans to reduce its energy and water use by 15
percent. A critic responded derisively, “Does that mean you’re going to make 15 percent less crappy beer?”
Mehta let the comment lie, and before long, another Twitter user stepped in to recommend two MillerCoors brands the snarker might like.
This spring, the two divisions had their “first big test” of working together, Zimmer said, when a competing brewer accused Tenth and Blake of a pretty
serious no-no in the beer world. After a brewer lost a draft handle in a local bar to a Tenth and Blake beer, it accused the company on Twitter of paying
to put its beers in bars, a practice that’s illegal.
“It’s a really sensitive issue, because we do have a distributor relationship to be mindful of,” Mehta said.
So Tenth and Blake pulled in its own media relations and legal teams as well as the larger MillerCoors’ teams to decide how to respond. Ultimately, Zimmer
said she wouldn’t casually discuss the accusation on Twitter, as damaging as it could be.
“We decided not to issue any official statement,” she said. “We share a distributor with this particular brewer.”
Eventually, the brewer in question issued an apology and deleted the offending tweets, though Zimmer noted that the apology got considerably fewer retweets
than the original accusatory tweet.
“It kind of read as an angry salesperson having a bad day,” she said.
A key reason MillerCoors took some time getting to Twitter is that the company has to be careful about the ages and behaviors of its followers. On
Facebook, age verification is built into the platform; on Twitter, the company has to direct-message followers to verify their ages and block them if they
MillerCoors has a policy that it has to delete or remove any content that acknowledges underage drinking, Mehta said. She said Twitter is working on an age
And what about all of Zimmer’s personal tweets on her @Zimmerino account? All that won’t be a problem when @TenthandBlake is fully operational, she said.
But she also said she makes sure her personal tweets never cross a line.
“My parents follow me on Twitter, so that keeps me honest,” Zimmer said.
Matt Wilson is a staff writer for Ragan.com.