Social Media, Facebook and the Booze Business

Quite a bit of press about social media in general and Facebook in particular this week. All of which, of course, relates to the booze business.

First, in the US, DISCUS (Distilled Spirits Council of the United States) has rolled out new guidelines for marketing on social media sites and digital platforms. According to what I read in Wine and Spirits Daily, the European Forum for Responsible Drinking has joined DISCUS in that initiative. Among other things, the DISCUS code requires that 71.6% of the audience be of legal drinking age.

Guess what? Nielsen data shows that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have legal drinking age audiences in excess of 80%. Nevertheless, the DISCUS guidelines (code of responsible practices) are clear and push hard in favor of responsibility. Those of us in the industry understand a basic principle in such matters – the appearance of impropriety is as bad as the impropriety itself. There are steps including “age gating,” monitoring of content and other restrictions. Good for you, DISCUS.

Next, we learned this week that Diageo and Facebook have worked out a multimillion-dollar deal to work together and share skills and resources for mutual benefit. The Guardian quotes a Diageo spokesperson as saying the deal will “drive unprecedented levels of integration and joint business planning and experimentation between the two companies.”

Translation – this is still a new medium and we can learn a lot from each other.

(This is one of those rare moments when I tip my hat to Diageo and applaud their initiative. Although, there was one item in the press that caught my eye and made me laugh. It was something like Diageo wants to tap Facebook’s large audience in markets like Brazil, where the two companies occupy the same office building in Sao Paolo. Oh, and if they were in a different part of town, no deal?)

In any event, in the UK, this new relationship did not go over well. From what I read online, the negative reaction ranged from “serious concerns” from the British Medical Association to “torches and pitchfork” rants from the anti-alcohol forces.

Come on people, Facebook and Diageo can target legal drinking age consumers and put up safe guards to keep young people out. You can’t do that with billboards or newspapers. Perhaps manufacturers should hand out blindfolds in front of every billboard in the UK where a young person is likely to walk past.

Finally, Facebook announced new features this week that include sharing more than just informing. They hope to become a “taste maker” and influencer of products and services. The reaction has been mixed with pundits and bloggers weighing in on both sides. An unscientific poll among Mashable readers indicates as much as 75% hate the news feed changes.

Time will tell whether the relationship between Facebook and Diageo is a smart move for both, or, Facebook will become the next social media darling to wane in its appeal. But with well over 300 million users worldwide, I continue to think that Diageo’s move was right on the money – despite how much it pains me to say that.

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