From the brainchild of Richard Stabile of Long Island Distillers makers of LiV vodka, Rough Bourbon and Pine Barrens Single Malt comes one of the best Rye’s I’ve tasted all year. What makes this rye so special is its aging and select finishing in wine barrels. The spirit is first aged for a minimum of four years in newly charred American oak casks. After aging it’s then finished in selected merlot and chardonnay casks. The result is a rye with a tremendous depth of flavor and a lingering finish. Speaking of “finish’, I just finished another bottle myself and the results are thus. Enjoy!
APPERANCE: A light copper color with legs that scurry down the glass. Swirling gives a nice feel of the depth of the spirit within.
NOSE: Initial flavors of oak, vanilla and spicy heat emerge. Second nose gives toasted wood, bread and some dried fruits.
TASTE: First sip is buttery with apricot some caramel and “merlot” flavors in its expression. The mouth feel is rich with flavors that demonstrates its balance. Both sides of the cheeks are coated with butter and spice that caress not overpowers the senses. The finish goes on forever with a velvety texture and flavors of caramel, toasted oak, butter and heat all at once. This is one of the most balanced and complex Rye’s I’ve tasted.
CONCLUSION: With Bull Moose Three Barrel Rye Long Island Distillers has produced probably my favorite spirit to date. This Rye delivers a cacophony of flavors on the palate and lingers on and on. This exceeded my expectations of rye and what can be done with it. The finishing in wine casks creates tastes and nuances that makes this a true sipping spirit. I’ve enjoyed most everything Rich Stabile has been putting out as of late but if I had to venture off with the “Rough Riders” and could bring only one spirit, this would be the bottle that I’d saddle up with.
Everyone knows IPCPR is one of the largest cigar events of the year in the United States. Thousands of cigar brands, retailers, bloggers, and other enthusiasts descend to smoke and purchase the newest blends from the hottest brands. Any high-energy, well-publicized event like IPCPR presents a great opportunity for companies willing to leverage social media to get exposure to tens of thousands of cigar smokers on social media.
So who were the top performers at IPCPR this year? The results are below. But first a note: these results are not comprehensive. They do not cover all cigar brands at IPCPR (that would be impossible), nor do they cover all social media platforms. I limited my statistical analysis to the previous 7 days of tweeting activity on Twitter because its open environment allows me to get the most detailed information. Yes, it is one platform among many, but the stats sill tell a solid story. Nonetheless, I have also included a some anecdotal analysis because there were some brands who made some spectacular plays on other networks like Facebook (i.g. Alec Bradley sends first cigars into space). If you’re wondering why I didn’t include more brands (even big ones), it is because this kind of research takes a lot of work and I was looking for representative samples.
Rankings are based on total number of company mentions during the week of IPCPR.
Drew Estate dominated social media this year, with Rocky Patel and Alec Bradley coming in second and third. We’ll go into the how and why’s of it in a minute. But quickly I should explain that the “Total company mentions” column on the right is not the sum of “hashtag mentions” and “ipcpr mentions” – it includes more tweets, like those that @ mention the company, use slang terms for the company, etc. Thus it is the most comprehensive metric, and the one which judged rankings.
How did Drew Estate do it?
Drew Estate crushed it this year for a few reasons:
Drew Estate made a concerted effort to draw their customers into the IPCPR experience using an IPCPR hashtag.
Drew Estate posted across multiple platforms – Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, achieving a maximum reach across platform audiences. They were also smart in posting content across platforms (i.e. their Facebook page is full of their YouTube interviews).
Company employees were active on social and responded/thanked users who submitted posts with #DEipcpr.
Drew Estate did a fantastic job and all cigar companies could learn a thing or two on how to engage customers and increase brand loyalty.
Honorable mention: Alec Bradley
Alec Bradley didn’t have nearly as much social momentum during IPCPR 2013, but they deserve an honorable mention here for the sheer creativity of their marketing approach. While in Vegas, they made history by launching the first cigars into space. Yeah. The post had 11 shares, over a hundred likes, and a lot of comments. I estimate this post had a viral reach in the tens of thousands, and will be posted around the internet for a long time to come.
Way to go Alec Bradley!
What about Rocky Patel?
I’m a big fan of Rocky Patel cigars – great flavor, incredibly consistent construction, awesome pricing too. Their performance on social this year, however, wasn’t so much the result of the company having a solid social media strategy. A cursory glance around their networks revealed that they didn’t put a lot of effort into getting people involved this year, indicating they were riding on existing brand excitement.
Rocky Patel vs Alec Bradley
If you want to see what a bad approach to social media looks like, just take a look at the Rocky Patel Facebook page as compared to a brand like Alec Bradley. Here is the Rocky Patel Facebook page:
Note that there is no visual content, very little interaction from page fans, and it really ends up just being a feed for events. The page is visually unappealing and doesn’t represent the brand well at all. It is, in short, really boring. Whoever is managing their page needs to correct course if they want to get any value from their Facebook page – right now it is a waste.
Now take a look at Alec Bradley’s stream. They have roughly the same amount of page fans, but look how their rate of interaction is literally 50x that of Rocky Patel’s page:
The lesson? Be creative, use visual content, and try to act like you care about your Facebook fans enough to give them good content!
Congratulations to Drew Estate and Alec Bradley for putting on a stellar performance with social media at this year’s IPCPR!
Want to learn how to kick ass and make money with social media? Take a look at our most recent guides:
In our last post, we looked at how to use Facebook to increase brand awareness and communicate with your fans and customers. In this post, we’ll take an in-depth look at how to use Instagram to connect with current and potential customers and drive sales.
First, a few basics on Instagram that should shape your strategy. Instagram is unique in that it is entirely image based. This makes it extremely valuable for enticing other Instagram users to purchase your product. This also means that Instagram is not the platform you want to use to make basic announcements about your business, unless you have marketing images appropriate to Instagram.
So now let’s talk about how to get your Instagram account set up!
We’ll start our how-to with the most important tips you need to know to set up and, just as important, launch your Instagram presence. From there we’ll look at a few tips for quickly building a large following of relevant users (i.e. potential customers). Then we’ll look at the part you’re excited about: how to make money on Instagram. Just remember: each step below is important.
It goes without saying that your username should ideally be the name of your company. This will help your customers and fans find you easily. Aside from that, follow these basic guidelines:
Important: skip the “find friends” screens that will pop up immediately after creating your account. This comes later.
Your “bio” section should include a brief description of your company, and if possible either your marketing slogan or the handles for your Twitter and other social accounts.
Be sure to add your website to the “website” field.
In your account settings, connect your Instagram account to your Twitter feed unless you plan on posting images separately on Twitter (better, but takes a lot more time).
Upload at least eight or nine photos creative captions to your account. Please: make your photos good. Bad photos count against your brand, not for it.
Now that your profile is set up, it is time to launch. Go into your options menu and tap “find friends.” From there, hit “Facebook friends.” You’ll be prompted to connect your Facebook account to you Instagram profile. Do it.
Now you’ll see a screen with a list of all of your Facebook friends on Instagram. Hit the “Follow All” button. This will act as a notification for all of your friends on Instagram to check out your account, and since you’ve already posted content, they will likely hit the “Follow” button back!
But we can boost your initial following even more. Here are some ideas:
Go back to the “find friends” screen, and add friends from your phone contact list. Hit the “follow all” button again.
Announce on your other social networks that you have launched your Instagram presence. Be sure to include your best photo in the post so people have an immediate understanding of the value of your content.
Use any company email lists to send an email blast to your current customers and contacts. If you go this route, be sure that your email is polished and professional. After all, if your email isn’t visually appealing, why would anyone want to follow you on Instagram?
Immediately following your launch, you will notice a big bump in your follower count as your friends and fans connect with your account. This is good, but it is only the beginning!
Here are a few best practices to remember that will help you build your Instagram audience:
Post at least once a day. Two or even three times if possible, while maintaining relevant content.
Use hash tags. Hash tags group photos from different users under similar interests, and will help other users find you. A few common cigar related hashtags are: #cigar, #cigars, #cigaraficionado, #cigarsociety, #cigarian. There are many, many more.
Like photos under hash tags like #cigars. Every time you like someone’s photo, they get a notification. Many times, getting a like will pique a person’s interest, and they will often follow you after visiting your profile. This is one of the fastest ways to grow a profile.
Link your Instagram account to your Facebook and Twitter profiles. This will cross polinate your social media followings.
If someone comments on one of your photos, RESPOND! The users who comment on your photos are the most likely to become your next loyal customers. Don’t shut them out or they’ll lose interest and go somewhere else.
If you’ve done this well, you should end up with something like this (another account I built):
Ok, so you’ve followed the steps above and you have yourself a solid Instagram account running. Now you might be wondering, “How do I sell my product on Instagram?” It’s pretty easy and just takes a bit more work.
Take badass pictures. Nothing is more attractive to a customer than a picture of your product on an exotic beach, on top of a skyscraper, with a famous celebrity, or in any other unique situation. If your pictures are blurry or just plain unenticing, don’t expect anyone to want to purchase your product.
Reach out to your commentors. After a week or two, you’ll notice that other Instagram users are commenting on your photos. If users are interested enough to interact with you – they’re probably interested enough or almost interested enough to buy your product. Start keeping a list of the individuals who comment on your photos. When you have a solid list of 10-15 names, start tagging them in your photos or mentioning them in the comments below your next shot. Here’s a good example of how this works (see below).
Recommend cigars to your Instagram followers. Imagine you have a personalized retail experience online, where a professional is reaching out to you and recommending a product. How likely are you to take the recommendation? Statistically, the answer is “very likely.” Try posting a picture of a cigar, and recommending the cigar to a few of your followers using the @ mention.
Post your crazy awesome deals. You must run sales at some point or another, right? Well, it’s likely that one or all of your sales is worth a mention on social media. Next time you run a cigar sale, take a picture of the cigars that are on sale and drop a caption using non-salesy language. Avoid “x cigar is on sale today. hooray.” and go with something like “Do you love the Fuente Opus X?! Well get your ass down to the shop because they’re half off!” (admittedly, this would be a truly sick deal, but it’s just an example).
Here’s an example from a client I was managing on recommendations/tagging:
Keep in mind, these are only ways to get direct sales on Instagram (where someone says, “yes, I will buy that). Social is powerful, however, in that it leads to many indirect sales by heightening the exposure of your brand in general (more visibility, trust, yada yada).
So there you have it. An awesome guide on how to use Instagram to look badass, be badass, and sell lots of cigars (or anything else, honestly). Pretty simple right? The key here is to be creative and actually interact with your audience. After all, it’s called social media for a reason!
In our next post, we’ll look at strategies for using Google+ effectively and giving your company an exposure boost.
Year after year, dozens of new boutique cigar companies hoping to make it big enter the market. But as we all know, cracking the nut that is the cigar industry is difficult. So what separates the winners from the losers? One major business component successful cigar companies include in their strategy is the writing and distribution of press releases.
This applies to small, mid, and large sized companies. Every cigar business owner that is serious about promoting and growing their business should have some sort of strategy for press releases, especially before major conventions like IPCPR.
Here are 6 reasons you should write a press release:
1. Your new product won’t announce itself
So you’ve just blended a new cigar and you put it to market. But who knows about it? Don’t expect cigar shops or customers to be familiar with your brand if you aren’t putting your best foot forward. Small and mid-sized businesses don’t have the luxury of a large audience of customers and media professionals to catch and amplify product announcements posted on your Facebook page. A press release, distributed to the right people, will ensure that cigar related websites and the blogosphere are getting your new product announcement out to the widest possible audience.
2. Press Releases boost website SEO
Press releases often include anchor text and hyperlinked urls to your company website. When google crawls the internet and finds 15 more websites linking your website with terms like “cigars,” “cigar industry,” “maduro cigars,” etc, Google interprets this as your page being an authority on that keyword, and places your website higher in searches for those terms. That boost in search can drive new sales and lead to important business opportunities.
3. Your Press Release will go social
Many websites, especially blogs, post Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr updates whenever a new post goes up on their site. If your product announcement is posted on ten blogs, or referenced in blog posts, you will achieve substantial social media exposure, earning you more brand awareness that can lead to sales and other opportunities.
4. The world wants to hear about your product or announcement
It’s easy for a small business to feel like no one is listening, but those businesses often aren’t talking. The truth is, there are tens of thousands of cigar enthusiasts who are looking for the next great cigar. If you are in the business, then you believe in your product. Why not tell them about it?
5. You need the media to notice
When press releases are distributed, important media contacts will be made aware of your announcement. This often results in requests for interviews, product reviews, and other kinds of coverage. It is this coverage that will push your product to new markets and territories.
6. You need consistent exposure
Do you remember that company that you read about six months ago and never heard from again? Neither do I. By using press releases to announce new products, new hirings, or new branding strategies, you build brand equity. This is especially helpful for small or mid-sized cigar or spirits brands trying to open new accounts. If a shop owner has seen your company appear often online, he/she is much more likely to know about your brand and thus more likely to trust your product and place an order. Whiskey companies like Glenmorangie, Glenfiddich, Chivas, and others do this well – take a look.
So those are a few reasons you need to write and distribute a press release. Here are the reasons why you should work with me:
I deliver professional quality writing
I’ve been writing press releases for a long time, and they stack up well against any boutique PR firm. (ask me for samples)
I have my own distribution lists
Expect to pay at least $250 just to distribute your press release on any mainstream newswire service – these services may or may not deliver your releases to the right place. I have distribution lists of local cigar shops, bloggers, media contacts, and news websites. On average, my press releases are published on 10-15 cigar related websites.
I work one on one to craft a release that is consistent with your branding and message
You don’t want to hire a writer who will put your brand through a cookie-cutter press release template. I will meet with you in person or over the phone/email to hear the full story on your announcement and refine the release to your specifications.
My work in the cigar and spirits industry gives me an edge over other PR firms
I know how cigar and spirits companies want to represent themselves better than a non-industry writer. This means I’ll get you a release that you are more satisfied with, faster than anyone else.
Is it time for you to invest in a smarter public relations/marketing strategy? If so, send me an email for my work samples, rates, and any other questions you have. I also work with non-cigar/spirits related companies and individuals, so if you want a great press release but aren’t in cigars or spirits, I’ve got you covered.
In our last post, we looked at the importance and uses of the social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+. In this article, we’ll look at how to set up and launch your page, as well as a few practices for managing an effective (read:profitable) Facebook page.
This post is an introduction to best practices on Facebook. This post does not cover the nuances of Facebook advertising, integration with mailing lists and other social tools, or analytics – if you have a specific question on that, email me.
So now to get started. Order of operations is important with social media, so the next few posts on Twitter, Instagram, and Google+ will discuss setup and launch separately.
Setting up a Facebook page is fairly simple. First, go to this page to start your setup. After you have selected your page type, here are a few important steps:
Do NOT invite all of your current friends and contacts to “like” your page before it is completely set up. You have one chance at a first impression with your most loyal contacts, so you must make it count.
Include all business contact information in the relevant information sections. Everything. This means phone, website, email, physical address, p.o. box, fax. Everything.
Upload your company logo as your profile picture.
Upload a striking/interesting image for a cover photo that represents your product well. Make sure your image is high definition and not blurry (if it is a photo).
Add admins to your page using the “manage admin permissions” page in your page settings. Note: admins must have already “liked” the page.
Now, post your first update! This should be a message welcoming fans to your new page. Include a photo or group of photos with this post. I also suggest posting some other media rich content (videos, photos, audios, online interviews) for your audience to see when you launch the page.
Now you are ready to announce your page to the world! This is a critical step in getting early momentum. But keep in mind: the suggestions below can be used at any time, so they are still a good idea even if your page is already established.
Go to your company Facebook page, and invite all of your friends to like the page. If you are using Google Chrome, download the “Facebook Select All” extension so that you can invite hundreds of friends to like your page at one time.
Ask your employees to like the page. Then, copy/paste step 1, email it to everyone in your company, and ask them to invite their friends.
Use the “invite contact list” tool on Facebook to invite everyone in your email contact book to like your page.
If you have a company email list for customers, clients, fans, etc, upload that contact list (must be .csv file) to Facebook to invite all of those contacts to like your page.
Post a status update on your personal Facebook asking your friends to like your page.
Launch a Facebook give-away contest that encourages users to like your page.
Post a link to your Facebook page on your website, blog, and other social media profiles.
If you follow these steps , the next 48 will bring a spike in interaction, pageviews, and page likes.
Now it is time to build engagement with your page and attract a wider audience. Here are some do’s and don’ts for building your Facebook audience:
Post at least once a day.
Post creative and friendly content that gives fans an inside look at your company or product.
Post images, videos, and links to interesting content, always writing a caption to explain the importance of the content.
Ask your fans questions that get at the heart of their experience of your product.
Offer special, exclusive deals to your Facebook fans.
Respond to any comment, concern, or critique within 24 hours.
Ask your fans to connect with you on other social networking sites.
Host contests and other giveaways to encourage word of mouth reach.
Announce new products and tell customers where they can buy your products.
Use Facebook advertising to increase your fans and reach new customers (detailed explanation on that here).
Be creative and don’t take yourself too seriously!
Continually repost marketing materials (this content gets very boring and will cause people to unlike your page).
Post irrelevant content about politics, religion, or humor.
Post content presenting any other company, person, or group of persons in a negative light.
Post updates expressing frustrations. Keep it positive.
Let your page become out of date. This reflects very poorly on your company.
To give an idea of what good content looks like, and how good content leads to more exposure, take these two event posts from My Father Cigars and Camacho Cigars:
Obviously, the fact that Camacho has 20x more Facebook fans has something to do with the difference in engagement. But even a cursory glance indicates that taking time to craft a post will result in more likes, shares, and comments. The post by Camacho Cigars features a well thought out image, a clear explanation of the post, and a link to the event page. Additionally, a fan commented and received a swift reply. In contrast, the My Father post above is plain, and very long. The post was also reposted three times in a row, making the My Father facebook page look uninviting.
Of course, that’s just one example. Each company has a different strategy for creating content. The challenge is to refine your strategy by listening to your audience and understanding what it wants.
To learn more about how to create the best content on Facebook, I suggest reading these articles:
There you have it. How to set up, launch, and maintain an effective and profitable Facebook page. It is true, this is only the tip of the iceberg–we haven’t covered how Facebook advertising can shoot sales through the roof or how to integrate Facebook into your broader marketing strategy, but this post is a good start. The key is to stay creative, resourceful, and attentive to your audience.
If you follow the instructions above, you should be well on your way to building a successful and profitable Facebook page. In our next post, we’ll look at some of the best practices for using Twitter to sell products and build valuable business relationships.