Insights / social-media

Alcohol + Social Media = A Bit Blurry

Have you ever visited the websites of alcohol-related companies such as Budweiser or Absolut vodka? If you have, chances are you’ve had to confirm your birth date. I’ve always found this to be sort of amusing because if I were, say 18 years old, I could easily tell a fib and get past the so-called screening process that the FTC requires.

Once inside the site, you’ll find fun things like downloads for images or wallpapers for your desktop, links to ads, videos of their commercials and much more.

You have to enter your birthdate for alcohol-related website, but what about social media channels? From what I’ve experienced, you don’t have to, which brings up a lot of interesting issues. I recently read an article in Brandweek entitled “Social Media Is Murky Area for Marketers” and there are some good points made here.

One of the main points is that alcohol-related brands are allowing minors to wander into their social media channels. As of now, there’s no real way to monitor this unless the brand aggressively self-polices itself and blocks users who are underage. Sounds like a lot of work and it could be a daunting task if you have a few hundred thousand fans, like the Coors Light Facebook page.

A few other good points from the article are:

– If you advertise alcohol on Facebook, make sure you’re targeting users who are 21+. No kidding?!?

– Twitter doesn’t require users to enter an age upon registration. Take a peek at the Smirnoff Twitter page. Wonder how many of those followers are under age? I like the ideas here of sharing drink recipes and so forth. Smirnoff also does a great job of creating conversation.

– The FTC is planning to issue a report in 2011 tallying up the number of minors wandering onto social media channels of alcohol-related brands. This should be interesting. The only outcome I can see happening here is that new laws will come into place banning alcohol-related brands from having any social media channels, or there may be the development of a more sophisticated age verification system further down the road.

Whatever the outcome is, the important thing here is to remember “responsible engagement”, as quoted from the article. More importantly, no matter what kind of brand you are, you need to actively monitor your social media channel. Don’t set it and forget it. Be involved, foster conversation, and if necessary, remove those who violate your rules and, in some cases, the law. One thing I would recommend, like the Coors Light page smartly does, is to post a notice that states your rules. Well done, but it could be spelled out more clearly in the Info tab or by creating a customized FBML tab as well.

Curious to know, what are your thoughts on the issue?