Hello, I'm a Ginfluencer

An honest look at gin's growing popularity on social media.

Published: 27th June 2020

The Gin Community

The growth of gin has not only seen an impressive number of new brands and gin businesses come to market, but it’s also inspired people from all walks of life to share their love of the spirit category. People discovering gin for the first time, people rediscovering gin, gin connoisseurs, gin bloggers, gin influencers, gin communicators along with several unique businesses created to further the reputation of gin. And of course the gin makers and brand owners, supply chain partners and other companies who provide professional services. We consider all to be part of the gin community that we know.

Gin’s popularity has inspired the organic growth of the gin community who, without a doubt, have a part to play in gin’s success, especially here in the UK. With the likes of Gin Foundry, which started as a gin blog in 2010, established by brothers Olivier and Emile Ward, the brothers have been covering the story of gin for over a decade. Respected by gin brands and the gin community alike for their dedication and commitment to the gin category, Gin Foundry continues to publicise and promote what the world of gin has to offer through their website, editorial features, Ginvent, Junipalooza events, and more. Olivier was also awarded IWSC Spirit Communicator of The Year 2017 in recognition of his work.

Emma Stokes AKA Gin Monkey is responsible for the growth and success of World Gin Day. What started as an excuse to get together with like-minded gin drinkers and friends in 2009 has become THE day in the drinks global calendar to celebrate gin. This year, perhaps more than ever, created some unexpected and extraordinary challenges with the Covid-19 Pandemic and resulting global lockdown. World Gin Day 2020 was a massive success with gin makers and brands from across the world, turning to social media and digital content to help showcase their brands and products. And for anyone who missed it, a brilliant video was produced that saw gin makers pass a G&T around the world.

Paul Jackson, founder of The Gin Guide, which launched in 2015, has grown a loyal membership of international gin brands along with developing The Guide Awards and is well respected in the gin community. Editorial features, reviews and more can be found on the website providing a vast resource of information for anyone looking to learn more about gin. Paul also established Australian Gin Day in 2019 as a platform for showcasing Australia’s thriving gin sector.

Emira Shepherd and Paul Hudson-Jones started blogging about their love of gin as a hobby and a way of sharing what gins they were enjoying. They soon realised there was a gap in the market for the kind of gin events they wanted to attend. In 2017, they established The Gin To My Tonic, which over the last three years has seen thousands of consumers and brands come together at one of their gin focused shows. Covering bother smaller scale festivals and large scale shows, Paul and Em have worked hard to build both their The Gin To My Tonic brand and events that help showcase brands and generate sales, along with keeping true to their own ethos and values – great gin deserves a great gin show.

Caroline Childerley, The Gin Queen, has been a champion of gin and in particular the Australian Gin scene and has been instrumental in supporting and championing Australia’s gin makers and brands, initially launching her website and business in 2013. Not only was she the first Australian member of the UK based Gin Guild, Caroline was recognised as Gin Magazine’s Icons of Gin Communicator of the Year 2020.

KD Media, the team behind The Scottish Gin Awards, created an awards format that puts the focus squarely on Scottish Gin and year on year has provided an industry-focused evening that sees Scotland’s gin makers, supply chain and more come together. Judging is done under strict conditions, and the judging panel is made up of drinks industry experts, gin communicators, brand owners and business leaders. Awards participation has continued to grow year on year in terms of the number of entries, categories and success stories for the winners and finalists. It also provides on-going media coverage pre and post awards with a variety of global and national media coverage.

The above are just some examples of people and businesses who form part of the gin community. All, in our opinion, add value and something brilliant to the world of gin. There’s also a number of new and established bloggers whom we see day in, day out talking and sharing their love of gin through their social media channels. Gin A Ding Ding with her popular Gin A Day May, What’s Katie Doing, Ginteresting Times, From The Gin Shelf, Sipping & Styling, Nics Gin & Beer, Jenny In Brighton, Under the Ginfluence, Gin Obsessions, On The Sauce Again, The Gin Shelf, Dan Eats, Manchester Food Tourist, Ginsmagic… these are just some of the people we’ve had the pleasure of working with; the list is vast and varied.

And not everyone has to run a blog or post to their social media channels every day to share their love of gin. Some of the most knowledgeable people we know, who are literally like walking encyclopaedias about gin, spirits, drinks, mixology, do not write blogs or run gin related businesses, but they are passionate, and it shows. The Ginasium, The Real Juniper Chick, Brim & Tonic are just three gin connoisseurs we’ve discovered and love following on social media.

A new age of marketing

Social media and gin are a great pairing, a bit like a good G&T when mixed in the correct measures. Yet, use the wrong ratio, tonic or gin for that matter and suddenly it’s bland and mediocre. Social media is no different. 

With the advent of social media, businesses and brands have had to adapt their marketing strategies to include the fast moving digital world of social media. With an estimated 2.6 billion people using Facebook alone each month, Instagram more than 1 billion active monthly users, how businesses and brands use social media to engage with potential customers has never been more important. A photo on Instagram or video on YouTube can reach millions of people in just a few hours and with video predicted to make up more than 82% of all consumer internet traffic by 2022, it’s little wonder YouTube is the world’s second most popular website after Google.

As the use of social media continues to grow, so have the various ways of targeting potential customers. Targeted advertising campaigns tailored to each social media platform with different tailored metrics and objectives. Interactive content that gets an audience to take part in surveys or competitions. The importance of social media for nearly every business sector is now undeniable, even more so for businesses with e-commerce, where social media provides the opportunity to highlight offers, sales and drive traffic to an e-commerce platform.

Unlike some traditional marketing and advertising formats, social media provides brands and businesses with the chance for consumers to experience and engage directly with your brand through their smart phone, laptop or even TV. Without a doubt, when used strategically, sensibly and carefully, social media can provide businesses with the chance to tell their story, build meaningful brand engagement and build a loyal audience.

On the flip side, not every business or brand gets it right, and the same applies to gin. Scotch whisky producers for the most part strike that fine balance of presenting their brand story in a way that carefully combines values, history and heritage, the use of great visual story telling through photography and video. Many capture the craft of distilling and qualities that make their products premium. The same can’t always be said for gin and although heritage and target markets differ, many gin brands could follow some of the examples set by how other spirit producers present their brands to the consumer. 

The era of “sex sells” and “all PR is good PR” is over. With more and more people now able to express opinions directly through a brand’s social media channels, how gin brands use social media, just like any other industry, is extremely important. The recent example of a gin brand using the global Black Lives Matter movement as a gimmick on social media was crass, naive and extremely distasteful. 

It’s frustrating when we see gin brands telling a great story through a post on social media about their craft and their fantastic products, then fast forward a few days later and they post a meme of someone lying drunk in a gutter. How gin is presented on social media can be fun, it can provide a giggle, but it should always be real and it should always add value to the brand and the wider gin category. 

The Influencer vs The Blogger

With social media strategy now a key aspect of any marketing plan, a relatively new way of marketing a product, service or brand has grown from the popularity of social media – working with influencers and bloggers. The terms influencer and blogger are often confused as being the same thing and although there can be some cross over, the two are very different.

According to the Tapinfluence and Altimeter Study on the state of influencer marketing, 69.4% of influencers interviewed said their main inspiration for setting up their influencer account was to earn money. Only 57.5% said they hoped their influencer account would make an impact or cause change.

Often an influencer will have a high number of followers and post content to their social media channels on a daily basis. Influencers will seek to collaborate and work with brands, using social media to help promote the brand. It could be a product review, a how-to video or content that the influencer has been asked to post by a brand. Sometimes a brand will send an influencer free products or gifts without any strings attached or influence from the brand over what the influencer does with the gift.

The term Influencer covers a wide gamut of accounts on social media from high-profile celebrity accounts with millions of followers to Micro-Influencers whose following on social media may sit between 1,000 to 100,000 followers. The Influencer Marketing Hub 2019 survey results showed that Instagram was their most important social media channel with 79% voting for Instagram, 46% for Facebook and 36% for YouTube. Instagram’s popularity may be due to the fact that it combines images, videos and text content that can be generated relatively quickly without much investment required, often a mobile phone is all that’s needed. Facebook and YouTube can prove more difficult and time consuming creating content and each platform also has its own upsides and downsides.

Love it or loathe it, the term influencer is here to stay. But unlike some of the more traditional advertising and marketing formats, the variables and metrics used to measure sales off the back of a targeted marketing campaign for example, the ROI from Influencer Marketing can be very difficult to measure. There’s also the key metric of engagement, along with impressions and reach. There’s little value if someone has 150,000 followers and their engagement rate is very low for an account of their size.

There is some cross over between an influencer and blogger. Both use their social media channels to share a message. For an influencer this might be promoting a brand, for a blogger this might be sharing an editorial feature. Both might work in partnership and collaboration with a brand. Both may generate commercial opportunities through their websites and social media activities.

With the first blog accredited to Justin Hall, who coded a webpage for himself in 1994, where he could share his personal bio and some updates about his life. It wasn’t until 1997 the term ‘weblog’ was coined by Jorn Barager, who created the phrase to represent ‘logging the web’ as he browsed. Although weblog was shortened to blog in 1999, it was 2003 before American reference company Merriam-Webster declared the word Blog their ‘word of the year’.

Often run by one person, a blogger, along with their blog, can help its creator share their life events, hobby or a topic of interest. Blogs are a brilliant way of discovering content related to something you enjoy and come in all shapes and sizes, covering every topic you can imagine. WordPress has grown to be a popular platform for creating a blog with approximately 70 million posts published each month by WordPress users. Being able to quickly share updates, information, editorial and more, without the need for web design skills, has meant bloggers can build brands and businesses around their chosen topic. Some build businesses around themselves as people. Some build their blog around a subject they’re passionate about. Travel, food, music and of course gin.

The gin community has a number of great bloggers who publish gin related content on a regular basis. Many in their spare time along with their full-time jobs. Some have been able to build recognisable brands and help showcase gin through their reviews and help brands spread their message. Often the gin community can provide gin makers and brand owners with an army of brand ambassadors and brand champions, who if the gin is any good, will be happy to provide their feedback. Gin blogs provide a wealth of great gin content all in one place, often with an injection of the blogger’s own personality and life experiences. Not only can you get to know someone through their writing, but also how they conduct themselves on their social media channels, how they engage with others and what they contribute to the gin community.

The best gin bloggers don’t make themselves the focus of their blog. They strike that fine balance of personality, great content and integrity. They curate and invest time in making their content not only look good but most importantly engaging and adding value to the brand or topic featured. Where appropriate, they do their best to make sure promotions or collaborations are easy to identify. They also abide by best practice when using social media. They don’t buy followers or likes. They don’t use follow/unfollow or like/unlike to try and create a false number of followers to following ratio. They also don’t like content for the sake of liking content because they’ve agreed with others it’s the best way of improving your low engagement. And this is partly where the problem can lie for gin bloggers, influencers and trust placed by gin makers and brands.

The growth of the gin community

As the world of gin has grown, so has the number of gin related accounts on social media. Businesses, groups, clubs, bloggers, societies and more can be found on social media, sharing their love and passion for the juniper based spirit. The social media accounts about gin are endless. People posting about new additions to their gin collection or getting creative at home with cocktails. You don’t have to look far to find gin related posts on social media. It feels like gin and social media provides many people with an outlet for their creativity and as we know ourselves, gin and social media are also helping to provide a range of community spaces where people can talk gin, swap gin samples, be super nerdy or just take part now and again.

It’s what social media was created for: connecting, educating, inspiring. You don’t need a blog to prove you love gin and no one should ever be made to feel they can’t use social media to share their love of gin, as a hobby or as part of their business. However, for those who want to start a blog or try and build a business or brand around their love of gin things can get complicated. Fast.

The rules and regulations about working with influencers and bloggers vary from country to country. For example, in Germany you have to register your blog as a business if it generates any income as you’re no longer classed as a hobby blogger. It is without a doubt a lot more complicated than some think but there are a number of fantastic resources available that can help. And this is where terminology, and some best practices come into play.

Growing a genuine, real, engaged audience on social media is a slog. More so for those who aren’t actually making gin but want to establish their brand, make their voice and content heard – be taken serious in the gin community. It’s true that behind every social media account is a person and that’s something that should never be forgotten. Discovering gin is an amazing thing and can be something that leads to establishing a business, a blog or creating social media channels to help you share your story and the stories behind the gins you like.

Social media for us as a business has proven to be a fantastic tool that not only lets us share our own content but also helped us connect and discover other like-minded people in the gin community. We love finding a new gin account and seeing new content. We love reading great posts from established bloggers and gin communicators. We love learning something new about gin. We look to a number of gin bloggers for information, inspiration, education, support and, in our opinion, something that’s just as important, if not more, friendship. 

We have come to know a number of fantastic gin bloggers who we consider to be more than just bloggers. Even the title ‘blogger’ often doesn’t do justice to the brilliant content we see created. Stunning images, in-depth features creatively written, lovely, engaging and carefully curated reviews. There is some truly brilliant and inspiring content being produced.

Business, just like life, can be a lot easier and more fun when you meet and get to know like-minded people. Building relationships around a common goal or purpose, we believe, is what’s at the heart of the gin community. We all want to see the gin category continue to grow. We all want to see gin brands succeed. Gin brands of all sizes are looking at the gin community for support to help them share their stories and showcase their gins. For this to be of any value to both the gin brand and the blogger or influencer, there has to be shared values and integrity for both brand and content creator, because when all is said and done, the brand is putting their trust in someone to talk about their brand in an honest and constructive way that helps the reader form a valid impression.

Doing things right

Social media stats can be manipulated. Followers, likes and even comments can be bought. On the face of it, a gin brand seeing an account with 150,000 followers will have a lot of appeal. That’s 150,000 potential new customers who could discover their gin. And yet the reality is, that account may have bought followers. There could be any number of reasons a business, brand, blogger or influencer opts to buy followers, and it’s not a practice we agree with. With the right tools and time, accounts buying followers can be easily identified. For example, an account that gains 24,190 new followers in 11 days would mean gaining on average 2,199 followers a day. That kind of growth simply does not happen. Buying followers long term will result in some very skewed analytics and if push comes to shove, they are a red flag for any brand looking to partner with a blogger or influencer. And with the on-going push for more transparency and holding social media channels to account for publication of false news and content, how long before social media channels start to flag up accounts that buy followers? Or start to clean their networks for the bot created accounts used by many of the fake followers apps used to generate millions of fake accounts? 

There is the issue of trust between gin brands and others in the gin community and how anyone who doesn’t play by the rules has the potential to jeopardise and harm the reputation of many, many people who form a trusted, respected part of the gin community. Buying followers isn’t illegal but it is something that most frown upon. Buying followers to then project a big audience to wield influence over gin brands does neither party any favours in the long run. Like for like, comment for comment, follow/unfollow or other tactics used to manipulate stats, in the long run won’t do an account any favours. Especially if you get your account to a position where an agency for a gin brand is asking for your social media analytics.

Building a genuine audience through good content, hard work, developing relationships of trust and respect with not only gin makers but others in the gin community, should be the cornerstone of anyone who wants to build their own brand, business, or gin related social media accounts. With an increasing number of gin related accounts appearing on social media, we asked some members of the gin community for their thoughts.

Pam Lorimer, Blogger, Sipping & Styling

What do you think makes a good blog and how do they add value to gin brands?

For me, a good blog has to have personality. I don’t want just dry content reviews. I like to get a feel for the person and for their writing to reflect their lifestyle. I enjoy seeing reviews that relate to real life and aren’t just a copy of some marketing spiel. 

What do you think gin brands should look for when looking to work with the gin blogger community?

I think gin brands should look for the character behind the blog and work with people whose ethics and personality reflect the brand ethos and what they are trying to promote.

Do you think the term ginfluencer/gin blogger is being diluted by the number of new gin accounts popping up on social media?

I think the term influencer is a correct term, as that’s what people do and what we hope to achieve by our posts, but the word itself has become skewed and I don’t think it has a positive appeal to it now. So many blaggers and not enough quality content have diluted the industry and brands are as much to blame I think for not curating their marketing choices.

Paul Jackson, Founder, The Gin Guide

What do you think makes a good blog and how do they add value to gin brands?

Passion, personality and authenticity really make a blog/blogger stand out. If a blogger genuinely loves gin, it tends to come across clearly in social media content and blogs. Whether it’s informative content, behind the scenes insights and stories, tips and advice, opinion pieces or anything else, if passion, personality and authenticity are all evident then it stands to do well. But there’s no fixed formula, it’s often about finding that sweet spot in the Venn diagram where there’s a meeting of what you enjoy and what your readers/followers enjoy.

What do you think gin brands should look for when looking to work with the gin blogger community?

Looking for that passion, personality and authenticity is key. It’s worth getting to know a blogger, their posts/blogs, their style and how they work with brands first. Typically, the more you get to know each other the better the outcomes, the stronger the connection and the greater the chance of long-term advocacy and future opportunities; really that’s what it’s all about. It’s valuable when bloggers have a large audience, but only if they are engaged, gin-loving followers – so always look beyond those initial numbers.

Do you think the term ginfluencer/gin blogger is being diluted by the number of new gin accounts popping up on social media?

There are mixed views about bloggers/influencers across all industries, but many individual bloggers have a deservedly fantastic reputation with gin brands, gin lovers and the wider gin community. It’s perhaps more important now for gin brands to do due diligence before engaging with a gin blogger they don’t know, but individuals can certainly stand above any wider views of gin bloggers.

Dan Papworth Smyth, Blogger, Dan Eats

What do you think makes a good blog and how do they add value to gin brands?

The gin blogs I enjoy reading most have personality, show authenticity and knowledge, and beautiful photos that draw me in. These blogs have the power to tell stories and introduce people to businesses they want to support, flavours they want to taste, and are a window into the blogger’s own palette.

What do you think gin brands should look for when looking to work with the gin blogger community?

I think gin brands should look for people with their own voice, who write passionately and well about brands they want to support. People whose audience trust their judgement and recommendations, regardless of whether things have been gifted or purchased. I love when fellow bloggers have opened my eyes to gins and cocktails that I’ve never tried, those endorsements from people I respect and trust is where the value is. Not just because a post gets hundreds of likes.

Do you think the term ginfluencer/gin blogger is being diluted by the number of new gin accounts popping up on social media?

I think more people talking about gin is positive in lots of senses, especially given the subjectivity of taste. What I dislike though is the title of ‘ginfluencer’ being used solely as a means to get a freebie.

Jenny McLaren, Blogger, Jenny In Brighton

What do you think makes a good blog and how do they add value to gin brands?

I think a good blog is an honest and objective review of a gin, noting that everyone has different tastes and preferences. I personally hate anything that tastes strongly of orange, so I don’t enjoy that in a gin but always make a note that this is personally not for me, and I’m sure if you like orange you won’t have the same reaction. I think the value for the brand comes from two things 1 – added publicity and awareness of a brand (I know I’ve come across plenty of gins via other bloggers social media) and 2 – the trusted word of mouth that people have when reading blogs and reviews. You can have the best marketing campaign in the world, but I will always trust the opinion of people I know over paid advertising.

What do you think gin brands should look for when looking to work with the gin blogger community?

Numbers aren’t everything, I think they should have a look at the blogger’s offering, looking through their Twitter and Instagram feeds as well as reading their blog posts. I think it’s important to have an idea of who you are potentially aligning your brand with so you know (roughly) what to expect from working with someone. I think it’s important to look at the level of interaction they have with their audience, do they just throw out content or do they join conversations and debates.

Do you think the term ginfluencer/gin blogger is being diluted by the number of new gin accounts popping up on social media?

Yes. Everyone that has an Instagram account, a bottle of pink gin and a copa glass is now a gin blogger. Managing a blog and curating the content takes a surprising amount of work (it’s fun and enjoyable for sure, but also I’ve spoken to plenty of other bloggers who feel the pressure to constantly put out content alongside full time jobs and real life) and for someone to buy a bottle of gin in a supermarket and claim they are a supporter of craft gin feels a bit like what we do is pointless. I could still drink this much gin and not bother with the work involved in the blog. It’s great that so many people are excited about gin and sharing their love for it, but is taking a photo of a gin glass in your garden the same as being a blogger? Sorry, this is something that annoys me quite a lot when I remember the amount of stress and pressure I’ve put myself under and at points thought about closing my blog down, to see someone take a photo of their cheap pink gin and see it get a lot more attention on social media than a post I’ve spent an evening writing and proofing.

Inka Larissa, Spirits Communicator, On The Sauce Again

What do you think makes a good blog and how do they add value to gin brands?

I don’t believe in reviews. Yes, you can say why you like it or don’t like it but everyone’s taste buds are so different. I think blogs should describe the product and add interesting information about the brand’s backstory, how it’s made etc. This way, the consumer can really learn about the brands. It’s often the little interesting things such as a botanical or a unique distilling method that gets my attention. 

What do you think gin brands should look for when looking to work with the gin blogger community?

They should see if the blog’s style matches their brand and the clients they want to attract. Also look at a variety of other posts by the blogger. Sometimes you see these so called gin bloggers writing pretty much exactly the same review for each gin. That really doesn’t help the brand. 

Do you think the term ginfluencer/gin blogger is being diluted by the number of new gin accounts popping up on social media?

Yes. I consider myself as a content creator because I create material (photos, videos, articles) outside my blog. Influencer is not a great word and unfortunately you see many bloggers/instagrammers that are just after free products or money and they accept any product just to get paid. I never guarantee any material until I have tried the product and I decline the brands that I know I don’t like or don’t match my readership.

Katie Hughes, Gin Judge and Gin, Travel, Food & Lifestyle Blogger, What’s Katie Doing?

What do you think makes a good blog and how do they add value to gin brands?

A good gin blog is one that is run with passion. If you don’t love gin and its permutations, then you probably shouldn’t be running one! Bloggers can add value to brands by sharing the brands on social media for awareness, taking new photos of the brand’s gin, reviewing the gin and suggesting serves for it, as well attending and writing up/sharing events.

What do you think gin brands should look for when looking to work with the gin blogger community?

Brands need to consider if the bloggers / influencers share the same values. I would also caution brands to do their research and check out the blogger’s reach. Numbers are not the be all and end all, but you need to consider the return on your investment, like any other advertising. I also think that longer term partnerships are the way to go – build a relationship with the bloggers you like and they will be working with you for more than just the most recent product launch. 

However, if you do have a specific goal in mind, then also communicate this to your bloggers! Let them know the timelines and expected deliverables or if you just want feedback on a new gin etc.

Do you think the term ginfluencer/gin blogger is being diluted by the number of new gin accounts popping up on social media?

This is a tricky one – there is still a lot of passion for gin out there. However, I would definitely say look for the quality – look for awesome shots and captions on Instagram, look for detailed blogs, look for coverage on other social media sites too. This will all give you a better output from a relationship with a blogger / influencer. Being new and small shouldn’t count against people if they are showing professionalism and great content from the start.

Richard Spence, Blogger, Ginsmagic

What do you think makes a good blog and how do they add value to gin brands?

I think good content is key. A good photo or article will always grab my attention and encourage me to click a link or learn more about a brand. A good blog can help share the story of a brand or gin in a genuine way that’s free from marketing, sales or advertising smoke and mirrors. Good blogs can often add an extra level of trust about the gin brand or product being talked about.

What do you think gin brands should look for when looking to work with the gin blogger community?

It depends on what the brand is hoping to achieve? Increased sales, brand awareness, competition entries? I believe brands should look at the content being published and decide is this person and blog someone I want my brand to be associated with? If the brand has any doubts then move on and find someone whose content and conduct on social media is going to be beneficial. And it shouldn’t just be about number of followers either. 

Do you think the term ginfluencer/gin blogger is being diluted by the number of new gin accounts popping up on social media?

Yes. With the number of new gin related accounts appearing on social media, it sometimes feels like the terms gin blogger or ginfluencer are being used without much thought being given to the people who genuinely have earned the right to use these terms to promote and label what they do. Bloggers without a blog, ginfluencers promoting any gin that they can get sent for free.

Nurture, passion and integrity

The gin community we know is one of respect, fun, inspiration, education, friendship, support and collaboration. It is a place where opinions can be shared and a common love of gin can be celebrated. A digital space that, from time to time, transfers into the physical with tasting events, gin events or even just a Friday night at your favourite cocktail bar with others. The gin community, like gin, is something that should be accessible to all. If you love gin and want to share that on social media – fantastic, we can’t wait to see what gins you like and discover more about you as a person and your gin journey. Want to take that hobby to the next level and create a gin blog, do it. Want to develop a commercial business model around your gin obsession, take a leap of faith and make it work. But whatever path you choose, do it with respect, kindness, passion, hard work. Add value to the gin community, create, be inspired, inspire, raise the bar, be brave, be original, be great at what you do. Make the gin community proud.

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