Raising the Twitforks

Today, for the first time, I ran into the idea that there are groups of people — and I was called out as one of them — that lead Twitter “mobs” to “attack” breweries on their social media accounts.

This phenomenon was described as “Twitforking” — which I admit I find hilarious and creative, despite its pejorative connotations towards those to whom it is assigned.

But, I feel like maybe we need to take a minute to talk about how this perception came about, and what I (we) are actually trying to accomplish here.

So, I present to you, what happens when I attempt to address diversity, racism or sexism in beer marketing.

The first step is to have a value, a worldview, or a compassion about a topic and have a desire to express, defend and encourage that worldview onto others.

In my case, that value can be stated as the following:

“There is no reason why beer should be anything but inclusive to all who wish to enjoy it. Women, people of color, and GLBT people should have an opportunity to participate in craft beer as consumers, critics, or passive participants. Beer is not gender, sexual orientation or race specific.”

The ideal that I assign to craft breweries is one they originally espoused to themselves. They do not need to utilize sexist (or otherwise sexually targeted) marketing to sell their beer — ideally their craft, creativity and quality should be the focus of the selling points.

I’ve been accused of “looking to be offended” and my response to that is two fold. First, I’m not “offended” by any of this stuff. I simply find it inappropriate for the craft beer industry to use.

Second, I am curious by nature, and I find things that perplex me all the time. I am finding these instances because, frankly, they’re in my face, and I don’t see anyone else asking after them.

So here’s how I do this. I have a worldview (see a few paragraphs ago). I then come across something that is not in line with that worldview.

I then reach out to the brewery in an official capacity. Quietly, offline, through DMs, direct emailing, or other non-public commentary.

Because I continue to believe that craft brewers *want* to have a healthy customer base, I usually question their ultimate goal. Is this thing that they think isn’t a big deal something they are willing to lose customers over?

I don’t attack. I don’t shut down, I don’t rise to anger. I just question it. I ask for an explanation. I offer up the reasons why a certain label, name, or action is exclusionary or problematic.

Sometimes I get no answer at all. In fact, most of the time this is the case. Other times, I get a very dismissive response to my concerns.

When there is no response, or a completely dismissive one, I then open the conversation to a larger audience. Usually via Twitter.

What I post is publicly available information. A photo of the label, for example. I then accompany the post with the same reasons that I offered the brewery in the first place, albeit in a public sphere.

I don’t post private conversations, I don’t attempt to trick the brewery into saying something on the record when I have not informed them of such. And I comment on publicly available materials.

When people agree, they usually also contact the brewery in the way in which they are comfortable. Some do it via DM, some do it publicly.

I appreciate this support, but I do not ask for it. I don’t call on people to give low star ratings or to damage a business, but I will engage with those who want to talk about it further.

I also make an attempt to inform people involved in the social-media based conversation about updates to the situation. Has the brewery posted a statement, for example.

Most of the time, I really just want to educate. Sometimes, the brewery has no idea that the connotation is as repellant as it is to an underrepresented group.

I’ve talked before about how this isn’t about a specific brewery — but about how these labels and marketing materials contribute to an echo chamber that craft beer simply cannot afford.

You can’t survive for 30 years as a brewery on ‘bros’ alone.

I am working these issues from a place of love, not anger. I want our craft beer industry to be better, and I want more people in craft beer. Period.

To go to the easiest, crudest joke, or to not be aware of the unspoken messages of your marketing hurts recruitment of new craft beer drinkers for the entire industry.

So, I’m gonna continue to question these things, in the most professional way I know how. Thanks for allowing me the space to do that — and thank you for listening.