In July 2010, what had started life as a photo sharing app called Burbn was launched with seemingly perfect timing. Within months, Apple would release the iPhone 4 featuring the then revolutionary technology of a front facing camera – the landmark equivalent of Johannes Gutenberg's 1430’s printing press for the nascent selfie culture. In the near decade that has followed, the number of monthly users of the app now known as Instagram has grown to more than a billion, each creating, curating and contributing cat videos, herculean sporting achievements, food porn and more.
For many casual observers, Instagram is just another app. More digital detritus. Something else to keep on top of. Yet the reality is that the platform provides a new avenue of communication and engagement. Where Facebook is used more for connection and networking, Instagram is about visual sharing, storytelling and researching, not only with your friends but with the entire world.
This distinction, and its immediacy, are becoming increasingly important for many businesses; however, in the beer world, often it’s a new breed of blogger that’s doing the heavy lifting for breweries – the Beerstagrammer.
To kick off a new series, Hashtag Beer, Guy Southern (goodtimescraftbeer on Instagram) talks with one Australia’s best photo bloggers, Ash Oswald of Sips & Sessions, to understand more.
How did you get into sharing your beer love on Instagram?
Sips & Sessions began back in January 2016 with a love of craft beer [starting] well before that. To be totally honest, it started one night when I was trying out a new camera I had just bought and I just so happened to be drinking a mighty fine craft beer, which ended up getting in front of the camera for a few trial photos.
What’s your typical setup?
Being a graphic designer, I get to set up and take all the photos in my studio. So, yeah, there are camera and lights involved. I say it all the time, there is definitely nothing “Insta” about my “Grams”!
How would you describe your style?
Sips & Sessions definitely tries to have studio setup photography as the main feature. I really enjoy trying to style each photo to match each individual beer and mostly that is figured out well before I take the photo. So, there is quite a bit of planning that goes into each shot.
Changes to social media platform algorithms can create headaches when it comes to engagement. How do you stay on top of this constantly shifting digital sand?
Unfortunately, I just go along with what Lord Zuckerberg tells us!
What Instagram accounts do you follow and what makes them special?
I sure follow a lot of Beerstagrammers and have met some amazing folks, not just from Australia, but also some really talented beer photographers from other countries. That’s definitely the best thing about Instagram. There are far too many to mention, so I apologise if I have left anyone off here...
@brewviews_craft_beer / @beer_australia / @the_hopicurean / @the__tippler / @the5280beergeek / @goodtimescraftbeer / @elitraks / @bluedoors / @singinkang / @beerlyinfocus/ @hoperture / @craft_not_crap
Oh, and there are some amazing beer recipes over at @thebeeroness. I also follow a whole lot of designers, artists, photographers and musicians.
Hashtags are synonymous with Instagram yet have zero influence on Facebook. What are some of your favourites and what’s one of the weirdest ones that you’ve seen or used?
For Beerstagrammers, two great hashtags are #instabeer and #beerstagram. Those two are constantly getting new posts and, in keeping up with the “tinnie” revolution, I like to use #jumponthecannedwagon – I wish I had come up with that one!
A lot of businesses see social media as time-consuming. How long do you typically spend on your posts?
Yeah... let’s not go there. I spend way too long trying to get the right photo setup and editing then writing the review; however, that said, I try to get the actual photo done as quickly as possible.
Most importantly, you need to enjoy the beer, so you gotta get the shot taken while the beer is cold or you will need to use the “Buy Two of The Same Beer” method.
How do you choose which beers to feature?
Selecting beers to feature is mostly choosing beers that I am really keen to drink but, for Beerstagrammers, it is definitely important to try and stay up to date with new releases and feature them as soon as you can. I also try and feature a lot of my favourite brewers as well as a lot of local brewers. Sometimes it just comes down to what I think will hopefully make a good-looking photo.
Instagram has the potential to engage brands beyond traditional marketing methods. What do you see as the benefits for beer businesses getting involved with Beerstagrammers?
Yeah, Instagram is definitely a massive way of finding out what new beers are being released. Most of the time I know what beer I am looking for, normally because I’ve seen it on Instagram, well before walking into a beer store. I think there is definitely huge potential in creating brewer/Beerstagrammer relationships.
What tips do you have for anyone keen to, as they say, crush their Beerstagram game?
Instagram is all about creating your own unique account and style, so have a real individual personality. There is so much more that can be done alongside photography.
I follow other beer accounts such as @thewayyououghtto, because the writing is so damn funny, and @sips_n_sounds because he matches beer with awesome records.
I just started following a new account @the5secondbeerreview where the guy does five second beer review videos, which is just him sipping the beer and then his initial face reaction and it is absolutely brilliant! Oh, and don’t worry about how many likes and followers you have, just enjoy doing it!
And any Instagram faux pas people should look to avoid?
Definitely give a photo credit if you’re sharing someone else’s pics!
All photographs published in this article are the work of Sips & Sessions. The two at the top of the article have been cropped slightly to fit the page.
If you know of an Aussie Beerstagrammer we should be featuring, drop Guy a line.