The cigar industry has always been on the cutting edge of marketing; hiring the best, brightest and most creative artist and sales people to get their messages out and to promote their brands. As social media (SoMe) began to take off in the early 2000’s, it became apparent that to remain competitive and in the forefront of consumer’s minds, cigar companies would have to take to the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. to ensure they were reaching target audiences.
Pros: Info, Inclusiveness, and Access
In this technological age, aficionados no longer have to rely solely on seasonal paper publications and magazines for news of releases, business insights, ratings and trends. Information and cigars are literally at our finger tips, and consumers are just a click away from educational resources, products and personalities.
The once exclusive lifestyle that was social cigar smoking is becoming a thing of the past in part because of SoMe. Long gone are the days of only being able to congregate in brick and mortars and private clubs to discuss their favorite smokes. Online forums, Facebook groups and even phone apps have provided an outlet for aficionados to literally swap/trade stogies, share experiences, tastes and opinions. An added benefit to the new social aspect is the ability for cigar lovers of all colors, backgrounds, genders, etc, to connect and to interact with one another, thus allowing the cigar community to be more inclusive than ever before.
Another benefit is access to the names behind the brands. Outside of knowing someone that knew someone that knows someone else, the chances of meeting the people behind the veils of our favorite cigars was a rare occurrence outside of large, expensive events. We are now able to connect directly online with those responsible for our beloved brands as well as keep tabs on their everyday whereabouts and future appearances. One could argue that this type of access has actually helped to create better products and a greater standard of quality as manufacturers now have a wealth of insight, real-time analysis and free feedback into what consumers like, want or don’t like so much. Unfortunately this access can also hurt as with greater access comes increased (and sometimes unrealistic) expectations.
Cons: Clutter and Hype
As blogs, Twitter handles and Instagram accounts pop up daily, it has become increasingly difficult for those attempting to learn more about cigars to decipher between those who might actually know what they are talking about and those that merely want to appear to be an expert. Because we live in a world where we equate success or expertise to who can break the story first or who can get the most page hits, those of us with a reach must be careful to create and inform with integrity, with quality and with insightful content; not just something that will boost readership, retweets and sales.
Because virtually anyone can advertise via SoMe, it’s important that aficionados learn to decipher info and stay educated…being careful not to equate “good cigars” with the amount of advertising they see when they power on a device. Keep in mind also that it is easier for large corporations to dedicate large amounts of money to online campaigns and ad space, while ever-so important boutique companies will not have pockets as deep. Social presence does not necessarily a great product make, so support for large and small manufacturers helps the industry as a whole, even when they don’t have the fancy Facebook page or a dedicated tweeter.
Paying attention to consumers through online media is important, but it shouldn’t take a back seat to the smoking experience. Pretty graphics in consumer inboxes are for naught if the cigar itself doesn’t deliver and back up the hype. Contests and “breaking news” banners on sites only go as far as the insight gained once consumers click the hyperlinks. Substance should still be the name of the game…and because cigars have always been about substance and creativity, it’s important that we use SoMe to enhance our beloved lifestyle, not to cheapen it.