LEUVEN: Anheuser-Busch InBev, the brewer, is pursuing a "fans first" policy on social media, targeting consumers who have selected to connect directly with the company.

The owner of Beck's, Budweiser and Stella Artois dedicated 18% of its advertising budget to social channels last year, Chris Burggraeve, its CMO, told Marketing Week.

More specifically, its "fans first" model allocates "first, second and third dollars" to shoppers who have registered their interest in engaging with AB InBev via social media, opt-in emails or similar such programmes.

The company has accumulated 30m followers through this route in 18 months, Burggraeve said. "Fans are our brand ambassadors. If you take our 30m fans, the influence and amplification potential is huge," he added.

One recent initiative implemented on behalf of Budweiser was "The Big Time", a reality show airing on ABC and allowing people to fulfil their dreams, with contestants recruited using social channels, and bonus content distributed online.

"The pressure of social media forces the so-called traditional media like TV to reinvent itself," said Burggraeve. "TV remains an interesting medium to reach a wide audience, so we are not against that."

"But certain TV, such as sports programming, becomes more valuable than other kinds. Anything that brings people together in a live context is valuable."

More broadly, Burggraeve suggested the move towards "Starbucks offices", where people frequently engage digitally but participate in less such activity offline, is an area where beer can play a key role.

"You can see young people with their computers open sitting there alone in Starbucks while on Facebook. Nobody knows that they are very alone and sad," he said.

"I would much rather that these people were in a bar enjoying a beer with friends. That is essentially what beer has been doing for millennia. It has brought friends together."

As an example of how to achieve this goal today, the brand page for Stella Artois on Facebook in the UK encourages visitors to talk about their plans for nights out, and Beck's flags up events which may be of interest to users.

Similarly, the Green Box programme run by Beck's asks independent talent from the worlds of art, design, music and fashion to submit ideas which are put on show, and can be viewed via a smartphone app in 30 sites across Italy, the UK and US.

Data sourced from Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff