The Social Animal
As social media continues to expand, reaching more and more people in countless ways, bar and nightclub owners are tasked with educating themselves on each new entity that enters cyberspace. You may easily fall down the rabbit hole, floundering in a deep social-media abyss. But social networks are here to stay. Therefore, in order to maximize their benefits, you need to be aware of new and old forms of social media that should be on any business’s radar.
Facebook’s ubiquitous nature means those bar and nightclub owners ignoring it are indirectly hurting their business and the potential to grow.
When guests take time to post on a bar or nightclub’s Facebook wall that means they’re interested in your brand. “If you’re not reciprocating, you’re wasting their time,” advises Dave Sribnik, senior manager of trends and technology at MarkeTeam. “At this point you have to. It’s expected. It’s the same thing as not having a website. Facebook is today’s website.”
Maria Miranda, creative director of Miranda Creative, says user saturation makes Facebook the dominant form of media, especially with 50% of the population and 65% of the online population using the social network.
With the introduction of Facebook Timeline, owners now have the ability to create tabs that highlight their menu, happy hour, and food and drink specials, explains Dave Dronkers, founder and president of Dronkers Beverage Solutions.
Sribnik also says brand tagging on Facebook provides “a ton of opportunity to run promos on your Facebook page.” When a user posts photos to their Facebook page, they tag their friends in it, and now they can tag brands, too. “For a venue, it’s a really cool way to get visibility… It’s more engagement,” explains Sribnik.
Pinterest should be on everyone’s radar, “because it’s the fastest growing social-media network,” explains Miranda, especially for an industry that relies on a visual environment. For example, “if you feature unique food dishes, striking interiors or seasonal vistas,” she says, “you should have a presence on Pinterest.”
Dronkers also agrees that Pinterest is a great way to visually represent your brand. “Pinterest allows you to do that because it’s photographic” he states. This is the year that operators need to differentiate themselves from their competitors. And the key to that is to “post quality photography, not just an iPhone shot.” You may have to consider hiring a photographer, he adds. This will add to the appeal of the pins that you post on your board.
When creating a board on Pinterest you need to be able to think outside of the box. “You can’t use it like a traditional market because no one cares. You don’t start a board of just food and drink. There’s no interest for anyone else,” Sribnik explains. Instead, work your strengths. “If you’re an Irish pub, then do a board of photos of Ireland,” then a board of photos of your bar, a board about St. Patrick’s Day and a board of Irish beers, he says.
Opinions vary on the benefits of Instagram: “I would rate Instagram over Tumblr,” says Dronkers. People, especially Millenials want easy steps. They want to do 20 things at one time, and Instagram is instant, after all.
Block 16 Hospitality owns establishments including Gallery Nightclub, Holsteins Shakes and Buns, The Barrymore, Public House and more. Dylan Taucer, marketing manager for the company, set up Instagram for all the Block 16 accounts. He states that Instagram is hard for business because “it’s only a cell phone application. You can’t schedule that, and that’s where it’s tough.” For now, he says, Instagram has been taking a back seat as he focuses his energies on Twitter and Facebook.
Keeping Taucer’s comments in mind, the main question is, “does a bar or restaurant have to have an account?” asks Sribnik. It’s hit or miss. However, you want to make sure people are engaging with your brand. “I would really use (Instagram) for fun promotions,” he says. You can do this by looking at photos with your venue’s hashtag and picking a winner for a free drink or appetizer.
With the recent purchase of Instagram, by Facebook for $1 billion, the photo-sharing site will likely see “a spike in users and an increasing interest in photo-sharing,” says Miranda. Knowing that consumers will take photos and share them, bars and clubs should create a space that shares your brand on every image, she continues.
The most popular channels, according to Dronkers, are: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and “any location-based program such as Foursquare.” GPS-location applications are great way to get your business out there. “You don’t have to use any of them, but you have to be cognizant that your location is on these sites even if they’re not running them,” adds Sribnik, because customers will add them.
Foursquare is the leader, which recently added menus which make it even more attractive to potential customers, adds Sribnik. “We have tons of Foursquare check-ins,” explains Taucer. Therefore, “we do specials for people to get involved.” Customers that check in at Holstein’s get a house draft with any entrée, as part of the special deal.
“Apps and geo-location drives niche segments,” explains Sribnik, “so if you are a beer bar then you should know about beer apps. Geo-location allows people to connect to your venue.”
Creating a YouTube page is a necessity. Videos are easy to make, explains Dronkers. “It can be as simple as a chef showing one of their most popular entrees, or a bartender making a signature cocktail.”
Dronkers also suggests having servers explaining why they love working at your establishment, as well as including interior videos. The best videos “have to be no longer than two minutes,” he explains, and post “no more than two a month.”
“It should mirror your brand. You have to have participation by the audience,” he says. He suggests getting customers involved by offering them a gift card if they post a video of themselves sipping your signature cocktail. You could also create a cocktail contest where customers submit their entries by video. Social community involvement engages people in your brand. “That’s the stuff people love to see and like to participate in.”
Near Field Communication
So what’s next? Sribnik says he’s seeing a lot of interest in near field communication, a set of standards for smartphones and similar devices that establishes communication by touching the devices together or bringing them in close proximity. In social networking it can be used to share contacts, photos, videos, etc.
“NFC is the newest, and it’s going to be huge,” says Sribnik. For example, if you had a Foursquare sticker that had NFC tag in it, patrons could use their NFC-enabled smartphones to tap the phone to the sticker, and it will check in to Foursquare for you, he explains.
You don’t have to do anything. “The tag tells your phone what to do. Imagine what you can do from a social-media standpoint,” he says, adding that by 2015 half of all phones with have NFC capabilities.
“It would be a cool technology to watch out for. It’s too new to do anything with now, but you should know about it,” Sribnik says.
As an owner and operator, there is a lot of pressure to be on the cutting edge. “You always want to keep up,” says Taucer, “but the main thing is being involved.” New social media websites and technologies enter the fray every day, but as long as it’s a part of your marketing strategy, then immersion will become easier, meaning the long-term benefits will outweigh the short-term stress.