When it comes to social media, there are many roads to take, and though some are less traveled, you should make sure your bar or club is heading down the right ones. Each social networking site has its own pros and cons, but by surveying your loyal customer base and understanding each, as well as your demographic, you can create a social media presence that will positively affect your bottom line.
What it is: This free review site not only gives people the facts about your restaurant — linking to your website, showcasing photos and giving your address and hours — but it’s also a place for users to review your business — good or bad.
In fact, with more than 38 million unique visitors checking out the site as of August 2010, Yelp is showing no signs of slowing down. Having your business on Yelp means you’re working hard to develop an exclusive community that supports your bar or club, explains Boris Bugarski, CEO and president of Santa Ana, Calif.-based mUrgent, an e-mail marketing and search engine service. Yelp creates value that goes both ways, he says: You value your customers for their opinions, and they value you for being interactive.
How to use it: For business owners, Yelp offers information about your account, a summary of the traffic flow to your page, a place to create special offers and announcements and, more importantly, it allows you to respond to reviews either through direct personal messages or publicly on the site.
This gives you the opportunity to change a guest’s point of view by acknowledging either their positive experiences or their grievances. If guests know you’re listening to them, they’re more likely to come back.
Pros and Cons: As web searches shift from universal to local, Yelp can help push your business to the first page of search engine results. “It’s important to optimize your listing,” Bugarski says. “If you do it correctly, then you can compete and devour the first page of Google searches.”
Dr. Rachna Jain, chief social marketer at Washington, D.C.-based MindshareCorp, says the main criticism with Yelp is that unfair or negative reviews can cause bias and often become “as authoritative as negative press for your business.” To combat this, make sure you have a trained and dedicated staff that frequently responds to reviews, offering coupons or incentives to people who are both happy and unhappy with your business. “If you can’t train someone to respond to a bad complaint, then you have a miscommunication,” Burgarski warns, which means you’ll lose business.
What it is: Right now, Facebook is it. With more than 500 million users and growing, it’s the largest social media platform out there. For business owners, Facebook allows you to maintain customer loyalty by offering deals and specials to a loyal fan base who appreciate and frequent your establishment.
How to use it: Create a Facebook Fan or Like page. The reason this works best: “They’re tied to a business and not a personal profile,” says Jain, and it makes it easier to search. What’s more, Facebook offers a variety of ways to engage your clientele — pictures, discussions boards, videos, etc. — and you should take advantage of all them. Remember, by tagging photos of your patrons, you ensure their friends will see it because it likely will show up in their news feed and profile page, meaning more and more people will learn about your business.
Pros and Cons: When it comes to Facebook, most business owners don’t know how to use their fan pages properly, often over-saturating or cannibalizing sales with too much frequency. Let the consumer be in control, having him/her start discussion topics that you can respond to, if you’d like. Also, tone down your use, only updating about two to three times per week. “It’s all about engagement and community. You don’t always have to go in there and post something. You can add a comment. Be genuine and make it fun,” Bugarski says. It’s also important not to inundate fans with direct Facebook messages; it’s a surefire sign of losing fans online and guests at your place.
What it is: Relatively new on the social media scene, Twitter is a microblogging site that gives you 140 characters or less to tweet a message to your followers. It’s an efficient way to connect with customers, who often check Twitter as frequently as they do their Facebook pages. Twitter jargon, from @replies and hash tags to direct messages and retweets, may confound you now, but the learning curve is steep and worthwhile. Twitter is perhaps the most direct way for you to connect to your followers — there are more than 100 million people on Twitter — and show them you’re listening in a public forum.
How to use it: Getting started with Twitter is effortless, especially because it’s easy to find business handles on Twitter. To sign up, visit twitter.com and create a handle, then start searching for regular guests who will follow you back. Also, Twitter is a great way of starting a dialogue with your patrons and getting them engaged with you and your business. Here’s a hint: If a new fan follows you, follow him/her back or send a direct message thanking him/her for following you.
One more tip: Connect your Twitter and Facebook feeds so you’re hitting your customers on all fronts.
Pros and Cons: Don’t get lost in the noise — find a genuine voice on your Twitter page, which will allow you to really connect with your followers. This means not letting multiple people handle the account; it’s a way to let people get to know you and what you stand for, not be confused by various styles and personalities from one account. “Twitter is great at getting people engaged with you,” Jain says.
And it’s great for tweeting out last-minute promotions, coupons or just updating your followers on your latest specials.
What it is: Though in its infancy, Foursquare has 4 million users, and it’s growing. This mobile application works as a social guide for friends who want to know what is happening and where. It also functions as a game where users “check in” to places and are rewarded with special badges for their frequency. Businesses can offer deals to users that come to their bar or club. In short, Foursquare is a social networking trifecta: a guide, a friend finder and a game.
How to use it: Bugarski sees Foursquare as truly the most innovative social media platform out there today because it builds value and loyalty. Business owners can offer specials through Foursquare, such as discounts or prizes to customers when they “check in” to a bar or club. For example, when a patron earns Mayor status, which indicates the number of times he or she has come to your place, he/she could receive a special offer. On the site, Foursquare offers analytics to businesses in order to check out how web traffic is flowing.
For businesses, creating specials for specific “check-ins” means your loyal customers receive a complimentary drink or appetizer, but it’s an even better marketing tool because it connects to users’ Twitter and Facebook feeds, so more and more people know your place is the one to check out.
Pros and Cons: Foursquare is for building frequency and loyalty. Whereas you don’t want to overly saturate your Facebook fans with constant updates, Foursquare is a site that welcomes constant vigilance. “Connect to people who use it actively and encourage them to come to your place more often,” Jain says. You can offer specials, leave tips or a list of what customers should check out at your place. She also recommends having someone keeping note of all the people checking in to your location, which allows you to get to know them and greet them personally when they enter your bar or club.
With social networking, as long as you’re participating, you’re already ahead of the game. The final tip: Don’t hesitate to sign up for new sites that enter the fray. Having your business’s name out in the social networking scene is another way for you to become increasingly popular on the Internet, which translates into becoming popular with customers who want to check out a place that has its finger on the pulse. NCB
Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and Foursquare should all be on your radar, but what other sites should you keep an eye one? Dr. Rachna Jain, chief social marketer for MindshareCorp, says to look into Eventful.com, a website that connects consumers with entertainment and live events. With 15 million users and 2,000 partner licenses, Eventful.com allows users and businesses to market their restaurant or bar to reach consumers looking for trendy places to go.
Another site getting buzz: Groupon.com, which sends out daily e-mails to customers with deals for food and fun in cities across the U.S. and abroad. The opt-in e-mail system connects your business with thousands of users, and it’s free to appear on Groupon. “The promotions tend to do well and allow people to try out new bars and nightclubs that are discounted,” Jain says.
As for LinkedIn, the social networking site for businesses and professionals, Jain says it won’t increase foot traffic, but it can help you network with neighboring businesses or brands for upcoming promotions. “It’s a good outlet for building an owner’s reputation and professional network,” she explains, but it’s not the best way to connect with your consumer.