The Social EvolutionMay 7, 2013 By: Alissa Ponchione
While social media continues to evolve, so do the methods in which bar and nightclub owners use it. As pervasive as Facebook and Twitter are, new social networks are entering the Internet fray, allowing bar and nightclub owners a more diverse set of tools to engage clientele. Owners who aren’t taking advantage of customers who can influence friends on social networks are missing out on a platform to grow business and ROI. Choosing what site to use can be daunting but it doesn’t need to be a herculean task.
“It’s not easy,” says Vincent Di Nino, director of sales and marketing at RMD Group, which owns three nightlife venues and two bars in San Diego. “We try to identify every new social media form and make a decision if it’s worth it for us to attack or not.”
“It’s a matter of knowing your audience,” explains Mark Schmulen, general manager for social media at Constant Contact. “There’s no reason for you to have a presence on Instagram if your typical audience isn’t on Instagram. Instead, as an owner, handle each site with individualized attention, adapting the establishment’s voice and creating personalities that will capture consumer attention.
Facebook is still the dominant player in the social media arena. “It outsizes all social networks out there,” Schmulen explains. For small business owners who want to sink their teeth into, he recommends starting with Facebook because it has more users, more business friendly tools and more mature capabilities with targeted advertising.
Facebook is the biggest platform in the social media landscape for consumers, Jarrett Smith, president of Maximize Social Media. Because the bar for “photo content is much lower,” it allows more people to engage with the business and post photos from the venue, he said. However, Dylan Taucer, marketing manager for Las Vegas-based Block 16 Hospitality, which own owns the Gallery Nightclub, The Barrymore, Public House and more, says Facebook is on a downward slope. Instead, “Twitter is going to outlast everything,” he says.
Whether using Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, “posts that have images tend to perform so much better than posts with plain text or have a link to another article,” Schmulen says. Photo sharing is behind the growing popularity of sites like Instagram and Pinterest. “They’re such visually stimulating social networks,” he says. “And the interactions between businesses and users on the site center on interesting images.”
At the RMD Group, social media provides a new way to promote. “We’re finding we get the most success in the real-time post,” says Di Nino. “We have access to (our social-networking platforms) from our phones; it creates some anticipation.” For example, RMD Group is doing a promotion where staff find the best-dressed people in the nightclub and post it to the venue’s Instagram account. “We ask (guests) for their (Instagram handle) and tag them in it right then and there,” he says, and then those guests share the photo or comment on it, helping the venue expand its reach.
Additionally, Di Nino and his team are dipping their toes into the Pinterest waters. Although he hasn’t quite figured out the approach, he knows it can capture the coveted female audience. “Pinterest skews heavily female and that’s what most bars are trying to capture,” he says.
The Internet has given customers the right to express their opinion on a public forum. Sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor are important, especially when negative comments are posted. “If you’re not monitoring these rating and review sites … it can hurt you in the long run,” Schmulen says. Consumers use the Internet to crowd source “whether they’re asking friends on Facebook or Twitter, or asking on Yelp, people are going to navigate toward a bar with the best ratings and reviews.”
“I think everyone in the bar and nightclub world should worry about reputation management,” Di Nino says. Initially, Di Nino and his team would respond to negative views with cutting, witty comments. “We got some good laughs, but it didn’t help our business at all,” he says. Now, they respond professionally and politely, admitting when a mistake is made and giving solutions to the aggravated consumer on how to fix it.
Mobile and Beyond
More and more people using social media on their mobile devices. And the businesses that succeed will be those that focus on mobile optimization, sources said. Social networks are working to create the experience on mobile phones. “It’s all about capturing people at the right time and the right place,” says Schmulen.
Smith of Maximixe Social Media also says Google+ needs to be on people’s radar. Although it’s not the “Facebook killer that everyone said it was, it’s a form of search engine optimization,” and if businesses are using it, the going theory is that it helps with SEO. “At the end of the day, Google+ is Google, and Google is massive for local searches and any kind of search traffic,” he says. “You need a presence (on Google+) … and should be posting there once a week.”
Before bar and nightclub owners embark on the social media journey, often fraught with roadblocks and obstacles, they shouldn’t be dissuaded by the difficulty, instead they should embrace the fact that “social media is not going away,” Smith says. “Increasingly it is integrated seamlessly in everyday life,” he says. “People do it and don’t think about it. It’s like the television and phone, it had a novelty but now it’s deeply imbedded in the world." The concept of social media isn’t going anywhere.