Building a Network

Using Social Media Strategically Can Make Your Promotion a Success

So you’re launching an exciting new promotion at your venue, and you want a cost-efficient and time-effective means of getting the word out. Where do you turn? Social media, of course!

It’s the hottest buzzword in the industry these days, and according to statistics everywhere, most of you have already jumped on the bandwagon. The question is…now what? How do you actually get results? Here’s how to attract traffic for your next promotion.

Pre-Promotion Actions

Conduct pre-promotion market research. Use your loyal fan base to find out exactly what they want out of your promotion. It’s free and bypasses hiring a costly research firm. Be sure to use different methods to get different information: ask open-ended questions to garner open-ended responses; post polls or take votes to receive more structured data.

If you ever want to tap into this goldmine of information again, you must act on the results you receive. If your followers feel their voice is unheard, they will keep it to themselves next time. Along those same lines, conduct post-event research. Find out what your guests thought about the promotion to make your next one even better.

Also, use social media’s built-in publicity tools. Social networking sites are designed to reach everyone. The entire Facebook community — not just your own fans — can search Facebook Events, which means word can spread virally. Additionally, every time someone RSVPs for your event, all of his or her friends can see it (depending on privacy settings), leading to smart word-of-mouth marketing.

Connecting with Guests

Be interactive on social media sites to drive traffic to your venue. (Remember, each fan/follower interaction could reach an infinite number of eyeballs.) Contests, for example, elicit excitement and garner participation, so post them online for guests to win things on-site. Here are some tips for connecting:

•    Have guests post photos (or videos) of themselves at your location during the promotion, and choose a winner hourly or daily to win free swag.
•    Encourage guests to post messages about their experience at your establishment (quotes, stories, jokes, anything!), and choose a winner hourly or daily for a prize. The winner must come into your location to collect/use his or her winnings.
•    Upload photos taken during the promotion onto your social media site and have guests “tag” their friends. Tap into people’s inner paparazzi, and award the most prolific “tagger.”
•    Reward your fans/followers with something special they can’t get anywhere else: social-media-specific discounts. Have fans/followers print the coupon from your page; collect the printouts and monitor your success. Or, use a unique discount code on each of your networking sites, so you can easily decipher from which networking site the discount came.
•    If your promotion is centered on a new menu item or set of menu items, offer a percent off, a free taste or a combo deal with a special discount code.
•    For a holiday, band appearance or sporting event, offer a giveaway or discount for that specific time frame, contingent on the printout, of course.
•    Build brand loyalty through shared interactions. Ask your guests to help you remember them, and you’ll create a fan for life.
•    Here’s a great example — and one of my favorites — of an easy way to interact with guests: Have special business cards created — simply your logo, business name, social media URL and the words “Tag Me” (or something similar) written on the card. During the promotion, ask to take pictures of guests. After you take the photo, ask them to tag themselves on your bar or nightclub’s social media page. Hand them a “Tag Me” business card to remind them to go to the site. Upload the photos that night, so your guests don’t visit to find an absence of photos. This helps you accomplish a few things. You’re building a relationship with guests, putting faces with names and, most importantly, each time a guest tags a photo, their friends see it. Talk about powerful branding and free public relations!

Creating an Audience

Segment your guest types for better message resonance — use different descriptors or topics on different posts. All guests are not created equal, and as such, will have varying needs and interests. No single post will resonate with your entire target market.

You may want to segment your contests according to distinct targets, as well. (For example, a different photo contest for women than for men, or maybe even pit alums of one college against another.)

Spend a Buck, Gain a Buck

Facebook ads are so powerful that you should at least look into them. Here’s why: Never before has there been such a customizable and specifically targeted means of advertising, offering the ability to target by geographic, demographic or socio-economic markets, as well as things like interests.

In terms of advertising spend, it’s really inexpensive. You can pay by impression (every computer screen your ad appears on) or click-through (every person who clicks on your ad to go to your fan page or event page). The latter is more expensive but also more valuable.

What’s more, you decide when to run the ad, whether it’s weeks before your promotion, days before, hours before or even during the promotion. Additionally, you set the budget. You can allocate a certain amount toward your advertising budget and just run the ad until you run out of money, or you can ensure you get so many click-throughs per day, for the life of the advertising effort.

Such ads are quick and easy. Unlike designing a full ad for a newspaper or mailer, a Facebook ad needs only one image and a line or two of copy. You fill out a couple of fields on the computer, and you’re done.

Another emerging social media opportunity worth looking into is Foursquare, a geo-location-based social network that allows its members to “check-in” to places they visit and awards them titles like mayor for visiting a location the most. How can you use it to your advantage? Thank your mayor for his or her loyalty with a free or discounted item. As a business owner, you can add in specials/discounts to the network for all to see (for a cost, of course). Also, offer frequency-based specials. For example, award a discount for every visit/check-in.

A few weeks before the promotion, add a special on Foursquare, with a discount to be unlocked during the promotion. Once the deal gets unlocked, users will already know about it and will take advantage of it.

Because of social media’s ever-growing flexibility and low cost of entry, you should always be changing, measuring, adapting, re-measuring, testing and improving your social media presences, trying new platforms and advertising tactics to see what works. Continue to tie your social media presences to your brick-and-mortar presence; the more integrated the two are, the more crossover success you’ll see. And most of all: Have fun with social media. Connectivity and enjoyment are really what this subculture was founded on! NCB

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