Richard Paterson, Whyte & Mackay’s whisky Master Blender is over in New Orleans just now for Tales of The Cocktail, which sounds like a great event judging by the Twitter stream. Now one part of it is a talk on Keeping Ahead in an Online World, which is being hosted by Paul Clarke and Lindsey Johnson of Lush Life.
Now Richard’s going along as well and he asked me what pointers – based on my work with BrewDog, Tesco Scotland, Whyte & Mackay, Jura Whisky, Snow Leopard Vodka and other brands in online engagement – I could offer those at TOTC and those who sadly can’t make it.
So in that spirit, pour a drink and here’s some quick tips. Anyone who needs more pointers or has questions should get in touch (details above). There’s also a bottle of 22-year-old Scotch whisky up for grabs for those who read to the end…
The first thing to remember – more than anything else – is to set out what you want from this. Do you want to boost sales, your profile, get a new job? What? Work out what your goal is and go backwards from there. Think of it like a roadtrip – you can’t work out how to get somewhere until you know where you’re going.
The second thing is to know what words describe you best. For example, LA Bartender specialising in whisky, best bar for whisky cocktails and so on. These are your keywords and you should make the best use of them that you can. The more often these words are associated with you online, the higher your ranking on Google will be – and everyone wants on the Google front page.
One other thing to remember: make sure all the local press and specialist press know you are online and where they can find you. Social media is wonderful and online lets you be your own publisher, but the traditional press still has a role to play too.
Something else to consider: laws will change in the rules of engagement, but always be civil to people. Be funny and sarcastic if you want, but always be polite and civil to people. And think of online like a party – who do you like to be with at a party? The person who only talks about them or the person who talks with others about what they do and what they like? Be the second kind of person.
Lastly, Using social media only works if you’re willing to put the effort into it – and more importantly, engage and learn from your customers. You shouldn’t think of this as talking to your customers but instead talking with. It’s the difference – as comedian Billy Connolly puts it – between ‘making love to someone or making love with someone. What sounds more pleasant?’.
It’s a great time to be a par or a pub. Not only can you engage people locally, but you can also keep an eye out for people coming your way and entice them to visit before they’ve even set foot in your city. Regardless of what you do, always make sure you are using search buttons and the likes of Google to see what people are saying about you – Google Alerts is a great start.
First off, have a decent website and incorporate a blog into it. Use the blog for everything – to announce new members of staff, write about what’s selling well, any events that are coming up and so on. If you have a chief bartender you may want to give them a spot of their own on the blog. You can even tie it in to something like Flickr and post pics from the bar. The blog is about promoting your bar/hotel so everything that happens there and is interesting is well worth posting online. Here’s some blog topics off the top of my head – some of which could be ongoing:
And remember to link out lots to other blogs and get them to link back to you. The bartending and drinks community is vast online so make the most of it. Also, engage with your local blogging community. Invite them out for a free meal or a drink. Tie into specific groups – mums/moms, dads, groups – and so on. Here’s some tips for dealing with bloggers.
“Hang on a minute, that’s a bit 20th Century,” I hear you say. Email lists are fantastic and still a great way of keeping people loyal to you – especially as you are sending the material to them. You could send them a weekly email with details of any promotions, a cocktail of the week, tasting notes for a spirit and a beer.
Just remember to time it well. At 4.55pm on a Friday, people just want out the door. Similarly, Tuesday 9.30am isn’t a time people associate with drinking. Send the newsletter on a Thursday or pre-Friday lunchtime.
And even though it’s email, keep it as small as possible. Don’t send hundreds of pictures. Remember, more and more people are accessing email via mobile phone and you don’t want to wallop their data charges.
Similarly, email them one-offs for special events but don’t go OTT as that will put people off you.
Goes without saying that Twitter can be a great way of interacting with a market. You can either have one Twitter account for the whole place or let everyone have their own – though make sure you have a staff social media usage policy. Don’t use the main Twitter.com though – use Hootsuite or Tweetdeck and have a bunch of search terms – for people in your area, for locals at the bar, for any mentions of the bar or of favoured spirits/beers sold at the bar. Use the likes of Twellow (especially Twellowhood) and WeFollow to find people nearby or that you want associating with.
The great thing about Twitter as well is that if a bar is quiet, your staff can use their time to engage online with people.
And use #followfriday to gain new friends.
The Geolocation side of this is starting to take off online and for bars and pubs it’s a great opportunity to get seen again, promote yourself, offer discounts and so on. But also monitor it to see what people say about you. You could equally be cheeky and go to competitor’s bars and badmouth them, but that’s not really in the spirit of things.
Facebook is where 500 million people have signed up for – more than 100 million Americans – so you would be daft not to be there. Now it’s one thing to have a good Facebook page – get the vanity URL, use Static FBML for a good landing page. Now, don’t just use it for crossposting material from elsewhere. Again, use it for good and proper engagement with people.
One thing you should also consider are Facebook Ads. They aren’t for everyone but at the same time it can be a way of raising awareness to people in your area.
Video can be great for bars. Not only can you put up videos of events or slice of life moments but you can also put up drinks of the staff showing how to make the cocktail of the week. Similarly, put up videos of any acts performing at your bar.
Podcasts are also a great way or engaging people. And you can do them quickly. You could make audio versions of your blog posts as well as putting in a weekly pubcast. Use AudioBoo if you just want to do quick videos.
If you’re putting on events, it’s a great way of building up friends and customers. This blog post tells you how to get the most out of an event with social media.
This is what will make you stand out from the crowd. The creativity that goes into your writing and posts will help make you stand out, but also throw stunts from time to time. For example, when the iPhone 4 row over dropped signals started, some people were saying ‘put scotch around the phone to improve the signal’. Now imagine if you said to your audience: “We’ve got a $300 bottle of scotch here for anyone brave enough to come and drop their iPhone into a glass of scotch to see if it improves the signal.”
What if a regular patron is ill? Do a live linkup from the pub via Skype to them at their house – and send them over a crate of beer.
Put the best tweets of the week in your bar window so people can see it.
Have a cocktail competition. People submit cocktail ideas, everyone votes on them via the web and the best one goes on the menu for a month with 10% of the cocktail price going to a charity (that gets charities invested in your pub as well).
Could you do something for the new season of Mad Men? Live screening and cocktails?
Now those sort of things will certainly get people talking, that builds a buzz and gets people coming through the door.
These are the most important people in this whole process. If someone tweets that they weren’t happy with service, respond to them, consider offering them something else. Respond to every blog mention, every tweet. Don’t let anyone feel ignored.
Nope. All of the above is easily done by your inhouse staff in return for a little time. Failing that, there are companies and people out there who will work to a budget to promote you. And if ever in doubt, ask online “so and so wants to charge me $1000 to run a Twitter account. Is that too much?” And see what people say back. There’s a restaurant in Edinburgh called Illegal Jacks which has done well in Edinburgh purely from engaging the Scottish social media crowd.
No doubt I’ll have missed some stuff out. The beauty of this is that the options are infinite, limited only by your imagination and time. In fact, why don’t we use the comments section to see what great stunts and initiative have been done by bars, pubs and bartenders using social media. We’ll keep the comments open for a week but the best answer wins a bottle of Whyte & Mackay 22 year old whisky – tasting notes for which are below, courtesy of a Mister Paterson: