Social Branding – Friends, Tweets & Check-Ins
The world of social media has not long been with us but already it is a powerful marketing force. Word of Mouse cannot be ignored and clever hospitality operators know that this relatively new technology must be harnessed and nurtured. Social media channels can become highly useful marketing tools if you know how to use them. As with all marketing communications there are techniques you can employ to ensure they benefit your business rather than hinder it and it pays to understand how each of them work and how they interact.
There are literally hundreds of social media brands vying for the attention of the masses but there are only a handful that you need to actively manage, namely Facebook, Twitter and Four Square (the next big thing). Each of these channels work in their own unique way so I’ll discuss each in turn, though you’ll see that they also integrate together through a network of links and feeds.
Firstly Facebook, the Daddy of all social media (actually in Social Media Years, Facebook is more like the Grand-Daddy). Everyone and anyone is on Facebook and other successful social media have ensured they integrate with Facebook, so your Tweets and Check-Ins (more on these later) can appear on your Facebook page. Businesses can set up Fan Pages on Facebook where you can post photographs, run promotions & offers and keep your ‘Fans’ up to date with your activity. You can even customise these fan pages so they display your branding and artwork and allow your Facebook fans to post photos, interacting with your brand. You build your fanbase by encouraging people to connect with your page, and can add a button to your website that allows people to connect with you at a click.
Facebook also has a facility whereby you can display a ‘Like’ button on your website which users can click to indicate to their friends that they endorse you or something in particular that you do. For example, you could put a Like button next to your signature dish on your menu for visitors to click so they can easily tell others how much they like it which is bound to encourage their friends to try it.
Next up is Twitter, a micro-blog where people post comments, called Tweets, up to a maximum of 140 characters long. These comments then appear on your ‘Follower’s’ tweet feeds. You in turn receive comments from people who you choose to Follow. You can also send and receive private messages between individual Followers.
Tweets are a good way to spread the word as they can incorporate links sending people to your website or some other destination. Twitter users discuss their daily interesting, entertaining or amusing activity or thoughts. The trick for brands and businesses is to subtly include snippets of information about you without being boring or obviously marketing. Similarly to Facebook, you build Followers by placing a link on your website or emails or by giving out your Twitter address (ours is @ignitetweet).
Finally we have Four Square, the newbie to the party. Born in New York, Four Square is set to grow rapidly in the UK over the coming year. Four Square cleverly integrates the online world with the offline world by using mobile phone location attributes. Users of Four Square ‘Check In’ to places that they visit such as restaurants or hotels. Their friends can then see where they are and you can automatically Tweet and post your activity on Facebook. There is a game element also incorporated so if you Check In the most times to a particular place you become ‘Mayor’, and you can receive ‘Badges’ for various things such as the ‘School Night Badge’ for Checking In after 3am on a week night.
A key advantage to businesses is that you can provide Special Offers to users whereby encouraging them to Check In (visit your business) more frequently. A Mayor’s Offer might involve something like a free glass of wine with food purchases so that people compete to become Mayor. It won’t be long before more and more people are using this system so it’s a good idea to get to grips with it now.
The best way to learn the game is to play it, so if you haven’t explored these channels yet go ahead and register. Watch and learn before you do much and slowly start to join in. Remember you’re doing it for the good of your business and you might even have some fun in the process!