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Restaurants and Bars Increasingly Using Social Media to Reach Patrons

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Social Answers Featured Article

January 20, 2011

Restaurants and Bars Increasingly Using Social Media to Reach Patrons

By Tracey E. Schelmetic
TMCnet Contributor

Chances are, if you use social media, you'll notice that increasingly, it's not just your friends reaching out to you. Retail companies, online services and even small boutiques would like to reach out and touch you within your social media accounts, as well. Maybe you already “fan” some companies whose products or services you really like. For every one you fan, 99 more would love to be part of your social networking experience.

We spend a lot of time inside our online social networks. Facebook (News - Alert) is now the place where most of the world spends most of its time while on the Internet. So why wouldn't the marketplace want to come to the place you spend the most time? The answer is: it does. Most desperately. But it's not only retail stores who want to see you on Facebook. Restaurants and bars want in on the experience, too.

An article in the New York Times today called “Restaurants Reach Out To Customers With Social Media” details how many restaurants are using a mix of virtual social media like Facebook, and physical “check in” social media services like Foursquare (News - Alert) or Gowalla, to woo customers into physical restaurants to spend money.

National chain Buffalo Wild Wings, known for casual dining and televised sports, has begun a new program called “Home Court Advantage,” to involve customers beyond the simple smartphone “check-in” they use to note their arrival, said the Times. Beginning this month, the restaurant will be working with Scvngr, a location-based social media network, to introduce contests and rewards for its customers. Its main target is tech-savvy basketball fans, an important demographic for the chain.

Users of “check in” services like Scvngr, Gowalla, Foursquare and Loopt (News - Alert) tend to be tech-savvy (and therefore probably higher income) young males in their 20s and 30s who use their smartphones to announce their presence at a specific spot via a “check-in,” which will then notify their friends of their location, noted the Times. In fact, about 70 percent of check-in site users are men between the ages of 19 and 35 – the ideal target demographic for Buffalo Wild Wings.

Most restaurants using check-in services to promote themselves often tie in with a marketing gimmick that goes beyond a simple check-in. Sending a message of “come eat at our restaurant” usually isn't enough, and some of the schemes have become rather elaborate.

California-based Fatburger recently partnered with social media check-in service Loopt and Fox Television to cooperatively promote Fox's new animated series, “Bob’s Burgers,” about a family-run burger business. During the promotion, some Fatburger stores were decorated to look like the restaurant in “Bob's Burgers,” and many customers checking in at the restaurants via Loopt received free burgers.

“It got people off their feet,” noted Alice Lancaster, vice president of marketing at Loopt, to the Times. “Some 1,300 people checked in during a four-hour period.”

We Americans love our technology, love our food and love our bargains. Call to our appetites through our smartphones, and we can't resist. Expect to see more of these promotions in the future.

Oh... and pass the wings.

Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf

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