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Never has a venue's presence online been more important than in the world we live in today. We talk to Mark McCulloch from Supersonic Inc about his top tips for success on social media - from how to plan and create content to how to engage with customers online.

Setting up your Strategy

What is the current worst-case scenario we face in bar management and bar ownership? That is always the best way to start thinking before you fight back. The worst case is that people do not go out like they used to and spend less, so you have to also take your products, experience, and marketing to them wherever they are – which is online. There are two strategies for you to think about:

1. How can you get them to come to your venue?

2. How can you get them to engage and order with you whilst at home?

Amplifying Success

The keys topics to communicate for bar business success now are:

Once you have these areas mapped out, it is about amplifying each of these through all your digital channels (not just social). Of course, there are still some offline venue marketing opportunities, but the bigger acquisition and retention play is purely digital. Digital channels are broken down (as all communication media channels are) into owned media, paid media, and earned media. Owned means the digital pages you control, paid means the advertising that you will be / should be carrying out and earned means what people are saying about you through mentions, PR, word of mouth, etc.

The First Steps

I would advise focusing on the following areas when specifically thinking about social media amplification to drive first time and repeat visits to your venue:

Define your Brand – This includes defining what you do, why you are distinctly different than the competition, your target markets, your values, your tone of voice, your tone of look, your positioning in the market, and your brand DNA (what distinctively and truthfully sums up your brand in two words).

Marketing Plan - You need to create a marketing plan before you start posting on social media. Your execution should be to only ever achieve the goals you set out on this plan. What do you want to achieve commercially? What do you want people to know about your brand and how can you create a true emotional connection with your customers so that they buy into you? You also need to think about who you’re targeting, Where are they? What do they think of you? What do they want from you and where is their attention focused most of the time so that you can always market to them there?

Wider Digital Marketing - People make the mistake of focusing on social media when there is a whole digital world out there including your website, search marketing (SEO and PPC), AdWords, retargeting, local listings, the space you take up on the search pages (see how much room Nike or Amazon take up on the first page of Google if you search for them), Email/CRM, Apps and more. Researching all of your options is basic housekeeping and I would suggest you focus on this before solely homing in on social media.

Grow Your Team – Having someone working part-time on your social media will not work as you are asking them to do what is becoming the largest job in marketing. We are not just talking about posting silly social posts, but carrying out strategic, data-informed, relevant sales driving activity. My advice would be to have 1-3 people at least where one of them focuses on making the content, one focuses on acquisition and one focuses on retention activity.

Create a Calendar - Making your content calendar is a big task and you will need to spend proper time creating it. You should have a master marketing plan which will show you what content you want to push and when, as after all, social media is just another amplification channel. You want to break your social media channel monthly plan into days and then into 6 x 4-hour periods. It’s good to test what periods work best for engagement for you. For hospitality, 11-2 pm (lunchtime) on Friday and Saturday seem to work best, however, this may be a different story for you.

I use Planoly and Hootsuite to schedule some posts, but I would recommend only scheduling a few and doing most of your posts in real-time as this is much more authentic. If all of your posts are planned there is no room for spontaneity, and it is just lazy marketing. Social Media is also 90% about listening to people talking about your brand, the things that you offer, and the local area surrounding you. Listening will enable you to start conversations with people and grow your community rather than post, hope for the best, and just be selling all the time. It needs to be more connected than that.

Creating Content – These are the five skills required to create thumb-stopping content:

1.) Videography

2.) Copywriting

3.) Sound and image editing

4.) Photography

5.) Graphic Design

Outsourcing for any of these skills can be fine but it is preferable to use an in-house team as it would be very costly to always create content with external resources. Grow your own team - it will pay off in the long run.

Content needs to be in context, for example, you can put a MEME / GIF on Twitter and Facebook but never on Tik-Tok or Instagram. Tik-Tok content needs to be rapid, entertaining clips at 15 seconds each and are not focused on quality, yet on Instagram, you need to have imagery that is staged and of the highest possible quality. Never ever post the same content across all channels and do not just link all of your social accounts. A good test is for you to always scroll through your timeline fast and see where your thumb stops you. Interrogate yourself as to why you did that.

It is best for you to use your own assets unless you are using an influencer to help you create content. There are great apps like Over and Canva which can help you edit quickly, using unique colorways, backgrounds, filters, and fonts to help your brand stand out distinctively.

A Final Note

Let the data guide you as it will never lie. Hooking up your social media data to your EPOS, Wi-Fi provider, and CRM/email system provider is what will help you win. Here is what to focus on eternally for social media success:

-Who did you post to?

-Where did you post?

-When did you post?

- What was your message?

-How did people react?

-What did you make them think, act, and feel?

I hope that this quick guide to how to get the best out of social media really helps your brand expand. It may seem a big leap of faith to put this much time and investment into digital, but recent events have only further emphasized customer’s reliance on digital resources and the increased time spent on phones and social media - so it is always best to fish where the fish are swimming. Good luck!

Five Key Takeaways