There was a story recently about how Finnegan’s Irish Pub in Stockton, California was using Facebook as its “new bouncer” to screen people arriving after 9 pm. The article was a bit misleading as it suggested that before people could get into Finnegan’s, they had to become friends with the owner on Facebook, which was not the case.
Here is the real story and how your business might be able to use Facebook and other social networks in a similar manner.
Tony Mannor, the owner of Finnegan’s in Stockton, does use Facebook to create a type of reservation system for regulars. The idea is simple: if you are engaged with Tony and Finnegan’s online through Facebook, and you regularly go to the pub, then they use the Facebook list to make sure you get priority over those who are not as active.
According to Finnegan’s, this does not mean that you have to be on Facebook to visit the pub.
“We get travelers and tourists all the time. We have had folks from Ireland, Australia, England, Africa, Egypt and a TON of South American countries just in the last few months,” said a Finnegan’s representative. “The local hotels send them our way. Especially when they ask for ‘The safest place to go out and have a good time’. 25% of the people on our list do not have Facebook accounts.”
Basically, because Finnegan’s gets incredibly busy at different points during the week, this process helps to ensure that a high majority of people coming into Finnegan’s are regulars.
“We use facebook to be a catalyst in creating relationships with our patrons,” the Finnegan’s rep said in comments posted online. At present, the restaurant / pub has about 10,000 friends on Facebook.
But at the same time, they still allow for a percentage of new customers who are tourists and just looking for a night time venue in town that is safe. This helps keep a steady flow of business from nearby hotels and other places.
How Can Your Business Benefit From This Strategy?
Obviously, Finnegan’s is a popular restaurant. And while using Facebook is a helpful way to improve their engagement, both online and in-person, it does not necessarily translate for B2B or B2G companies.
If you are B2C company, you can use a similar Facebook friends list to reward to active shoppers or customers for big events, sales, holidays and other times when you know store or restaurant traffic will be at a peak.
Another possibility is to create a special Pinterest board for your customers or an Instagram account. If you run a fashion store, this is a place where you can conduct contests for a new display, or create a back-to-school or holiday favorites list. Those who participate can get early access to sales or to an event when the contest winner is announced.
For companies in a B2B or B2G environment, this is where using a professional network, like LinkedIn, could prove to be just as valuable. While every business should have a company profile on LinkedIn, you also can create special groups that are closed to your customers. They can be a combination of a “user-group” / “latest update” group that brings your customers into contact with one another as well as your internal sales, marketing and customer support teams. This can then give you the opportunity to target them with early-bird discounts or find other ways to create stronger relationships with your customers.
Regardless of which direction you move in, one of the key things to remember when you start engaging your customers online, either in Facebook, LinkedIn or other social networks, is to keep the engagement going and keep it fresh with new discussions and information. This does require a strategy and content calendar, as well as some foresight and flexibility, so you can adapt as events change. If you think through it, you can use social media to better manage in-person engagement and create a stronger bond with your most loyal customers.