you're reading...
Student Life

Local Businesses Upping Use of Social Networking

TAMPA- Local businesses from bars to bookstores are tapping into the overwhelming popularity of social networking as sites continue to make it easier for businesses to close the gap between the company and the customer.

“It makes sense,” said Durke Schmidt, bartender and manager of The Bricks of Ybor, a popular restaurant in the area. “Everybody checks social networking sites every day. People go home, feed their dogs and check their Facebook or their Twitter. If you can advertise to that, it’s priceless.”

While Facebook overhauled its “business pages,” or fan pages for businesses, in 2009, it continues to regularly add new features that enhance the interactions between those businesses and the customers they hope to attract.

VJ Kidd Leow at World of Beer Photo by J Goins

Locally based promoter and video jockey Kidd Leow, with national syndication on 17 stations across the country and over 14,000 followers on his Facebook page, relies heavily on social networking to reach his fan base.

“Social networking is where it’s at,” said Leow. “With the technology we have today, it gives businesses so many different platforms to reach people through. Right now you can have video followers with Tout and Youtube, you can have people who follow your life in pictures on Instagram, and you have people following where you’re at in person with Facebook and Foursquare and then sites like Facebook and Twitter bring it all together.”

Some companies prefer to call in professionals to navigate the world of social networking. John Bird, general manager of World of Beer in Carrollwood, hired Leow to do promotions for Thursday nights as well as to oversee the social networking for the bar. The team uses Facebook’s “check-in” feature to its advantage.

“When our customers ‘check in’ on Thursday nights via Facebook or Foursquare we give them a free four ounce beer shot,” said Bird. “People come in and get a free beer shot, but people aren’t going to just take a four ounce shot of beer and leave. And when they ‘check in’ here it shows up on the news feed of their hundreds of friends. So, we do give something out for free, but it gets people in and gets our name out. It’s a win-win situation.”

In recent weeks, Facebook has also made it easier for companies to harness the power of the “check in” feature by creating an easier process. This new process, along with another “check in” type application called Foursquare, allows customers to check in and instantaneously receive coupons for the business at which they “checked in.” The Facebook Deals feature and the Foursquare application also give businesses the option to extend the offer to customers only after they have “checked in” a certain number of times. Facebook and Foursquare keep track of the “check in” count, while companies promote the deal to their customers.

Mema's Alaskan Tacos advertising their "check in" deal Photo by J Goins

“If you check in at Mema’s five times, you get a free taco,” said Marilyn Arada, cashier at Mema’s Alaskan Tacos in Ybor. “It’s great because people want to check in anyways because it shows your friends where you’re at. And if you’re not someone who does it regularly, you might think about doing it if you get a cool offer.”

While local small businesses are using social networking to make a name for themselves, larger well-known corporations with locations in the area are focusing on the features for different reasons. “People are going to go somewhere that they can get something for free, especially the way things are in the economy these days,” said Loni Acks, manager of a Chili’s Restaurant, where “check ins” with four or more people receive free chips and salsa. “It entices people to come out. Right now, people are going to go where the deals are.”

Facebook first created the “check in” feature through the establishment of Facebook Places in 2010. As the feature grew in popularity it made massive advancements in the push to get businesses online. When anyone using Facebook “checked in” to a location for the first time they were required to give a name and description of the business at which they were “checking in.” This “check in” information was then used to link the geographic location to a new Facebook page for that company or place.

While many online communities such as Citysearch and Yelp have attempted to get an overall, nationwide online listing of all established businesses, none have had the power behind them that Facebook followers hold. Some companies are joining the Facebook movement only to maintain control over the information published about them online.

“There was a Crush Tan ‘check in’ site on Facebook with just our name, phone number and a map on it,” said Anthony Portelli, employee at Crush Tan Spa in Carrollwood. “It has 38 ‘check ins’ from our customers. Now that we know how to access it, we’re definitely going to use it to our advantage. It’s free advertising.”

For companies that have successfully harnessed the power of social networking, the resource is a gem.

“I’ve had people from other local bars say that they saw us ‘trending’ online so they came down to check us out,” said Bird. “And these are girls that are getting free drinks at the other places, but they’re coming here and paying for drinks because they see online how active we are and how many people are hanging out here at night. We just seem like the place to be.”

“Social networking is critical in that people see it every day, it’s free as heck and you’re only limited by your imagination,” said Schmidt. “If you’re posting pictures and specials and communicating with your customers it looks to the outside like we’re constantly evolving, we’ve always got something going on and we’re not stagnant. It’s not even that sophisticated so I don’t understand why every business isn’t doing it yet. It’s the best advertising ever.”

About Julianne Goins

Julianne is a senior at the University of South Florida majoring in mass communications (magazine journalism) and international studies. She specializes in social media, travel writing, professional writing and strategic communications.


No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:


You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Digital Bullpen on FB

Blog Stats

  • 41,037 hits

Our Reporters


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 50 other followers

Powered by