There are a lot of times when we focus on national brands with massive potential reach and geography isn't important. However, it's also important to think about how to reach local people through social media and blogger relations too. After all, chances are that your business thrives on people coming into your restaurant, bar, or shop and telling their friends how great you are. But how do you make that work for you online? That's the challenge.
Start By Making a Plan
It isn't difficult to throw a party and get people to show up. Any Joe can offer free food and booze then put the word out --- people will come. The trick though is to have a plan in place before you send any invites out or start planning the menu.
You don't need a complicated marketing plan if you can answer these simple questions:
"What is the overall objective for the event"
"Who do you want to come?"
"What do you want them to do?"
If you can answer those three then at least you have a basic plan and everything else should build off of that.
Choosing the Right Bloggers and Social Media Influencers
To an extent, anyone that has an interest in your product or services is "good". However with local businesses such as a bar, restaurant, or nightclub, it is important to consider that while you might have a blogger with massive national / international reach, how influential is that person compared with a smaller blogger that is all about local events in your town. My feeling is that, while both are valuable you should shoot for those social influencers who will be able to create great content and tag it properly so that it will be found easily through social media on sites like Instagram and Yelp especially.
For instance - someone with 500 followers on Instagram from your town who does great photography and tags it with things like #SanDiego #GasLamp etc. and attaches the photo to your location has the potential to reach more people over time and convince them that your place is great compared to someone who simply posts "Great meal!" with a marginal photo.
This is because as your potential customers explore a location's social profile, they want to see great photos that verify that yours is the place they want to do business with vs your competitor.
This is especially important to consider for local businesses like restaurants that are at the mercy of Yelp such as bars and restaurants.
Creating an Event The Produces Great Local Content
Now that you've got the right people for your event it's time to make sure that you have situations that help them create the right content to allow your business to shine.
I recently heard of a restuarnat going as far as having a lightbox and photo station specifically for taking pictures of the food with proper lighting. Initially I laughed but then realized that this was an incredibly awesome idea since most photographers that I know HATE the dim lighting in restaurants and most chefs I know HATE the poor quality of the photos taken in that dim lighting. This is a win-win for everyone, though potentially disruptive to the event experience.
You don't need to go that far, but if photos of your food or other products in your shop are key to the success of your event then make sure you have proper lighting, proper product, and proper space for those photos to be taken.
Beyond that, you may want to consider creating triggers in your event that encourage social sharing and letting the guests know ahead of time what you would like them to feature. This is as easy as sending an email the night before the event stating "Thank you for RSVP'ing for tomorrow night's happy hour! We'd love it if you would share photos of our food on Instagram using #SanDiego and #Restaurant. When you do, make sure you let us know before you leave so we can give you a thank you gift!"
Another idea is to hold an activity for the influencers to participate in, for instance: a build your own bouquet station, a professional food photography lesson, or a flair bartending clinic. Whatever you do though, make sure that it showcases your businesses unique nature and is something that will make people not just remember the experience in a positive way - but want to tell all their friends.
Follow Up and Build Real Relationships
GREAT! You've had an awesome event and everyone is happy - now what?
The easy part is over and now you've gotta follow-up with those people and make sure that they continue to be happy, continue to want to talk about you, and offer any feedback about the business to make it better.
It's a little like dating. No matter how great the first date is, if you don't call her again you'll never get married!
Tag the Content Properly For Local Search
Ok, so not every blogger or Instagrammer is going to tag things the way YOU believe is best. However, here's your opportunity to ReTweet them or comment on their post and include special hashtags such as #YouStayHungrySD #SanDiego #Gaslamp #SanDiegoEats so that content can be more easily found as people search for it online.
You might also post your prefered hashtags and handles on tent cards or a chalkboard on the wall. Be clear, concise, and easy to remember though or things WILL get confused and break.
Promote The Content to The Right Local Audience
Now that you've had that successful event and you have some great content about your business that has been shared online it's important to be able to take that content and promote it to the right people.
You can do this by asking your guests if it's ok to re-post their photos, but you can also RT and share their content directly too.
One technique that I am especially fond if though is taking content from the event and reposting it on your Facebook page and then promoting it to a target audience of local customers who you want to be interested in your business.
This will help raise awareness and excitement about you restaurant or shop - but in a way that appears a little less self promotional.
One word of advice here - if you do use a photo made by someone else, do so with permission. In fact, depending on the nature of the event, you may even ask the guests ahead of time saying that you are looking to promote the best images from the event. This way the guests are aware of your intentions.
I've found that most bloggers and social media influencers are pretty hard working and brand friendly. It only becomes an issue when a brand deliberately tries to be shady.
If you follow these tips, you'll be certain to have an awesome event that helps promote your business in your local community, make new friends, and hopefully increase business in a way that will last well beyond the immediate days following the event.