Don’t fear Facebook

Enid O’Dowd reports on a stimulating LVA Seminar on online marketing for pubs.



Over 150 licensees listened intently to six speakers explaining how online marketing using social media could boost their trade.

Over 150 licensees listened intently to six speakers explaining how online marketing using social media could boost their trade.

“We are looking at word of mouse if we want to attract younger age groups into our pubs.”

Wise words from LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe as he wrapped up a packed LVA seminar ‘Online Marketing of Pubs’ at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Dublin 8 recently.

He continued, “The world will move on whether we like it or not.  There’s no excuse not to act now to embrace modern technology; this is the future”.


Speakers were instructed to use ‘plain English’ to explain this expanding form of marketing which is taking over from conventional marketing.


Deirdre Waldron, Managing Director of Agency.Com in Dublin explained that social media is a mix of advertising and dotcom. 


“It’s about having conversations – which we always did – but in a different way,” she explained, “The conversations could be powered by blogs, microblogs like twitter, online chat, social network, message boards, pod casts, video or photo sharing sites, virtual world and wikis.”

She said that if facebook, which has 500 million members, were a country it would be the third largest after China and India.  On average users connect to 80 pages of groups and events. And facebook can be addictive. A recent UK study showed that 38 per cent of men chose social networking over sex. And 33 per cent of women between 18 and 25 check their facebook page first thing in the morning.


Twitter has an estimated 220,000 users in Ireland – users can sent short messages of up to 140 characters and this is received by all their ‘followers.’  A recent example of twitter-power is the now infamous interview Brian Cowen gave to Morning Ireland in which he sounded rather throaty. A Fine Gael TD tweeted a comment on this, suggesting that the throatiness could be alcohol-related and suddenly this was the story of the day (and of several days to follow). The Taoiseach subsequently apologised for the state of his voice in the interview.


Deirdre Waldron concluded that, as more than half the human race is under 30 and has always known the internet, “social media is not a fad but a fundamental shift in the way we communicate”.


Gareth Irvine from Cyber.com mentioned Irish Social Media Monitor Ireland (www.irishsocialmediamonitor.com) and its section on alcohol. He suggested sending in details of your pub as there is no charge for an entry and to keep an eye on www.pubtalk.ie and www.properpint.com. He explained how social media has a multiplier effect and is a kind of viral marketing. 


Later speakers told how some pubs were already using social media, like Dublin’s Kehoe’s, the Turks Head and Bruxelles or the Oarsman in Ringsend. Others act together to do some community marketing like the I love Ranelagh pubs campaign.

One story, from speaker John Lamphiere from facebook, is hard to believe — but he says it’s true. Two people fell down a storm drain in Australia and the first thing they did was to use update their facebook pages rather than to call for help!  He also said he was old enough to remember the time when people worried about putting real information on the internet. He advises publicans to build their own brand on facebook and empower customers to spread the word. 


He said that there are no plans to charge for facebook and that a business page can be ‘gated’ to prevent, for example, access to under 18s.  Maintenance time depends on how much information you want to convey. And you can link your personal page to your business page.


Blogger Damien Mulley compares online marketing to using a megaphone. He says it enables you to get direct feedback and insights from your customers and is more effective and cheaper than paying a survey company.  He pointed out that you can also use it to see what your competitors are doing.


Dublin is regarded as the EU leader in the use of technology for tourism. Ciara Sugrue from Dublin Tourism said that VisitDublin.com has 300,000-plus monthly unique visitors and asked publicans to send in their special offers to marketing@dublintourism.ie and to ask for a free listing on the site.


The site has a pint watch special page for great pints, entered by consumers.  This page was set up to counteract negative publicity in the UK about the expensive pint here. Seven hundred customers have already posted on the page.


Another suggestion she made was to get your pub included on iWalks narrated by Pat Liddy. There has been a 62 per cent increase in downloads of this popular application in 2010.

You can download the VisitDublin App onto your iPhone.  All 6,000 website pages are included. This means that you can have a virtual tour before you come to the capital. And you can get relevant information depending on where you are geographically, including audio clips. The information is cached which means no roaming charges.


facebook has been good for the Wright Group. Michael Wright explained how he came to facebook almost accidentally. The daughter of a family friend set up a facebook page for the Wright Venue, his nightclub and bar in Swords — and in just a few days it had 1,500 ‘friends’!  She enjoyed doing it, so she developed and maintained it for €50 per week. Today the page has 28,000 friends.


Initially Michael removed the occasional negative or unfair posting, but now he leaves them as it starts a conversation. Happy customers will defend him. His other bars have memberships ranging from 500 to 5,000 depending on the age profile of customers.


He mentioned that top DJ Roger Sanchez tweeted favourably about his nightclub after doing a session there and this has made it easy to get other top DJs to appear.

Gilbert & Wright, his new venue in Dun Laoghaire, is only six weeks old but when he put details of a 70s and 80s night on its facebook page he got 200 customers for a venue holding 120.


Michael suggested that publicans ‘brand’ photos they put up with their name as this helps their profile. He also advised that pubs avoid trying to be all things to all people. It’s better to concentrate on developing a strong personality, he feels.


While only 12 per cent of the over-45 age group have facebook pages, this percentage is growing, so social media is still relevant if your pub has an older clientele. But he stressed that publicans have to engage with the 18-25 group above all or they will never become regular pub customers when they leave the nightclub scene – and using social media is free or costs very little. 


By 2012, eight out of 10 mobile phones will be smart phones (see box). A member of your staff or your teenage daughter or son may be able to set up and maintain a facebook page for you. If they want some payment for this, it would be a tax deductible expense. 


As LVA Chairman Niall Lawless said, “Sticking up a poster in a pub and hoping people will come in is a thing of the past”.


It certainly is.


You need to get your offers and events online and have your customers work for you. Here’s an opportunity to improve business quickly and effectively, possibly only at the cost of some of your time or for a few hundred €uro. It costs €500 to become a full marketing partner with Dublin Tourism but you can have a free listing and free coverage if your customers promote you on its pages.


Do it now!

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