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January 11, 2011 / Brandon Raper

A Tale of Nightclub Social Media

I have full blown proof that social media can bring in hundreds of thousands of customers and get people not only involved, but spreading free promotions through word of mouth like wild fire.  But how could this possibly go wrong if so many people are involved and engaged?  Well let me tell you.

Social media done well can catapult a business into a tier of business only dreamt about.  Businesses’ are able to build from the ground up by engaging customers without a single product or service.  Imagine opening a store to already have 4,000 eager people at the door. Why wouldn’t you want that?  And here is where the tale of “The Club” begins (All names kept anonymous).

The Club was a well thought out plan from the beginning.  A local college bar was closing down and there was a niche market that hadn’t been established.  There were no current bars that had a “Big City” feeling.  There weren’t any bars that offered a bottle service, or a bar with any kind of sophistication or flair.  All of the current businesses were focused solely on A. drink specials and B. dancing.  If The Club took the correct precautions and actions it would surely be a hit.  So how did it first become an overnight social media king and then fall to the earth and shatter under the pressure of student influence?

Let’s take a journey to the introduction of The Club together.  You’re sitting on Facebook furiously refreshing the page waiting for new photo updates, statuses, and information on whose farm needs a helping hand.  There’s a new notification that pops up on your screen, asking you to become a fan of The Club.  You’ve never heard of The Club nor do you want to, so you close the request and move on. 10 minutes later another notification pops up.  Yet again a friend wants you to become a fan of The Club.  Now it’s getting annoying, so you hop over to the page out of curiosity.  What could possibly be making your friends so excited?

There a few past posts indicating The Club’s blog has been updated, a Myspace page has been created and periodic posts exclaiming “It’s coming”.  Instantly the curiosity builds deeper.  You fan the page just to become a part of whatever this phenomenon is.  The next day you see an update stating The Club has updated their location and hours.  Another new post asks “What would you like to see in a nightclub?” and gives multiple choices with comments pouring in.  The Club is looking pretty interesting, but the fan base is still low and there are no pictures and only small bits of information.

A competition starts up the next day.  Whoever invites friends to become a fan of The Club will be put into a drawing to become lifetime VIP.  The number of fans sky rockets from 500 over 1000 and is continually climbing.  How does The Club know who actually invited friends and who didn’t?  That doesn’t matter.  Say the word FREE and people will jump.  After the fan base gets above 2000 they do a drawing for someone to be considered lifetime VIP.  I admit, I fell for the bait and invited friends so I wouldn’t feel guilty about posting on their page that I did such.  The drawing finally came in and the name was announced.  Over 2000 people were waiting in anticipation for such a huge prize, not to mention the exclusivity it would have at campus.  Wait a second…that person doesn’t even live in the town The Club is located in.  People were furious, strike 1.

Chapter 2, The Club posts great content. Their Facebook is lighting up with responses to questions like “What music would you like to hear?” and in progress pictures of The Club’s construction.  The blog is pushing out new articles once a week with tips on how to cure hangovers, how to have success on blind dates, and how to impress a woman at the bar.  The college newspaper posts a story with the headline “Renovated, Classy Bar Coming Soon”.  Buzz is going around wondering when in the world this bar will open and how amazing it sounds.  Engagement is at an all time high.  DJ’s, bartenders, and beer providers are listing their interest on the Facebook page, what more could you want?

The Grand Opening is finally announced and approaching.  For some reason posts are slowing down, the blog isn’t being updated, and people’s questions aren’t being responded to.  The grand opening hits and there isn’t much buzz circulating.  There was promise of opening day pictures but nothing has been updated.  The crowd that is now responding to questions is no longer college students.  New promotions for The Club are posting like crazy over the next week.  “Come watch the football game here!” “Come watch the hockey game here!” “Wine and Manicure Night for the ladies!” and “$2 you call-its!”.  The Club went from an opening night that red carpet treatment with photographers and classy sitting areas with premium prices to a sports bar, a cheap pub, and a spa.  The best promotion was “Birthday Thursday”.  If your birthday fell between that Thursday and the last then your bar tab would be paid by a local real estate agent.

So here we are.  The niche market of Classy Big City Bar has turned into a spa, sports bar, and where you go for cheap and/or free drinks supposedly.  Engagement drops to an all time low.  The thousands of people curious and intrigued have stopped buzzing.  So what went wrong?

 

Let’s first look at what worked for The Club and how they did it.

1.       Incentives – invite friends and receive VIP treatment.  Not only are you eligible to win free gifts, but you are also able to proclaim your royal status as lifetime VIP member of The Club to all.

2.       Engagement – ask your customers what they’d want out of a new place.  If you let a college crowd create your environment you more than likely will have a winning game plan.

3.       Relatable content – blog posts were about college life and interesting.  The blog itself was a specific category and related to the people who were becoming fans.

4.       Curiosity – at first no one even knew the location. How are people becoming fans of something that doesn’t have an established city, state, or even address?  Curiosity brought the consumer and kept it long enough to discover the answers.

5.       Location and Initial Identity – The location of The Club was a premium.  Right in the middle of all college weekend activities.  The identity was perfect.  The college town was missing a big city bar feeling and The Club was going to be that bar.

 

Now what exactly did The Club do wrong?

 

1.       Lack of Identity – at first The Club was the Classy Big City bar.  Even before the business opened, people accepted the identity and were expecting it to stay that way.  Once promotions for sports, spa treatments, and drink specials hit the identity was lost.  Sadly, the promotions hit on opening day.

2.       Customer Engagement – engagement completely ceased.  Posts were being ignored by people wanting questions answered about the establishment and the frequency of polls and status updates slowed down tremendously.

3.       Lack of Trust – the drawing for lifetime VIP rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.  It seemed like a complete scam to pick someone’s name that won’t even be in the same town.  Not only this, but there were no clear rules on how to establish who was or was not in the drawing.

4.       Charging Cover – only two established bars in the area charged cover and both were big dance clubs.  The Club had a dance floor but no reputation for being a dance club therefore their target market of students was hesitant.  A “trial” weekend would have been a great promotion. Insist The Club will be charging cover after this weekend and there is only one week to experience it for free.  Not only do people believe they are gaining value by getting in free but their curiosity begins to spark again.  Once the reputation was built then cover would be no problem.

5.       Content Generation – blog posts were being published about once or twice a week and were all completely relevant.  The Club was gaining a lot of interest through How To Guides and tricks and tips for the college life.  What if they asked the college community to send in tips for curing hangovers and created a post with all user submitted data?  Not only would people feel like they contributed but they would feel like their opinion counted and grow loyalty in the brand.

 

Two years later and The Club is still up and running but for how much longer?  Their Facebook page has spare updates and the profile picture is one of an event from months previous.  Spam comments are all over the place and not being handled at all.  Customer engagement is completely gone.  Location based applications like Foursquare were created but scraped because of lack of interest.  It’s true, social media may have killed The Club’s brand completely, but without social media The Club wouldn’t have been such a powerhouse in the first place.

 

What would have happened if all things considered, were done right?  What if the identity was not just created but consistent?  Would The Club be successful if they chose a college student for lifetime VIP that had a large influence on campus?  We will never know.  But one thing is for sure, social media drove thousands of people to madness with curiosity and greed which is more than enough to drive a brand.

 

 

(Photos from one.org and destination360.com)

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