Social media boosts T-town businesses

William Evans

Networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter have revolutionized the way businesses reach out to their customers.

Along with enabling account holders to check their status and news updates, social media facilitate marketing for businesses that use the networking websites as online platforms to advertise, promote and sell their products.

Bama Dining, which manages the on-campus dining locations, is no exception to the rule.

Bama Dining maximizes communication with its student clientele through the use of its Twitter account, where food specials and promotions are posted.

“We have found that Twitter is an extremely effective outlet for communicating directly with members of the campus,” said Kelsey Faust, Bama Dining marketing coordinator, in an emailed statement. “In the past year our number of followers has more than doubled due to us posting more frequently and more students signing up for Twitter accounts.”

Food promotions constitute part of Bama Dining’s marketing strategy, she said.

Bama Dining launched the promotion “Eat Your Tweet” in the first week of April, which enables a student to be chosen for a free meal if that student posts a status update of “@BamaDining” to their Twitter account.

Tide Trivia Thursday is another Bama Dining promotion that is facilitated by Twitter. Bama Dining asks one question on its Twitter account every Thursday afternoon that is relevant to a current sporting event. The first person to respond via Twitter with the correct answer receives a free meal pass.

The promotions announced on Twitter stem from Bama Dining’s confidence in the ability of social media to attract the business of potential customers, she said.

Social media will therefore continue to play an integral role in Bama Dining’s marketing strategy.

“The present and future of campus marketing is social media, because that is where you find the students,” she said. “Therefore, in order to communicate with students we have to go to them, and that is where Twitter and Facebook play a huge role.”

Braig Williams, a general manager of Buffalo Phil’s Pub and Cafe located on The Strip, said social media platforms have been effective tools for reeling in customers.

Floor managers of the restaurant update the company’s Facebook account two to three times per day, informing the restaurant’s Facebook fans of drink specials or free appetizers.

“It’s definitely valuable,” he said. “We get a lot of feedback and a number of responses.”

The company’s Facebook account is useful on slow business days when customer traffic comes to a standstill, he said. Advertising free appetizers or meal discounts on Facebook can give people an incentive to visit the restaurant when customers would have otherwise stayed home or gone someplace else to eat.

Users can subscribe to only so many fan pages for businesses on Facebook without being overwhelmed with unwanted notifications, which deters Facebook users from subscribing to multiple news feeds from different companies, said Austin Haskew, shift manager at Wintzell’s Oyster Bar in Northport.

“I don’t ever subscribe to any of those pages because you just get too much junk,” he said.

Wintzell’s has a sparing use of Facebook to announce events such as its weekly Crawfish Night every Tuesday, he said.

“We have a Facebook page, but we do not use it on a daily basis,” he said. “Honestly, we’ve never actually even tried.”

Jessica Rodgers, sales associate at Payless ShoeSource located on McFarland Boulevard East, said Facebook is an effective marketing strategy to target youth.

“It would be a good marketing tool for the younger generation, because everyone’s on Facebook all the time,” she said. “A lot of older people don’t have Facebook.”

On its Twitter account, Payless has hyperlinks to advertisements for shoes for upcoming high school proms.