How to Partner Social Media With Offline Marketing Strategy

In this four-part series, Social Media Consultant Alison Cummings and Marketing Technology Consultant Phil Gerbyshak talk about social media opportunities for small businesses.

Part 1: “Must-have” Qualities to Look for When Hiring a Social Media Consultant
Part 2: Why Social Media Challenges Small Business Owners and Consultants
Part 3: Why Twitter Works for Small Businesses 
Part 4: How to Partner Social Media With Offline Marketing Strategy

AJ Bombers: Social Media Foursquared

AJ Bombers Foursquare Day twinvite

How do you attract a flash mob of 150+ people, increase typical Sunday sales 110% and earn a Foursquare Swarm Badge? Ask AJ Bombers’ Joe Sorge.

Alison Cummings: A colleague here in Montreal wants to focus on restaurants as a target market to offer his social media marketing services. His perception of the market here is that it’s just starting out, as you mentioned earlier.

No one is really doing social media to the level that he sees in the U.S. In terms of helping him get people engaged, can you suggest ways to do that online as well as offline? Perhaps presenting to associations or something similar?

Phil Gerbyshak: Yeah, definitely. I think you have to partner an offline strategy with that. So what I would encourage him to do would be to actually host some events at some of these restaurants, and teach people how to use Twitter and Foursquare at the event. Have them Tweet about the experience to get a free hamburger or get a dollar off a beer, whatever. But make it into a fun workshop by showing them the cool things Joe did on Foursquare.

April 16 is Foursquare Day: o4 for April and four squared is 16, right? Last year, we had Foursquare Day. [See AJBombers Foursquare Day Twtvite .] Joe partnered with a local business and brought a boat down to the end of the dock. We had a little kayak there and people got their picture taken with the kayak. Joe uploaded all those pictures to Flickr. Many of them he tweeted out or posted to his Facebook page to show people how much fun it was. AJ Bombers actually earned a Foursquare swarm badge.

You might say, ‘Who cares? Why does that matter?’ Well, people like to get badges. That’s  a big reason why people get involved in Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts and stuff – because there’s a badge. A badge shows,”Yes, I actually did something.” And whether it’s a virtual badge, like it is on FourSquare, or a real badge, people like to do that, and people like to have fun.

AJ Bombers Flashbomb Photos by Tracy Apps

AJ Bombers Foursquare Flashbomb party photos. (See a familiar face?) Photography: tracy apps design.

So show them how to use Twitter and Foursquare to have fun.  They interact at an event, maybe check out another restaurant, and then try to tweet at a restaurant that doesn’t even have a Twitter account. Or the restaurant might have a dormant Twitter account. They might say, “Well, what the heck? They didn’t respond.”

So then that creates a little bit of pressure. Your friend can go into that restaurant and say, “Hey, by the way, we had an event. It brought in 150 new people. Would you be interested in having an event? And, by the way, people are talking about your restaurant, too, and the fact that you set up a Twitter account in 2008 and you haven’t used it since then.” And if the people aren’t already online, help them build a community, show them how to  tweet.

He might not make any money at first, but as he sees that more businesses are using social media, he’ll definitely get more adoption.

#TwitterWorks Demographics

Alison: That makes a lot of sense. And it really puts it in a practical perspective as well. I think all of us just starting out in this area kind of stumble in terms of how do we connect, how do we get out there and build a community. It’s not evident.

Just to go back to #TwitterWorks. About the demographics. Was there a certain age group, particularly for AJ Bombers, that this kind of campaign would attract? Or not?

Phil: I would have thought that the 28-40 year-old crowd would have been the biggest crowd. In the book, we actually have pictures of a lot of our “fans,” our supporters – the people that actually made #TwitterWorks work for us, and Joe’s and Scott’s businesses.

We saw that there were youngsters. We had babies in families that showed up and supported us and that loved Twitter. There’s one family, even the little two-year-old, he’s got a little Twitter account. When he says cute stuff, they send it out. And he checks in, doing different stuff. That family, they’re definitely using Twitter.

Now, I would not expect that families would be a target demographic, but we see people from 21 into their late 50s using Twitter. And they’re from all walks of life. We have folks that are small business owners that use Twitter and connect at AJ Bombers, and people that work in big companies.

I did expect there to be some more demographic information there that would be helpful, but really there’s not. Everybody likes to connect and to interact. And if you make it fun, and you make it simple, and you teach people how to do it, people are going to be a lot more excited about it.  And it doesn’t matter their age, because they’re going to feel like they’re part of the community.

AJ Bombers, “Where everybody knows your name or at least your Twitter handle.”

You can write your name anywhere in the restaurant. So you can connect with just about anybody as just a handle. You might take a picture, and go back and look them up.

Or you might just send, “Hey @ PhilGerb, I saw your Twitter handle on the chair at @AJBombers. Pretty cool.” Or “I’m sitting where Phil was.”

You’d be surprised. People are really excitable, and they really enjoy just being a part of something bigger than them.

@AJ Bombers:” Where everyone knows your name and your Twitter handle.” Why are people following this hamburger?  Because owner Joe Sorge, co-author of #TwitterWorks, finds creative ways to engage with his customers using social media.

Alison: Coming off of the interview with Charlene Li and her book Open Leadership, it was interesting to see two very traditional business tenants debunked, both in her book and in your book, #TwitterWorks.

What both books say is, “Look, don’t worry. You don’t control your business. Your customers do. They’re the ones that you want to engage and you want them to feel like they have ownership and some control. It’s not about you as the owner.”

And also, “Get over the fear of making a mistake. You’re going to make mistakes and that’s okay. Just to admit them and move on. And sometimes good things happen out of that.”

So I think it’s interesting to see that, more and more, we’re loosening up in different aspects of the business world.  I’m hoping that happens more in the corporate world, but like everything, it takes a lot longer to make the change happen in that environment.

Phil: Yeah, it takes a lot longer to move a glacier than it does just to move an ice cube. I think corporations will begin to embrace that. As you see, more and more…the economy is not as great.  So many people have been entrepreneurial while the economy has been down, because there’s not that much other choice but to be entrepreneurial. I hope that carries into the corporate business world, because some may find that pure entrepreneurialism is not for them, but structured entrepreneurialism in a corporation might be.

Customers want to be where customers already are. And if they move, they want the business to move with them. They’re not looking to be told what to do. They’re looking to be interacted with and respected.

We’ve seen a shift to “What are you thinking about?” or “What has your interest?” And people are getting smarter and sharing information on Twitter that becomes much more relevant. And I can tell you there’s a restaurant in town here, in Milwaukee, and I’m not going to mention them by name. But they have a Twitter account. They’re one of the biggest restaurants, but they never send anything out. And they sell something that updates everyday: a daily special.

It would be so easy just to send that out, and to maybe show some pictures. So instead of having to go to their Web site (frankly their mobile Web site often is down) , I could just look in Twitter and the four things that they’re featuring. Or that happy hour is from 5-7. Or, hey, my favorite bartender is tending bar. It would be so easy to do that.  And then occasionally  interact with people, “Oh John’s tending bar, that’s great I should go down there. Woo hoo!” And then to have  somebody respond, “Great!  Hope to see you.”

That’s so not hard. By putting it out there, you’re kind of giving up control and  saying, “Hey, customers, wherever you want to interact with me, I’m going to be there, and I’m happy to interact with you there.” Instead of saying, “You must go to our corporate Web site and that’s the only place that you can go. And we’re going to put our phone number there and you can leave a message and we might call you back and we might not.”

I think that’s dead. Customers want to be where customers already are. And if they move, they want the business to move with them. They’re not looking to be told what to do. They’re looking to be interacted with and respected.

Connect With Phil

Alison: Where can people find you online?

Phil: Lots of places. I prefer you start with my home base. Check out my Web site/blog at And then Twitter is a great way to connect with me. I’m @PhilGerb. On LinkedIn, if you search for Gerbyshak you’ll find me or go to You can find me on Facebook and really pretty much anywhere.

If you search for Gerbyshak you’re probably going to find me or someone who knows me. So go ahead and check that out. I’d be happy to connect. I hate the word ‘contact.’ I hate when people say,“Oh yeah, well I’m just contacting you.” Well, no. I’d like aconnection. So if you have something worthwhile to say, I’d welcome a connection.

Alison: And I can say, personally, every time I’ve interacted with you, I always come away feeling like I have a little more spring in my step. You’re very positive and give off a really good vibe. So I’d encourage anyone to interact with you.

Phil: Thank you.

Alison: You’re welcome. Again, I appreciate so much your time and sharing your knowledge. It’s very, very  helpful and very generous. And very much in the “social media way,” so to speak.

Phil: It’s my pleasure. Thanks for making time for me too, Alison.

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About Alison Cummings

Business Writing, Copywriting, Content Marketing.
Communications + Marketing + Technical Expertise.