A restaurant is actually doing The Straddle

In my post, entitled “The Straddle,” which attempts to stress the importance of connecting your online activities with your offline activities (and vice versa), I said the following:

If you’re a restaurant who isn’t tweeting out your specials (and I don’t know ONE restaurant who is), and even perhaps creating events/menus for your online peeps so that you can then have the offline experience with them, it seems to me you’re missing something.

Well, a week or so I discovered that a restaurant called Lucky’s was following my tweets.

I jokingly tweeted out the following:

Moments later came their response:

Now I don’t believe for a minute that I had anything to do with their embracing social media for their restaurant marketing. However, it’s worth noting that this is a great example of The Straddle.

I’ve watched their tweets for a while now, and they are not only attempting to connect with their customers/community/Tribe, but are also using this online connection to make them aware of offline activities:

This is fantastic.

I do, however, have a few pieces of unsolicited advice. First off, there’s been a drop off on the tweets. You don’t have to tweet out hundreds of times a day, but you do need to be consistent. For several days there were dozens of tweets, and for the past two days, zero. Not good.

More importantly, there seems to be no connection between their Twitter presence and the rest of their social media efforts. Most distressingly, the web site (in addition to being in desperate need of a redesign) has no mention of their Twitter feed that I can find. It would be relatively painless to put a “Follow me on Twitter” badge on the site. They should then take it a step further and begin asking those who come out to events at the bar to submit photos, drink recipes….whatever….that could be then posted to the site (or a blog or flickr group).

If they need an example, they need look no further than this post on Pop Candy doing The Straddle.

Frankly, it would be far easier for a bar to get offline material to connect to their online presence than it is for an online blog (like Pop Candy) to get offline material online.

My reason for pointing these concerns out is because I fear that if Lucky’s doesn’t do The Straddle correctly, and start making these connections, they will deem their “effort” a failure.

A Twitter presence is great, but it’s not enough. It must be leveraged correctly by being more than a one-way push of information; it must be an invitation for the community to contribute to the identity (not brand[*]), and there must be a place where the community can not only see their contributions, but also direct their Tribe to see what they’ve contributed.

This allows for the community itself to be influencing others to join the Tribe. It’s what Mark Earls means when he says (via his interview on the Gaping Void blog):

Human beings are to independent action, what cats are to swimming. We can do it if we really have to, but mostly we don’t… Instead, we do what we do because of what those around us are doing (Whatever our minds and our cultures tell us).

So if you want to change what I’m doing, don’t try to persuade me- don’t try to make me- do anything. Instead, enlist the help of my friends…

Here’s my point: All top-down created communities will reach a plateau.

It’s not a coincidence that bands get stuck drawing the same number of people to their shows, week after week, year after year; it’s not a coincidence that a web site or blog’s traffic gets stuck at a certain level and doesn’t ever really move more than a standard deviation one way or the other; it’s not a coincidence that restaurants/bars reach a certain level of customers and rarely vary from this amount.

In all cases, what has happened is that whatever marketing strategy has been employed (typically some variant of a push/top-down approach) has reached its maximum level of efficacy. Whatever affect it had, and whatever ambient affect resulted – via WOM – from this initial push has reached its limit. It is now essentially a closed circuit; the same people will come to the bands’ shows/visit the blog/go to the restaurant (again, all within ±σ).

At this plateau point, those in charge of attracting and retaining new customers have two choices:

1. Ramp up the top-down/push marketing by purchasing more ads, etc., in the hopes that whomever they attract with these ads will engage in the offering and become part of the community. This is not likely, and — as we are so able to see these days by correlating the traffic generated from a top-down/push marketing approach to bounce rate — simply doesn’t work.

Using a web site as an example, if you, for instance, run a campaign with StumbleUpon, or if you run some other form of ad (God forbid, a banner ad), you will often momentarily increase traffic by as much as +2σ. However, the goal is not just attraction, it’s also retention, and after the initial spike diminishes, the numbers are typically right back to their pre-“event” traffic levels; i.e. no retention.

2. Give those in the community/Tribe the tools (social objects, etc.) to aid them in directing their peers to the show/site/restaurant of which they are already a Tribal member. It’s worth repeating here the words of Mark Earls:

So if you want to change what I’m doing, don’t try to persuade me- don’t try to make me- do anything. Instead, enlist the help of my friends…

This is clearly the right/only choice. It requires a different strategy. It requires real diligence and perseverance.

Your first several months of twittering can feel like you’re talking to yourself. But, if you’re persistent, if you do “The Straddle,” if you determine what your social objects are that your Tribe can share and use to attract their peers into the Tribe, and retain them, you will trend up from the plateau.

The benefit of this approach, beyond the fact that it’s likely the only way it will work, is that the financial costs are de minimis. To be clear, while there are little to no out of pocket expenses to undertake this type of social media marketing, there very definitely is opportunity cost. You must commit the time and human resources to this project or it will fail.

I likely should have broken this into a bunch of separate blog posts, but this is where my head is right now. I thank Lucky’s for helping me work through this, wish i could buy you a drink.

_________________________

[*]More on this later, but brands are over; how we, the customer, define our relationship with a product or service is far more important than whatever the company believes their brand is/should be.

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