We’ve been fortunate enough to help launch several new businesses in the Rio Grande Valley over the past year. Gamehaus Gastropub and Infusions Eats & Drinks opened last October, and The Prelude will open this October. There’s a unique thrill in this process, especially when social media is the main marketing tool being used. In all three cases, our social media campaign started weeks (if not months) before each grand opening.
The campaign starts before you create any accounts or build a website. It starts with collecting a lot of basic information so that even if you don’t keep up with your social media network going forward, customers will be at least be able to find you online.
The first thing I always start with is deciding on a username to use across your network. If possible, it is a good idea to use a consistent name across your web address and social media accounts. This is not always easy, as the name you want might be available on Facebook but not on Twitter, but keeping the name the same makes it very easy for both new and existing customers to connect with you.
For example, we came on board with The Monarch in McAllen a few weeks after they opened. We suggested using @monarchmcallen across the board. Their website, profiles and even their Gmail are all monarchmcallen. Twitter makes this process challenging because it has a 15 character limit on usernames (Infusions and Gamehaus both have Twitter handles that are different than the rest of their SM accounts), but shorter names are easier to remember.
First, you need a main business email address. You can use a mailbox from your own domain, but a Gmail account works just fine. In fact, Facebook doesn’t allow pages to use emails they have deemed too generic such as firstname.lastname@example.org (even if it’s a legitimate address) so a Gmail account might be a good idea either way (Google accounts also come with many other free, helpful tools as well). Most social media services require an email address to create an account.
Before you create any new accounts, you should decide what you will use for your profile picture across your accounts. Social media is increasingly a visual medium, and when you are just starting out, this gives your first followers something to engage with. If you don’t yet have a logo, it’s not a bad idea to wait, but in the meantime you should use something like a high quality picture of the exterior or interior of your business.
In the case of The Prelude, we started with the first version of the logo and updated it a mere two weeks later. A cover photo is also essential for Facebook and Twitter: a wide panorama of your business, a “coming soon” banner, or a larger version of your logo are all great ways to start.
Next, you should collect the answers to these basic questions:
- What is the street address?
- What is the phone number?
- What are your hours?
- What is a one sentence description or tagline for your business? (Usually I keep this short enough to include the street address and phone number.)
- When is the Grand Opening?
- What kind of parking is available?
- Do you take reservations or host private events?
Finally, you should decide how customer inquiries will be handled. Ideally, your owners/general managers and social media manager can come up with a list of frequently asked questions (an FAQ) so they can quickly and easily deal with most inquiries themselves. At a minimum, they must know who to contact or where to send customers if there any questions they can’t answer off hand.
With these steps completed, you are almost ready to launch your SM accounts. You could easily create all of your profiles at this point, but you should take a little more time to figure out exactly what you are going to share between now and the time your business opens. This will be the subject of our next blog post.