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It’s Valentine’s Day! What better day than today to talk about five unique online promotions that we love?

The word “unique” is one you’ll come across often as you learn about the most impactful ways to effectively include social media in your bar’s marketing efforts. And for good reason: You can’t swing a lolcat these days without hitting somebody in the industry trying to reach out to potential customers through social media.

Because of that fact, it’s important you are doing your due diligence to separate yourself from the crowd. Doing something social media-savvy consumers haven’t seen before is the easiest way for your brand to stand out.

Here are a few examples of quality promotions we’ve seen from different companies across the social media platform spectrum.


Most social media users are already sharing their photos online, so hosting a Facebook photo contest is an easy way to engage both existing and potential customers.

There are several angles you can take with a photo contest. Take a cue from Fresh Brothers and make everyone a winner. In 2011, the California pizza chain encouraged Facebook fans to take photos with their mascot. Anyone who shared their photo on Fresh Brothers’ Facebook page received a gift certificate.

Or you could approach the photo contest another way by making it competitive. Yogurt chain Let’s Yo hosted an ongoing “fan of the week” contest with free yogurt for the winner. To compete, customers had to upload a photo of themselves eating their favorite yogurt, and Facebook fans “liked” their favorite photos to vote for a winner.

Because this type of contest is competitive, contestants will likely ask friends and followers to vote for their photos, increasing traffic to your page (bonus!).


Who needs focus groups when you can receive instant feedback using social media? Another option available to you is to engage customers online by asking them to help make decisions.

Sites like TwitPolls make it easy for customers to weigh in with opinions on questions related to new menu items or potential drink specials.

Frito-Lays’ “Do Us A Flavor” campaign prompted customers to use social media outlets to give their opinions as to what flavor chips the company should release next. Voters have narrowed it down to three finalists, and the winner will be added to the Frito-Lays line up.


In March 2012, Chipotle launched a three month Foursquare contest that gave customers a chance to win free burritos for a year. Participants first had to earn a “groupie badge” by checking in three times during the contest period. Each subsequent check-in was considered a contest entry. Along with one grand prize winner, ten other contestants were chosen to win one free burrito.

Foursquare giveaways don’t have to be huge. Offering a small incentive for customers to come into your bar or restaurant can be just as effective. For example, more than 400 Foursquare users claimed Angelo and Maxie’s Steakhouse’s special when the Manhattan restaurant offered free dessert with the purchase of an entree to customers who checked in using the platform.

Large or small, Foursquare offers can be an easy, cost-effective way to successfully promote your bar or restaurant.


Video contests are becoming more and more common. Customers love to share their own creative content, especially for a prize, and videos can be used as free promotional materials.

After Doritos’ “Crash the Super Bowl” contest gained national media attention for the brand (who can help but laugh at the Dorito-loving goat?), other brands are following suit.

McDonald’s recently launched a video contest for their newest menu item, Fish McBites. Contestants created videos using the McBites theme song for their chance to win a grand prize of $16,500.


While Pinterest is a relatively new social media outlet, its sharing feature allows users to browse each other’s content. If your business has a presence on Pinterest, other “pinners” become a brand ambassador by sharing your content.

In 2012, Dickey’s Barbeque Pit launched their Pinterest presence by hosting a “Smokin’ Pin Wins” contest. Dickey’s, the largest BBQ franchise in the world, asked fans to invent a recipe using at least one of Dickey’s signature ingredients and submit it along with a photo of the finished creation. Dickey’s then posted the photos and recipes to their new Pinterest account.

The recipes were taste-tested and a winner was chosen by Dickey’s president. The grand prize included the winning “pin” feature on Pinterest and free bbq for a year.

The secret to a great promotion is engaging your customers while getting creative. Would you give any of these types of promotions a shot? If the answer is no, you aren’t taking full advantage of what social media has to offer. Get out there, test some of these promotion ideas, and you just may surprise yourself  with the results!
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