a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Twitter and business marriage success story

By Scott Beveridge

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Chris Dilla has jokingly referred to herself as a #mediaho on Twitter because of all the press attention she receives for her shrewd skills in the restaurant trade.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Twitter hashtags they are a way to separate conversations from the pack on that social networking site.

Dilla would probably chuckle and if another web junkie used  #socialmediaho in a reference to her since the Pittsburgh online market is flooded in a good way with her brand.

The owner of Bocktown Beer and Grill locations in North Fayette Township and Monaca, Pa., gets it. Social media is free to use and its positive impact on sales is undeniable. It's also helped to land her story in every local print market from the Observer-Reporter in Washington, Pa., to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and even a mention in Forbes.

Tweeting about her craft beers helped this self-made businesswoman experience a 20 percent increase in sales at her first bar during the throes of America’s great recession in 2009. While much of that success is due her restaurant’s good food and beer, it’s also a result of her ability to keep her customers interested and interacting with - or about - Bocktown via Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook.

“I’m not just telling them what the soup of the day is, I’m also reaching out to them with interesting links to craft beer, localism,” Dilla said in September, while presenting at the sixth PodCamp Pittsburgh, a popular conference on social and new media at Point Park University.

“Twitter brings real conversations. Everytime they are out there talking about Bocktown, Bocktown, Bocktown, I am thrilled.”

Many folks come to this event looking like deer stunned by headlights, pressured by their employers to join these online conversations to keep their jobs. Other attendees who have been tweeting since the dark ages of 2007 attend to keep up with new trends or to simply re-energize.

Dilla advice there is worth heeding.

“Don’t be spouting on Facebook about something you should be handling in person,” she said.

She once fired an employee for complaining about the boss on Facebook. The two shared 50 mutual FB friends, and, of course, the bitching quickly got back to Dilla, even though she had been blocked on Facebook from seeing that former worker’s postings. Big Duh.

She’s admittedly has made blunders, and one of the biggest came in the form of her telling a vagina joke on her business Twitter feed when she meant to post it under her personal identity.

“Don’t be afraid. You will make mistakes. There’s always the delete key," she said.

And she follows back those who follow Bocktown on Twitter.

“If it’s a one-way street, it will not work for you.”

Meanwhile, Dilla signed up for Google alerts to make sure she knows each time someone mentions Bocktown on the Internet.

“I link back to it. It’s a great resource. You can do every bit of it from a smartphone.”

And for those hashtags, she abuses them, but in a creative way.

She uses them to express her opinions while also hiding key words like Walmart from spambots.

She also urges her employees to find their voices on Twitter, to join the conversation, increase business and, ultimately, their tips.

“Twitter is the new television. We’re doing a better job on Twitter than some of the major news organizations,” Dilla said.

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