I remember a time before social media. Ah, what a blissful era that was. Those were the days when people actually spoke to each other in bars. They imbibed their cocktails leisurely without the need to stop and snap a photo of said drink, add the desired filter and post it immediately on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or whatever other social media outlets are now in existence. How did our bars and drinks become popular or known around the city, or even across the globe, then?
The power of social media can’t be ignored these days. Or can it? Can a bar be successful without posting content? Of course, there are successful bars out there that have interest in becoming famous via such channels. But according to Jacob Briars, a veteran bar pro who’s very active on social media: “If you own a bar and aren’t using social media, then you are either on an extremely busy corner or you are the only joint in town. People who try to opt out on social media are usually the ones who have overshared, and then been burned, or those who see any social media as the preserve of the vainglorious. Or like my grandma once said, ‘Did Mr Shakespeare need Facebook?’”
There are some rules, though, that we should all be cognizant of when using social media. First, don’t post too often. This just becomes annoying, and I typically cull several people a day for this very reason. One per day, no more, unless it’s Twitter and what you’re posting is useful and engaging. Twitter posts don’t give you a lot of space to be witty, so there should be a link to something like an article that will be of interest to your followers.
I try to be quite active on Instagram, and while I certainly don’t have the same reach as, say, a Jim Meehan, I’ve found it a useful tool for engaging regulars, highlighting any drink specials and launching a new cocktail or seasonal cocktail menu. If I see guests at the bar taking photos of our drinks at Dante, which happens a lot, then I politely ask that they tag us in their post. It’s free advertising, which is part of the appeal for bars using social media these days.
Much like chefs, many bartenders have learned to master Instagram to make visually appealing drinks. A picture tells a thousand words, and there are more bars and bartenders nowadays that understand the inherent value in this. Make good drinks and show them off. Instagram is like a free, targeted photo shoot in a glossy magazine (unless you take bad photos, in which case get someone to help you that knows what they’re doing).
“I wish that YouTube and Instagram had been around when I was running bars,” says Briars. “If only to show American bartenders that people in New Zealand were making drinks with sherry, amaro and Bénédictine 10 years before they ‘discovered’ it over here.”