Social Media Stars 

Facebook and Instagram have become key channels for modern-day marketing.

Thunderbird lounge co-owners Jacob Wiedmann (left) and Jeremiah Gratza use social media as the primary marketing tool and outreach strategy for their Phoenix bar, which has almost 17,000 followers on Instagram.
Thunderbird lounge co-owners Jacob Wiedmann (left) and Jeremiah Gratza use social media as the primary marketing tool and outreach strategy for their Phoenix bar, which has almost 17,000 followers on Instagram. (Photo by Charles Barth)

Having a presence on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram is no longer optional for contemporary bar owners. In fact, for many modern on-premise operators, social media sites act as the new business cards, and posts to Facebook and Instagram show direct results to increased foot traffic and sales at the bar. 

“We get a lot of people who find us via social media,” says Deke Dunne, master mixologist at Allegory in Washington, D.C. “We’ve experienced incredible success on social media, where our engagement has been rising daily and we’ve seen an influx of followers. Our efforts on social media have led to an increase in sales.” 

Located in the Eaton D.C. hotel, Allegory is a thematic bar that takes influence from “Alice in Wonderland,” but aims to tell the story through the eyes of Ruby Bridges, the first African-American girl to desegregate an elementary school in New Orleans in 1961. “Our posts on social media heavily lean into this theme while focusing on highlighting the menu and our team,” Dunne says. “Social media plays a huge role in our approach and we’ve made a push to grow our accounts and increase the content we post. We currently post every other day. It’s a delicate balance between overwhelming your followers and keeping them engaged.” 

Dunne adds that Allegory’s Instagram and Facebook accounts are informational as well as artistic, allowing guests to learn about the concept, cocktails, and bar team while also looking at beautiful imagery. The accounts share stylish photos of drinks and the bar, which helps build virtual relationships with guests and results in engagement both online and in person. 

Social media is the primary marketing strategy at Brother Wolf and Osteria Stella in Knoxville, Tennessee. The venues, owned jointly by Aaron Thompson and Jessica King, use Facebook and Instagram to increase brand awareness and share information on events, as well as to spotlight drinks and food features and highlight local purveyors with whom they work. The duo outsources their social media management to a local firm, who posts to their pages at least three days a week with photography and video clips.

“If ‘likes’ are a reliable metric, we often see a couple hundred per post,” Thompson says. “And aside from decent web traffic, our posts often translate into sales, with people coming in to check out the space. The more creative and original the content, the more often we hear positive comments from guests.” He adds that his venues’ social media followers are more often women than men, and that the mix is split between locals who live nearby and travelers who seek out Knoxville, Tennessee, as a destination. “Creating content, trend forecasting, responding to comments and messages, and posting several times a week is a full-time job,” Thompson says. “Having a good social media manager is necessary for long-term success.” 

In Phoenix, Thunderbird Lounge owner Jeremiah Gratza handles all of his own social media posts and is very active online, aiming to share content daily. Thunderbird Lounge uses Facebook and TicketWeb to highlight upcoming events, from trivia to live music and entertainment, and he turns to Instagram for everything else. Thunderbird Lounge, which has almost 17,000 Instagram followers, has an interior that lends itself to photography, which helps with content for posting.

“Social media is 100% our marketing and outreach strategy, along with our email list,” Gratza says. “We post pictures of the interior and people hanging out and playing video games, as well as outside crowd shots to show how beautiful the space is. Lately, we’ve also been sharing TikTok videos that our guests take at the bar. People love it and I believe social media does translate into interaction in person at the bar. It’s free advertising.”