From the Trenches

Use the Bathroom, Get More Facebook Fans

Right Source | December 17, 2010

Wish getting more Facebook fans was as easy as flushing the toilet? Well, The Falls in Mt. Washington, a small business in Baltimore, MD, has taken a step in that direction. The Falls is currently using the bathroom to point patrons to its Facebook fan page.

The Falls may be a small and local business, but its strategy sets an example that all businesses breaking into social media should follow. Before getting to their strategy to get a new Facebook fan with every flush, some background: The Falls opened in Baltimore’s Mt. Washington Village in December 2009, and has been the friendly neighborhood coffee shop/restaurant/ eclectic community hangout ever since (there’s beer on tap, too)!

The Falls is lined with the work of local artists (current spotlight is on Chrissy Macon Tachovsky’s photography), and used books, free for borrowing or taking, as long as the community keeps bringing more. It’s the kind of place where waiters and bar staff fill customers in on their grad school plans and  battles with nicotine between porting Zeke’s coffee, wine, and hot food to the table.

For a business with so much personality, having a great Facebook page comes easy. Yet The Falls, like many businesses, faces a common problem: how to get more fans?

The Falls came up with a strategy that solves two problems at once: getting them more Facebook fans, and gathering ideas for a much needed redesign—of the bathroom.  Signs about the “Bathroom Theme Contest” are posted around the restaurant, from the cash register, to the bookshelves, to the bathroom door, and, of course, inside the bathrooms, perfect reading distance from the toilet.

Like Us Before You Flush

“Our bathroom is pretty ugly,” the signs claim, “we want to redecorate but we have no idea what to do.” The signs guide patrons to The Falls’ Facebook page to submit redesign ideas. The incentive? Naming rights to the overhauled bathrooms, and a $50 gift card to The Falls.

My family noticed the contest on our most recent Sunday visit. The contest cracked up three generations of Golds, and those of us who are on Facebook became The Falls’ newest online fans, of course.

That Sunday, I talked about the contest with co-owner Mike Sproge, who manages The Falls’ Facebook page. According to Mike, The Falls crowdsourced the bathroom redecoration because “We want to clean it up, but we don’t want to pay someone to get in here and tell us what to do.” In the meantime, Sproge said, The Falls “has already seen an uptick in activity on our Facebook page.”

The contest is on until December 31st, and you can enter by visiting The Falls on Facebook. If you win, you could even name the bathroom after yourself, so anytime anyone uses the potty at The Falls, they’ll think of you. Who wouldn’t want to get their 15 seconds of local fame that way?

So, what can every business in social media learn from The Falls’ successful campaign? Engage customers by valuing their ideas and offering incentives—a $50 gift card can go a long way.  Integrate social media into your business—whether it’s the flavors of coffee you offer, or what the toilet seat looks like. Get your hands and your mind a little dirty. And perhaps most of all, never let dignity get in the way of creativity.

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