Social media help game day business boom

By Lauren Erdman

TUSCALOOSA | Business booms in Tuscaloosa on game day. Alabama merchandise covers storefronts, restaurants and bars fill with fans screaming “Roll Tide,” and hotel rooms are booked by thousands of fans streaming into town for the Crimson Tide football game.

But behind the scenes, successful game-day business is more complicated than simply waiting for fans to arrive. Tuscaloosa businesses are taking advantage of social media like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to attract customers. 

Private Gallery, a clothing boutique on the Strip, offers special game day promotions using Facebook. If customers buy a dress to wear to the game and post a picture of themselves wearing it on Private Gallery’s Facebook page, they are entered in a drawing for a gift card, store manager Kim Wood said. Employees use the store’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts to post pictures of game appropriate attire all week to bring customers in to shop on Friday and Saturday before kickoff.

At Lucca, a clothing boutique about 10 minutes from campus in Midtown Village, employees use the store’s Facebook account to update statuses about sales and promotions and post pictures of new clothes and jewelry, said Anna Florey, a sales associate.

“Since social media is so big, particularly in younger generations, it’s important for us to interact with customers through it,” Florey said. “Especially on Fridays before home football games, sales increase significantly because everyone’s looking for something for the game.”

Restaurants use social media in similar ways. Wings U manager Neal Hollingshead said the restaurant will post a funny picture of an opposing team’s coach on its Facebook page before games, and the person with the best caption wins a dinner pass.

Local businesses also receive help with marketing through the Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports Commission, an organization that supports the local economy by promoting events and businesses, said Jessika White, communication specialist for the commission. Restaurants, including Wings U, and stores like Private Gallery and Lucca are tourist destinations listed on the commission’s website.

The commission also works with local hoteliers such as Hotel Capstone to fill empty rooms. White calls hotels early in the week before home games and checks for vacancies. The rooms then then become available for tourists to book on the “Book A Room” page on the commission’s website.

Social media isn’t always the best way to attract customers, though. The main problem with social media, White said, isn’t about who it reaches, but who it doesn’t reach. Businesses can tweet about sales and post Facebook pictures every day, but older generations who don’t use social media will never see it.

“I had an older lady from Texas A&M call me wondering how far in advance she needed to book her room and if there were any rooms left for the Alabama vs. Texas A&M game,” White said. “That’s the gap that needs to be filled. Older generations don’t do Facebook.”

Regardless of who social media reaches, though, local businesses agree it is a necessary and important tool to attract customers, especially during home football game weekends.

“Having a social media presence is extremely important, specifically for us because we’re a small company,” said Monica Rudhart, manager of Altar’d State, a clothing boutique in Midtown Village. “People will come in on Fridays and on Saturdays a few hours before the game when they see your company on their Facebook stream or when you post interesting pictures.”