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30 Mar

Social media at The Swallow

Posted by Paul Harrigan

The Swallow Bar in Maylands is the Small Bar of the Year 2014. It is also my local. It is also awesome on social media. This made it a perfect choice for a blog post showcasing excellent use of social media for marketing.

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The owners, Zoe and Meredith (who kindly posed for the picture above), have done an amazing job on this unique small bar. They were also kind enough to spare half an hour before the usual Friday rush to share their thoughts on the importance of social media in business.

The Swallow is, as Zoe put it herself, ‘off the beaten track’. This makes social media all the more important for them to reach out to, interact with, and feel part of a community.

Zoe and Meredith do all the social media themselves, and did admit that this takes up a lot of their time. They immediately countered that with the statement that ‘Facebook makes the business come alive’. In fact, months before they were open, they had 500 likes on Facebook (now at 3972!). This is because they created a buzz around the bar opening, sharing all the ‘little moments’ as opening came closer, always with a photo. In this way, they see Facebook as telling the life of The Swallow from then to now.

‘Not doing Facebook wasn’t an option’

Right from the off, Zoe sang the praises of using Facebook to market the business. We have all seen many terrible business Facebook pages with no content and no interaction. So doing Facebook is not common sense. I asked Zoe what they did to be successful.

They interact with their customers, current and potential, 'on there every single day', providing them with information on the next musician or craft beer coming in, or even what’s on the menu tonight. Being current and doing Facebook on the fly was something Zoe emphasised; capturing as many moments as you can. Facebook also lets you tag other people/businesses that you are involved with, which extends your reach even further. They respond immediately to customer questions, and take bookings. It is this interaction with customers that Zoe said she loves. She often 'ends up in conversations with customers', the feedback from which is invaluable.

As for the types of content The Swallow post, it’s all about 'food porn'! Seriously, by checking their Facebook page insights, Zoe said that photos of food gained the highest engagement. Far more than just text. Also, they keep an eye for cool little things they see in the neighbourhood, like a vintage car parked outside. People work too of course. So, if you’re a friendly customer at The Swallow you may find yourself on their Facebook page.

One of the concerns I hear a lot from businesses who are hesitant about social media is dealing with negative comments. Zoe was pragmatic about this, saying ‘yeah but it gives us a chance to deal with the issue and resolve it for the customer’. You can’t get all the positive without some negative.



Instagram is more recent for The Swallow and is 'a slow burner'. Because they are so focused on ‘visual’ in their social media, it makes complete sense to be on it and is a nice complement to Facebook. You can link your Instagram posts directly and automatically to Facebook.

Another function of Instagram The Swallow is looking to venture into is short video. Short videos are bang on trend right now, and really show great engagement rates. The emphasis is on short, though, and Instagram’s video function is perfect with a 15 second limit. Zoe mentioned that she thought that people have a two second attention span….and that isn’t far off! For The Swallow, they are keen to ‘find a style’ that suits them before they jump in; a sensible approach. Rushing in to social is the worst thing any business can do. Well not the absolute worst, but it’s not advised!


What about other social media?

The Swallow aren’t on Twitter, but Zoe asked me what I thought about it. Many people do. My response is always that it is a great tool for educating. Instagram is more about entertaining. Depending on your business, only one of these may fit. But if both fit, they are very different approaches and different social media suits different approaches. So, for Twitter, it’s a great tool to follow key people in your industry and therefore be a source of information. This is a great way to start with it. Moving on to retweeting (sharing) interesting things is the next step, before one day you are ready to create your own content.

The important thing with choosing social media channels is to choose those that fit best with your brand and what you’re trying to communicate. Starting this way should keep you focused and limit you to only the relevant social media. Using two social media really well is better than having a presence on four.

I will finish with a quote from Zoe. ‘You have to market when it’s busy; by the time it’s quiet it’s too late’. I think that’s a good note to finish on and one to make you question whether you really don’t have the time for social.




For the academics researchers out there, the research behind this blog post was underpinned by several frameworks


For any social media research, Aral et al. (2013) provide a useful framework that propose these domains of social media:

  • Design and features
  • Strategy and tactics
  • Management and organisation
  • Measurement and value activities

Research in each of these can be at the users, platforms or firms level.

Customer engagement is a central construct in social media research. There are four main types of customer engagement behaviours (CEBs) (Jaakkola and Alexander, 2014):

  • Augmenting (customers helping)
  • Co-developing (customers suggesting)
  • Influencing (customer reviewing)
  • Mobilsing (customer blogging) 

Information processes is also a central construct in social media research. There are three main types (Jayachandran et al., 2005):

  • Information reciprocity (information exchange between firm and customer)
  • Information capture (insight from different social media)
  • Information use (using information to improve marketing)

I also surveyed The Swallow on the following:

  • Market orientation (Narver and Slater, 1990). Mean = 4.25.
  • Customer relationship orientation (Jayachandran et al., 2005). Mean = 4.75.
  • SM support customer relationship management (Wang et al., 2013). Mean = 3.75.
  • Social media capability (Rapp et al., 2013). Mean = 4.

1 = Strongly disagree, 5 = Strongly agree