If you are anything like me you are probably of the mindset that the Internet has significantly lessened the level of customer loyalty that most companies are accustomed to.

The reason for this is consumers now have so many choices, they no longer have to rely on digging through the phone book or count on the right “interruption based” advertising message to create a “top of mind awareness” for when they are ready to make a buying decision.

Let’s face it … The Internet is here to stay!

We have a couple obvious choices. We can either hire the worlds greatest hackers and attempt to have them permanently destroy the Internet so it goes offline forever, or we can come up with creative ways to embrace this supposed “loyalty killer” and turn it into a “loyalty enabler.”

As Twitter continues to grow in popularity and more and more people get hooked on it as they have with Facebook, your potential to stay in front of your customers will increase tremendously.

Eleven percent of the population has already used Twitter and that number will continue to grow at a rapid rate in the coming months and years.

For the purpose of this article I’d like to focus on how a sports bar / restaurant could use Twitter to build customer loyalty and sales dollars at the same time.

Step One – Create a “Twitter-centric” Promotion

Let your customers know your restaurant is an active Twitter participant and that you’d love it if they followed you. If it happens to be Monday Night Football time invite your Twitter followers to send you a “Tweet” guessing the outcome of this week’s game. Let them know the person who gets the correct score will win a dinner for two. If the economy happens to be nipping at your profits, make sure you add some type of tie breaker so you don’t have to award too many free dinners.

Throughout the course of the game “Tweet” the scores as they occur so you can keep your followers abreast of the game. You may even want to point out those people who look like they are on track to win. Whatever you do make it fun and engage your “Followers.”

Step Two – Create Twitter Follower ONLY specials

Send out a daily “Tweet” that offers a special for your Twitter followers ONLY. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. It could simply be 50% off on an appetizer. Just offer something and don’t be too cheap. What you’ll find is that the customers who initially began to follow you for the “Guess the Score” contest, will be excited that there is something else to look for from your restaurant’s tweets.

If you consistently “Tweet” these offers, you’ll find people will look out for your “Tweets” specifically and you may just give them a reason to fore-go grilling on the deck and stop by to enjoy your outdoor deck. 🙂

Step Three – Keep Your Followers Up to Date on Wait Times

How did you feel the last time you drove across town to visit your favorite restaurant only to find out the wait was 2 hours, or worse yet, they were completely booked for the evening?

I am guessing you weren’t too happy!

Well what if you could have opened up your smart phone, or logged onto your computer and found your favorite restaurant just “Tweeted” that there was a 30 minute wait? I am guessing you’d be much happier.

Could they have just called? Sure, but phone calls are boring and everyone LOVES new technology.

Step Four – Monitor the “Twitter-sphere”

You should always have a search window open on Twitter for your Company name. So many companies have no idea what people are saying about them and if they did, they could help correct a poor visitor experience by simply showing they care. This is something which might take you 30 seconds to do, and you could spend even less time passively monitoring the results.

Think about how you’d feel if you blew off some steam about a bad experience and within a few seconds you got a response back asking how that company could “make it right.” Most people would talk about that to many other people and the buzz created would be incredible!

There are many other ways to use Twitter to build customer loyalty and this is just one simple example. I challenge you to think creatively and figure out how to use this for your business. It doesn’t matter if you have a restaurant or a tool and die shop … Just be creative and YOU WILL WIN!