It’s been a frantic February so far in St Andrews. We’ve seen sun, snow and romance, and Rascals have seen their busiest ever week of food sales. Though still wet-led (most of their money is made from drinks), the growing popularity of their new food menu is a clear sign of success for the North Street bar. The unit, located above the New Picture House cinema, had experienced a string of failures before Jamie Anderson (previously of Ma Bells and the Raisin) started his own company, Dirty Rascals Bars and Venues Ltd. Many attribute the success of the bar to its aggressive social media strategy. The bar has over 2800 likes on Facebook and almost 2000 followers on Twitter and posts on both multiple times per day.
In an interview with The Saint, Jamie revealed the benefits and challenges of using social media to drive a local business. “The first thing I had to do was create some hype. Before we opened the door we had 1200 people following us. By doing things on Facebook, I wanted to show that Rascals was a bit different, a bit of fun and Facebook was the only way to convey that.”
Rascals often offer promotions. “I think you do have to lose money at the start. In Freshers’ week we gave away 700-1000 vouchers for £1 burgers and chips. The cost price is more than £1. You need to give students a very good offer to persuade them to sample our delights. Most people coming in for something free will then buy a drink, so you always get a sale as well. I lost a bit of money but it was good advertising. I could see from the reach [on Facebook analytics] that for days afterwards people were still looking at the post.”
One danger of using social media to promote deals is that it allows the competition to easily track your strategy, a particular challenge for small independent bars like Rascals. “In terms of against the big companies, it is infuriating when they look at what you’re doing, take it, do a little jig to it and put it out in their own way.” Jamie was mindful to emphasise the importance of Twitter and Facebook as tools to actively engage with customers, such as encouraging them to ‘check-in’ when sitting in Rascals. “I think people are looking
for some form of banter. Ten years ago you wouldn’t know what we were doing unless we actually spoke to each other. It’s almost like a public display of affection towards a place and without that I don’t think we’d be where we are just now.”
Whilst social media can be a great way to engage with fans, posts don’t always generate immediate business. “I put a photo of the chef climbing around in the bar with a balloon on his head. 57 people liked this photo but those likes weren’t exactly going straight into the till. There are certain people who have interacted with us for months and months and have never been to Rascals. With those people it’s about keeping going with the banter and they will eventually come in. In the early days the banter was so great that it wasn’t doing us much justice. You thought it would be the busiest pub if you looked at the Facebook page but you could come in and it would be dead.”
Despite having a vibrant social media presence, Rascals does not currently have its own website. Jamie revealed that this would soon change. It is clear that , when used correctly, social media can be an incredibly useful tool to support local businesses. The challenge for Jamie and Rascals now is to find even better ways of transforming those re-tweets into more visits and, ultimately, higher profits.