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Phlok - Social Marketing in the Food Business: by Caroline Byrne

All the best places to eat, shop and stay in Ireland. A local guide to local places.

There's a new social medium making waves, and it's Irish-owned, based in Ireland and conceived entirely with Irish businesses in mind. Like many business owners, creator of Phlok (that's what it's called) Paul Graham found social media to be time consuming, hard to measure in terms of the return on this investment of time, yet a burden that's unavoidable for any consumer-facing business.

Great! 40 people liked my wittily composed early bird menu post, but are any of them living or working even remotely close to my restaurant? And what the hell is 'reach?' Will that split second during which my painstakingly arranged photo slipped under their finger mid flick translate into a sale?

These are the questions Graham sought to answer with Phlok, a points-based digital loyalty platform that rewards consumers for shopping and eating locally, while enabling participating businesses to communicate with followers who are interested, present and actively looking for their posts.

'Phloks' are generally no wider than a five mile radius, so businesses and consumers are close enough for online interaction to be meaningful. While individual businesses have their own followers, all consumers in a particular Phlok can see updates from each of the local businesses near them. So for instance, the 500 businesses in the Dublin city centre Phlok, can post public messages to the 20,000+ consumers in the capitol who are on the look out for deals and points.

And here's the deal for consumers: you get points for following a business, checking in on their premises, and making a purchase. You can gather your points in any participating businesses in your Phlok and redeem them wherever you like, regardless of where you collected your points. If you keep an eye on Phlok throughout the week, you'll spy special deals and bundles of points from local businesses.

Within their dashboards, businesses can see all of their own followers and their interactions. They can see real information about each person - gender, age, date of birth - and can send messages to all or some or them i.e. to all followers with birthdays the next day, or all followers between 18 and 21. For those who have downloaded the Phlok app on their smartphone, the message pops up like a Whats App message, as opposed to getting in lost in that 'other' inbox on Facebook.

Among the many beneficial features of Phlok though, possibly the best is that all updates and interactions push to Facebook, both posts from the business and notifications/check-ins/purchases by consumers. So, should one be so inclined, you could, potentially, not bother with Facebook at all once on Phlok!
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