We recently discussed how the moniker “nerd” has become reclaimed as a positive identity and suggested some fun ways to embrace nerd culture in your marketing. Another term that is often thrown-around and sometimes used interchangeably is “geek”. Although there is some contention over definitions that differentiate between the two, “geek” tends to be most often used to describe people being passionate or devoted to a particular hobby or obsession.
Stereotypically, geeks are associated with topics like sci-fi and fantasy, computers and technology, comic books and gaming. However, with positive uses of the word on the rise and many people proudly self-identifying as geeks, we are also seeing a wider range of cultural specializations – ranging from fan followings of specific tv shows or books, to calling oneself a geek of film, art, music or photography.
However they choose to identify or use the word, these happily geeky folks are your customers. Despite jokes and stereotypes about awkwardness, geeks like to congregate and therefore are probably very socially active members of your community. It’s a great idea to think about ways your business can reach out them in marketing, product promotions and events.
Here are some examples of the way small businesses are geeking out in their communities in big and small ways:
1. Hosting Events and Meet-Ups
Right now, I guarantee there are local folks near your business looking for great places to hold specific events like gaming nights, discussion groups or just to hang out and network. Much like reaching out to your local arts community, if you have a bookstore, gallery, cafe, bar or restaurant that can provide a regular space or venue for them, it would benefit your business to make it known. Any bar with tv screens does not have to be limited to showing sports 24/7, why not promote weekly viewings of television shows that have a big cult following paired with food or drink specials? Even just a simple status update for your facebook wall or twitter might be able to stir up some interest.
Brooklyn bar, The Way Station courts Doctor Who fans and streampunk enthusiasts and makes it known in their Twitter intro as well as their tweets and events calendar.
You might also want to check out online tools like Meetup.com, which helps people find each other based on common interest and organize all kinds of events.
Browse for geeky groups in your area and you will likely find several – many that have quite a few members and plan well-attended events. It’s a great opportunity to reach out to area groups if your business has space or already hosts an event – like a trivia or board game night – that you think they may be interested in. This NYC group has over 800 members who organize and meet up in small groups at bars, cafes and houses for tv and movie viewing parties, book discussion groups, game nights and more.
2. Conventions and Festivals
Is your small business located near a convention center or event venue? If so, then it’s worth it to pay attention to the schedule and plan accordingly for some special promotions to coincide with possible advertising opportunities. Conventions are a really big deal and they range from huge, multi-genre and cross-industry events like Comic-Con in San Diego to hundreds of smaller and more specific conferences across the country for literally any genre, industry, and fandom you can think of.
Other gatherings that are structured and scheduled over at least a few days also work much the same way – like film, literary or music festivals – anything that draws the die-hard fans (or geeks).
This where local businesses come in! Every day, between the workshops, classes, talks and performances, all of these fans need places to go to eat, drink, and take breaks. At night, following days full of convention activities, there are often parties and meet-ups.
Some conventions, like Comic-Con, even prepare a restaurant guide for their attendees and list any specials or promotions going on. For events like SXSW in Austin, the entire city is loaded with after-parties, meetups and spontaneous hangouts. Just following the #sxsw hashtag on Twitter is enough to be able to reach out to people who want to host any get-togethers or parties.
3. Join Forces and Go All Out!
So what if your business isn’t anywhere near a convention center? Or maybe you run a shoe boutique, so you couldn’t expect a lunch crowd from that Vampire Convention and your awesome “Kicking Butt in Boots like Buffy” promo didn’t pull in as many folks as you had hoped. Another way to draw the geek crowds is to join with other businesses and make your own big event happen!
Last year, local businesses in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood in Philadelphia participated in an “epic Harry Potter weekend” featuring a pub crawl, food and drink specials, sales and special events and decorations. What is particularly impressive about this was how the businesses involved went all out for the fans attending and adapted names and qualities straight out of the books – a sports shop became “Quality Quidditch Supplies” and a local bakery “Honeydukes Sweets Shop”. Events planned over the weekend were marketed towards families, but area college students attended and played in an actual Quidditch Tournament and no doubt many adult Harry Potter fans were out reveling on the pub crawl for a chance to get some butterbeer.
A local business association pulling off an event of this scope really goes to show there are no limits to the fun and creative ways businesses can participate and benefit from working together.