Social Media Case Study: How The Pit Uses Twitter and Foursquare

The Pit BBQ in Raleigh, NC

The Pit BBQ in Raleigh, NC

I’ll admit it, I’m totally biased and a fanboy of The Pit BBQ in downtown Raleigh, there, that’s out of the way.

I first tried The Pit when Michael Hubbard took me to lunch there last September. Michael runs one of Raleigh’s small advertising firms, which just happens to be exactly a 90 second walk away. We were having a good discussion that day, so I wasn’t really focused on the food, but my pulled pork sandwich was good, and the place was certainly a step (or 10) up from the normal BBQ place.

Later that month, I was back there for a Tweetup where someone from The Pit came out and chatted with us for a second and thanked us for all the Twitter chatter. I took note, it was the first time I saw a restaurant actually reaching out like that.

Once I got hooked on Foursquare, I became “the mayor” of The Pit. Then my buddy Jeremy (who also works downtown running a kick-ass interactive company) stole my mayorship away by checking in there more times than me! It was on!

I started using The Pit as my unofficial meeting place. When people would say, “let’s meet up”, I would suggest The Pit. When friends or family come to town, I suggest we hit The Pit.

I’m the mayor of The Pit again, well at least I am as of 11-22-2009.

So here’s what I’m getting at, last week I saw a tweet sent out from the official Twitter account of The Pit:

@ThePitBBQ calling us out?

@ThePitBBQ calling us out?

That was an awesome shoutout! It did a number of smart things.

  1. Recognized people who regularly mention The Pit in their tweets
  2. Made a very small number of people feel special
  3. Started some buzz (more about that later)

I had plans that morning to meet my friend at PeiWei in Cary that day, when I saw that tweet, I emailed him and told him we were meeting at The Pit. I also pinged a couple of friends, but with only 30 minutes notice, it was just me and my buddy.

A minute or two after I arrived and was sitting down with my friend, Eric Harris came out and introduced himself. I thought that was really cool that he knew I was “the mayor” and took time out of the busy lunch schedule to stop by, but then he did it – he said that lunch was on the house that day!

I was floored. At the end of lunch I double checked with him, and he insisted, not just my lunch, but my friends, and even the take-out plate my friend had ordered for his wife.

I’m pretty sure Eric was ready to extend that courtesy to any of the people he invited that day, I just happen to be the lucky one that could make it.

So let’s see exactly what The Pit’s $33 investment bought them? As if I wasn’t already a huge fan, I was now a fan of the food and their understanding of how social media works. Of course I jabbed my friends who said they couldn’t make it. I mentioned it to North Carolina’s Social Media Rockstar Wayne Sutton who said, “…that’s how you suppose to use social media/twitter/foursquare/tools smart“. I couldn’t agree more.

I only have a few hundred followers, but Wayne has over 30,000 people that see his tweets. When he talks about how awesome The Pit is, lots of people see it.

Yesterday was the 65th Annual Raleigh Christmas Parade. Downtown was packed with thousands of people. My family parked across the street from The Pit and walked the 4 or 5 blocks to the parade route. I knew we’d be coming back this way for lunch. After the parade, my family and 12 additional friends walked over for lunch. Thankfully we beat the rush and they put together a cozy table for 15. As we were starting to scatter (3 of us has small kids with us) Eric appeared again to say hello. Wayne ended up talking to him about doing a full scale Tweet Up there soon.

Guy Fieri jumping in his ride after lunch at The Pit in Raleigh

Guy Fieri jumping in his ride after lunch at The Pit in Raleigh

The Pit doesn’t need me to tweet out for them, they don’t even need Wayne. Ever since Ed Mitchell (the Pit Master) did a Throwdown with Bobby Flay on the Food Network, they’re packed all the time. That’s what makes it even smarter. They know that the big splashes will eventually fade, and they’ll be left with a core of super satisfied locals who will continue to pack that place.

But, just so you don’t think it’s lost any of it’s celebrity shine, I was in there Saturday for lunch after the Raleigh Christmas parade, and as my family was just pulling away, my wife spotted Guy Fieri chatting with some people before hopping in his black SUV and driving away. My wife snapped the photo on the left, but stopping the car, getting out, and waiting for the camera to boot up to a minutes, so all you get to see if his crazy hair.

All I can say is that The Pit “get’s it”. They’re using social media the way it’s suppose to be used, to build great relationships.

In the end, if I love The Pit, why wouldn’t I become an evangelist for them?


  1. Nice write up about the Pit and how they use social media. Yes, they get it and now we can only hope other downtown Raleigh restaurants will get it too, or at least they’ll listen to the community. At the end of the day it’s about building relationships with the community/customers and engaging with them online and offline.

    Nice job Pit and Phil on the blog post. I’ll be checking in more next week (look for me on foursquare) and I’m excited to see how the Pit will continue to embrace social media.

  2. I think that there are a few others in the area that are catching on. For those of us that think it’s important for businesses to engage this way, the best thing we can do is to let them know by spending our money there.

  3. Very nice. I actually have a ton of ideas on how the Pit could become the premier downtown Raleigh restaurant using Social Media combined with Word of Mouth Marketing. Those are a very powerful combination, especially when dealing with food. I wonder if I will ever become the mayor again. Check that, I can see the future, and I know that I will get the mayorship soon. The @foursquare battle continues.

  4. I agree Jeremy, although they are slightly off the beaten trail, because of that, it gives it a certain amount exclusivity. There’s no question that they are already in the top echelon of Raleigh’s finest restaurants, but out-of-towners may not think of any BBQ restaurant that way.

    Maybe a WOM campaign aimed at bellhops, taxi drivers and concierges is next?

  5. Great blog post. I now hope other local businesses will see that hyper-local social networks are a big win for connecting to customers and empowering evangelists with extended WOM.

  6. Awesome! This kind of stuff is that needs to be happening more. Good to see it happening some at least.

  7. The Pit is a perfect example of a business figuring out how to us social media the right way. Believe it or not, The Pit was following me on Twitter way before any of you, 76th by my count (yes, I actually went through their entire following list and counted backward), so take that mayor!

    I remember when they first started and their tweets just seemed kind of spammy. They weren’t telling me anything I didn’t already know. I know I can get great BBQ and beer at The Pit, you don’t have to keep tweeting it over and over. But when they started to reach out to their loyal customers it changes everything. It’s what so many marketers don’t get. Social media isn’t another advertising vehicle, it’s a way to connect with your customers. The Pit seems to be getting this and I wish more of my favorite places got it too.

  8. Great post Phil. I have recently moved back to Raleigh after living in Virginia for the last 7 years and it’s great to see how many unique new restaurants and bars have opened up downtown. I do think that social media especially Twitter and Facebook are great (cheap) tools for small business to connect with their customer. Every restaurant patron wants to feel like they are a “celebrity” when they go to their favorite spot, and social media allows them that connection.

  9. @Ryan – your right, tools like Twitter allow WOM to really extend it’s reach.

    @Chris – I think when other places see it working, they’ll jump on the bandwagon.

    @Les – I believe it, I think all of us start out kinda lame, I know I did. The longer you hang around the party, the easier it is to slip into conversations. They still put out those tweets, but now they also have a small battalion of people doing most of that work for them – THAT’S the big win.

    @Caroline – I love the idea of everyone feeling like a celebrity, after all, that’s what we all want, to feel loved and appreciated.

  10. So many things I like about this post, Phil!

    1 – I have a new appreciation for Four Square and if I had the mobile capabilities, I think I would be apt to try it out. Are they giving away any I-Phones any time soon? :)
    2 – I LOVE that over the last few months you too have a new understanding & appreciation for the benefits of social media as a marketing tool. I know you “got it” but now it’s like “Man, you GET it!” Your own excitement in this post almost outweighs the information in it!
    3 – Your overall explanation behind the Pit’s strategy & the relevant examples to support the information you share. Makes for a very well-written post!

    GOOD JOB, my friend. Muchos kudos to you! :)

  11. Thanks @Lisa,

    I will fully admit, an iPhone changes everything. I barely use it as a phone, and can’t imagine not having one.

  12. I only have 1 more question: our next The Pit BBQ Tweetup is when? I want some good Que now and a side of Mac ‘n Cheese. ;-)

  13. @Ryan, you’re in luck, it’s next week!

    But you have to bring along someone who’s never been to The Pit ;-)

  14. Ok, but where is that photo we took of the famous Ag Commissioner? ;)

  15. To follow up on your blog Phil, I posted my experience as well on my blog. I have some images that showed up as part of being the mayor. Can’t wait to go back :). Maybe I can get some half licked hush puppies :).

  16. Great follow-up Jeremy. Now I can’t wait to sneak back to The Pit and re-gain the mayorship from you!


  1. […] Just a quick follow up to Phil’s post about The Pit and how they are using foursquare.  The battle for mayorship continues (see picture […]

  2. […] they engage their audience, and they do it right. @1918, Phil Buckley (no relation), wrote a great case study about how The Pit is using social media in a positive way. Businesses can learn a thing or two from The Pit […]

  3. […] of businesses who have jumped on the Foursquare train, and are riding it to Consumer-Love Station. This post about the Pit BBQ in Raleigh, for example, truly warms my heart. Kudos to you, Pit BBQ management. Consumer interaction: […]

  4. […] And if none of my friends are here? This is where word of mouth (WOM) marketing comes in. I can leave a tip for my friends at a place, and I’ll see tips from them. For instance, I left a tip for The Pit—a great local BBQ place—that people will see when they check in to a location nearby. It’ll be a pop-up on their screen that says something like “Since your so close, John L. says you should stop by The Pit and get pulled pork plate with sweet potato fries and cole slaw.” (You can read more about The Pit, Foursqaure and Twitter here.) […]

  5. Foursquare | Kaleidos Marketing Group, LLC says:

    […] is a case study about how a BBQ restaurant in Raleigh uses Foursquare and Twitter. Once you embrace the technology […]

  6. […] The Pit BBQ’s Community Growing – This Cary, NC local restaurant used Foursquare early on to grow a community with it’s […]

  7. 21 Unique Location Case Studies from Foursquare, Gowalla, Whrrl, and MyTown « Online Marketing says:

    […] It Is Unique : First University to offer a badge, encourage ratings, and leave tips 10. The Pit BBQ’s Community Growing – This Cary, NC local restaurant used Foursquare early on to grow a community with it’s patrons […]

  8. Put a Little BBQ (not smoke and mirrors) in Your Marketing Efforts - Grilladelic says:

    […] […]

  9. […] The Pit on Twitter. The Pit is more than just the best BBQ in the state, it’s also the savviest social media restaurant. Everyone from the hostess to the the GM makes you feel like you’re part of the family. In […]

  10. […] BBQ restaurant hooked me for life by appealing to me via Twitter after finding me checking in.…Insert a dynamic date hereCannot add comment at this […]

  11. […] resaturant, The Pit BBQ. The Pit is more than just the best BBQ in the state, it’s also the savviest social media restaurant. Everyone from the hostess to the the GM makes you feel like you’re part of the family. In […]

  12. […] a quick follow up to Phil’s post about The Pit and how they are using Foursquare.  The battle for mayorship continues (see […]

Leave a Reply