The firm hosts several “secret suppers” throughout the year and keeps the location, dinner menu, and guest list under wraps. Diners pay about $90 each to attend the events, which feature five-course meals, live entertainment, specialty cocktails, and high-end wines. But the first secret supper didn’t attract many guests. “We literally had to beg people to come,” recalls Humphrey.

He decided to promote the next event via Facebook and Twitter by posting food, entertainment, guest photos, and status messages from the previous secret supper guests on the social networking sites. “When people see our over-the-top décor and unique setup they want to be a part of it,” says Humphrey. Sponsors have also taken notice. Through its social media posts, the catering firm was able to establish contact with a representative from Cîroc Vodka that was interested in possible sponsorship opportunities. “We took the conversation offline, educating them about our products and services,” says Humphrey. Cîroc signed on as the liquor sponsor providing $2,500 in product for Black Tie’s New Year’s Eve 2009 event.

The success of that high-profile event led to similar online connections with Lexus and The Patrón Spirits Co., which both hired the firm to help produce events in Atlanta. The tweets and Facebook posts have lured in secret supper guests from as far away as San Francisco, led to media opportunities, and put Black Tie Catering in front of more than 8,500 followers on Facebook and Twitter combined—and their followers as well. “We don’t personally know 8,500 people,” says Humphrey, “but when we use social media to post photos and comments we reach an enormous audience that we’d never be able to hit on our own or through traditional advertising methods.”

Black Tie Catering also uses Foursquare to check in to places where they are catering or dining. The location-based social media site gives them an opportunity to start conversations with people interested in restaurants and eateries. The owners also mention Facebook and Twitter while working at events and urge non-followers to sign up.

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