Taste of South End Harnesses Social Media, Exceeds Fund-Raising Goal

By Erin L. Souza March 14, 2011, 6:00 PM EDT

Photo: Marilyn Humphries

The 15th annual Taste of the South End took over the Boston Center for the Arts on Tuesday night, drawing 650 guests to sample food from 45 South End restaurants. The event exceeded the AIDS Action Committee's fund-raising goal of $91,000, raking in $105,000 for the committee's programs.

South End restaurants including Tremont 647, Hamersley's Bistro, the Gallows, and the Beehive served food at tables lining the round main space. This year's silent auction differed from years past, with items interspersed throughout the space, rather than placed in the center. Aside from ticket sales and the silent auction, other fund-raising efforts included a raffle and balloon pop (with donated $50 and $100 restaurant gift cards inside the balloons).

Boston magazine hosted a V.I.P. lounge where guests' $150 tickets gained them access to perks such as a private champagne and chef reception, Patrón tequila cocktails, snacks from such restaurants as Bistro du Midi and Summer Shack, and an after-party at the Beehive. According to Shkeya Brittle, the committee's manager of fund-raising events, this year's benefit pulled in $20,000 more than last year from sponsors, and received new support from Nordstrom.

To attract guests, the AIDS Action Committee harnessed its social media network, which includes more than 1,600 Twitter followers. “We have been at the forefront of using social media [for outreach],” said Brittle. “We used social media very aggressively.” Marketing efforts included retweet contests and partnerships with Boston food-focused blogs to get the word out. “We try to use social media year-round,” said Brittle, referring to the Taste of the South End's Facebook and Foursquare pages and Twitter account.

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