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Posted: March 09, 2011

Five great ways to take social media offline

In the age of Twitter, have we forgotten the power of touch?

Anne Buehner

Nothing is more social than hundreds of people, alone at home, signing into Twitter for a midnight snack of connection, right? Unfortunately, while many companies have given the green light to ‘do' social media, setting up Facebook Pages and Twitter accounts, this pursuit of social media greatness appears to be creating a sort of temporary amnesia when it comes to the more traditional aspects of relationship building. What about the power of touch or shared oxygen?

The truly thrilling frontier is a place where online and offline connections exist in tandem, not in isolation. Smart marketers will begin to put forth campaign ideas and social media tenets that not only dissolve the divide between on- and offline communities, but extend and synthesize stakeholders to connect with brands and one-another at multiple (digital and physical) touch points.

Here are five ways that companies can start moving in this direction.

1. Promote and recognize your social media community in-store. From store windows and t-shirts to receipts and napkins, companies are taking advantage of every opportunity to remind their customers that they're on social media networks. For example, Red Door client Charlotte Russe recently launched an in-store campaign that included signage and window displays featuring Facebook comments, tweets, and photos from social media fans. A mobile and QR Code sign up made it easy for customers to become a part of the social community while still in the store.

2. Create a live experience and provide a way for participants to promote it for you. The Jeep Rocks & Road Tour organized various off-road course events across the country that put people behind the wheel of its new model SUV. After going through a variety of terrain - including a nearly vertical slope - participants were given the opportunity to record a video recounting their experience and could automatically post it on their own social networks. To rev up the momentum of this campaign, Jeep also posted a few of these videos on its YouTube channel.

3. Facilitate Meetups to bring your community together for events in real life. Social technology blogs such as Mashable and TechCrunch have both created MeetUp groups in an effort to bring members of the community together. For its fifth anniversary, TechCrunch encouraged its community of "crunchies" to gather face-to-face and utilized meetup.com as a channel for folks to connect and plan events in their respective cities. In addition, Mashable encourages its readers to meet monthly in more than 1,150 cities around the world.

Similarly, tweet-ups bring a Twitter community together for a live event or mixer. Not only does this provide an opportunity to meet face-to-face with followers, but it can increase awareness of a brand and Twitter account. Attendees are also encouraged to tweet live from the events, thus updating their networks about the brand and activities.

4. Engage your online community with an offline scavenger hunt. Rather than offering prizes through online contests, brands can now mobilize followers through hybrid contents that involve offline activities. Last year, Red Door client ESET leveraged the early adopter crowd at SXSW and promoted its anti-virus software through a scavenger hunt that included a photo booth and interactive media wall. In addition, skateboarder Tony Hawk has hosted the "Tony Hawk Treasure Hunt" for two consecutive years and provides his followers with opportunities to win prizes that are hidden in more than 60 cities around the world by posting clues on his Twitter account. This tactic alone helped increase Tony's Twitter followers significantly.

Retailers can also execute similar tactics to spur foot traffic in-store and direct customers to Twitter - or any online community - for exclusive contest information.

5. Encourage check-ins. While the onslaught of location-based "check-in" services may seem overwhelming, there are many benefits to offering incentives for check-ins. Facebook Deals, for example, allows brands to drive those who like their business in-store and customers to Facebook for the deal, thus marrying the on- and offline communities. When consumers check-in to a location from most geo-location applications, it automatically posts to their Facebook and Twitter feeds (if they set up their accounts for social sharing). Thus, check-ins can increase a brand's exposure exponentially.

Vons and Pepsi both put a twist on basic check-ins when they teamed up with Foursquare. The Vons/Pepsi/Foursquare partnership made it easy for consumers to integrate their Vons Club card with Foursquare and receive special savings from Pepsi. Applications like Foursquare provide ample opportunities for business to offer incentives and syncing loyalty programs with social check-ins is a win-win for consumers and businesses.

Consumers are constantly seeking ways to translate their social media interactions into something more tangible. With new and evolving technologies, now is the time for companies to get creative and examine opportunities to extend the conversation, transparently and authentically, into the daily lives of their social communities. By engaging the social media family across multiple channels, platforms and locations, a brand can build and expand a loyal community of enthusiasts.
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Anne Buehner uses her creativity and sharp communication skills to tell a brand's story to the world and foster a community of engaged fans. As the Associate Social Media Strategist at Red Door Interactive, an Internet Presence Management firm with offices in San Diego and Denver, Anne works with clients that include the California Avocado Commission, Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill, Garden Fresh Corp., and Charlotte Russe. Anne's writings on the subject of social media and PR have been published in Social Computing Journal, Tech & Learning Magazine, Career Guide 101, and more. She can be reached at abuehner@reddoor.biz or on Twitter at http://twitter.com/anneripley.

 

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Readers Respond

As a mother of three children, I worry about the lack of physical interaction because of social media. Anne's article is encouraging and refreshing because she connected the two. If this is where the media is heading, I am all for it! Thank you! By Lori Carr on 2011 03 09

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