Social media marketing is white hot. In response to this trend, many businesses feel that, at a minimum, they must have a Facebook Page to engage their prospects, customers, and fans. If you expect to improve your bottom-line results, you most likely need a broader, more integrated social media marketing effort.
5 Ways to Extend Social Media's Reach
One approach is to take your social media marketing efforts offline. Five social media oriented tactics to accomplish this are:
Hold live meetings. Just as social media provides a forum for individuals to interact and share information online, why not do so face to face. This is a great way to interact with customers by inviting them to test products, preview fashions, view demonstrations, or just give them a space to gather and interact. Online sites like Meetup.com and Yahoo Groups can help with the mechanics of arranging these events. This tactic works well for small businesses, hobby-related businesses, and not-for-profit organizations. Larger firms with a limited number of physical locations can use one or more local groups as incubators for new ideas or to partner with local distributors and organizations. Also, you can organize meetings that are inwardly focused to provide forums for your employees.
Display customer photographs in frames or on an old-fashioned bulletin board. These can be displayed in your retail locations or at company offices. Think of it as a local version of your Flickr group. Alternatively, use a digital frame where images continually change. For example, Stew Leonard's, which operates four supermarkets in Connecticut and New York, posts photographs of customers using their plastic shopping bags in fun and interesting locations. This tactic is useful for a wide range of businesses, large and small. Some ideas include scrapbook retailers showing photographs of customers' projects, bridal shops presenting pictures of brides on their wedding day, travel tours sharing travelers' photographs of places and each other, and dentists displaying close-ups of patients' smiles.
Gather customer stories about your services and products. Highlight these stories with appropriate photographs and display them in your physical locations or retail outlets to give consumers insights into your offering and company. This can be particularly useful for companies that create events like travel companies and not-for-profit organizations. It can also be used internally to recognize outstanding employees.
Collect customer comments. Just as consumers review and rate a wide range of products and services online on sites like Yelp, why not collect their input at every touch point? To add personality, include the customer's photograph. Then display selected comments in your stores and/or offices to support sales.
Answer consumer questions about your products and services. Gather questions from consumers at every touch point including your retail outlet, website, or customer service center. These answers can be integrated into your collateral or highlighted in posters at your physical locations. One client of mine uses this format for a regular column in their local newspaper.
5 Ways to Increase Your Offline Social Media Efforts' Effectiveness
In addition to enabling your organization to get physically closer to your prospects and customers, these social media tactics are a great addition to your marketing. Here are five ways to enhance your offline social media:
Integrate your live social media marketing efforts into your overall marketing. This helps build your brand and reinforce your efforts across channels. This means that each of these social media tactics must support one or more of your marketing goals.
Spread the word about your offline events through various online tools. This includes e-mail, social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and social media press releases.
Leverage your marketing and corporate communications to promote these offline social media efforts. Use your website, current social media efforts (such as blogs), in-store signage and flyers, and packages to promote meetings, gather photographs, collect stories, receive comments, and get questions.
Share content from offline social media efforts online. This can be done through public online social media platforms like Facebook, blogs, Flickr, and YouTube, as well as company digital platforms like your website and e-mailings. This is a great way to provide new content that engages and helps users.
Remember to get permission to use customers' photographs and other content they are sharing with you. Recognize that parents may be reticent to display photographs of their children so consider alternatives such as pictures of children's drawings or projects.
5 Ways to Measure Offline Social Media Efforts
As with any marketing program, assess the success of your effort in terms of how well they've achieved your goals. For these offline social media efforts, some metrics to consider include:
Number of people involved. Depending on your initiative, this includes the number of people who register for an event, the number who actually attend, or the number of photographs, stories, comments, or questions submitted. Also, measure the reach of your initiative in terms of the number of people who heard about it via word-of-mouth.
Track sales related to these offline social media efforts. Consider offering special promotions to participants to encourage purchasing.
Monitor costs of offline social media efforts. While many companies consider social media to be virtually free, it has related marketing and human resource expenses.
Determine the usefulness of input received. Do prospects and customers appreciate your products and services? Are they providing creative ideas that you can use to improve either your marketing or your product offering? Are there product or customer service issues being surfaced that need to be resolved?
Assess the effectiveness of online content created by these efforts. Does it help engage prospects? Does it help consumers use your products? Do prospects and consumers like them and find them entertaining?
As social media marketing evolves, marketers must continue to test new ways to apply these techniques to different aspects of their businesses. More and more, this translates to integrating your online and offline efforts to better engage with your customers, prospects, and fans.
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Heidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies, an interactive marketing consultancy. She has over 20 years' experience helping clients increase profitability by developing innovative marketing programs to acquire and retain customers based on solid analytics. Clients include New York Times Digital, AccuWeather.com, CheapTickets, and the UJA. Additionally, Riverside Marketing Strategies has worked with numerous other online content/media companies and e-tailers.
Prior to starting Riverside Marketing Strategies, Heidi held a number of senior-level marketing positions at The Economist, the Bookspan/Doubleday Direct division of Bertelsmann, and Citibank.