One of the biggest dangers with social media is to assume that it is only exists online. We see this in the way some brands approach social media – developing a social media strategy that is focused on the tools they are going to use rather than the business aims they are going to contribute to. We also see this in the way some brands allocate budgets for their social media work – associating it with their ecommerce or digital spend can mean that they need to work harder to make sure that social media efforts integrate with what is happening offline.
This is a real shame because really social media is not about online at all. It’s about the same human interactions and collaborations that we have enjoyed offline for many many years. In fact for as long as human beings have been social animals. Technology just lets us do more of these things, in different ways and, perhaps critically, with people we don’t know, that we are not near and at different times to them. Social media just lets us do things we have always done offline in bigger and better ways. So it should be natural that we consider it as having offline implications as well as online ones. But too often we don’t.
This is a real shame. The best examples of social media, especially when looking at the ways it is used by brands, have an offline element to them. You might have an offline event where members of your online community can get together to meet and continue to share the thoughts and discussions they have online. You might get people to do things such as test a product or experience an experience offline and then talk about it in their online communities (as we saw with Virgin America). You might us content created online at an offline location. You might reward people offline for what they do in online communities online.
The options are endless and do not necessarily have to be just traditional integrated marketing campaigns. Its about things that people do and things they care about. And about letting them do these offline and online. The rise of social media for marketing is less about technology and more about brands realising the benefits of closer engagement with customers and others. Social media tools provide a great way to do this but always remember to think how you can get this engagement offline too.
Image by Ed Yourdon via Flickr