Using Social Media to Create Face-to-Face Opportunities

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Image by gahlord via Flickr

Here’s a tactic for organizations scrambling to make sense of social media and figure out the ROI or the relevant policies required to sustain social marketing efforts. This post was inspired by cyskoff’s comment on Jeremiah Owyang’s Matrix: Breakdown of Advocacy Marketing.

You can either go deep with it or fairly shallow depending on the resources you want to invest. Obviously, you can’t calculate a return-on-investment when
the investment is 0 because you’d be dividing by 0.

Why would you try to merge your social media presence with your real world presence?

A lot of business is either done face-to-face or significantly solidified face-to-face. This is why live events still occur. Live events, as you already know, offer very high-bandwidth experiences: full data overload in real time. You can use your social media presence to enhance your experience at existing live events or perhaps even create live events around your social media presence.

The kinds of objectives you might go after with a merging online/offline tactic include:

  • Create deeper relationships with social media participants that are highly engaged (participate the point of showing up in person at live events).
  • Create deeper relationships with audiences who self-identify with a very specific topic.
  • Listen and improve understanding of a specific target audience.
  • Identify potential individuals for the creation of a successful Advocacy Program.

Weaknesses of merging online/offline tactics include needing to monitor social media channels for potential live-event opportunities and also the costs of having someone at the event.

Strengths include the ability to create deep relationships with customers and potential advocates.

With a fairly moderate investment (someone is required to be there physically, but it might not require the sophistication of an advocacy program) you get the opportunity for the high return meeting with an audience and gathering product/industry feedback, getting new customers, etc.

Merging your Offline and Online Presence

There are a few things you’ll need to do before giving this one a go, so I suppose this is an intermediate tactic. Here’s what they are:

  • Already have an online social media presence (be it Twitter or Facebook or whatever)
  • Use your online social media to listen to your audience (via groups, lists, hashtags and whatever means available to you)
  • Identify real-world events that take place in which your audience is interested (this could range from conferences down to Tweetups)

If you have those pieces in place then you’re ready to start making use of online/offline merging.

Understand the cultural landscape and tools

Your audience might be found at Tweetups. Or maybe they’re only found at conferences. Or maybe there’s a social media breakfast in your town that might attract your audience. Or maybe it’s gatherings that have nothing to do with social media, but your audience uses social media to discuss the gatherings. If you’ve already found your audience in social media, you should be able to determine what these events are. Here are some things to watch for:

  • Hashtags are often used around conferences and other get togethers
  • Tweetups are fairly informal get-togethers of locals who use Twitter, usually for the express purpose of networking
  • EventBrite or other event-creation tools are obvious indicators of something happening
  • Social Media Breakfast is something that happens in many cities
  • Specialized meetups that aren’t social-media specific such as Web Analytics Wednesday but might be promoted via social media.

Step away from the computer and be in the real world

Once you’ve identified an event to attend, things will be fairly obvious. It’s like any other networking event. All of the basics apply:

  • If you your oversell at one of these things you won’t impress anyone.
  • Have your business card to exchange with people.
  • Be prepared to discuss what you do in “elevator pitch” format–ideally tweaked in a way that is most relevant to the group at the live event.
  • Do a little followup via social media: post to your stream thank yous and anything else you found especially interesting.
  • If you’re going to Tweet the event: don’t. Someone else will do that. Take advantage of the fact that you’re in a room with live people who are interesting and engaging and could be your customers.

There are events being promoted via social media in most cities and you can use the tips above to find them and have a productive time at them. If you want to step up your game a little bit, consider hosting an event.

Stepping up: Hosting a social media event

Once you’ve been participating in a social media community for awhile, consider hosting an event. The biggest hurdle for most Tweetups is figuring out where to have one. Find a restaurant room or other casual space that’s already engaged in social media and go from there. Hosting an event will help you spread your reach and help you meet even more people at the event. Not bad for the cost of a little time and making sure there are name badges and markers.

You might also like Mashable’s how to connect with other entrepreneurs

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