A key sentiment of Social Fresh West was the recurring focus on offline interactions and experiences. It was extremely refreshing to attend a social media conference where so many people referenced this! Here are some of the anecdotes and key stories that show how the separation of online and offline is increasingly meaningless:
- Peter Shankman brought it up first in his ending keynote address on Day 1, admonishing the audience to “Think offline before you think online.” He shared a story of a horrific offline customer experience he had with Hertz, which resulted in an irate blog post and (finally) a phone call from the company to apologize, but only a whole day later and after Peter had already gotten a car and had a great experience with Avis. The message: even if you have a great online customer service team (which Hertz didn’t), you can’t ignore your offline one.
- James Perceval of Thinkmodo had a similar message in his discussion of viral video creation, saying that we have a tendency to get so caught up in the virtual, we fail to see that the real world resonates more with our audiences. One of the key success factors for his Bubba’s Hover and Carrie videos, in his opinion, was the fact that both were rooted in real life experiences. They actually built the hovercraft, and drove it around real golf courses. The Carrie video was set in a coffee shop with normal people. And because the ideas in the videos were rooted in this reality, they took on a life of their own. You can now buy a Bubba Hovercraft online, and Fox just announced a new sitcom about a telekinetic girl who works in a yogurt shop.
- Arby's recently released their beloved sauces into retail outlets based on feedback they were getting from social media. Their digital team (aka Josh Martin) noticed that a very large percentage of tweets mentioning the brand also mentioned sauce, specifically the need for extra sauce, being bummed about running out of sauce and wanting to eat the sauce on other non-Arby's foods. So they created a campaign called "Saucepocalypse" with old school horror movie posters featuring tweets from real fans. The result was one of the most successful product rollouts in the company's history.
- Laura Kimball of HTC discussed how she engages her HTC Elevate community of power users by inviting them to attend new product launches and seating them in the front row. They're stoked to be there, and the company execs are happy to have enthusiastic faces looking up at them while they present. Everybody wins!
- Finally, Rachael King (now of Dog Vacay) shared a story of a successful campaign she ran for SideCar called #MakeMyHoliday. Anyone could tweet in a holiday request and (within reason) SideCar would deliver it. One guy in Chicago wanted to send a very specific Chipotle burrito to a buddy in California, so Rachael personally placed the order and hand-delivered lunch. For a few hundred dollars, she achieved phenomenal exposure and generated a whole lot of goodwill - both on and offline.
I have long thought that the dichotomy often applied to digital versus offline community building and marketing activities is wrongheaded, and was excited to hear that opinion echoed by so many thought leaders at Social Fresh.
Brand building is a holistic process; none of the components exist in a vacuum. It's impossible to build a sustainable, successful strategy by putting various delivery mechanisms - social media, email marketing, events, sales collateral, etc - in silos. Every brand touchpoint - whether it's a tweet or an in-store interaction, a visit to your website or a customer service phone call - should deliver a consistent experience and, even more importantly, should be connected to the others.
People move seamlessly between digital and physical, why should a brand be any different?