The latest social media craze for marketers: Going offline
Social media marketers can't afford to ignore in-person experiences. Columnist Blaise Lucey discusses how brands can merge online and offline experiences to increase their social audience's engagement.
Back in June, I was at a conference where I saw Carolyn Coyne, global creative strategist at Facebook, talk about video. She revealed that users watch Facebook videos for only 5.7 seconds on average. And 75 percent of those views come from mobile. Basically, marketers have about a GIF-length amount of time to connect with an audience before they’re already on to the next thing.
Understandably, brands have gotten skeptical of that model. Short attention spans and the closed ecosystems of social media giants dilute the relationship between brands and customers.
Your social content isn’t only competing with family photos, memes, news updates and every other brand — it’s competing with algorithms that are coded and maintained in a black box.
That’s why many marketers struggle to measure social media ROI. Meanwhile, TrackMaven research showed that content marketing output in 2015 rose by 35 percent, but engagement dropped by 17 percent across blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn.
So it should be no surprise that companies are exploring other ways to connect with customers. Lately, one of the channels getting the most attention is… offline. Because the real world is where impressions last longer than six seconds.
Brand experience, IRL
Enter experiential marketing, which is gaining popularity fast.
“There’s a consensus among marketers that brand experience builds loyalty,” Chris Cavanaugh, CMO of brand experience agency Freeman told Adweek. He added that the company’s research found that nearly 60 percent of CMOs value brand experience for ongoing relationships, while nine out of 10 said they believe brand experience delivers strong face-to-face interaction and more compelling brand engagement.
High-profile clients like Mastercard and Jaguar have recently started dedicating significant budget to big events that could build brand loyalty. Amazon’s physical bookstores are opening across the country. Online retailers like Warby Parker and Bonobos have built stores in select cities.
And, recently, Starbucks shut down the company’s online store in favor of the offline experience.
“Every retailer that is going to win in this new environment must become an experiential destination,” Howard Schultz, the chairman of Starbucks, told The New York Times.
The data of the in-store experience
Retail stores face a future of change and disruption. But there is still a clear demand for in-person experiences. At the same time, tech solutions offer ways to merge the offline and online journeys like never before. Here are a few:
- The hashtag: Hashtag mentions and brand impressions on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram can easily show fans and followers engagements with offline experiences while engaging audiences who aren’t attending.
- Dynamic retargeting: Retargeting platforms serve customers who have already visited your store ads that are relevant to their interests. Companies like Facebook, Google and Criteo (disclosure: I work at Criteo) offer solutions to retarget in-store customers.
- Email and phone numbers: Gather emails and/or phone numbers to follow up after an event or a purchase. Build email lists, create an SMS campaign, or upload the contact details into something like Facebook Custom Audiences.
- Trackable links: Presentations, business cards and case studies should all have trackable links somewhere — that way, you can measure how many people are taking the next step after the initial interaction. Did one rep drive more engagement after an event? Did a brochure get people to visit the website? Trackable links give you a baseline metric for offline collateral.
- Online discounts and gift cards: Want more sales from in-store customers? Hand out gift cards with exclusive discounts to your e-commerce store to encourage more engagement. Include social media profiles, and you’ll connect the dots between offline and social media, too.
By merging online and offline experiences, brands stand out against the noise of a saturated digital landscape. Experiential marketing and in-store interactions leave a long and lasting impression on shoppers, while digital tactics build that relationship beyond the initial experience.
So, if you’re looking for a new way to engage your audience, the next great social media channel may just be offline.