Social Media Goes Offline

5 Ways SMBs Can Leverage Social Media

Go Offline Say social media and the first thing most people think is digital social media networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. But the truth is that the best way to reinforce networking contacts is to take them offline. For many small and medium size businesses (aka SMBs), this is an ideal way to get better known among your target audience and current customers. These real life, offline social media events are where the numbers work in your favor. As a smaller business, you can host an event in your local community that’s not financially feasible for larger businesses.

Offline real life activities draw on the principles of social media. These offline events aren’t about you and your business, they’re about creating a larger community of interest. That said, these suggestions provide a great way to attract new prospects, give current customers a reason to engage, and drive sales.

5 Types of offline social media events

Here are five types of social media events to build your community in real life (aka IRL).

  1. Host a party. Give prospects, customers and the public a fun pretext to visit your store or business. Use a holiday or anniversary as a reason to celebrate. Provide food and/or entertainment to motivate people to join you. Here are two examples. One local yarn stores hosts Flicks With Sticks once a month where they show a movie that has at least one knitting scene. A local wine store has wine tastings on Saturdays to entice shoppers. Why not take it a step further to make it an after work event by adding some food and a theme to get customers talking to each other?
  2. Offer a clinic. The message here is how can we help you? Invite prospects, customers and the public for a free check up and a short presentation about caring for their pets, cars, or health. The object is to enhance the experience so that it’s not people just stopping by for the free exam. For example, get your pet ready for spring or get tested for diabetes. Add a social component so that people start to build a relationship with you and the others at the clinic so they become comfortable with your organization.
  3. Go back to school. Offer a mini-class related to your area of expertise. While many small shops may make money from classes, give an hour seminar on a specialized topic to entice people. Like social media, you give some of your knowledge away to build a relationship with prospects, customers and the public. Think beyond you and your employees as presenters, invite an author who’s looking to promote a book. The object is to get people into your establishment.
  4. Let’s network. For small professional businesses, it can be difficult to participate in the social media ecosystem with something new to say on a topic that may not change. Instead host a networking breakfast or cocktail party so your clients can mingle and be benefit from meeting each other.
  5. Help a charity. Is there a charity that’s associated with your business, community or one of your employees? If so, support their efforts by allowing them to meet at your establishment or do a tie-in event at your store. Alternatively, you can organize customers for a special project. For example a quilting shop could host a quilting bee to create a quilt that would be auctioned off for charity. The good news is that customers like businesses that support charities according to research by Cone Inc.

Small and medium size businesses must exploit opportunities where their size is an advantage. Creating a calendar of offline social media events builds a community that supports your business and strengthens your ties with the community. Want to expand the reach of your event? Then add a dose of PR targeted at the local media and leverage your internal media such as flyers, emailings, blogs and Twitter to promote these events.

Have you tried any of these types of events? If so, how did they perform? Do you have any suggestions to add to this list?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


Here are some related articles that you may find of interest:

Tip of my hat to my Rutgers Mini-MBA: Digital Marketing class for inspiring this post.

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  • http://roadstories.ca Boomergirl

    These are all great ideas. #5 – helping charities made me think of volunteership. I’ve found that service is a great way to network. I am on the board of a national media association in Canada. Through it, I’ve traveled Canada coast to coast and have helped plan three major travel media conferences in Canada and in the UK. The number of contacts I’ve made in the travel business has been fantastic.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/stevenpofcher Steven Pofcher

    Heidi –
    Terrific post. It is so counter to all other marketing advice today. Everyone else is talking about using Social Media as the end-all and be-all. This post gets right to the heart of the matter. —> It’s all about IRL. Social Media is a marketing tool and should be used to make in introduction, build a relationship, get F2F time, get the order.
    It’s not just about Twitter, Linkedin or Facebook. Offline Social Media is a strong marketing tool.