You might think that as an online business, being social with your customers can only happen online. Chatting on Twitter, answering questions on Facebook and trading Instagram likes is a great way to build a community. But here’s a newsflash: you shouldn’t rule out “In Real Life” interaction altogether.

 

Let’s face it, person-to-person interactions allow for a more nuanced discussion than 140 characters will allow, and you’ve got more chance of leaving a lasting impression. In fact, there’s an argument that we are all a more effective seller in person than online. A recent study looked at the best method of collecting charitable donations, and found that donations from six people asked face-to-face equaled those from an email blast of 200 people. Although it’s fair to say that email is way more efficient for reaching a lot of people quickly, so it will always be a crucial ingredient in the marketing mix.

Think back – when was the last time you left your laptop and got out into the real world? If you’re looking to increase your brand’s visibility and connect with your customers, here are just a few ideas on how to get social IRL!

 

Go to an online influencer event

Online influencers on YouTube, Instagram and SnapChat are influential because they’re sharing their offline lives, and attending real life events, launches and conferences is a big part of what they share.

Every one of these events is packed full of opportunities to socialize, whether you go as far as hiring a booth and distributing your products, or just take the opportunity to speak to your potential customers. While you can sponsor everything from speaker stages to goodie bags, one of the smartest bets is the green room, where the influencers hang out when they’re not meeting and greeting fans. Sponsor this area, or provide products, and you’re potentially putting you and your business in front of some of the biggest names online. By getting to know these influencers you can connect with them to promote your brand and possibly learn some tips!

Not sure where to start? In the US, Vidcon and Playlist Live are two of the biggest. Over in the UK, Summer in the City plays host to some of the biggest names, and the inaugural Hello World will boast the really big players, including Zoella, Jim Chapman and KSI. In Europe, VidCon EU in the Netherlands, and VideoDays in Germany are also large scale influencer events.

Digital tip: Get some online buzz going around your attendance by creating the ultimate photo opportunity. Whether it’s a well-placed neon sign or branded refreshments handed out to a sun-soaked queue, make something Instagrammable and your message will be spread far and wide. Check out these brands for Instagram inspiration.

 

Throw a party for your customers

Just because you’re an online business, doesn’t mean you can’t throw a real life party. It’s a great chance to help your local customers put a face to the name, and to thank them for their business.

It’s something we love to do here at Nosto – in fact, just last Thursday we held our second Annual Summer Games event together with Klarna in London’s Hyde Park. We invited our lovely customers and tech partners to join us for an afternoon of games such as tug of war, rounders, and egg throwing to name a few, before retiring to a local pub to discuss everyone’s sporting prowess over a few beers.  As a company that interacts with our customers mainly online, it’s so good to be able to get to know each other in an offline setting!

AirBnb has taken this approach on the road, with their AirBnb Open event. Their third was in LA last year, where they gathered hosts from around the world to discuss everything from how to improve the platform to how to be better hosts. In fact, this has become such a well-loved and well-attended event that the company is now calling it a festival rather than a conference.

Digital tip: To make sure your offline event has an impact online, don’t forget to pick a hashtag for the #wholeshebang (you can have that one for free!).  Encourage people to use it when they talk about the event online, and you’ll create some real online buzz.

There are also lots of cool experiential marketing solutions that are easy to integrate, all designed to share the fun online. How about a Twitter wall, for sharing tweets with the event goers in real time, or a photo booth where users can automatically share their branded snaps to their social feeds?

 

Open a pop-up store

Pop-up shops are a trend set to stick around, having been embraced by small ecommerce retailers and massive multinational brands alike. This temporary retail space typically can be rented for just a month, a week – even a day! Many cities have dedicated pop-up spaces (hosted everywhere from empty shipping containers to railway arches), and there are companies that specialize in renting out these kinds of temporary spaces. We Are Pop-Up operate around the world, so are a good one to start with.

As well as giving you a chance to meet your customers in the flesh, it’s a great opportunity to do some market research. Whether you’re considering a more permanent retail space or a brand new product line, this is a chance to find out what works and what doesn’t, and get opinions directly from the consumer.

With no long-term commitment, pop-ups are also an ideal way of supercharging your sales around a particular holiday. Whether you see most of your sales around December or your products make an ideal Valentine’s Day gift, this is a short-term solution to help you reach your sales goals.

Pop-ups are particularly popular with millennials, according to the Centre for Economic & Business Research

 

Digital tip:  Take the opportunity to answer the kinds of questions that are difficult to answer online. Business card printer Moo.com opened a pop-up for two reasons. It acted as a collection point for those rush orders, and offered customers the chance to test the products, by letting people touch and feel the weight of the paper and the quality of the different finishes.

 

Get out into the community

Though dedicating a day to getting out of the office to help the community is good for your business karma, but the benefits reach far beyond – both inside and outside of your business.

Not only does it raise your profile within your community, it can create a happier, healthier workforce. This United Health Group study found that 78% of people that volunteered report lower stress levels, while 81% said volunteering together strengthened relationships with colleagues.

Give and Gain Day is a worldwide initiative encouraging businesses to dedicate one day to supporting their community through volunteering. In 2016 30 countries and over 26,000 employees were involved –  99% of whom (as first-time volunteers) said they’d like to volunteer again through their company.

Nosto client Pura Vida started their bracelet business after visiting Costa Rica and seeing the poverty in the area. Now, they they run a business selling bracelets crafted by artisans from Costa Rica, employing over 100 people. Not only that, but the site allows customers to create their own bracelets for their own fundraising efforts, so they can really engage with the charity ethos.

Digital tip: Consider integrating your offline and online Corporate Social Responsibility efforts – donating a percentage of sales to your chosen charity allows customers to feel that same altruistic glow that you get from your on-site volunteering.

 

Getting offline every now and then is enormously beneficial and often leads to the kind of insights into your business that can only strike when you’re away from your day-to-day responsibilities. Want some more evidence? Well, not only is our Annual Summer Games one of our favorite days of the year, this year’s event led to a marketing brainwave from one of our star athletes!

 

So there you have it – go forth and socialize!