Friday, September 30, 2011

Getting From “Here” To “There”: Converting Offline Events To Online Impressions

The connection between the online and offline worlds is an important consideration for marketers. Brands fully recognize that face-to-face interactions with consumers are an important way to tap the extraordinary Word-Of-Mouth power of the digital world. As the average Facebook member has around 130 friends, a favorable post mentioning a brand carries -- one could confidently say -- a healthy ROI.

Yet few brands know how to do this well. And many who find clever ways to kick down the walls between online and offline still have difficulty getting their heads around why they do what they’re doing. Central to this struggle is an inability of marketers to project how the investments they make in offline promotions and other experiential events translate into digital impressions.

While this is a complicated problem, the moving pieces inside the equation are easily identified. And that is where marketers should start: understanding the players and steps involved in getting from “here” (offline event) to “there” (digital impressed earned through word-of-moth). In the end all marketers really need to concentrate on boils down to four consumer roles and three important metrics.

To begin, let’s define the consumers involved and the roles they play:

(A) Digital Followers: These are the people who already give the brand permission to digitally converse with them. They are the brand’s Facebook fans, those following the brand on Twitter, those who subscribe to the brand's YouTube channel. These are, in nearly every sense, the people who are most likely to pass a favorable word or two about the brand on to others.

(B) Event Participants: These are the people who show up at the brand’s event and – importantly – participate. And we should define “participate” in this way: they make a gesture of digital acknowledgement toward the brand. For example, they become a Facebook Fan, follow the brand on Twitter, or add the brand to a Google+ circle (therefore becoming a Digital Follower), or they engage at the event enough for the marketer to learn they are already a Digital Follower of the brand. In other words, these aren’t people who show up, grab a sample, and take off.

(C) Digital Promoters: As the tag implies, people who endorse the event online. They broadcast a “Like” or a “Check-In” for the event, they post to their Facebook wall about it, they add a mention to their Google+ stream, they Tweet. And each mention they make reaches the list of friends or followers they have, thereby putting in motion digital Word-Of-Mouth.

(D) Digital Impressions: Simply, these are the eyes that see mentions of the brand's event. They are the people who interact with the brand by viewing an endorsement – a Tweet, a Facebook post, an uploaded video – from someone they trust.

The objective, then, is to usher as many people possible through each role in the most efficient way available. Maximizing the number of digital impressions an offline event yields is truly a multi-step process that requires marketers to act before the event, during the event, and following the event. But so long as the marketer is  cognizant of those steps, actions, and – perhaps most importantly – the metrics they are trying to optimize, they can ensure the offline event garners online attention and digital impressions.

It all begins with your Digital Followers. Certainly, this is not always the first place marketers look when planning an offline event, but it should be. That is because these are the consumers who are most likely to pass along favorable mentions of your brand. The more of them marketers can make aware of an event, the more likely will the event generate online buzz and digital impressions. But even more importantly, marketers know a bit about the Digital Followers of their brand. Marketers must begin by searching existing Digital Followers for those who live or work in areas near the offline event. By dropping them a note to say where and when the event will be and asking them to tell their friends, marketers maximize the attention the event will get. A marketer’s success at effectively recruiting for the event should be measured through a metric called “attraction”: the ratio of Digital Followers the brand has to the number of Digital Followers who participate in your offline event.

Ensuring high “engagement”, the percent of event participants who promote the event through some digital means, is what drives the marketer’s next moves. While the quality of the offline event certainly impacts how many Event Participants choose to pass along recommendations for it, there is little excuse for marketers to fall short of an engagement score of 100%. Because the marketer’s focus should be squarely on making it as simple as possible for Event Participants to send endorsements of the event to their friends and followers. This means setting up a wireless hotspot at the event, a location-based check-in, ready-to-use hashtags, a sharing platform (e.g., AddThis). Basically, the marketer must make it so easy for event participants to broadcast the event that they can’t help but promote it.

The final metric marketers should use to guide the process of translating offline events to online impressions is “amplification”. Quite simply, amplification in this sense is the ratio of Event Promoters to Digital Impressions. It is the number of people who see the endorsements posted, Tweeted, or shared by Engaged Participants. This is where finding and recruiting key Digital Followers is important. As we’ve already seen, the average Facebook member has around 130 friends, so any message broadcast through Facebook already reaches a large audience. But a large (and growing) percentage of Facebook members have literally multiples of that number of friends. Over one-quarter of members have more than 1,000 friends. And when someone with that large of a following is a friend of a brand, it is the marketer’s responsibility to know who they are.

Converting offline event to online impressions can indeed be a complicated, confusing challenge. But by breaking that challenge down it is fundamental parts, focusing on the four key roles of consumers and the three critical measures of success, marketers can maximize ROI for their events.