Unplug - take it offlineWhether you’re visiting a trade show and want some take-away tips, or looking to sponsor your own event, it’s slightly ironic that getting offline can help your online business. But it’s true. In a world of smartphones and tablets on the go, prospective clients and customers have access to social media everywhere they spend their time -- at work, at meetings, and when networking or socializing.

A great strategy for starting a business relationship your prospective customers is to spend time outside of the office, participating in things they care about. Here are four simple ideas you can integrate into your digital marketing efforts so that you can get more involved with your audience.

Create a Hashtag for a Live Event

So, you know that social media isn’t just for one person in your company. Anyone should be able to participate. The next step is understanding that social engagement during your event doesn’t just “happen.” It takes planning, analysis, and follow through.

For hashtags, the work starts a few weeks in advance. First, get involved in the community that is interested in the event itself. Then, decide on an insight or perspective you want to take and brainstorm a short, meaningful hashtag that could go with it.

The conference or trade show you're attending may also have a hashtag, so be sure to at least participate in that conversation on social media. For an example, see #WEFTEC (the hashtag for the WEFTEC trade show) on Twitter.

The key here is that the hashtag should outlive the event! Make sure you choose one that can be referred to again and again and speaks to those who are interested in the community.

For example, those visiting a digital marketing expo might target a new trend like sharing real life experiences online (#ShareIt) or “dishing,” or reviewing restaurants while you dine (#DishNow). Examples of other successful live-event hashtags include #40Dollars from The White House, and #soirritating from Edge Shave Gel. Each took a creative approach to a relatable issue and spread like wildfire!

Sponsor a Live, Free Google Hangout

Tutorials and webinars are great tools to spread the word about your products and services. Many companies we work with conduct small, in-person events or "brown bag" lunches with prospects. Take it another step and offer free group consultations via Google Hangouts.

Using Google Hangouts, you can have an open invitation to join up to ten people (first come, first serve). But more than ten can watch the hangouts, and you can work your way through a waiting list to allow new people to enter.

This type of webinar lets you focus on one prospective client at a time and answer their questions, thereby getting the benefit of a live interaction. But, as an added bonus, you can record the Hangouts and post to your website or YouTube for reuse, getting the benefit of a recorded webinar.

Alternatively, you can use GoToMeeting to accomplish the same thing if you're paying for that service or aren't familiar with Google Hangouts.

Make it About Customers Expressing Themselves

Another creative way to get social in the real world is to bring the focus back to your customer. If you have a product that is popular but hasn’t found a way to express its following yet, ask your customers to show you how much they love it, or ask them how they've used it.

A good example of this is the sandal company Chaco’s “#Sockos” campaign. It asked happy customers to take photos of their Chaco sandals in socks (a quirky style movement) and then shared these photos on Twitter and Facebook (you could also use Instagram). The result creates instant community around a product.

Ask for Online Feedback at a Live Event

Finally, if you are speaking at a conference or trade show, or are giving a product demonstration, invite attendees to use social media during your talk. Put some short points on your slides so they can simply post those quotes. Even at industrial conferences, we've seen examples of "live blogging" talks where writers may be covering your talk or product demo online.

Finally, at the end of your presentation, invite the audience to share feedback on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Your product or service might not fit into these models exactly, but that’s what we’re here for! Creative, successful, engaging social media results. Let us know if you'd like to discuss your next project.

Learn how to use social media for your business

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