As people today spend more and more time connected to the web through their devices, the lines between the digital world and the analog world – online and offline – begin to blur. This is a time when you can literally look up Academy Award winners in the 1990s while standing on top of a mountain, or make restaurant reservations while out on a boat in the middle of a lake. Yet despite dire predictions that we would all become disconnected from one another, all this connectedness actually makes people want more real-world interactions.
Back at the dawn of virtual reality research, college students who spent hundreds of hours immersed in digital worlds for a study then found themselves hungering for physical human interaction, becoming more interested in campus clubs and groups, and attending more events and parties.
Organizations today already have a website and social media pages, at the very least, in addition to a physical location. There’s a lot of talk on the web about the “integrated customer experience” or the “holistic customer experience” or “cross-channel” strategies, and this is usually about how to increase brand awareness and loyalty in an effort to boost sales. But getting people to get together in real-time has multiple advantages beyond just revenue streams.
For a school or university, students bond together according to mutual interests to create a vibrant and appealing campus culture; at a company, employees who feel engaged and that their work environment offers variety are happier and work harder; government agencies want to foster a sense of community in their area. And people want to interact with one another.
You already have a great tool that has one foot in the digital world and one in the real world – digital signage. The messages are digital, but the displays exist in your space and are interacted with constantly by your audience. You can use your digital signs to encourage certain behaviors and also give your audience something more than just information – you can give them memorable experiences.
Metrics for Change
Things like energy dashboards have been shown to actually make people alter the way they behave in a facility. Simply show accurate real-time data of energy usage in the building, along with a target usage number, and people will remember to turn off lights and find other ways to reduce consumption. They can see the effect of their efforts throughout the day, and more often than not, the target is met and even exceeded. This works for utilities like power and water usage, as well as things like recycling initiatives. If you gamify things, giving people or teams a chance to compete with one another to reach the targets (with attractive prizes for the winners), you are almost guaranteed to get the results you want.
Host an event. Simple as that. It can be anything at all – a social meetup, a teambuilding event, a sporting event, a free lunch. People who interact with your organization can also interact with each other, and you get the credit for making it happen. A good event can break stale routines and get people talking in a more relaxed atmosphere. And the more interactive it is, the more memorable it will be. Some years ago, there might be a community event with a raffle, but today people want and expect things to be more tailored to their specific interests. Maybe you find out that a large number of people in your organization are foodies, so you host a cooking demonstration from a local chef. You advertise in advance using your digital signage – not just the event particulars, but perhaps a list of ingredients encouraging participants to cook their own dishes to share at the event. Then everyone can see what the expert did with the same ingredients. People will take pictures of their favorite dishes, putting them on their own social media feeds, and now your event lives on long past when it’s over.
This is just one example. Find out what your audience likes and will likely participate in, then find ways to make it interactive, and give them something to take away so they remember it for months to come. And when you do hold an event, make sure to post about it on your social media and your digital signage – this creates buzz and might increase attendance at the next event.
You can use your digital signage to drive traffic to your social media or webpages, and vice versa. Let’s say you have a Facebook page. You can look at the profiles of people who “like” your page and posts, and see what interests them. If a lot of people are dog owners, consider holding a PoochFest, where people can brings their dogs in to your facility and talk with other dog owners. There can be treats, contests, a talent show and more dog-related fun. While people are there, they’ll see your digital signs, which has messages specifically targeted to them and their interests.
If you want to increase the number of likes on your page, advertise it on your digital signage. You can even gamify this for a short time, encouraging your employees or students to get their friends on board by offering a prize for everyone in your organization if a defined number of new likes are reached in a certain time frame.
If you have an interest in increasing traffic at your facility, and exposing a wider audience to your digital signage messages, advertise on the web and your social media that there’s something extra on your screens. In the example above of the food event, write a post saying there’s a special extra ingredient list on your digital screens, and people should come in to get it. And this works in reverse as well – create a message on your screens that tells people to get something extra from your social media page.
The Pleasure of the Unexpected
People love surprises. There’s an art movement that started in New York City where poets write short poems and replace labels in second-hand clothing with them – so the purchaser one day finds this completely unexpected surprise in their new favorite shirt. Another group goes around crowded areas and compliments people.
There’s a well-circulated story about a man who joked on Twitter about his favorite steakhouse bringing him a porterhouse at the airport when he arrived. They had been tracking use of their name on Twitter, saw the post, and delivered him a steak at the airport. He was completely surprised, and of course he posted about it. That’s great PR for the steakhouse, and cost them almost nothing.
Think of ways to surprise and delight your audience. One great way is with scavenger hunts. If you want people to come to your facility, have the hunt there, with clues and hints on both your digital signs and your social media pages. If you’re trying to get more people to use an underutilized park in the area, for example, then hold it there, with clues on social media but special extras available on your digital signs to reward those who come in.
The fact is, there are a lot of very creative people out there. Get them involved by encouraging them to come up with posts for social media and messages for your screens. They might even have ideas for offline events that would help your organization’s reputation and the local community. Area businesses will be happy to participate, since they are also getting PR.
By creating offline experiences that bring people together, you help build community, brand recognition and brand loyalty. Using your digitals signage to promote events to those on-site, and your social media to promote things to people off-site, and to increase both audiences, leverages the tools you’re already using. Combine all your efforts into a focused campaign that gets the word out and gets people together, across all platforms.