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Facebook, Twitter sphere of influence moves offline as mobile grows

Not content with commanding a significant portion of consumers? online time, social networks Facebook and Twitter are increasingly looking at how they can influence offline activity, with mobile acting as a key enablement tool.

Facebook users can now reserve a restaurant table or see when their favorite television show airs from a mobile device while Twitter is pushing the connection between promoted tweets and in-store purchases. With consumers increasingly using social media to support their offline activities, social networks are looking to insert themselves into users? changing behaviors.

?If you consider some of the recent Twitter research, their closed-loop CPG measurement and their TV work with Nielsen, you?ll see that social is playing a very influential role in what consumers are doing offline, whether that?s offline purchase or tune-in for a TV program,? said George Manas, director of client strategy for Resolution Media, Chicago.

?And with over 60 percent of social media users logging into social platforms via mobile devices, it is clear that mobile is absolutely key in this intersection of the online and offline world,? he said. ?In fact, as an early partner with Twitter on their offline sales impact research last year, we found greater lifts in purchase for mobile users exposed to brand messages.

?Looking ahead, with mobile social network users slated to double by 2017 to over 160 million in the U.S., the scale of influence this has on offline consumer activity will be even more powerful than it is today. At bottom, mobile social represents an unprecedented opportunity for marketers to reach and connect with consumers in meaningful ways, on their terms, as they live their lives and engage in their passions.?

Bridging online, offline
This week, Facebook announced an integration with OpenTable, enabling users to make restaurant reservations at more than 20,000 establishments in North America directly from within a restaurant?s Facebook page on iOS and Android.

The social media giant is also giving iOS users a way to find air times for TV shows as well as what channel shows appear on and program descriptions on a program?s Facebook page.

Twitter also sees strong engagement from its large and growing mobile user base as they watch TV and go about their daily activities. In an effort to show that the time spent on Twitter has an impact on users offline activity, the company recently released data measuring the impact of promoted and organic Tweets on offline sales.

Twitter worked with Datalogix to study 35 CPG brands such as Oreo and Wheat Thins and found that users who engaged with a brand?s promoted Tweets purchased more from that brand than a control group, resulting in a 12 percent average sales lift.

The study also found that users exposed to a brand?s organic Tweets bought more from that brand than those who were not exposed, producing an 8 percent average sales lift.

Marketing opportunities
The opportunity for marketers in leveraging mobile social to drive an offline action is the ability to reach the right consumer, at the right time, with the right message and content.

For retailers, this could mean delivering coupons or other incentives to consumers who have a specific lifestyle or brand interest and who are within a specific distance of a bricks-and-mortar store. Additionally, retailers can encourage recipients to share an offer with their circle of friends on social media.

Mobile social can help brand marketers reach consumers during specific demand moments and around specific buying occasions to increase the impact and relevancy of their messaging and encourage an offline purchase.

?We know that consumers use social on the desktop to research significant purchases like cars and vacations, but mobile is where they dip into the crowd for advice on smaller and more spontaneous consumption,? said Mark Pinsent, social and content lead at Metia, Kirkland, WA.

?It?s becoming a habit to ask the advice of your social network to help make every day decisions, such as choosing a bathroom paint color, or finding a plumber,? he said. ?This behavior is only going to increase over time.

?Even as networks change and new channels emerge, the behavior is becoming commonplace.?

Authentic experiences
The challenge for marketers in taking advantage of this convergence of mobile, social and offline is delivering a strong customer experience that will lead to authentic social recommendations. This means that businesses already delving into location-based services and publishing real-time social offers will have a lead.

?Mobile means that consumers are reaching into their social networks for advice, recommendations and reviews while on the move - often when they are in the immediate vicinity of the item, shop, café, hotel, restaurant, etc where they?re thinking about making a purchase,? Mr. Pinsent said.

?A free cookie with a cappuccino might make the difference between a consumer stepping through your door or the coffee shop across the street,? he said.

Marketers should consider the differences between the two social networks when crafting a strategy.

For example, Twitter offers a way to reach users in near real-time with deal offers, such as an in-store coupon code that is only good for an hour.

Facebook may be better positioned for longer-lead campaigns such as building up anticipation for a big inventory sale.

?Today, more and more consumers are using mobile apps to engage in social media, and that activity is bleeding into how they connect with people offline,? said Aaron Everson, chief operating officer of Shoutlet, Madison, WI. ?Users go on a 'friending' spree after they meet a group of people at a party; shoppers have a habit of checking for online deals and Facebook sales when they are out shopping.

?The fact that socially-savvy users consult social media is affecting the daily decisions people make,? he said. ?In fact, the time spent on mobile social media rose by a whopping 387 percent from 2011 to 2012, and use of social media apps, namely Facebook and Twitter, outrank all other types.

?That ship is moving too fast for it to slow down.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York