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12 Days of Digital – Day 10: Taking Digital Offline

If you’ve signed up to the website Meetup you will have received an email update from their Co-Founder and CEO, Scott Heiferman this morning. This weekend is the tenth anniversary of 9/11, prompting the communication on the origins of the site.

A lot of people were thinking that maybe 9/11 could bring people together in a lasting way. So the idea for Meetup was born: Could we use the Internet to get off the internet — and grow local communities?

A small team came together, and we launched Meetup 9 months after 9/11. Today, almost 10 years and 10 million Meetuppers later, it’s working. Every day, thousands of Meetups happen. Moms Meetups, Small Business Meetups, Fitness Meetups… a wild variety of 100,000 Meetup Groups with not much in common — except one thing.

Meet ups or flash mobs, are now commonplace. We have heard a lot of speculation recently about how the UK’s recent riots were organised through social networks and more importantly seen the evidence of the use of networks to clean up the streets, after the mayhem. But how does taking online, offline better business?

I’ve already touched on the potential of this for marketing in a previous post. One of the first great examples of using social media for cross platform marketing is the Jimmy Choo Trainer Hunt. It is an interesting example in taking online offline on two counts. First encouraging real people, to do real things in the real world. The premise was to create a treasure hunt around London, using ‘growing’ network Foursquare checkins as clues to launch the exclusive brand’s trainer range. It was always going to be a niche in terms of the people it touched, the secondary offline activity was the big boy – editorial buzz. Column inches expanded as the story was picked up by press, from The Evening Standard to Vogue. Inches more generous than any mere advertising campaign.

My all time favourite (so far), online offline marketing game has to be Why So Serious? 10 million players in 75 countries, the game led up to the release of Batman film The Dark Knight. The impact was astounding.

Why So Serious? used augmented reality (AR) in a bid to not only take digital offline but to fuse reality and make-believe, creating a heady mix. Well known speaker on the subject, Gary Hayes describes AR as “an interface that better enables insight and connection into products, places and people then a ‘sense-of-place experience and story’”. AR is increasingly being used to sell products by giving consumers an immersive experience. For further reading I recommend Gary’s presentation earlier this year on the value of experiential new augmented reality business models.

We’ve come a long way since Scott Heiferman co-founded Meetup. The web and social technologies are changing the way we see and interact with the world around us, quite literally. The emergence of smart phones means we don’t even have to sit in front of a computer to be online; it’s where we want it, when we want it. A great example of technology integrating into the every day is, Andrew Wanliss-Orlebar’s Echoecho phone application, It enables friends to find each other (in the real world) fast. We’re only going to see this trend continue.

It’s vital then at the very least to keep up with the changes so as to not be left behind and be able to look ahead to the potential of what’s next. I look forward to receiving your AR business card when we meet

Former BBC producer Kate Pickering has worked in broadcast, innovation and digital media for 14 years. She is Director of media140 delivering events and workshops in the UK, mainland Europe and Australia on the transformation of business using social technologies. A collaborative innovation enthusiast and a firm believer the web is for good as well as play Kate is focused on what’s new and what’s next to better business. She has recently become Innovation Programme Leader at Co-operatives UK. Connect with Kate here.

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