In recent years, countless meetings have taken place to determine the online strategy of companies all over the world. Just about every company has asked itself what role it should play on social media. This is a key discussion that’s becoming even more important with every passing day.

Unfortunately, the participants in this kind of brainstorming session tend to lose sight of the essence of online success: 90% of a company’s online success depends on its offline behavior.

Some time ago, I read an article about a woman who got mugged on the parking lot of a Walmart somewhere in California. The manager refused to call the police because the matter wasn’t serious enough. A furious post by the lady’s husband on Facebook was instantly removed. As it turns out, this particular Walmart got the worst evaluation on Yelp, mainly because of the dangerous neighborhood it was located in. The question here is what would be the best social media investment for this store? Posting a reaction on Facebook is not the answer. The only solution is to have a security officer patrol the parking lot. This offline investment has a huge impact on the online experience. Posting online and not solving the actual problem is simply not enough.

More than one in two online conversations deal with offline experience

Analysis of some 1,000,000 online conversations on brands revealed that the topic of these online conversations is often offline experience. Consumers mainly discuss the quality of the product and the service. If both are up to par then there is a basis for online success.

Our first concern as a company should be to help our customers to communicate their positive offline experience through offline channels. After all, it’s annoying when customers are happy with the product and service but keep that satisfaction to themselves. It may help to create a distinctive profile for your service. KLM answers tweets and Facebook messages inside thirty minutes. When Carglass replaces your windshield, they also vacuum your car mats. E-commerce player Coolblue uses physical stores as a 3D catalogue. Online shoe company Zappos has a 365-day return policy. This kind of details and specific commitment make the company more worthy of conversation.

Personal connection and a shared purpose

Unfortunately, even good customer experience and specific commitment may still not be enough to get a customer to spread the word; to do so, he also has to identify with the company’s approach. Companies that project a certain cool have one up on the competition because consumers like to show them off to promote their own image. The biggest motivation to establish an emotional link between your company and the customer consists in identifying a common goal. Consumers will become more involved if they feel that a brand creates added value both in their own lives and for society at large. This commitment is the ultimate conversation driver.

Triodos bank is a good case in point. Triodos is the first ‘sustainable’ bank, only investing in social or green projects as well as other activities that benefit society in general. The bank’s financial results confirm growing consumer demand for a shared purpose.

By the way, this video is also a beautiful description of their world vision. It’s a world where every individual has an impact. Small-scale actions are the new large-scale actions.