Social networks are the ones keeping online & offline separate (and how it can be fixed)

Recently more and more advertisers in Latvia have started to put their Facebook addresses and page names on their outdoor ads. While I’m happy that social networks are becoming more important in the whole marketing hierarchy, these ads got me thinking.

My problem? This is cumbersome. So, there are couple of ways how to promote Facebook page on a billboard:

  • your FB page address (hopefully your FB address is short, easy & generic — most dedicated and interested by-passers might check out your FB page later)
  • shortened link (hopefully it’s as easy as bit.ly/lemonade)
  • page name (doesn’t work for brands with many pages and in other cases – FB search sucks)
  • QR code (meh, user will have to login in FB mobile version — if his/her QR app won’t kill his/her enthusiasm before that)

Now you know why I think that this is too hard to be effective. The user should be able to act on what he sees at that very moment, at that very place. Yet, it is painfully complex process.

This will be fixed by NFC-enabled billboards, but until that moment when NFC technology has become total mainstream, social networks like Facebook, twitter and foursquare should introduce their own systems which can read a tag (QR code, barcode, number or any other symbol or picture in offline environment) and, based on what’s encoded in that tag, point the user to the needed object within the platform via the mobile app.

This is how it might work. For example, I see a McDonalds billboard on a street and it says that McDonalds are giving away 300 cheeseburgers daily via its Latvian Facebook page. Plus, there is a QR code next to Facebook logo.

  • I open the Facebook app
  • start the camera within the app which automatically reads the code
  • WHOA, instantly I’m on the McDonalds page where I can “like” it, see what’s up and what else.

If I wanted to do it now, it would be a little bit more difficult.

  • open the app
  • type its name (I’m too lazy for this)
  • browse through results (Facebook pages) until you find the one (especially bad for global brands with country & local pages)

This takes much longer than a simple code read with phone’s camera


Yeah, there are more than one:

  • much greater engagement since acting on the ad would be a lot easier
  • very insightful analytics — advertisers would precisely know which places are best for them (where users act on the ads)
  • better user experience when connecting digital stories with offline ones

While I have used Facebook as an example, this is relevant for other networks as well. I’m looking at you, foursquare, twitter and others! ;)