One of the many challenges social media companies face is reaching out beyond the computer screen and converting a digital connection to a personal one. The Plaid Nation tour, now in its second year, is an innovative method one company is using to solve the problem.
The crew from Plaid is a personable, creative and engaging bunch. They came up with the Plaid Nation tour last year as a way to reach their customers on a personal level, to meet new people and generally practice what they’d been preaching in their brand and design business.
This year the tour itself was able to evolve beyond knocking on doors and introducing themselves as a company and become more of an exploration of social media tools and the variety of ways they can be used. Moving the tour focus from the East Coast to the West Coast, the Plaid crew concentrated on becoming a real world example of the possibilities inherent in social media.
According to Darryl Ohrt from Plaid, the premise behind this year’s tour was to be a “rolling celebration of creativity and social media”. The intent was to have fun meeting people in the social media space and gain a more informal, behind the scenes glimpse at how their companies and brands work and what they considered worth their time.
I asked Darryl what he considered the highlight of the tour, other than the fabulous Plaid wrapped Ford Econoline tour bus and his fellow Plaid team members, and he told me there were so many, from so many directions, that he needed to make a list:
- Meeting unique and unexpected people. Like Victoria, the magical girl in a pink helmet
- Meeting some of the really smart and innovative people in our industry – like Robert Scoble, Biz Stone and Cathy Brooks
- Seeing other brands (and other agencies) with their guard down
- The most delicious donuts and cupcakes
The entire tour was conducted using social media tools, enabling tour watchers to participate from the comfort of their own homes. There is a Plaid Nation web site that shows an interactive Google Map of the route as well as the live tweets on Twitter from the tour. You can follow them on their next tour in 2009 by adding Twitter user Plaid.
Tour followers could follow tour videos and watch footage from the “van cam”. If you wanted to meet the Plaid tour team, you could request to be a stop on the tour via the web site. Other fun social media tools they put to real use were instant messages to the van (a personal favorite), tour merchandise and the 11:40 Show on PlaidTV.
By making it simple for people paying attention to the tour to follow their schedule and interact via Twitter, instant messages, video and more, the Plaid team carved a place in our memories while they were away. We thought about them, and wondered how they were doing, whom they were meeting and what they would think of doing next.
This level of interaction between the real, offline world and social media was the goal of the Plaid Nation tour, yes, but it is also the goal of people in the social media space. The team from Plaid found a way to leverage a social media presence into real world connection in a way most brand management companies haven’t yet.
By showing a real world example two years in a row, of how to break out of the social media bubble, Plaid let everyone know that they are a force to be reckoned with in the brand marketing sphere. More importantly, they let us all know that they were human, with everything that entails, and isn’t that really the point of social media – to find the humanity and connect with it?
Leslie Poston is a writer, social media maven and tech junkie. She conducts social media training sessions to help you bring your company into World 2.0 using social media and technology. She blogs at Uptown Uncorked.