Collateral Branding: The difficulty of Online-to-Offline

I came across one of these notepads from the SUNY Oswego Metro Center (I snipped that image above; I figured you'd get the idea even if I didn't include all 20ish lines on the piece of paper). I love the Metro Center. It gives people the opportunity to take classes downtown. It opens its doors to groups like 40 Below. I even love these notepads: they're a good size, bigger than a shopping list, smaller than a journal. I even really like Amber Spain-Mosher, who handles the marketing for them.

But the Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn logos at the bottom caught my eye. Because in order to find them, we're supposed to search those sites. And that's fine – if you make yourself easy to find.

Facebook. Facebook has a really good search. In fact, as I was typing, it pre-filled the SUNY Oswego Metro Center page. Very good. The one problem is, take a look at the profile image they use – it's the statue in Clinton Square and The Post-Standard building, as taken from the front of the Atrium, which is the building that houses the Metro Center. There's no way to visually identify the Metro Center when you land on the Facebook page.

Twitter. Twitter has good content search. I ran two different searches and didn't find the SUNY Oswego Metro Center account. For the first search, I simply typed suny oswego metro center in the search box that runs in the right-hand column of a Twitter page. My only result was someone who checked into the Metro Center recently on Foursquare. Then I went to "Find People" and searched for suny oswego metro center (most people search lower case; so do I). I wound up with a list of 20 accounts, including CNN Weather and NASA's Stennis Center, but not SUNY Oswego Metro Center's account.

LinkedIn. You have to know how to search LinkedIn in order to be effective. It's actually fairly difficult. The search defaults to searching people, and it's an all-word search. When I searched for suny oswego metro center under people, I got six results – two were people who worked there (one as a graduate assistant), and the other four had gone to SUNY Oswego and had worked at places that included Metro Center in their name. Next, I tried to search under Companies, and received zero search results (they'd be combined under the SUNY Oswego umbrella).

There are a couple of ways to solve that. One is to list URLs. Unless 1,000 people like your page, that's unwieldy on Facebook (unless, of course, you were to buy MyBusinessNameOnFacebook.com and redirect it to your Facebook page), but then Facebook's search is actually good. My business cards don't list my Facebook URL, but they do list my company website, my blog, my Twitter and my LinkedIn.

Another way is to build a QR code (like the one on the left there). You can include a lot of information (about 1500 alphanumeric characters) in not very much space. As the smart phone market grows (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Palm, etc.), just about anybody is going to be able to read one of these – all they need is to download a free app and have an auto-focus camera. Most applications will give you a button to just add the information to your address book.

What challenges do you face when trying to market your online presence in an offline environment?

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