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If you think social media isn't relevant to your brick-and-mortar business, think again. Online digital tools can drive foot traffic and foster a loyal community. As director of social media for an establishment that 6,000 people visit every weekend, I have nevertheless learned firsthand that although you can use online media to develop relationships, real-world connections are what solidify them.

Here are five ways social media can support your efforts to increase foot traffic, brand awareness, customer relationships—and sales.

1. Be present

If you run social channels for a business, make sure you get out and meet prospects and customers. Attend events you've been promoting on social networks. Take advantage of opportunities to meet people influential in your industry.

Why is getting out into the world important? For customers with whom you've already established an online relationship, yours can be the friendly face they already know when they walk through the door for the first time. For prospects, the personal connection you make with them might be what finally gets them to walk through the door.

2. Offer connection

Give members of your online community an opportunity to be a part of something in the real world, something they can point to in your store or online and say, "I did that" or "I was part of that" or "That's me!"

For example, this past December we offered "Christmas-grams," inviting people on Facebook to nominate friends or family to receive one. We chose a few recipients of the Christmas-grams, showed up at their door unannounced to deliver it, and filmed the entire, hilarious experience! Then we posted the video on YouTube and played it on our campus. The only way to know if your nomination was picked was to show up on the weekend to watch the video.

3. Be relevant

What's current, relevant, or timely? If you pick up on what's already on people's minds, you don't have to manufacture awareness from scratch. For 9/11 this past year, we used Facebook and Twitter to locate four soldiers to fly home for a surprise visit to their families. We captured the whole thing on video for a total Oprah moment! The larger point is that we used what was current and relevant to build awareness of our organization and strengthen our relationships with followers, members, and their families. 

4. Be helpful

Don't expect your customers to know how to find you online or assume they are Twitter experts. Help them find you and follow your tweets. For instance, we've set up our own "Geek Squad" in our lobby with laptops to show people how to sign up for Twitter and also how to find and "Like" us on Facebook.

Remember that helping people find you online isn't enough; give them a reason to follow you or "Like" you. (If you don't have an answer other than "I'm trying to get more followers and Likes," then you have bigger issues that won't be fixed by social media!)

5. Be everywhere

Make sure your social presence is promoted on every print piece you have: fliers, direct mailers, business cards, everything. Include your Twitter and Facebook URLs, not just a logo. One thing we've recently started doing is capturing tweets from people who are mentioning us and projecting them up on our giant high-definition screens for 15 minutes before one of our programs kicks off. It's another reminder that we are on Twitter.

(Image courtesy of Bigstock: Traffic light)

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Summer Boone is the director of social media at Church by the Glades in Coral Springs, FL. She was recently a guest on the MarketingProfs Marketing Smarts podcast. Connect with Summer on Twitter (@summerjoy) or via her website,

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