As vibrant as social media can be, it can easily leave you feeling disconnected from real life. As friends share videos, give 'likes' and swap items in games like FarmVille, you're left with nothing to show for your time when you put the phone down.
But that doesn't always have to be the case. Here are three companies that are keeping real-world communication alive and integrating physical products into social media.
Social media has often been at odds with the art of letter writing. A recent UK study found that 64% of people don't write any letters in the course of a year, and those who do, only do so once a month. Though the immediacy and frequency of social media is now favored, over two thirds of people still consider a handwritten letter the most meaningful way of getting in touch.
In a bid to bring a personal touch back to online messaging, the social network lettrs brings a variety of letter writing features into the digital age. Users can compose letters in handwritten fonts with a range of customisable features, including digital signatures to close your messages. These can be sent to others through social media channels, but members can also select for a physical letter to be sent anywhere in the world.
Your 'fridge' acts as your digital profile, where you can also store and organize the digital letters sent to you. This is a quirky reflection of our real world affinity for browsing through past correspondence without using a stale user profile template. Outlets from The New York Times to BBC News have praised the network for encouraging old fashioned correspondence in an increasingly digital age.
Smartphone cameras are an integral part of interacting on social media, with Instagram and Snapchat in particular booming over the last five years. With over a hundred million monthly users, images are being shared, tagged and tweeted instantly, but this has led to the demand for devices using physical film naturally dropping. Fortunately, Polaroid has attempted to bridge the gap between digital and film with the release of the Socialmatic.
Running adverts with the slogan "What if the past contains our future?" the camera combines the best of both worlds as a compact camera that can both share your pictures online and print hard copies instantly. It runs a customised version of Android on a digital display and while it doesn't have mobile network connectivity, it does connect to Wi-Fi so you can sign in to your social media channels.
This is a great product that taps into a nostalgic market without compromising on capabilities. Rather than simply glorifying the past, the Socialmatic brings it along into the future.
'Buds for Buds' Campaign
In Autumn 2014 Budweiser launched their 'Buds for Buds' campaign in two US cities, Denver and Chicago. Users were prompted through Facebook to send a congratulatory beer to their friends for when they celebrate milestones such as birthdays and new jobs. The friend would receive an online voucher to be redeemed for a free beer at any of the participating bars, listed with the help of Gratafy.
Those who didn't live in the cities themselves but had friends in Denver or Chicago that they wanted to celebrate with could still get in on the fun by logging into Facebook and selecting their friends to become recipients. At only $5 per transaction and no supplementary emails after participation, the 'Buds for Buds' campaign generates brand loyalty without appearing sales based.
By basing their campaign around important events that people will want to celebrate, but perhaps can't due to travel or work commitments, Budweiser are helping to bring people together on two levels. Firstly, on a digital level, with one friend purchasing a beer for anther and secondly, on a physical level, as the recipient is encouraged to socialise in order to redeem their free beer at their designated bar. To top it all off, the whole process is streamlined as everything is taken care of in-browser, so no third-party apps are necessary to participate.
Social and physical media can seem like they are at odds with each other, with the ease and speed of digital sharing seemingly poised to replace the likes of letter writing and photo albums. However, if a company can tap into both aspects like the ones above, you can still champion tangible products with the speed and ease of social media.