No Longer Hawkers, Modern Street Teams Can Help Build Your Online Presence There's nothing like a real live person to greet and assist customers upon arrival to your location.

By Micah Johnson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

There is more opportunity than ever for companies to make real, relevant and lasting connections on the digital landscape. That's why you should consider taking to the streets to enable conversations simultaneously on and offline around your brand.

While street teams -- basically product and event promoters on foot -- have been around for quite some time, the 2014 version has come a long way from the group of college kids slinging swag outside a Dave Matthews Band concert. Today's street teams are about setting the tone for customers' experiences and can be used in a variety of settings such as auto dealerships, retail stores and health clinics.

Related: 6 Ways to Harness the Power of Review Sites

I'll paint a picture of what the street team experience may look like from a recent 72-hour weekend sale-a-thon we at Chief Ingredient participated in at a car dealership. Two-member teams holding iPads greeted customers. Our main goal was to get people to check in on Yelp and Google to boost the dealership's social media visibility, though we stopped short of asking them to post a review as to not artificially influence the online ratings.

The secondary goal for the street teams was to empower customers to share their experience with the brand on social-media sites. Street team members hand out a "social card" with a QR Code upon check-in that included a direct link to Facebook, Google and Yelp for people to post pictures from the event to share with their friends and followers. This was a big hit.

We tried to dissuade as much as we could individuals from posting feedback right after checking in for concern that it would appear disingenuous. What's more, sites such as Yelp will filter such postings. This approach actually paid off in authentic feedback. Within 16 hours of our event, the dealership's average positive Yelp and Google review scores soared 900 percent, and became the dealership's best event of the year.

Make no mistake. Street teams that cater to customers in a genuine, sincere and non-pushy way will help drive new customers through the door for many months. People connected with your brand on social media are 70 percent more likely to buy from you in the future, according to Chadwick Martin Bailey/iModerate Research Technologies, collecting data specific to car dealerships.

The key here is deploying street teams the right way. Below are a few ways companies can maximize the modern-day street team and why it's something to consider for your brand:

Boost revenue. The best time to enlist the help of a street team is in preparation for major events. We've found that street teams can be an incredible catalyst in these instances to hit larger sales numbers and volumes. They also provide residual benefits after the event because of the online connections the teams are able to make that go far beyond a common loyalty program.

Related: How to Create a Live Event That Spurs Social Buzz

Pre-promotion. A good team is not just there the day of the experience. They are helping you craft a manufacturer-compliant campaign and distributing it via social media to generate excitement and a good teaser for what to expect during your unique sale-a-thon or event. Some examples are touting special gifts for anyone who shares hashtags for events.

Reputation management in real time. It's important to work with a team trained to directly engage with customers using social media as an integral part of the experience. Not everyone is a wiz on the Internet and many customers find it refreshing that someone is right there to walk them through the process of checking in. The more active your team is on the floor the less alone the customer feels.

Not just for customers. Street teams can teach a lot to customer-facing employees and vice versa. Our street teams hold training sessions with staff in advance of major sales events to set some performance goals and familiarize everyone in the room with the most relevant review sites and social-media platforms.

Incentivize team members. It's important to not only set metrics for the brand, but also for the street team members. If your goal is 100 check-ins -- the street team members who facilitate that action first should be rewarded for it.

The 2014 street team has the ability to elicit an emotional connection that strikes the perfect balance between asphalt and inter-web. If you have great products or services alongside excellent customer service, putting a face to sites such as Facebook and Yelp should empower customers to respond positively to your brand, generating sales long after the event is over.

Micah Johnson

Founder and CEO, GoFanbase

Micah Johnson is the founder and CEO of GoFanbase, an app that helps organizations with multiple locations streamline social media management and online reputation with one touch. He recently moved from San Diego to Tennessee to start a mini-farm in his spare time.

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