Making Social Media More Social

While scouring Google and my trusty blogroll for something fun to write about today, I came across this article by Maplewood Patch about the growing number of moms using social media. I was originally planning to write a simple post reporting on it to highlight the opportunity for mom- and parent-focused companies and products in general, but something was bothering me. The entire piece revolved around new moms using Facebook and other social media sites almost as a new primary form of communication with friends, with nary a mention of those interactions carrying over to in person communications or experiences. One mother is cited as admitting that all of her social interaction is done "almost solely through e-mail and Facebook." Is this simply the way society is heading, with more and more of our personal, meaningful communications with one another taking place exclusively in cyberspace? I personally would like to see more examples of these social networks facilitating communication offline. One of my favorite promotions that I helped manage was a brand ambassador program for a children's product which used Facebook to reach out to the most enthusiastic, dedicated fans and ask them to host play dates around the product in their homes. These mothers were more than happy to tell us every detail about their play dates, and the reviews of their friends were just as fun to read. The promotion demonstrated the real value of in-person experience in forming the mothers' opinions about the product, more clearly I think than your standard blogger review program, even. This promotion focused on regular people who were no better established online than their friends and fellow Facebook fans. In-person word of mouth still has the highest success rate in terms of persuading others to try new products, so I'd like to see more campaigns include an off-line component. Do you know any companies successfully facilitating off-line word of mouth with the help of a social media campaign?