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Channel Surfing : Mastering Social Media

July 2012 By John Foley Jr.
“The times,” as Bob Dylan once sang, “they are a changin’.” It almost goes without saying at this point, but the printing industry cannot go on doing business as usual anymore. And everyone knows it. Print can absolutely still be an important part of the marketing mix, but there are other channels and methods that also bring benefits to businesses.

That applies to printers who are looking for ways to promote their own businesses, as well. Channels other than print can help them to effectively find new prospects and engage with their customers. During the past few years, many printers have embraced the power of social media. They have added it to their marketing mix, and some have certainly used it to generate leads and revenue.

However, being able to harness social media has proven tricky for many in the graphic arts industry, and indecipherable for some. There are common traps and pitfalls that can hinder your online marketing efforts. But fear not! There are ways to make social media work for you, and it all starts with a plan.

If you enter into social media without a plan, you will fail. Just because the tools are free doesn’t mean that you don’t need to have a solid strategy. The plan starts with knowing your customers and understanding the communities that they are a part of.

Service providers need to assess their existing customer base, while also developing techniques for connecting with people who they want to meet. Where are your customers and prospects in the social media landscape? Are they on Twitter? Creating Facebook Fan pages? Are they on YouTube or answering questions on LinkedIn or Yahoo Answers? Are they on Pinterest?

The content that you provide in your social media environment needs to be meaningful and have value. Printers need to respond with links to their resources and to other people’s resources that provide valuable content about using technology, quality, applications, digital opportunities and more. Your job in social media is to listen, to help and to get your message out when appropriate.

Social media isn’t about you—it’s about helping your customers and connecting with them so that when they have a need for digital and printed marketing solutions, they remember that they have a friend on Twitter/Facebook/the Web who specializes in that. It can’t be a one-time occurrence, or a new blog once every six months.

 

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