We’ve all heard a ton of buzz about how the “great thing” now is marketing your printing business on Twitter and Facebook. Being in the direct marketing arena...it’s no different here. But, I really don't see a whole lot of benefit for those companies that have jumped on the bandwagon...at least with how they’re doing it.
Social media is really nothing other than another vehicle to communicate with and deliver content to people. Now, because of the interactive nature, it has enormous potential. But to realize that potential, companies have to be creative and deliver content that is conducive to interactivity.
Now let's see what is going online and what could go on (at least from my observations).
1. Basic talk about what the company does and what its services are. This could be done via a Website since it doesn't change very often.
2. Announcement of events/press. I see companies announce things going on with them and things going on in their communities. Not bad I suppose. But most of this content can be delivered via print or e-mail, assuming they have contact info (which they should if they are followers). In fact, that would be more effective since a message could be altered to fit the recipient.
3. Announcements of internal blog posting. This a good use due to the hot links and the potential to inform your clients and followers of new information and advice that may help them. Unfortunately, very few printers have blogs and write any original content. There is great opportunity here to present your firm as the expert.
4. Referring other relevant industry information. The key word here is relevant. This can be a good use of social media. It can keep a company's customers and prospects abreast of “stuff” going on in their industry (i.e. trend, tips, etc.). The problem I see here is that everybody mentions the same articles. And most of them are about how “print isn't dying.” Enough already.
To summarize— a couple of the above applications make sense and are probably worth the time and effort of the social media upkeep. But aside from blog comments, they don't accommodate any interactivity, thus missing the real potential of social media.
What a company should do:
1. Don't push your services. Unless a service is new, your following probably already knows what you do and what equipment you have. Save this for the Website.
2. Announce your events, relevant community items and your blog postings. Social media is a targeted, efficient way to show that your firm is alive, in a personal sense.
3. Create a Twitter or Facebook forum pertaining to the business customers do with you. Best Buy does it and the company answers every Tweet. In the digital printing industry, this could involve a discussion on gathering and preparing data for 1:1 marketing jobs. Having your followers interact with each other creates a community...a place that they will come back to, giving your firm more opportunities to stay in front of them.
4. Create a mini job board. Again, this could be as easy as announcing opportunities your clients have on Twitter and Facebook. Nothing provides you with more kudos than helping advance somebody's career or helping your clients with an important employment need.
5. Create a "Doing good things" forum. Have your clients post causes near and dear to their heart. This creates camaraderie amongst your followers and let’s them “take a break” from just work issues. People do have lives outside of work.
Social media like Twitter and Facebook are not there to boost your short-term ROI. It’s about building relationships, a community, one that will benefit you in the long run— especially at times when the market is not so great, like now.
Your online community needs to be a place that your followers and clients will go back to again and again. Be a conduit for help. The more you give, the stronger your bonds will be. Look at your community as a “general contractor” for building your clients’ and followers’ businesses.
Also, involved members will help you in your “construction” efforts by getting the word out and referring people your way. You will be considered the expert—somewhere someone can go to get their printing problems solved...whatever those may be.
Your social media presence is a living, growing organism. If you feed it with the right food and nurture it, it will return great rewards and satisfaction. But remember, it takes time and attention...and if you don't give that, it'll wither and die.
And most of all, ask yourself: Would I follow my own firm? If so, you're on the right track. Just be patient. If not...well, you have some work to do.
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