Social Networks = Business --Morgan
THE DAYS of the passive print buyer lie in the past. Print buyers are no longer sitting back and waiting for printer reps to cold call them or invite them out for lunch. In today’s technological environment, consumers are more proactive than they have ever been. They actively research their options and, with the advancement of the World Wide Web, it has enabled print buyers to spread a much larger net, capturing information on potential suppliers, even international suppliers. As Travis Kalanick, founder and CEO of Red Swoosh, states, “Social networks are like grease—in some cases, gasoline—for our personal business networking machines. If you aren’t plugged in, you will be out-done by better-connected, hyper-networked colleagues and competitors.”
Just think about it: We used the telephone until it became clogged with telemarketers; we used e-mails until our accounts were overcome by spammers. The new generation of communication is through the use of social networks. The popularity of social network sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Digg is growing on an exponential level.
According to a New York Times article dated October 27, 2008, a market research firm called NewDiligence recently surveyed end users and IT managers about their usage of social networking sites: 60 percent of the respondents said they use networking sites at work, and half of the respondents check in once or more every day.
Social networking sites afford vanguard print suppliers the opportunity to officially connect with all of the people they know—and then grow their networks exponentially. According to our research, printers are jumping on the bandwagon; a recent survey conducted by Print Buyers Online.com demonstrated that 45 percent of our major print supplier members currently use social networking services to attract business.
Interestingly, even when it is not encouraged by the company, some representatives do this on their own because they are aware of what excellent marketing tools they can be. Account rep M. Evans is one of these individuals. He shared, “My company doesn’t use them, but another rep and I use LinkedIn and Twitter on our own to stay connected with clients, announce new developments and to develop leads.”
Online networks accelerate and globalize the print buying process, and establishing a network requires one part social know-how and one part technical expertise. For example, LinkedIn, which claims to have more than 20 million registered users from 150 different industries, allows users to post career accomplishments and ask for “connections” for jobs or business introductions.
Listen to what Maria Popova said in the book, “Poke Me, It’s Real: Facebook, Interaction Benefits and the Future of Marketing” (at www.brandweek.com): “So, what’s in it for brands? Possibly the most sophisticated psychographic targeting system yet. Facebook profiles include basic demographics (age, gender), richer information (location, education, religious and political beliefs, relationship status, sexual orientation) and invaluable detailing that, if used smartly, can reveal a wealth of insight.”
Have I got your attention? Keep reading to learn the pros of getting connected.
Potential clients will come to you. When you establish a social network, you immediately gain access to leads who are looking for the specific services you provide. Users will opt-in to receive your updates—and you will be dealing with a warm lead instead of a cold call.
You will stay top-of-mind. By keeping an active profile and updating it regularly, you will be able to create brand awareness among print buyers. You can do this by showcasing your latest products and services, and by demonstrating your expertise by listing articles, Q&As, etc. The more you show what you know, the more they will keep coming back.
You can collaborate directly with your audience. By sharing content with print buyers, you give them the opportunity to provide invaluable feedback—in real time. Social networks make it easy for users to provide their thoughts on the services that you provide, and you will be able to manipulate your marketing strategy accordingly.
They provide validation. Once you have a membership group that has opted in to your profile, each of these individuals serves as a reference for your company. Better yet, they will forward your information to their friends and colleagues—and, pretty soon, you will have an entire network at your disposal, whenever you announce a new service or product.
They allow introverts to shine. Does someone in your company hate making phone calls, but is brilliant when it comes to sharing your strengths in an online setting? By participating in a social network, these individuals are allowed to shine, on their own terms. And, that is a win/win in my book.
There’s no lag time. By participating in social networks, you are able to engage people on a minute-by-minute basis regarding what is going on in your organization. You can hit them with current product offerings before the press release hits the news. And, due to its viral nature, your news will be forwarded to the people most interested in your company’s developments.
It creates communities of interest. Another interesting phenomenon about social networks is that people will sign up for your cause—and forward it to their colleagues, so they can get involved. Before you know it, people will not only be asking what you are doing, but how they can help you achieve your goals.
On the other hand, as with all things, there are negatives to consider when participating in social networks:
Draw the line. It is important to keep in mind what should and should not be shared. Many people fall into the trap of contributing too much personal information. I recommend creating a company policy that outlines what can and cannot be shared online, and ensuring that people are sticking to it.
Beware of addictive behavior. When creating your organization’s policy, dictate how many hours per week your marketing consultant will put toward updating online profiles. Many of our members confessed to the addiction of social networks; draw the line between what is helpful and what is wasteful.
Be dedicated. When participating in social networks, it is important for your information to stay fresh. By providing content that is timely and fresh, you will keep people coming back—and not opting out because of stale or redundant story lines.
Maintain proper protocol. As with any marketing campaign, remember to be transparent, create trust, and avoid grammatical and typographical errors. Keep in mind that everything you create can be forwarded to others—and will be permanent in cyberspace.
If you keep the potential pitfalls at bay, social networks can enable your marketing campaign to deliver surprising results. To stay in the forefront, you must be open to new frontiers—and, by doing so, you will not only maintain current clients, but gain brand awareness and loyalty in the process. PI
About the Author
Suzanne Morgan is founder and CEO of the annual Print Oasis Print Buyers Conference (www.printoasis.com) and Print Buyers Online.com, a free community of more than 12,000 print buyers whose member companies purchase more than $14 billion a year in printing. PBO conducts research on print buying trends and teaches organizations how to work more effectively with print suppliers. Morgan can be reached at email@example.com.