Channel Surfing: Mastering Social Media
“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.
Another tool printers can utilize is video. Video is one of the hottest, most influential trends in social media right now. In order to catch the attention of, and leave an impression on, marketers, printers certainly need to do more than just list the equipment that they have and the services that they provide.
In today’s world, many marketers need to be able to visualize specific solutions that the printer’s hardware and services can bring to them, and video can be a great way to bring a printer’s solutions to life.
Take, for example, Mojave Copy & Printing in Victorville, CA. In order to sell their service of providing well-designed window signs that can be made interactive with QR codes, they posted a video of an installation. By posting this video, they not only made it possible to demonstrate their services online, but they also gave their consumer a tool to demo why they’d want to invest money in an interactive window sign for their company. And, the marketer could easily show that video to his or her management team in order to justify the expense and potential benefits.
Companies and executives are finally beginning to really jump on the social media bandwagon, and that’s fantastic. For social media to fully work for everyone, businesses and brands need to be able to evaluate the impact (positive and negative) that their social media use is having.
Firms must have concrete goals and concrete baselines to measure return on investment. They need to define what they want to accomplish. A number of available tools that support measuring social media range from Google Analytics to HootSuite to Salesforce.com’s Service Cloud 2.
PrintingCenterUSA.com is an online commercial printing enterprise located in Great Falls, MT. It offers full-color offset and digital printing services across the United States with affordable prices. The company has been in the printing business since 1970.
Today, it is a Web-based operation that offers discount printing prices to first-time customers, and wholesale prices to digital and offset print brokers and other commercial printing companies. PrintingCenterUSA.com also provides multi-channel communications capabilities ranging from personalized URLs (PURLs) to QR codes and variable data. It’s a big believer in social media as a mechanism to both communicate and build awareness for its business.
As part of its social media initiative, Aaron Rains was appointed as the company’s social media manager. Rains provides his client base with an ongoing stream of valuable information, including YouTube videos that feature the “Print Project of the Week.” These are short, educational videos that cover everything ranging from examples of cross-media campaigns to tools for cost-effectively producing labels.
PrintingCenterUSA.com also leverages Twitter. “I have a variety of Twitter communications,” Rains notes. “I continually provide links to new applications and ideas for effectively using emerging technologies like QR codes. We offer end users with vertical market examples that are aligned with their specific industries.
“There are also links to sites and information about how small businesses can leverage print and cross-media for growth,” he adds. “It really is about developing techniques to provide an ongoing stream of information to your community.”
Rains also believes that LinkedIn has tremendous value. “It is a good mechanism to expand your network, reconnect with lost customers and prospects, showcase your expertise and keep in touch with industry updates,” he notes.
“We also leverage it to get introductions through existing clients. Referrals are always the best way to meet someone. When you are based in Montana, you may not be able to meet face-to-face, but LinkedIn referrals get you in the social media door.”
Another shop, Bridgeview, IL-based Rescigno’s Marketing Connections (formerly Rescigno’s Mailing Solutions) was renamed to better reflect the array of services that it offers. These services include social media marketing, fundraising campaigns, panoramic books and one-to-one communications.
For 19 years, Rescigno’s offered its customers guidance with their direct mailing efforts. With the addition of an HP Indigo digital press in 2010, Rescigno’s increased its range of services. It is able to print on substrates besides paper to better suit all of its clients’ marketing needs, including direct mail and marketing materials.
Owner Ron Rescigno is a big believer in the value of social media for supporting the growth of his own business, as well as delivering social media services for clients. “More and more, social media marketing elements like blogging and posting have become vital parts of our clients’ overall marketing strategies,” he observes.
Rescigno’s Marketing Connections needed to demonstrate that it could walk the talk. The company wanted to generate an online buzz so that it could be perceived as an expert and, ultimately, help its clients build their marketing strategies.
Rescigno’s has an active Facebook page that points friends and fans back to its blog content. In turn, the blog is kept up-to-date with design, list and direct mail tips. It includes recommendations on sizes, colors and finishes. It offers sample holiday appeals for fundraising and advice about how to handle donors in a fickle economy. YouTube videos discuss how to effectively integrate social media with other media.
“Within Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIN, we have worked to create a presence that engages our audience,” Rescigno points out. “Our expanded services and new approach to marketing have paid off. Sales are up 16 percent this year.”
Assess how to leverage social media for your business, walk the talk, and use it to engage with customers and prospects. PI
About the Author
John Foley Jr. is CEO of both interlinkONE and Grow Socially. His most recent book, “Business Transformation: A New Path to Profit for the Printing Industry,” provides strategies, plans, campaigns and case studies to help printers offer integrated marketing solutions. E-mail him at JohnF@GrowSocially.com.
John Foley Jr. is the CEO of interlinkONE and Grow Socially. John and his team help printers get on a strong path to marketing success. Their approach includes software solutions, consulting, Website development, marketing audits, and strategic marketing plans. interlinkONE’s software solutions for the print industry include their marketing automation platform, MAX, and ilinkONE V8. Learn more about MAX: Marketing Automation. Executed. by visiting MarketWithMAX.com, John at JohnFoleyJr.com, and his companies at interlinkONE.com and GrowSocially.com.