Social media 101: A cheat sheet for printers

Social media is officially mainstream and, while it’s a bit of a brave new world, it provides new opportunities for printing industry companies that build the right marketing strategies. Our day-to-day lives are increasingly being lived online, both personally and professionally. We go to Google and not the phone book to find phone numbers; we look up the weekend forecast with a phone app; we get the latest breaking news from Twitter; and we catch up with business colleagues via LinkedIn. As a result, customers are having conversations – online – about your company and your brand. It’s crucial to know what they’re saying – and to be a part of that conversation.

As a critical component of the marketing mix, print service providers must learn how to listen to, engage in, and participate in those online conversations. While we all naturally want social media to build buzz and engagement with customers, those customers are seeking a return. A December 2009 MarketingSherpa survey indicated that learning about specials and sales was the top motivation of those who “liked” or followed a brand or company online. Learning about new products, features, or services was a close second. Third on the list? Entertainment.

Social marketing is an increasingly important of your customers’ everyday lives , and you need to build a social marketing game plan for your business. The statistics are compelling:

• Research conducted by security company Palo Alto Networks found that Twitter usage in 2011 was up 700% from the previous year. (Yes, 700%.) However, Facebook remained the top social application at the office, accounting for 39 percent of employees’ usage of social media.

• According to The Nielsen Company, Americans spend 23% of their online time on social media sites.

• A survey done by the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) and published in February 2012 found that a full 90% of marketing executives surveyed use social media, and three quarters believe it has a positive impact on their business; yet, more than half (54.5%) of the respondents said their company’s marketing team spends less than 10 hours per week investing in social media.

• 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations; only 14% trust advertising.

• 34% of bloggers post opinions about products and services…what are they saying about yours?

A number of savvy print buyers and marketers are getting in the game and effectively leveraging social media in campaigns and to keep the “conversation” going with their customers. As a result, printers need to build strategies that deliver against the expectations of those print buyers and marketers, while also driving business results. But, wading into the swift waters of social media can be intimidating and difficult for printers, especially for small- and medium-sized operations that don’t have a formal marketing staff. In an effort to help, we’ve put together a cheat sheet for using social media for business – no matter the size. Come on in. The water’s fine.

1. Offer a peek behind the scenes. Offering a sneak preview of new products, services, or features online can help build demand and provide critical feedback to help smooth the launch.

 2. Put your website’s content to work. Want to draw more traffic to your website? Help spread the word by encouraging visitors to share content they enjoy. One way to promote the sharing of your site’s content is to install a widget, such as AddThis, that automates linking to popular sites.

 3.     Be candid. In unsure economic times, transparency goes a long way toward retaining and attracting customers. Giving readers the scoop on your company blog is an easy way to keep the lines of communication open.

4. But be careful what you say about others. While recounting negative experiences with others won’t necessarily lead to a court battle (although it could), it’s best to steer clear of name-calling.

5. See what people are saying about you. A quick search for mentions of your company on Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp can yield a goldmine of information concerning your reputation. Applications such as monitter and Trackur can help you keep track of the conversation across the Web.

6. Don’t go on the defensive. A harsh rebuke of your business on sites like Yelp can not only bruise your ego, but also hurt your livelihood. But resist the temptation to lash out in public. Instead, respond privately and respectfully to less-than-flattering comments. And keep in mind that you can’t please everyone.

7. Don’t promote too aggressively. While social network users have proven to be open to marketing—especially if it involves a discount—they’re not flocking to Facebook or MySpace to hear sales pitches. If your profile or blog reads like an ad, it’ll turn visitors away.

8. Find influential people in your industry. In addition to maintaining your blog, make sure to keep your eyes open to what others in the industry are buzzing about online. Reading independent blogs and joining industry groups on Facebook and LinkedIn are good opportunities to join the larger conversation.

9. Boost your credibility by helping others. For printers, establishing yourself as an expert in the field can bring in a steady stream of business. Demonstrate your ability to help print buyers and creatives in coming up with ideas and solutions. That will build credibility and, ultimately, leads.

 10. Measure ROI. Measure, measure, measure. Services like bit.ly, Digsby, and Google Analytics can measure traffic, and serve as tools to tell you how well you’re doing. And don’t forget to measure.

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