Category Archives: Marketing

Social media is rewiring my brain

I’m becoming obsessive. I check my email on my iPhone as soon as I wake up. I catch up with friends on Facebook while sitting at red lights and I get an overwhelming sense of urgency to check my phone when I hear the familiar ping of an incoming text message. (I’m afraid to even mention the number of feeds and streams in my Hootsuite account.) I’ve noticed that these tendencies have gotten worse over the last few years and have made a joke about having developed some form of communications-related attention deficit disorder.

Imagine my surprise (read: vindication) when I read a post on Ragan’s PR Daily blog citing a number of pieces of research asserting that social media is indeed rewiring our brains. Here’s how:

We’re becoming dumber.
When your email is pinging and your Twitter stream is flowing, it’s easy to become distracted, and distracted workers are dumb. In fact, their brains are more numb than that of a pot smoker. A 2005 Hewlett-Packard study found that workers distracted by email and phone calls experience a temporary drop in IQ that is more than twice that seen in people who smoke marijuana.

We get bored more easily.
Emails, texts messages, and social media updates tickle the primal part of our brains that responds to threats and immediate opportunities, according to a 2010 New York Times article. “The stimulation provokes excitement—a dopamine squirt—that researchers say can be addictive,” wrote Matt Richtel for the
Times. “In its absence, people feel bored.”

We can’t focus or handle stress.
All that media you’re consuming daily—which is about three times as much as people consumed daily in 1960—is stressing you out, hurting your problem-solving abilities, inhibiting your creativity, and making you a slower thinker. (That’s according to this infographic from VizWorld, which compiles the information in a tidy fashion for distracted thinkers.)

But that’s not all. The same Times story from Richtel on the dopamine squirt we get from technology also said:

“Heavy multitaskers actually have more trouble focusing and shutting out irrelevant information, scientists say, and they experience more stress. And scientists are discovering that even after the multitasking ends, fractured thinking and lack of focus persist. In other words, this is also your brain off computers.”

Of course, thanks to smartphones and other mobile devices, our brains are never really “off” computers anymore.

We are less satisfied.
According to a
Harvard Business Review (HBR) story from this year, the online connection that provides dopamine doesn’t give us the calming oxytocin or serotonin we typically get when we interact with people in real life. That means, “On Twitter, you won’t feel satisfied the way you might if you chatted in person with 50 people at a conference,” says HBR’s David Rock.

We are becoming more partisan.
Social media channels—blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds—are making it easier for news consumers to find content that is slanted to their political beliefs, thus exposing them to less cross-cutting information. That’s not good for your dinner table conservations or the nation’s ability to make important decisions. A 2011 paper from researchers at Southern Illinois University determined:

“Selective exposure is generally seen as an important concern because a lack of diversity in political information and discussion hampers the ability of disagreeing citizens to engage in rational decision-making.”

The mainstream media—to some extent—provide something of a balance to partisan views, the report noted. (Although that is being undermined by cable news networks.)


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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, 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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Swimming in a bigger pond

It’s no secret that our industry is undergoing significant change. Electronic gadgets and applications are becoming a larger part of people’s daily lives, print run lengths continue to decline, and the competition for marketing dollars is stiffer than ever. As a result, printers are under increasing pressure to react, to adapt, and to change. But, change how?

There has been a tremendous amount of talk lately about printers moving from Print Service Providers (PSP) to Marketing Service Providers (MSP). The reason for this, of course, is the continued decline of traditional print work. The message to the printer is, “evolve and expand your offerings if you want to stay relevant. Do more things for your customers. Become more of a ‘one-stop-shop’ for your clients.” Admittedly, this is a necessary evolution, but I’m not so sure the term MSP is a good description of what printers will – or should – evolve into.

A wise and progressive customer of ours suggested a more accurate description of the modern day printer would be a Visual Communication Provider (VCP). By controlling the visual content for their customers, this printer acts as a “content consultant,” not simply another print purveyor. Print is certainly a key component of most campaigns, but more often than not it is supported by alternative mediums. For example, a direct mail piece may be coupled with a follow-up email campaign. Or a brochure may include a QR code that pushes a customer to a PURL. Cross-media marketing is not a threat to our printers, but rather an opportunity for growth and expansion into new areas of production and profitability.

When visiting a Smash Burger restaurant for the first time recently, I was greeted by a digital menu board. It was large, bright, easy to read and even incorporated short videos of a few of their most popular (and likely most profitable) menu items. I was impressed by the menu board…and the burger. But, it made me wonder – where does this evolution leave the printer? At first glance, it would appear the printer of the static menu board would lose a customer, but then I remembered the phrase “content consultant.” With a willingness to change and evolve his business, this printer could control and stream the content to these boards, he could create additional short videos highlighting seasonal menu items, and he could produce table tents to further promote those key items, maybe even include a QR code that would provide the scanner of the code with a coupon.

As I looked around the restaurant more closely, I also began to see very familiar items: tray liners, printed menus, P.O.P. displays, and calorie content brochures. So while my attention was first grabbed by the pretty, shiny new menu board, there were still many, many familiar items printers produce every single day. Digital displays, tablet computers, and smart phones have certainly modified the way we send and receive information, but that does not mean they will totally displace print. A tangible printed piece is still very attractive to many consumers. I see the creative use of coatings more and more in printed pieces these days and I assume this is to encourage the consumer to pick up the piece, touch it, and feel it. That is a sensory experience a digital menu board, a blog post, or a QR code simply cannot replace. As Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest or most intelligent of the species that survive, but those that are most responsive to change.” Seems like a great mantra for the print community, doesn’t it?

Leave me a note…let me know what you think.

– Matt

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Wanna go out sometime?

We recently launched Energy magazine (a quarterly publication for business owners and executives in the printing industry), for which I serve as Editor and Publisher. I’m proud of our latest issue and am enjoying the new role, as it allows me to venture back into my days as a journalist (I worked as a newspaper reporter and copy editor). It’s also giving me the opportunity to learn some things, both about the magazine publishing business and, more importantly, about reaching readers with information they need, want, and enjoy.

I had a recent conversation about the magazine with a fellow publisher and he shared an important lesson. Framed in such a simplistic way, it made tremendous sense and I’m sure is something that will continue to serve me.

Magazine publishing, it turns out, is a lot like dating.

To be “successful,” you’ve got to start with the basics. You’ve got to be where they are (in this scenario, readers and/or men). Okay…maybe that’s a bit too basic, but bear with me.

There also has to be attraction. I think you get what that means in the dating world, but in the magazine publishing world, we’re referring to design. The overall look and feel of the magazine is something readers should want to touch and open and peruse.

Next, there must be substance. A connection between the two and, ultimately, something that makes you want to know and learn more. Do we know the same people or run in the same circles? Does we have any hobbies in common? Do we like the same movies or music? For Energy, this means we need to include articles on topics readers are familiar with or enjoy or that contain information they need. Beyond commonalities, is there some element of fun? Does the article entertain me? Can he make me laugh?

It’s important to note that in both magazine publishing and in dating, a true connection generally isn’t established in an instant. It’s going to take awhile to fall in love. So, please have a look at our latest issue. I’d love to hear your feedback (email me at on the articles and, of course, to go out again sometime soon.

Thanks for reading,

~ Kristi

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Filed under Energy, Fujifilm, Marketing