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The Power of Social Media for Printers

(April 2012) posted on Tue Apr 03, 2012

Smaller companies are more likely to already be engaged in social media for low cost marketing.

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By Tim Greene

Setting and meeting objectives with social media
The last finding there is critically important. Over half of those people using social media expect regular communications from the companies they engage. Regardless of company size or operation type, strategy needs to accompany a print business’ venture into social media (Figure 2). Any social media strategy should consider all of the constituencies that organizations need to communicate with and how a social media strategy can help improve operational efficiency and the innovation of the company.
For example: How do you communicate with these constituencies now and what level of effort or investment is required? Using social media effectively can help reduce these costs and facilitate faster communication. Remember, use of all of the social networks identified above does not cost money except in the time that you use to use these tools. That means telling your customers about the new capabilities you have using your new equipment is free, telling prospects about one of the cool projects you’ve done recently is free, and finding prospects and even potential employees using LinkedIn is free.
While it is free and easy to set up an account on any of these networks it is important to design some goals for both the objectives of your company and the deployment of communications. Social media should be used to address specific issues at the strategic level. Different elements of your company should contribute to these efforts; sales and marketing, production, and administration all will have separate goals that should be factored in to your social media strategy.
With the idea that people want to hear from you on a weekly basis, here are some ideas for Tweets, Facebook posts, or LinkedIn group communications that can help you get started, but can also facilitate communication across the groups you need to reach.

Ask/answer questions—get your customers and prospects interacting with you, answer frequently asked questions about your products or services,

Advise prospects and customers on the best ways that customers use your services.

Celebrate the completion of cool or interesting
(and profitable) projects.

Communicate regarding business conditions in emergency situations.
Write about any new or interesting technologies.
Introduce and welcome new employees.
Celebrate business milestones and anniversaries.
Recently, InfoTrends surveyed printing companies in North America about their social media usage. Only about 37% of the printing companies surveyed indicated that they are using social media for business presently. However, another 34% indicated that they are thinking about it, which just shows that these companies recognize the importance of social media in today’s market. Our research also indicated that smaller companies are more likely to already have engaged social media, which we think is both a function of their flexibility and the low-cost to engage social media.
The survey respondents that were using social media were asked to specify their top three objectives to utilization. As the chart below illustrates, most of the effort is an exercise in business promotion or brand building, using new channels and technologies to get the word out about their company.

Respondents also indicated that social media serves the purpose of connecting with customers, while also attracting new ones.

Top objectives when using social media
As the chart shows though, the utilization of social media tends to be very outwardly focused for the most part. There is still a great opportunity to leverage social networks for internal functions such as identifying potential employees or applying knowledge from social networks in the business.
There is a great example of the latter going on in one of the LinkedIn groups I am in right now. A company posted asking if anyone else in the group knows of a manufacturer of a very specific substrate. They post that question on their group and get answers to their question from around the world over the next several days.

The message
The message here is that social media represents a way for companies to communicate both internally and externally. The speed at which social networking messages can be delivered is nothing short of astonishing. Many printing organizations are using social networking sites as a business building tool, so if yours is not, you definitely want to develop a strategy for utilizing social media that helps your company achieve its business goals.



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