Nicole Schappert’s Digital Nirvana post last week made the case for printers adopting social media.
According to the InfoTrends study cited by Nicole, most printers have three goals in using social media:
• engage with customers
• promote their brand
• generate leads.
In my experience, engaging with current customers is where you should focus. Here’s what I mean.
Printing is a business that runs on relationships. Effective print products aren’t cheap and they aren’t easy to produce. Direct mail is an art form that draws on a bunch of skills: strategy, planning, copy, design, production, mailing, tracking, evaluating, and tweaking, and more. Good printers either do it all, or know how to get it all done.
The customers looking for these products really need to trust their printers. And, in my experience, most customers will stick with a printer they trust even when the price isn’t the lowest. Relationships rule.
So, in terms of what I’d recommend — and in terms of massaging current customer relationships — four social media products stand out:
1. Twitter. Here’s where you share what you know and what you’ve learned. I’d recommend tweeting three or four times in the morning and again in the afternoon. Please don’t tweet your own stuff, unless you have something original to say. Rather, read the trade press and industry blogs and tweet news and developments of interest to your customers. You’ll be helping your customers “keep up with it all.” But here’s where you also can help your customers in their businesses. Are they blogging? Tweet what they have to say. Did they win an award? Let your followers know. If you can’t think of anything else to do, retweet your customers’ tweets. Really, Twitter is all about informing, honoring, and helping them.
2. Your electronic newsletter. Two printers I’m familiar with both do a terrific e-newsletter. What makes these newsletters so special?
These folks research and write their own stories. And the stories are good: original, fresh, insider-ish. For example, one printer did an excellent piece about 18 months ago explaining the impact of industry consolidation on direct mail budgets. The writer researched, interviewed, and wrote an authoritative article about how the cost of direct mail was roller coastering and why. Even the trade mags didn’t have this story.. but this company’s customers did. Another favorite example came from a printer who took time to interview the manager of his nearby bulk mail facility. This gal happily shared her experience related to the best ways to avoid postal nightmares.
Both of these articles — and many more like them — were highly instructive and truly “in-the-know.” No, this content can’t be thrown together and, yes, it demands a high degree of authenticity and professionalism. But that’s what you want to demonstrate, right?
3. Your blog. Here’s where you can share a depth of information and your knowledge about more complicated topics: postal rates and activities, different direct marketing techniques, suggestions for integrated marketing, tips and tricks based on case studies — the list of what you know and do is endless. The best advice here is to be authoritative and, above all, authentic. Be a real person readers can relate to. Be yourself. p.s. If you’re going to generate new business, here is where it can happen because here is where new customers surfing the Internet will find you. (Of course you’ll tweet a 140-character teaser linked to your blog.)
4. Your Facebook page (but maybe not Facebook as you think of it). Something different. Something personal and reflective of your company culture. Facebook isn’t your website. It’s designed to be friendlier and more accessible. It’s designed for public Q&A. (Yes, maybe stuff you don’t want could show up — but very rarely– and not so you can’t handle it). Just FYI: one printer I know swears by Facebook. But guess what this company features on its Facebook page? Photos! Photos of customers, colleagues, friends, and industry greats. Captions yes, but hardly any copy. Not surprisingly, customers love (and “like”) this Facebook page.
5. Pinterest. Okay, I don’t know any printer who’s using Pinterest … yet. That’s a shame. This exceedingly popular social media channel is all visual, all the time. Could this be a terrific place to feature your company’s great printing skills? How about photos of your staff and plant? Or even your own “favorite” print jobs and papers?
In short, social media is about reaching out to people — first, connecting with and solidifying relationships with your current customers and then — in time — connecting with your not-yet-customers.