Twitter this, Facebook that, Link in here, Tweet there, Facebook everywhere. For a print shop owner who is already burning the midnight oil, that’s pretty overwhelming. And while we know that joining the social media world is unavoidable, no one is really telling us how to do it.
My advice, let’s break social media down to the basics. This article is the first in a series about exactly how to make use of each of the big three social media giants—LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. I hope to take the mystery out of these tools and make them manageable and relevant to your specific audience—the print buyer.
I’d like to start with the social media tool that I believe should be your first step—LinkedIn.
Why start here? It’s purely a business community. LinkedIn makes life a little easier just by that fact alone. It takes the guesswork out of what’s appropriate because there’s very little (if any) posting of personal information. It will be easy to understand what type of information to add to your profile simply by reviewing a few others.
It’s easy to connect. When you ask someone to connect with you on LinkedIn, you’re not asking to be their “friend” you are simply asking to be their business associate—which you already are. So acceptance is much quicker and easier than with other social media tools.
Your people are here. Do a quick search for 10 of your customers and I bet you find that more than half already have a LinkedIn profile. You can also use your existing email contacts and LinkedIn will do the contact searching for you. Doesn’t get much easier than that.
It’s so very searchable. An updated, active profile has a good chance not only of being highly visible on LinkedIn, but ranking highly on search engines in general.
Step One: Set Up
When you join LinkedIn you will be required to set up a profile. Add basic information about your business self, such as company information and, most importantly, your company website. If you’ve already completed this step, make sure your information is up to date.
Add a quick blurb about your company under “Summary” and be sure to add a few items to “Specialties” so that if someone is searching for a printer with your expertise, your profile may come up. Think about words a print buyer would use to search for a provider and add those to your specialties—direct mail, marketing consulting, or logo design, for example.
You may also want to add information to your “Professional Headline.” This is the blurb that will appear directly under your name in your profile. It will default to your current job position if you don’t add anything; however, this is one of the best ways to get noticed if someone searches for your industry. Try to answer the question “How do you help people?” here instead. But don’t stress over it if it doesn’t come easily—remember you can update your profile at any time.
Ignore that “percent complete” number on the side of the profile. Don’t get caught up in details like this. Your profile will still get noticed through other tactics.
Step Two: Connect
Small steps are key to keeping this part of LinkedIn manageable. Commit to connecting to five people per week. They could be customers, business associates, vendors, or other employees in your company—actually the more diversified your connections, the better. If you are engaged in professional organizations, that’s a great place to find contacts that quickly connect you to the community. A great feature of LinkedIn is once you are connected to someone, you are immediately connected to their entire network (“six degrees” style), so you might be surprised how quickly and easily you can build a network.
Also, LinkedIn can do a lot of the work for you. The system can use your email address book and find those contacts for you on LinkedIn. Once you have a started a network, the system will continuously send suggestions of people you might know based on your location, business, and other connections you have. You’ll find those suggestions on the home page of your LinkedIn profile in a box called “People You May Know.”
Step Three: Recommendations
A quick, nice sentence or two about the people you work with will work wonders to the visibility of your profile. Commit to provide two recommendations per week. Again, don’t worry about details here. We’re literally talking about a sentence or two.
If you recommend a business associate, chances are they will recommend you back. Think about this—a returned recommendation from your customer is an instant testimonial that you could use other places (with their permission of course).
Recommendations also increase the visibility of your profiles. The more your company name is listed on your LinkedIn profile the higher your LinkedIn page will climb on search engines when someone “Googles” your company name.
Step Four: Participate
Remember those printer bulletins or forums you belonged to in the past? Consider LinkedIn your replacement for that. On your LinkedIn profile you have the ability to share a comment. So this is the perfect place to ask questions. You can also post updates on business ventures or community activities. Sharing can get you the same type of search engine benefits as recommendations. Also, the more you post, the more you’ll appear on your connections’ homepages under “Network Activity.” But again, this is not a place to spend more than a few minutes per day—or every few days.
Finally, join some groups. Joining a group gives you access to a wealth of information as members converse with one another in the discussion forums. You may even consider creating your own group once you’ve joined a few and understand the value they provide.
Step Five: Encourage Others
The more your company has a presence on LinkedIn the better. Encourage your employees to get involved and create their own profiles. Then have them complete steps one through four of this article and you’ll be well on your way to LinkedIn success.
Tawnya Starr is a former successful print shop owner who is now president of FireSpring’s PrinterPresence. She has dedicated her career to educating the printing industry on proven website and marketing strategies. In 2005, she received the Industry Award of Distinction from NAQP. Contact her at Tawnya.Starr@Firespring.com. This article is available as a podcast at www.quickprinting.com/podcast and from iTunes.