Pre-Valentine’s Day, Think Big Solutions, a wide-format printer in Denver, tweeted this to its 700 Twitter followers: “Like Us (Need a Valentine)” with a link to its Facebook page. Why bother, you may ask? Because of crowdsourcing, wherein everything someone “Likes” anywhere on the Web is viewable by friends on Facebook (FB). In our increasingly online world of viral influence, that means if I “like” ThinkBigDenver, then all my FB friends can see that, even those who’ve never even heard of the company. (See sidebar.) One week earlier the NAPLConnect Twitter feed proclaimed, “Industry news directly to your Facebook news feed. ‘Like’ us today.”
So, what exactly is a social medium? Parents of teenage girls (like mine) might argue that SMS text messaging is a form of social media in middle and high school. To the teen set, the only medium more archaic than instant messaging is email. “That’s so, like, 2005, Dad.” I can almost hear it now. And voicemail? Forget it. They don’t even bother, unless it’s an “emergency.”
What about video games? The graphics have come a long way since 1970s-era Pong, Atari (1980s), Nintendo and Sega, but I never considered video games as social media – until I heard my 11-year-old son interacting on Xbox Live with his fifth-grade buddies. They were playing e-guns, but they were also using the Microsoft subscription gaming service to talk about school and what they had planned for later that day.
While many people still wonder where the return on investment is and how to monetize social media, the bottom line may be that the eyeballs are there, looking at the content – in Twitter’s case, 140 characters at a time. Americans are spending nearly a quarter of their online time on social media sites, according to a mid-2010 Nielsen study; a 43 percent increase over 2009. And it’s no secret that mobile apps are displacing how the World Wide Web is used.
The Facebook phenomenon hit 500 million users in 2010. (There were only one million in 2004.) And by the end of 2010, more than 30 billion total tweets had been posted on Twitter. The New York Times has some 2.8 million Twitter followers. Eight magazine brands have more than one million followers on the microblog site. Wired has more than 725,000 Twitter followers, up almost 13 percent since Q4 2010, according to :Folio. In the business-to-business space, Ad Age has nearly 210,000, a 21.7 percent uptick.
Print firm owners and managers are interested, as evidenced by the crowded room during a social media presentation at the PODi App Forum in late January. (Incidentally, I wasn’t there, but I read a Twitter “tweet” about it.)
I started my own Twitter experiment in 2009. One year later my personal following had grown organically to 200 souls. I have become a self-admitted tech geek, tweeting about print-industry happenings on a daily basis to my now 300+ followers (www.twitter.com/MarkV_Chicago) as well as via PrintingNews, which has ten times the following (www.twitter.com/PrintingNews). I’ve introduced article topics on Twitter, tweeted live on my BlackBerry from print industry events, and while waiting at airports. The Printing News group on LinkedIn has nearly 1,000 members, from around the globe, who post interesting discussion topics weekly.
Have a plan?
“Social Media is the next revolution in the printing industry and business in general,” commented Susan Thomas, marketing/sales manager at Printfastic Printing Ltd. in Canada and a member of Cygnus’s Quick Printing Group on LinkedIn. “It is the way we are communicating and reaching our clients and more groups of clients/contacts.” Some 37 percent of North America’s printers are using social media for business, according to statistics compiled by InfoTrends. That’s about 10,000 or so printing firms. Modern Postcard, Carlsbad, CA, is one which regularly employs social media, particularly Twitter.