Another is Multi-Craft, a $10 million sheetfed and digital printer in Newport, KY, near Cincinnati. Social media drives print, president Debbie Simpson told Printing News last year. The family-owned firm networks online on LinkedIn and posts on Twitter. As part of its integrated approach and ongoing effort to recruit new employees, Multi-Craft posts videos on YouTube, too. Simpson, who is a progressive 59 years young, also blogs every other week on the firm’s revamped website, to which social media logo links recently were added.
For Simpson, it’s all about exposure and awareness – and search engine optimization (SEO). Remember that a website without SEO is like a billboard in an alley: seldom seen. “Oh, and I love LinkedIn. All marketing people are on it. I think it’s the best B2B tool ever,” she added, citing ways in which LinkedIn has enabled Multi-Craft to connect with prospects. “It has reduced the sales cycle remarkably.”
Using LinkedIn in much the same way is Think Big Solutions VP Mark Jones, who had just joined a group about using PURLs when I telephoned him for an interview. The wide-format print firm has integrated its social media plan with marketing. “Facebook and Twitter are great ways to softly promote to people who want to be promoted to,” contended Jones, whose company touts special offers via social media and its website.
“Our ‘Big Deal’ program is kind of like Groupon for B2B marketers, except we don’t change every week. We’re not ‘marketing.’ We’re telling people about a special,” he said. Those specials are niche-specific; targeting franchise printers, for instance, or customers/prospects interested in banners, tradeshow products, or cross media.
Why build a customer community? “Social media is all about engaging your audience,” said Julie Shaffer, VP digital technologies at PIA, who heads up the Digital Printing Council and Center for Digital Print Excellence. Shaffer has co-authored a book entitled Social Media Field Guide: A Resource for Graphic Communicators (www.printing.org/socialmediafieldguide), which is chock full of examples of printers who are doing social media right, including Western States Envelope & Label, wide-format printer Point Imaging of Hobart, IN, and cross-media firm Heritage Solutions in Oklahoma. Printers should expect to spend a bare minimum of six hours per week on social media engagement, she said.
And heed the advice of John Foley, Jr., CEO of interlinkONE and Grow Socially, who warned printers not to dive in haphazardly. “You need a social media marketing plan,” Foley encouraged. (Online exclusive: See Foley’s and PrinterPresence president Tawnya Starr’s video interviews in the Media Center at www.MyPrintResource.com.)
While social networks may indeed change product innovation down the road, data mining is the next frontier of social media marketing, many experts contend.
How can printers use social media for more efficient lead qualification? “Whittling down to the individual buyer will increasingly be the objective in online B2B marketing, even in terms of broad awareness campaigns,” says Steven Woods, the Toronto-based CTO of Eloqua, as reported by Lauren Canon of Inc.com. Instead of generalized marketing initiatives, companies are beginning to analyze the online behavior – also known as digital body language – of individuals involved in the B2B industry in an effort to pinpoint the specific buyer whose needs best fit the services of the seller. Through the collection and analysis of data, companies are discovering ways to link varied online ‘handles’ across social networks to a single individual they wish to target for marketing purposes.
Woods added, “The vanguard will see a lot of people in 2011 figure out the identity management challenge and be able to understand ‘you’ across those identities and understand how your activity on Facebook, on Twitter, on LinkedIn, and the various social properties indicates your buying intentions.”
So far as printer demographics go, I’ve read some discussions on LinkedIn about how many printers over the age of 50 are so resistant to change, including embracing social media. Multi-Craft’s Simpson agreed, admitting that she often is skeptical about social media in a B2B context – and it’s not that she is closed-minded.