Here we go again. Just when you think it’s safe to call yourself a pretty smart cookie in the ways of marketing a business, a whole new slew of media comes slapping you in the face. Social media, to be exact. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace—it’s no wonder so many printers want to run in the other direction. When your time is already at a premium, the social media monster can feel more like a monkey on your back than an opportunity.
Don’t sweat it too much, taming the social media beast is possible, I assure you. Actually, it’s more than possible, it will likely become necessary as we move into the ever more connected future.
I know for a fact some of you have already begun to tread the online waters because I’ve seen you out there. I’m even “linked in” to a few of you. But for those who aren’t yet in the know, it’s important to understand what’s out there before you begin to tackle it, so here’s a quick overview of the big four.
Facebook is a place to keep up with friends for the most part. People share photos of friends, family, and loved ones. They update their Facebook page with where they’re at, what they’re doing, etc., so people they don’t talk to on a regular basis can stay informed.
Businesses and organizations have begun to creep into this more personal social media space in the form of “fan pages” and “groups.” You can even advertise on Facebook if you chose, but keep in mind that this site is by no means a professional arena. Posts can be anything from a grocery shopping trip update to what some teenagers did at a party last weekend. Most Facebook advertisers are targeting consumers, although there are a few business to business ads making their way in.
Another friend-focused site, MySpace has become more of an artsy arena lately. Many bands have MySpace pages because they are able to post more of their music (it has a larger file storage capacity). Other artists tend to flock to MySpace for the same reasons. The less artsy MySpace users tend to be younger—preteen to young teen.
LinkedIn is where the professionals flock in the social media landscape. Business minded individuals post their credentials and then “link in” to colleagues from all over the world, share industry insight and articles, and join groups that focus on topics they’d like to stay abreast of.
It can be a recruiting tool if you’re looking for your next CSR, a networking tool if you’re seeking contacts or connections (you can have colleagues “introduce” you to others in their network), or a great place to stay educated on industry focused topics. A quick search for “printing” professional groups pulls up more than 280 options for you to link in to, including one hosted by QP.
You have 140 characters on this social networking site to tell your friends, family, and any other “followers” what you’re up to. Twitter is about content—not pictures, not groups, not music, or event calendars, simply tiny updates about, well, anything. Such updating even has its own name: Tweeting.
Twitter users run the gamut from industry professionals to celebrities to companies to your neighbor down the street. Some tweet about business, some about their lives, and some about world issues. There are die-hard Twitter fans out there willing to follow the most banal posts from people they may not even know. Then there are some who use it strictly to follow the big dogs and, hopefully, learn something along the way. (Kodak’s CMO loves to Tweet.) And then there are those who just don’t get Twitter at all and refuse to become a part of this community.
Today you may see companies using Twitter as a customer service tool. They monitor Twitter activity and if someone tweets a complaint or issue about their company, they respond, on Twitter, to solve the concern. It’s a pretty public way to right your wrongs, but it has proven very successful for some companies, and more are likely to hop on board. This really speaks to the whole transparency idea that is pretty much the essence of social media—better to embrace your faults than try to ignore or hide them.