Julie Shaffer is vice president, Digital Technologies, Printing Industries of America and co-author (with Mary Garnett) of the "Social Media Field Guide: A Resource for Graphic Communicators". She was interviewed by QP senior consultant Bob Hall.
QP: Are most printers making good use of social media?
Shaffer: That depends on what is meant by “good use”. There are different types of motivation for engaging with others though social media. For business, we tend to think that social engagement is a marketing channel and many marketing studies indicate that social media engagement is a top priority for many marketers. Certainly B-to-C marketers use social channels extensively today (restaurants, food packaging, retail stores, etc.) But the printing industry has historically not been as good at marketing and self-promotion as others. So I’d say on the whole the industry is not using social as much as others, but there are certainly those that are, such as Quad/Graphics with their PrintChat Twitter discussion group. I also know quite a few print business owners and salespeople who say they are successfully using social media, especially Linkedin, as a distinct sales channel.
QP: What seem to be the most often used? (Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter?)
Shaffer: I’d say that most people I know in the industry have a Linkedin account, but I see a real gulf between those that are using it to network (take part in groups discussions, reach potential clients or partners, etc.) and those that just have an account without much activity. Saying that, I watch the activity on my Linkedin network with an aggregator tool and I have seen more folks updating their status with comments on a more regular basis over the past 12 months. As far as a company presence, many printers have a Twitter account and Facebook Page. Both platforms can really be exploited as another direct sales platform, especially Facebook with the growing f-commerce options there. But most just have a simple Page that kind of sits there. I hope to see a lot of growth in this area.
QP: Of those, what are the best applications/uses for each?
Shaffer: Twitter: Thought leadership by sharing ideas and appealing story links; conversation with others along the lines of #PrintChat; potentially engage with people outside your normal realm to widen your circle of contact.
Linkedin: Identifying sales leads and make contact with others of similar interests; ask questions and get answers, engaging in discussion with groups, finding new staff.
Facebook: Intermix personal engagement with business, let’s people know you’re a “real” person (this is your personal page) but mostly for potential of actual sales/commerce and to engage with specific audiences; best place for coupons and other group interaction with an audience.
QP: How do print and social media work together?
Shaffer: At the most basic level, they’re both communication vehicles, connecting people to others or conveying ideas and information. The notion of Integrated Print where communication through print is extended and become bi-directional through digital media (think QR-codes, augmented reality, mobile links) is hot today and a real means of making print and integral part of newer communication channels like social. Here’s a specific example of how social and print could work together. Say a company has a goal of getting people to an event and they want them to sign up for it via Facebook. Any number of print communication channels can lead the audience to the Facebook Page, including a QR code on a poster, postcard or even on a good old fashioned print publication ad. Any integrated print/marketing tool that links print to the web can lead to social, where further interaction is very easy to continue. It’s really an even better way to continue engaging and audience, in my opinion, than leading people to a personalized web page, because people go back to social sites all the time on their own.
QP: Do printers ever handle social media needs for their customers? (e.g.: maintaining/scheduling Twitter posts, etc).
Shaffer: Yes there are some that are starting to do so. One great example is Pulp, a company in Bristol, TN that has transformed from printer to provider of brand, marketing and social media support as well. The folks at Pulp have developed a social CRM solution for clients and even write blog content for many other organizations. Pulp is still doing tons of print work, but it’s just one of the communication media the company offers to its growing customer base.
QP: What other opportunities do you see for printers to use social media to build/maintain their businesses?
Shaffer: Using social as another channel to communicate with clients is good of course, but I also see it as a really great tool for business insight. I watch social channels to see what the newest trends are, to see what people care about and what they’re talking about. I often get ideas for new business opportunities by watching, for example, what’s being said in the marketing groups on Linkedin. I’d suggest that printers keep tabs on what’s going on in the vertical markets they support or wish they could break into to see what matters to that audience. Then use this intelligence to build services that group really needs!