Participating in social media is no longer an option in today’s business environment; it is as necessary to a marketing strategy as business cards and a Website. With so many options available, it can become overwhelming to decipher which social media platforms are worth their salt, and which are best left to the teenagers.
Social media needs to be treated like any other marketing platform, with clear objectives applied, and an understanding of which platform works best for your company—based on your client base, marketing objectives, etc. Find out which social media platforms your clients are using for direction on where to invest your energy. Make sure your messaging is consistent across all the social media platforms you deploy—speak to the world at large in clear voice.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, look at social media as an opportunity to tell your company’s story. More than anything, social media is about engaging with the customer. Yes, you’ll want to talk about the new technology you’ve brought in, but anyone can go and buy new equipment. Share photos on the charity event you hosted, boast about your production manager’s 25th year with the company, post educational blogs that can help your customer.
Social media requires a different marketing approach than traditional marketing, says Jill Davis, vice president of marketing and business development for The MATLET Group, headquartered in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. “You have to get out of the old advertising-marketing mindset and not think of social media as a sales opportunity, but as a way to help your customer. The content you develop from that approach will carry further.”
The MATLET Group is fairly new to the social media arena, having just dived into the fray with Linkedin a few months ago. “For a long time we were very cautious—social media was something that showed up in the last few years, but it seemed to be a better fit for consumer brands,” explains Davis. “I wasn’t sure if it was the right place for B2B conversations.”
Of the various social media platforms out there, Linkedin seemed like it offered more of a gather of professionals, as opposed to Facebook, says Davis. “Facebook often seems like a family album gone wild; I wasn’t sure that our message would resonate.”
However, Facebook could work as part of a company’s marketing plan if it was used more like a movie b-roll; not as a corporate branding site but as a way to highlight other activities—such as charity event. “As a way for putting your brand front and center, leading to someone buying from you, I don’t think Facebook works,” says Davis.
As for Linkedin’s professional networking opportunities, MATLET, a leader in printing, packaging and fulfillment with two manufacturing facilities, has just scratched the surface, having only been on the network a few months. “It’s much broader and deeper than I realized,” says Davis. “There are a lot of approaches you can take, different groups you can become involved in—such as print buying groups, marketing groups.”
Davis posts content that is informative and unique, and links back to stories on MATLET’s Website—so customers are being driven to the company’s Website.
Whichever social platform you get involved in, its key to note that social media is a living breathing thing, says Davis. “It is a hungry child that needs to fed content consistently. But it has to be content that is useful and relevant. You are trying to get people to trust your brand, and to see you as an expert in what you do.”
Don’t stop with the handshake—go for the hug.
PacBlue Printing, a FSC-certified printer based in Vancouver, is a believer in the importance of social media to its ongoing success. “We use social media as a natural extension of our marketing efforts. Social media plays a central role in our strategic planning and works in conjunction with our offline marketing activities,” says Nicolas Slobinsky, CSE, director of sales & marketing.
PacBlue engages with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Delicious and Flickr.
“Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Delicious—all help with customer engagement, corporate communications and message diversification and penetration,” explains Slobinsky. “Our customers are present in different platforms and they consume media through different channels, so we try to cover as much as possible without spreading ourselves too thin.”
In May, the company used these platforms to post up-to-date info on corporate and the large format division’s move to brand new facilities in downtown Vancouver. Customers were also informed when the company’s new Océ Arizona large format UV flatbed was assembled, calibrated, and online for printing.
LinkedIn helps with professional connections and also with establishing the PacBlue team members as the “go to people”—as experts in their field—for digital printing, signage solutions, etc.
“Two years ago we tweeted a simple line inviting partners, customers, and other tweet friends to join us for the first snowball fight of the season outside of PacBlue facilities,” says Slobinsky. “It was a total random tweet that ended up being picked up by the radio stations, the newspapers and other online users. In the end we had about 150 people having fun with Vancouver's first snow of the season.”
Up until February 2013, PacBlue published a post every Friday of an object scanned with its Cruise Scanner, asking on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for people to guess what the object was they had scanned. It was called the Scan of The Week. (You can still see it on PacBlue’s blog: (www.pacblueprinting.com/blog/?p=2529) “Engagement was huge and it was a fun activity, with the winner getting tickets to the local movie theater,” says Slobinsky.
To achieve the most success with social media, be consistent, be natural, engage in meaningful conversations and share more than just business,” recommends Slobinsky.
Based just outside of the Des Moines, Iowa, area, etc!graphics: The Visual Communications Company has been a social media participant since 2007. Currently active on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Google+, etc!graphics finds greatest marketing success in the Google+ and Twitter platforms, says owner Geri Seiberling, because “they connect more with the B2B audience, which is the audience we serve.”
However, she does admit that she and her staff are also more active on those two sites, so that could also be impacting data.
The 25-year old company, which looks to promote the “Visual Voice of Des Moines” views social media as another platform in its marketing mix. As part of its mission, it looks to educate its small business client base on how to grow their business, a message it carries into its social media programs.
This education focus, instead of straight promotion marketing messages, resonates with clients. “On Twitter and Google+ plus, on all the channels actually, we try to educate our customers on things that can help their small business,” says Seiberling. “These items also generate more interest, more connections and more feedback.”
Based in the Winston-Salem, NC, Keiger Graphic Communications, formerly Keiger Printing, is a savvy user of social media, all tied to its mission of being a total graphics communications solutions provider. Not only does social media help inform customers to what is happening within the company, it also lets employees feel connected to each other.
In addition to company owner/president Louis Crockett’s Linkedin.com page; 16 additional employees are on the site, from the social media coordinator to customer service personnel to production managers, estimators, web project managers, and network administrators. Crockett used Linkedin to offer congratulations to Capture Public Relations & Marketing for winning a 2012 Special Judges PICA award for the Butler & Burke Christmas Card his company printed. The post also provide a link to see Keiger’s award page for more details (http://lnkd.in/qCkGZ5).
Keiger’s YouTube channel posts several different videos, showing tours of the plant, successful cross-media and other campaigns, how to order personalized stationery, and even a history of Keiger’s logo. Its Facebook page lets Keiger keep customers informed to recent happenings within the company, highlight community evens—one recent post congratulated the local RiverRun film festival for its box office success—and show the world at large what its customers think of the company (“Keiger has the best customer service.”)
“Social media is so new; it’s like back in the day when people starting getting Websites,” says MATLET’s Davis. “Everyone knew they had to have a Website, but a lot of people didn’t know what to do with it. You know you have to be on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, but I strongly recommend caution. Think about what you are trying to create, and what you will do when you get there. Create the content, put in the time and the resources, but don’t do it badly. If you are going to do it, do it well.”