Using Social Media to Drive Business

Even with its challenges, social media clearly represents a tremendous and growing opportunity for businesses to foster strong customer relationships. But not all companies are finding the success they hoped for using the various social media platforms.

Apple Visual Graphics

www.facebook.com/AppleVisualGraphics

twitter.com/AppleVisualNYC

Based in New York’s Long Island City, a stone’s throw from Manhattan, Apple Visual Graphics, a digital commercial print provider specializing in large-format color products, uses Twitter and Facebook to promote its brand. Its Facebook account has 350 followers; its Twitter account, 1,400. 

The brands that have a lot more followers, says Adam Sturm, owner, “are the e-commerce companies, such as VistaPrint or Four-Over-Four, since all of their client are online.”

With 70 percent of Apple Visual Graphics’ new customers finding the company from online searches, compared to 20 percent in referrals and 10 percent from cold calls, great attention is paid to Facebook.

The company moved into social media three years ago. “Instead of updating our website, we use our Facebook page, uploading all our recent installations for our wide-format work,” says Strum. “We have a lot of really interesting graphics that we’ve posted on it.”

A recent post shows a double-sided banner the company produced for a New York yoga studio.

“Facebook becomes like a sales tool,” acknowledges Strum. “The people that ‘like’ us are a mix: 30 percent are random people, a percentage are friends, and the rest are customers.”

Facebook is valuable as a way to engage with current and new customers. “When people find us online, if they are looking up vehicle wraps or posters and want to see what we have done in the past, they can go to Facebook and see examples of our work,” says Strum. “It makes it super easy for clients.”

Apple Visual Graphics’ staff uploads the photos of client installations posted on Facebook; everything else is posted by an outside SEO company, paid to engage with the company’s client base.

From a print service provider’s point of view, the main success with social media is the ability it gives to engage with customers. “People don’t covet printing, the way they covet food, for example,” says Strum. “It’s something they need. They want to know if you can do a job, yes or no. Is the price competitive, yes or no? It’s not like buying pair of shoes.”

Adds Strum, “When you cold call, you have to convince them of your work. Now, they can see it for themselves.”

To help with its social media efforts, Apple Visual Graphics spends $90,000 for online marketing, which Strum says is “absolutely financially worth it. This includes pay to click SEO advertising, as well as Facebook and Twitter posts.

“Social media takes constant work, you really have to really promote it,” says Strum. You need back links to the various sites, and constant updates.

Color Reflections Las Vegas

www.facebook.com/ColorReflectionsLasVegas

twitter.com/CR_Vegas

www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=1546007

plus.google.com/+Crvegas/

www.youtube.com/user/ColorReflectionsLV

www.pinterest.com/crlv/

Color Reflections Las Vegas is a full-service large-format digital printer with over 50 employees and a 25,000 sq. ft. facility. Its six locations in the U.S. service a wide variety of industries, including gaming, trade shows and conventions, retail, special events, museum and exhibit graphics.

The company currently uses Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Yelp, Google +, YouTube, blogs, and email marketing. “We are currently exploring adding Pinterest and Instagram to the lineup,” says Shannon Martin, Director of Business Development.

“All of the above platforms help educate and engage our current and prospective clients in different ways,” says Martin. “The key is how to behave in each platform and knowing your audience. We all behave differently based on our environment; social media is the same way.”

Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google + help Color Reflections to network with clients and prospects that are interested in a more personal connection with the company and its employees. To that end, staff uploads pictures and posts on special events, unique projects and ideas, Employee of the Month, and community outreach projects.

LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Blogs, and email marketing help the company promote more business-centric topics, such as new capabilities and equipment. Yelp, Pinterest, and Instagram help Color Reflections share reviews and images.

“Perception is everything in our world,” notes Martin. Many of its clients don’t live or work within its local area, and don’t have the opportunity see its facilities. “Social media definitely gives use a platform to be more personal and communicate everything we want our audience to know in real time all over the world,” says Martin.

She adds, “I think what a lot of small to medium business owners don’t realize is that social media is critical to your online presence and SEO. If you want to continue to grow your business and be a leader in your industry you have to communicate with your audience through social media. Create a buzz; give them something to talk about, share, and comment on. The key here is consistency. We all know being in sales it is rarely luck, but consistency that gets the client. “

Learning how best to use social media is a learning process. In the five years that Color Reflections has engaged with the various platforms, here’s what has worked, says Martin:

  • Quality not quantity….I would much rather have a thousand qualified likes on my Facebook page than 5,000 purchased likes who will not comment, share, or like our posts.
  • Ask permission…If you're posting images and video of a client’s work, make sure you get approval before posting, especially on time-sensitive projects or launches.
  • Be consistent, it is a lot of work, but the results are worth it.
  • Proofread before you post….spelling errors and typos are never good in a post.

MegaPrint

twitter.com/MegaPrintInc

www.facebook.com/megaprint4u

www.facebook.com/pages/PosterSessioncom/183277242683

Jay Buckley president of Plymouth, New Hampshire-based MegaPrint, has a different take on social media. The company, which includes posterimpressions.com, does short-run, large-format printing, primarily for retail, trade show, and scientific research presentations. Its calling card is providing great work fast, affordably, with outstanding customer service.

“We have Facebook pages for both MegaPrint.com and postersession.com,” says Buckley. “We tweet and post—one of the young graphic designers does it for us. I have a personal LinkedIn page, and one for the company. I can't say any of them have brought us a dime of business, and I can only hope the effort we put into them improves, or at least keeps, our Google rankings.”

Adds Buckley, “I haven't figured out at all how social media should interplay with my business.”

Buckley has yet to find any value in Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. “Facebook is where my kids talk about their lives,” he says. “If I want to find something serious, it is not the place to find it. We tried Facebook advertising and it was a total flop—not a single customer call, much less an order. Classmates and old colleagues have found me on LinkedIn, and I use it to try to identify the contact at a company I'm trying to send information to. Why would anyone want to listen to what I tweet about, except possibly a competitor?”

The company has an extensive website—most of its customers find it from online searches. “I’ve been in business for a long time—I am pretty good at defining what a customer needs, but I can’t find any crossover with social media,” says Buckley. “Do people stay in touch with my business on Facebook? I don’t think so.”

Still, he has yet to give up hope that there is something he is missing, a social media tool that will help him find new customers.

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