I’m going to digress a bit from a print-related topic (although I’m sure this post will incorporate aspects of print in it) to discuss the power of Social Media. In a past post, where I discussed the uses of Social Media in a print-related market, I have found that my various social media contacts and platforms have been buzzing with new and exciting content. Sometimes, the content isn’t “new”, but it is written in a refreshing way that communicates complex print concepts that are easily understood, and entertaining. To that end I recommend two of my favorites, the blog from PrintFirm.com, and Dreaming in CMYK. What is also refreshing about these two blogs is that they are written by Millennials, and both are women – in a field that has been male-dominated for generations. They bring insights into print that many of us “old dogs” don’t think about.
I am finding that I lean more and more on LinkedIn for many reasons: first, to maintain contact with thought leaders within my industry; second, to become better acquainted with my clients and prospective clients; third, to share or create content for those clients that is enlightening, educational and informative. But moreover, as I have grown my contacts in LinkedIn, I have found that many of those contacts educate me, and provide me with key insights on how to use and manage social media effectively. I make an effort to keep my LinkedIn profile up to date, even using the new Facebook-like “cover” photo (I have a Premium account on LinkedIn). I daily try to find and share content that I feel my clients will find informative and of value, and therefore, I become a trusted resource. And that is my goal: not to “sell print”, but to become a trusted resource and collaborative partner with their printing needs. LinkedIn provides me the best platform for that. I avoid the “feel good” inspirational posts with meme images that are meant to elicit an emotional response from the reader. I don’t believe that LinkedIn is the appropriate place for that. If I do have images in the post, they are relevant to the content that I am posting.
As a complement to LinkedIn, and preferred over Facebook, I find Google Plus (G+) to be a second valuable resource for social media and print. Much like LinkedIn, you can set up a profile page, and post on it as freely as you wish. I find that I will often cross-post content on G+ that I have already posted on LinkedIn, and I have many of the same contacts and followers on G+ that I have on LinkedIn. However, posting on G+ has two very distinct advantages: you can use hashtags much more effectively that become part of the SEO of your page; and second (and VERY important), if you have a G+ page, if someone searches for you through Google (which still is used over Bing and Yahoo as a search tool), then that G+ page will display prominently on the results page, with a link button to your G+ page. Yes, there will be other search returns linked to you (I found that my LinkedIn page, my Twitter and Facebook pages came up, as well as a YouTube video done by a different John Prothero), but to have your G+ page so prominently displayed is vital. I use my G+ page to “personalize” myself, to offer a more personal portrait of myself, both to my industry contacts and clients. I like to post photographs that I feel are more “artistic” for a specific hashtag campaign called “#onething”, as well as very carefully selected posts that show I’m more than just a person in the print industry. I avoid “cute” shots or things that, to me, are best posted on Facebook.
Finally, to me, the icing on the social media cake is Twitter. I will confess that at first, I was quite reticent to join the “Twitterverse”. As the Social Media guru for my previous employer, I began to have a Twitter presence for that company, and as I made contacts within that realm, I created my own personal Twitter account. After I had been let go from that company, I continued my Twittering, and found it to be filled with others in my field that used Twitter as a means to communicate with each other and clients, to share links to content, and more importantly, build a network. I have not had any clients following me yet on Twitter, but my industry contacts have proven to be valuable, and during my hiatus from employment, became supportive friends. Now Twitter has become for me a place where my content is recognized and shared, which has been a wonderful experience (to see that Mohawk Paper has tweeted a blog post of mine is a very exciting thing!) More than any of the other social media networks, Twitter has provided me with a voice that has become recognized as a leader in the print industry.
OK. HOW DOES THIS WORK WITH PRINT?
Social media is quickly becoming a vital tool in the research and acquisition of leads, prospects and clients. I have not seen any data that suggests it is a powerful marketing tool. But what I see is that it is vital to “be” a brand, in my case, John Prothero. My “brand” is my expertise, the respect I have earned from my peers in the industry, and the content I share on my social media outlets. My “brand” is what my clients and future clients see, and it is not obtrusive or annoying. My “brand” mission statement in brief is to enhance their brand message by bringing my background and experience into their culture – their brand. And since many companies are blending their brand message across print and digital media, understanding how social media works with print is vital to being relevant to your clients. You OWE it to them to do the work and maintain an active social media presence. And you owe it to yourself as well, in order to remain relevant.