As we continue to explore the various methods of print marketing, we will look at areas that are very new to the overall concept of this topic, including blogging and social media. Those can be very intimidating to many companies that have been around for a while, and can understand some of the other concepts in print marketing, but just cannot wrap their heads around these other two ideas.
Outside of having an active social media presence, blogging tends to be a printer’s worst nightmare. Why? Well, how many printers have someone on staff that can dedicate time on a weekly basis to write content or share content that is blog-worthy? Most printers hire staff that are either directly related to cost centers (press operators or bindery personnel for example), or are covered in their overhead (office manager, CSRs). To hire someone to sit and write content does not seem to be a wise allocation of resources. Secondly, I can tell you from experience that finding relevant and/or educational content is not easy. For a print shop owner or CEO of even a large company, to take valuable time from their day to find, research, select or draft content is something they may not be willing to do, or have time to do.
But blogs do not need to be long, and if you have a good relationship with someone who DOES blog about print, you can ask to share their content (make sure that the originator of that content is given credit). You do NOT have to post weekly, although posting frequently does increase your visibility, and subsequently, the perception that you and your company are authoritative. Your goal in blogging is to provide educational or enlightening content that builds your audience, and drives them to your website or to contact you directly. Do NOT try to sell via your blog: educate, enlighten and engage should be your focus. Topics such as print techniques, file preparation, best practices, and even insight into your company, can help your viewership learn more about you and your company. Make sure you use images to help illustrate your content. And if you wish to publish your blog across various social media platforms, use HootSuite, or some other similar social media management application to help. Finally, make sure the blog is on your website, and further, make sure it’s on your main landing page. If a viewer has to “find” your blog, you’ll lose them – they won’t dig to find it. It has to be right there, in plain view, when they get to your website.
As an illustration of a good print-related blog, I recommend you follow dreaming in CMYK by my print-geek friend Christine Alexander (illustrated above). Another good one is The Digital Nirvana. These are carefully crafted blogs that publish regularly with content that is engaging and interesting. Many of the major print suppliers such as Komori, Kodak, and Xerox have blogs that tend to be more related to the printer than the client, but often have content that can be shared, which would be of interest to the reader.
SOCIAL MEDIA – EXCITING AND FRIGHTENING
I will confess that I, like so many of the baby-boomer generation, found social media (SoMe) to be very intimidating at first. And I will further confess that I still find it so. But I have also found it to be vital, and very rewarding to me in both my capacity as a print advocate and print sales. Printers who embrace this new method of print engagement and sales have found it to be a valuable tool in establishing their credibility with prospective and existing clients. However, there is ONE thing I wish to state before I go any further:
SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT ABOUT PRINT SALES!!!
There, I’ve said it, and it’s out there. Just like blogging, SoMe is about engaging your prospective and existing clients. And as the Gen-X and Millennials take more of an active role in print procurement, being able to communicate with them via SoMe is a vital tool. But where do you start?
LinkedIn – the first and most obvious place is LinkedIn, which has become the most established and vital tool for professionals of any level on the SoMe stratosphere. But proper use of LinkedIn is crucial to your success. You need to have a page for your company that is maintained, and that all your blog content is shared to, as well as posting on your company page with regularity. Then you need to have your sales staff and key management personnel on LinkedIn as well, tied to your company, and then coach them on how to share the company page’s content, post their own, etc.
Facebook – having a Facebook page, where you invite people to follow, allows another avenue of engagement. However, Facebook tends to be more social rather than business-like, so your content and engagement there might be more “social” than business. On Facebook, you might post company events like picnics, or Holiday parties, or any type of philanthropic work you’re doing. Sharing educational and informative content is appropriate there.
Google+ – G+ is similar to Facebook, in that you post and can add images. But if I had to chose between the two, I’d go with G+, because it’s tied into Google’s very powerful search algorithms, and you will find your company coming up to the top when searches are made.
Twitter – for me, this was the most daunting of all SoMe platforms, but has become my most relied upon outside of LinkedIn. I post my blog posts there, which get picked up by Drupa, Neenah Paper, or Xerox Production, and that only furthers the perception of you as an authority on print. Posts need to be short, or just sharing a shortened URL for your blog. And you as well can increase engagement and awareness by “favoriting” posts, or “retweeting” posts.
If you really wish to learn more about how to manage print in the social media game, I highly recommend downloading the course by Matthew Parker (@PrintChampion is his Twitter feed). You can find the information by clicking here. He provides very compelling reasons to focus on SoMe as an element of print sales, and gives fantastic examples and illustrations of how to start and maintain an active SoMe presence.
So, now we’ve discussed blogging and social media, although we’ve only scratched the surface of how SoMe can work for you. Next week we’ll discuss promotional materials, email marketing, case studies, educational materials and seminars, and then online storefronts. We’ll wrap it up the following week by seeing how you can work with all the methods we’ve covered into an engaging and ongoing campaign.