Archive for February 2010

Lessons for PrintStrategists from the Trenches of Social Media.

February 28, 2010

My design partner, Julia, had already plunged into social media with her successful SnarkyVegan blog. I, on the other hand, was a rookie and a skeptic at that. But as we strategized about ways to establish thought leadership for our businesses, we decided that enewsletters, which would roll into blogs, would be a good starting point. The results were PrintStrategist and MondoBeat: Ideas to Improve Your Marketing Rhythm.

To say the least, one thing led to another. Strong receptions to the enewsletters/blogs began to pique our interest. Soon we were announcing new posts at our Twitter sites, and I began to wonder if there was any potential in our mostly dormant LinkedIn accounts.

So Julia and I got busy completing our profiles, linking feeds from our blogs, posting slide presentations, connecting with colleagues and participating in groups. Along the way, I was invited to manage my college’s alumni group as well as Print 2.0. So I got to see “groups” from both the participant and manger perspectives.

Then recently Julia and I co-founded the PrintStrategist LinkedIn group. The objective was to form a diverse group of professionals from all sides of the table who shared a common goal of effectively using print. Within a few weeks, membership reached nearly 140, and it literally grows each day.

What We Learned.

Clearly social media is evolving and participants are evolving along with it. Here are three key findings from our experience:

1. Synergy Counts.

The more options we integrated into our social media goal of raising our thought leadership perceptions, the better we did. More people started to follow us on Twitter, and we connected with more and more professionals on LinkedIn. Both are significant drivers of readers to the blogs, and LinkedIn is now our number one source of hits and page views.

After a year of participation, here are PrintStrategist’s social media stats:

  • 2,390—blog page views
  • 478—targeted enewsletter subscribers
  • 329—Twitter followers
  • 191—LinkedIn connections
  • 10—Twitter Lists

Of course everyone always wants to know if you were able to monetize social media. That was not our goal—thought leadership was—but we did receive several inquiries about our services and made presentations as a result of our social media experiences.

Additionally:

  • Our customers are virtually all loyal readers of our enewsletters/blogs.
  • We found a capable subcontractor through a renewed contact made on LinkedIn and used the individual on a project.
  • The enewsletters/blogs grew to the point that we are now considering offering sole sponsorship opportunities for each issue (you’ll eventually be able to judge that success for yourself).
  • We are now more knowledgeable, empathetic social media advisors to our clients—you know the old adage about the best doctor being the one who just got out of the hospital.

2. Participation Counts.

If you want to benefit from social media, you have to be willing to participate on a consistent, frequent basis. You also need to be willing to learn the rules of social media so that your participation helps, not hurts your business. And you need to set your internal social media goals and appoint someone to coordinate your social media team.

In addition to getting some professional advice, we recommend taking one of the many good social media classes available. Some even offer social media certifications. The more skillfully you employ social media, the better the results.

3. Participation Takes Time.

Don’t get caught up in the notion that social media is free. It will definitely cost you time, a valuable commodity in today’s downsized companies. We easily spend an hour to an hour-and-a-half per day on social media, and that excludes writing our enewsletter/blog posts. You may be able to—and probably should—share some of the responsibilities, but don’t start if you’re not willing to commit the time. As a point of reference, many large companies now have one or more people on staff who do nothing but monitor social media.

Finally, remember that social media is for relationship and thought leadership building. It should be part of your marketing plan, but continue to leave the heavy lifting to postal mail, email, print advertising and other marketing media better suited to directly generating sales and ROI.

By Larry Bauer

Want Expert Advice?

Bauer Associates helps printers of all sizes develop effective social media programs from strategy development through program deployment. For more information, email Print Strategist Larry Bauer.

You can connect with Larry Bauer on LinkedIn. Or follow him on Twitter. Or join Print Strategist on LinkedIn.

Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media.

February 28, 2010

Social media participation requires your time, but it needs to be quality time. Otherwise, you can cause more harm than good. Use these tips to create relationships and thought leadership that will help build your printing business.

Do

  • Set a social media strategy—outline what you want to accomplish and how it is going to happen.
  • Get some formal training—you need to know everything from the tools available to social media etiquette.
  • Appoint someone to direct and monitor your efforts.
  • Learn how your respected competitors are tapping social media—research them in the major search engines.
  • Create blogs, enewsletters and other articles on your sites to bolster the number of keywords and increase your search rankings.
  • Keep taking your social media to higher levels—provide richer content, etc.
  • Remember that social media is about earning attention.
  • Help, teach, guide and be tolerant with people new to social media—keep learning yourself.
  • Get in sync with your audience.
  • Be transparent, genuine and real about you and your company.
  • Spend at least as much time listening as you do broadcasting.
  • Help your customers find ways to combine social media with print—maybe you’re printing menus for a restaurant and you help them get set up to Tweet daily specials on Twitter.

Don’t

  • View social media as simply a place to hype your wares—unlearn some of your traditional marketing habits.
  • Underestimate the power of video in social media.
  • Be naïve about the time commitment to do social media right.
  • Forget that cheaters never win—trying to game the system will eventually get you busted.
  • Neglect to measure—it’s the only way to know if you’re achieving your goals.
  • Get upset about losing followers unless they’re the people you really want to target—then figure out why you’re losing them and adjust.
  • Be thin skinned or take everything that happens in your social media experience personally.
  • Think you will ever know everything about social media—it turns on a dime.
  • Participate on an inconsistent basis—frequency definitely matters in building a following.
  • Fail to add value—people won’t spend their time if they don’t receive something worthwhile in return.
  • Disrespect the community—treat others the way you want to be treated.
  • Forget to enjoy your social media experience.

Join the Print Strategist Group on LinkedIn. Print Strategist on LinkedIn is a group of professionals who value the power of print communications and share a common interest in advancing print’s effective use. Professionals involved in all aspects of print—marketing, design, production, manufacturing, distribution and related areas—are welcome. The only requirement is a desire to learn and share in a truly collaborative environment.

By Larry Bauer

Hashtags as Leadership Tools in Twitter.

February 28, 2010

We all know that starting and maintaining relevant conversations with customers and prospects are key to using thought leadership to enable sales, support and brand building. Before electronic social media tools, corporate socializing occurred on the golf course, while sharing beers at the local watering hole after work—even rented suites at the Indy500 and other events enabled you to prove your mettle with VIP clients and prospects.

Many of the ways we used to participate in social business conversations also translate well to social media tools. Discovering existing conversations about your brand or product niche is as easy as eaves dropping by searching for keywords in Twitter or using Google Blog Search. Creating and leading such conversations requires a concerted effort by you and your company.

Leading the Conversation.

Tags are a type of metadata used to identify specific topics online by assigning keywords to a specific piece of information, making that information easy to find. Hashtags are a specific type of tagging used in social media that you employ to create topically oriented conversations and to follow others’ conversations on Twitter or identi.ca.

It’s a way of grouping relevant messages into conversations, similar to but much broader than corralling VIPs in an event room or networking on the golf course. Imagine no conventional boundaries, and the fact that you’re potentially conversing with 500 or even 5,000 people in a given day, week, month.

By using hashtags (and tags in general), you can establish yourself as the thought leader for a given topic by starting the conversation, interacting intelligently with others and continuing to provide information/advice/support.

If you’re going to use hashtags for leading and managing conversations about your brand, be sure to follow these tips:

  • Write a great hashtag. Hashtags like #news are not helpful. Be more effective by using tags like #BrandNameNews, #BrandLaunch or #BrandHelp and be considerate of length. Remember that it does get counted in Twitter users’ 140-character limit. AND beware of acronyms as there could be multiple unrelated conversations potentially using the same acronym.
  • Use = promotion. Use the hashtag religiously and appropriately whenever speaking online about the specific topic. AND use it interactively when conversing with others in social media tools.
  • Don’t spam. Don’t pick up unrelated hashtags and appropriate them as your own. Inserting hashtags about a recent earthquake is NOT ok if your tweet has nothing to do with the earthquake. This is a proven method of upsetting Twitter users and they will make their displeasure known.
  • Promote it in other analog and digital marketing tools. Land Rover developed a very successful hashtag campaign in April 2009 by using a myriad of print and online promotions to promote the hashtag on Twitter. There is a lot to learn from Land Rover’s experience, and I would encourage you to not simply copy their strategy but to view it only as a starting point.
  • Develop communication guidelines for social media in general and apply them here. Include such things as a communications tone and consider any concerns that legal may have. Make sure anyone you’ve tasked with participating in social media on behalf of your brand is trained and knowledgeable.

Dealing with Loss of Control.

When putting your own hashtag out for use in the twitterverse, you must be prepared for negative use of the tag. Remember, just because the tag originated with you doesn’t mean you own it. It’s part of the larger conversation that you can participate in but never control. The effect is akin to having conversations with people at a party where some know and love you, some know and hate you and many don’t know you at all.

This is why it’s critical to understand and ensure your brand’s integrity and value. Likewise, it’s important to have the ability to lead the conversation as a valued participant. If your brand is suffering from poor quality products/service/support, no amount of twittering or tagging will save you. But you can use social media tools as part of your plan to turn your brand around so long as you are taking steps to improve the problems.

If you have quality, support or deliverability issues that you’re taking steps to resolve, plan on mitigating negative use of the hashtag by:

  • Fixing your problems. Start resolving the problems that affect your brand’s quality before taking on social media. You don’t have to finish resolving your issues, but you should be well on the path to recovery before initiating that first social media conversation. You may even want to use your resolve to repair the damage as your first hashtag topic.
  • Increasing your response time and quality. Comcast is THE benchmark for response times and problem resolution via Twitter. Forget their phone support, you’ll never get through. But use Twitter and they’ve got a tech on top of the problem within five or 10 minutes.
  • Creating a human voice. Again, Comcast wins hands down. They’ve got real live technical humans monitoring Twitter conversations about their product and service. These folks are also trained to interact with customers AND solve the problem.
  • Maintaining transparency. If there’s a problem, own up to it publicly. Take a lesson from Toyota’s recent PR fiasco and own up early, take steps to resolve the problem and communicate those steps without corporate speak. You must sound authentically human. Don’t skimp on this part or you’ll get nailed to the Twitter wall quickly.

And by all means, pay attention when online. Use the opportunity to converse with large numbers of customers to both help and guide them as well as learn if there are problems or areas for improvement. If your brand is loved and respected universally, you won’t have much of a problem. However, there are always instigators in any venue. You should be prepared to encounter them with knowledge, grace and honesty.

By Julia Moran Martz

Upcoming Newsletter Topics.

February 28, 2010

Just a few of the topics we’re working on for future newsletters:

  • Using envelopes as your “get opened” tool.
  • Postcards get you and your clients more for less.
  • Choosing the right personalization strategy.

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