Should you join the conversation on social media?
The emergence of social networks over the past 15 years has completely transformed how people find, consume and share information, as well as how we communicate. Some in the print industry view social media as a threat to print, but when it is used in the right way, it can actually be a useful marketing and research tool.
The rise of social media
More than 2 billion people have social media accounts – 30% of the global population1. Around 1 billion Facebook users are active every day2. Allowing for the 8.7% of Facebook accounts that are estimated to be fake, that still leaves 900 million people who access Facebook daily3. Every month there are 1 billion unique visits to websites that feature embedded Tweets4 and every day there are more than 2 billion Twitter search engine queries5. 122 million people have received a job interview from a connection made on LinkedIn6 and in the USA more than one third of married couples met online7.
All of this has had a dramatic impact on the priorities of marketers in recent years. It has affected how they communicate with their organisations’ customers, as well as the way that they find suppliers and make purchasing decisions.
For print service providers (PSPs), this means that social networks have the potential to be used to attract and retain business, garner customer feedback and promote the effectiveness of their work. Indeed, 54% of B2B marketers report having generated leads from social media8.
Print gets social
How does the graphic arts industry measure up? The popularity of networks varies from country to country, but analysts, publications, trade bodies and vendors, such as Canon, are usually the most active. For example, industry analyst InfoTrends boasts almost 9,743 Twitter followers, global federation and event organiser FESPA has 17,384, UK-based magazine PrintWeek has 20,207, German magazine Deutscher Drucker has 2,469 and Graficus in The Netherlands has over 2,1909. On LinkedIn, the US-based groups Print Production Professionals and Print Industry Networking Group have more than 91,500 and 73,000 members respectively, drawn from all over the world.
Engagement across the industry increases daily as forward-thinking PSPs recognise that a large proportion of their customer base – marketers – are not only active on social media, but are using it to search for inspiration, innovation and partners to help them deliver a good return on investment. Business buyers today do not tend to contact suppliers until 57% of the purchase process is already complete10. This means that before they contact potential PSPs, print buyers will already have formed expectations of what they are looking for and will often be looking for the company that can provide the service cheapest. If PSPs want to ensure that they are considered when marketers conduct research and make purchasing decisions, it is vital that they are visible in the channels where this is happening. Increasingly, this means social networking.
Start your conversation
The key to social media success comes from recognising that social networks are platforms for starting conversations rather than simply promoting services. The goal of PSPs should be to ‘listen’ to the conversations that marketers are having, to find out what challenges they are facing and then to engage them in dialogues that are genuinely helpful and interesting to them. If posts only ever promote a company’s services or involve overt sales approaches, this will alienate customers and prospects. In addition, by prioritising listening, social networks can also become excellent platforms through which to network with industry peers in other regions, research new ideas and learn about new technologies.
For PSPs who are fairly new to social media, it’s best to do some research to establish which channels your customers are using and then focus your initial activity. Using one or two platforms effectively is far better than finding yourself with profiles on multiple different platforms and no time to maintain them. Selecting which networks to focus on will depend on what your objectives are – simply opting for the most widely-used network is not always the best course of action.
While platforms such as Facebook and Pinterest can be very useful for PSPs selling print directly to consumers, Twitter and LinkedIn are the two most popular B2B marketing platforms11. Indeed, 62% of business-to-business (B2B) marketers consider LinkedIn to be an effective marketing platform, while 50% say that Twitter is effective12.
It is important to remember that the purpose of social networking is to start and join conversations. The best way to do this is to listen first. Follow and interact with prospective customers to get to know them and encourage them to follow you in return, but avoid direct sales approaches. Once you know what your desired audience is interested in, you can share interesting content and information about work that you’ve done. By doing this, you will begin to demonstrate your expertise, build your network and open up conversations with both existing and potential customers.
1 We Are Social. 3 August 2015. Global Digital Statshot: August 2015. http://wearesocial.net/blog/2015/08/global-statshot-august-2015/.
2 Facebook. 4 November 2015. Facebook Reports Third Quarter 2015 Results. http://investor.fb.com/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=940609.
3 Geoffrey A Fowler. 4 October 2012. Facebook: One Billion and Counting. The Wall Street Journal. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10000872396390443635404578036164027386112.
4 Twitter. 30 September 2015. Twitter Usage – Company Facts. https://about.twitter.com/company.
5 Statistic Brain. 25 September 2015. Twitter Statistics. http://www.statisticbrain.com/twitter-statistics/.
6 Statistic Brain. 28 June 2015. LinkedIn Company Profile and Statistics. http://www.statisticbrain.com/linkedin-company-profile-and-statistics/.
7 Larry Magid. 3 June 2013. A Third of Recently Married Couples Met Online and They're More Satisfied and Less Likely To Split-Up. Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrymagid/2013/06/03/a-third-of-recently-married-couples-met-online-and-theyre-more-satisfied-and-less-likely-to-split-up/.
8 Giselle Abramovich. 16 January 2014. 15 Mind-Blowing Stats For B2B Marketers. CMO. http://www.cmo.com/articles/2014/1/14/15_stats_B2B_marketers.html.
9 Twitter. 8th February 2016. https://twitter.com/search.
10 Google. February 2013. B2B’s Digital Evolution. think with Google. https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/articles/b2b-digital-evolution.html.
11 Giselle Abramovich. 16 January 2014. 15 Mind-Blowing Stats For B2B Marketers. CMO. http://www.cmo.com/articles/2014/1/14/15_stats_B2B_marketers.html.
12 Giselle Abramovich. 16 January 2014. 15 Mind-Blowing Stats For B2B Marketers. CMO. http://www.cmo.com/articles/2014/1/14/15_stats_B2B_marketers.html.