Social Media: Why Make the Journey?

How social media can benefit your print shop.

While the specific reasons for businesses to engage in social media marketing differ depending upon whether a company is in the business-to-business (B-to-B) or business-to-consumer (B-to-C) space, large or small, the basic goals are similar. If we were to boil these down to their core essence, the three primary motivators for engaging in social media are to build brand awareness, to nurture relationships, and build brand loyalty. These all lead to the main goal, which is ultimately to drive sales.

Big corporations are embracing social media at an astonishing rate. PR firm Burson-Marsteller asked the Fortune Global 100 companies how they were using social media and came up with these results: 65 percent have active Twitter accounts; 54 percent have Facebook pages; 50 percent have a YouTube channel; and 33 percent have a corporate blog. Those who use these new social outlets are not merely setting up sites and letting them lie fallow, either. The study shows that 82 percent tweeted in the past week,” and 68 percent posted an update on a Facebook page.

Social media gives companies the opportunity to speak directly to their customers from a corporate level. It’s like a direct feed into the minds of their audience. By engaging with customers directly via social media channels, companies are working toward the primary goals of social media marketing: building brand awareness, nurturing relationships, and building brand loyalty.

Brand awareness and elevation
Brand awareness refers to the elevation of your company’s name, value, and capabilities in order to place it at the top of mind with a customer. Assuredly, building and maintaining brand awareness is a chief concern for any marketer.

For a printer, building brand awareness means to capture your customer’s attention so that when he or she thinks of a partner for a cross-media campaign, your company or sales rep is thought of first. If one of your current customers were considering a new marketing program, perhaps involving a QR code billboard or P-O-P campaign, would your shop be the first to come to mind?

“Growing the network” refers to increasing the number of people who are in your sphere of influence in your vertical market. In thinking of the traditional concept of the “sales funnel,” growing the network would be increasing the number of people who could or would not enter the funnel (and ultimately, it is hoped, increasing those that emerge on the other side as customers).

Search engines are the new Yellow Pages and the current way to be “found” by prospective clients. Most people who are searching for a new vendor or supplier of a service will query keywords or phrases on Internet search engines such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo. A March 2010 Nielsen study comparing US search rankings shows Google and Yahoo searches account for 79 percent of all searches, while a Yellow Pages search is at a mere 0.2 percent. In an effort to combat these kind of stats, the Yellow Pages Association initiated a study in 2009 and found that 65 percent of those queried reference Yellow Pages (print and Internet) first for a local search (compared to 58 percent citing a search engine). Search engine optimization, or SEO, refers to undertaking actions and activities to secure a first-page listing when keywords related to the company are entered into the search engine.

There are numerous examples of businesses that build brand awareness with social media, but wine-shop owner Gary Vaynerchuk is one example worth reading about because he both built a brand and increased his sales through social methods. He is an incredible example of going into a field with many, many other wine distributors – with big names and huge budgets – and he made it!

Vaynerchuk worked to build a persona as a wine expert using social media tools such as a blog, Twitter feeds, and YouTube, as well as webcasts on topics of wine, wine tasting, recommendations, etc. He also did his homework and created a wine library, capitalizing on years of working in the business; in other words: he knows his “stuff,” everything about the content – wine. Next was the creation of an online sales capability through his one-stop shop on the internet.

Now, 80,000 people view Vaynerchuk’s site daily. He built his brand and, with a very small budget and name, grew the family business from $4 million to $60 million in five years. With appearances on numerous shows such as NBC’s Today Show and CNBC’s Mad Money and articles galore, new revenue streams were developed in public speaking, book writing (including a 10-book deal), and as expert wine consultant for Virgin America. It was a lot of hard work building his image as a trusted authority on wine, but he did just that.

Nurturing relationships
To increase the relationship aspect of a customer bond (and decrease the emphasis on “price-only” criteria for your interaction), you can nurture the relationship through social-media tools, which amplifies the avenues of contact with your customer. So if you participate in a blog where you solve problems or suggest alternative actions, the customer sees you as an industry expert and will look to you for solutions to printing issues.

Small businesses can do this just as well as larger companies: Printers solve problems for customers every day – why not get the word out through how-to video clips, a blog, or an advice/chat area on your corporate website or portal?

With the plan to create a blog and join other online conversations, BreakingPoint, a Texas Internet security company, set up a monitoring system to scan the Internet, the blogosphere, online forums, and communities to find relevant conversations in their industry and their audience before starting their own blog. Tools such as Tweet Scan and Google Alerts were used for industry terms, and was utilized to monitor various forums with a goal of creating strong relationship with hard-to-find prospects.

They used their own blog to break stories which generated links from other sites, and Twitter delivered shorter, more frequent updates to supplement the company blog. Again, a key-terms search on Twitter helped them to find conversations, competitors’ names, and industry research. LinkedIn Groups were created because targeted customers used LinkedIn and this is where they were able to start conversations.

Other steps focused on increasing website traffic, such as increasing press release frequency to one per week, the use of a press release service, as well as social media sites. They promoted social media channels on the company website and in staff e-mail signatures. Last, they measured social media accounts and traffic.

After six months, unique blog page views increased, and they gained numerous Twitter followers and members in their LinkedIn Groups. A 155-percent increase in unique Web visitors was reported, and so staff believed the goal was achieved.

Brand-loyalty building
The key to building brand loyalty is the ability to provide value to customers as a thought leader. There are a lot of possible answers to what provides value to customers – but at the foundation, it is your ability to give them what they need. If a company representative uses various social media tools to share thoughts that are positive and are seen to offer solutions to the customer’s problems, pain points, or concerns, then the rep is offering value to the client. If the comments or recommendations are of a high quality and share advice, examples, and observations on trends, his or her role as a thought leader or an expert increases. All of these efforts will also help to grow the relationship with the ultimate goal of reaching the customer with more sales opportunities.

And, like it or not, your customers are talking about your company, your service, and your problem resolution on various social media tools already.

To monitor – and manage – your own company's reputation, first you need to find out where most of your customers have a presence and then you need to keep an eye on those sources. Reputation management of your company can also be followed through alerts you receive any time your company name is mentioned on the internet. You will also want to query various search engines with the names of prominent people in your company to be aware of comments or discussions related to them that may be on the Internet. Reviews by customers are also on the Internet and you should know what is being said so you can quickly address any public relations issues brought before these audiences.

Business software provider IBM Cognos developed a goal to increase response rates and reduce the cost per lead by becoming a recognized thought leader, generating demand, and supporting the sales team. It explored many methods of achieving this goal including: revamping its website with more offers, releasing white papers, utilizing online demos, hosting events, and participating in online communities.

Prospects filled out contact information for the special offers, which led a growing contact list and a new lead-nurturing program was developed based on the new customer list. IBM Cognos was able to extend numerous touches to their list with additional relevant content and created new offers based on prospect profiles.

They also conducted statistical analysis of their marketing interactions, and with more than 200,000 such interactions, the prioritization of additional tactics and investments began. Some interesting findings from these activities were that online demos had the highest rate of opportunity creation, face-to-face events had the largest impact on close rate and size of the deal, and ten days was the cycle of the opportunities.

After implementing this plan, the company realized both new leads and reduced costs per lead. More than 11 percent of visitors to the website complete the registration form, a vast improvement over the 3-percent average industry-capture rate. Of course the numerous touches played a large role, but it all began with the revamped and newly optimized content on the website.

Julie Shaffer is vice president, digital technologies, and Mary Garnett is executive vice president at Printing Industries of America. This information is excerpted from Printing Industries of America's latest book, Social Media Field Guide: A Resource for Graphic Communicators, written by Shaffer and Garnett (available online at


Case studies are attributed to MarketingSherpa (

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