Taking stock of 2010, and preparing your business for 2011 and beyond.
Marx: The real value of using social-media tools is twofold. First, when used carefully as part of a concerted Internet strategy, social-media tools can strongly improve a company’s ranking in online search results, because the search engines consider social-media involvement during the search process. Second, when used thoughtfully, social-media tools like LinkedIn – and increasingly, Facebook – can be essential tools for online networking and contact building. Social media takes work, however; you only get out of it what you’re willing to put in.
Chesterman: It’s the USA where social media has really taken off, and it appears that the rest of the world has been slower to reap the benefits. Those print service providers that have been using social media to their full advantage are benefiting as they learn more about their customers through open dialogue. This has to be the immediate goal for any company dipping their toes into the social-media landscape. Tools like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are about building relationships that can be mutually beneficial.
Greene: I think there’s a great opportunity for print providers to use these tools to market their services more broadly and show their “friends” and “followers” some of the innovative and creative projects they are producing, while at the same time informing them about the effectiveness of cross-media. In a recent survey, we found that 37 percent of wide-format printing companies are using social media in one form or another. It’s not just Twitter or Facebook, although those are two of the biggest; it’s also Linked-In, which can be enormously helpful for networking, finding answers to technical questions through “groups,” and even finding new employees.
Question: Let’s talk about applications. What are you seeing as the “hottest” applications for wide-format print in the past 12 months? And for 2011?
Boer: We project incremental business will come from soft signage and decorative applications. Soft signage, still a specialty, will grow at high percentage rates from its small volumes today because it’s a high-value-add product that offers incremental opportunities to sell a wide-format sign/banner/flag. There’s a possibility that soft signage, if marketed correctly, will become as common as ordering a digital photobook for special occasions or events.