Thu, Jul

Demystifying social media

Your business will not die if you fail to use Twitter or LinkedIn. But, it may not grow as fast as it could either. Consultant Jacky Morgan uses her 25+ years marketing experience and business knowledge to uncover the truths and realities about online networking.

You’d have to to have been living in a cave for the last 12 months not to be aware of the impact that Social Media is having. But it’s an impact that, on the whole, seems to be passing printers by. The legendary Jeff Hayzlett, ex-CMO of Kodak, brands those in the print sector who don’t adopt social media as “stupid”. He’s convinced that there’s money to be made from it and can’t understand the reluctance. When I’m speaking to clients they’re ready with a wealth of reasons why they’ve not opted in. I too have a theory, but unlike Hayzlett, I don’t think it has anything to do with stupidity.


I believe the reason printers aren’t flocking to social media in their droves has parallels with the Emperor’s New Clothes and not wanting to stick their head above the parapet and say, “you know what, I don’t get it” or even, “I think I’d like to give it a go, if I knew what the Google it was”!

It’s hard to believe that only ten years ago I was still persuading clients they needed a website. The internet was a new game with new rules and printers saw websites as digital upstarts that threatened to take print from their presses. It was bad enough that customers were moving in that direction - it was intolerable that as an industry we’d consider it too. So, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that this latest marketing phenomenon hasn’t been too well received either.

As a marketer I’m an advocate of all things digital and don’t see that print has to suffer as a consequence. For me, the two should work hand in hand and the newer mobile applications such as QR codes (and their Microsoft equivalents – ‘tags’) are further evidence that the tools and mediums can’t operate in a vacuum. I took some convincing at first and, in reality, it wasn’t until social media proved its worth that I got wholeheartedly behind it. For it to have any chance of success with the traditionalists, this new channel needs demystifying, and the myths around it debunking, so it can be seen for how simple it is and embraced for the results it can deliver.

The biggest and earliest myth that the social media community propounded has to be the “embrace or die” message. The call went up that if you didn’t jump on the social media bandwagon effectively your business was dead in the water. We’ve come a long way since then and even its most enthusiastic exponents would concede that that’s not the case. But, in the meantime, there have been many that have profited from the doubt and confusion. I heard recently of an agency that was charging £15,000 per month for managing a B2C brand’s Twitter account. Old rope? Absolutely.

So where does it fit with the other communication channels? There’s no single definition of marketing but I’m drawn to David Meerman Scott’s one-word answer - “attention”. He maintains that there are a number of ways of achieving that attention. It can be bought, so think advertising; you can beg for it (using PR or the traditional direct marketing tactics), or bug people for their attention by cold-calling or even knocking on doors. In preference, you can earn attention by creating something interesting and valuable and then publishing it online for free. That might take the form of a blog, a research report, photographs, a Twitter stream, ebook or a Facebook page.

The terms ‘social media’ and ‘social networking’ are pretty much interchangeable. The initial definitions relied on content as the differentiator but less so now. If we focus on social networking then the clue is in the title and actually makes the whole premise easier to understand. It’s about connecting, engaging in dialogue and holding a conversation, it just happens that this takes place online. A lot of the etiquette is the same as for a conversation offline – be interesting (and interested), open and don’t hog the limelight by talking incessantly about yourself. If you try and overtly “sell” people will back away (unfollow). So, instead, listen and learn, engage and share freely.
Where networking takes place offline in venues, we can view the online mediums as venues too, each with its own vibe and idiosyncrasies. Facebook is like a pub. Linkedin is more like a conference – it’s business-like, you have to watch your language and dress smartly. Twitter on the other hand is the cocktail party; it’s chatty, high-energy and folks are out to impress. Youtube? Well that’s like Glastonbury and there pretty much anything goes!

Recognising the characteristics of these venues can help users determine where they want to virtually hang out and where it’s most likely their customers and prospects will be found. If we don’t believe that our target audience is engaged then where’s the compelling reason for us to be? So to the myth “my customers don’t use it”. Well, if you’re selling into the marketing or design space you can bet they are. If they’re not, they soon will be.
Heed the advice, “go fishing where your fish go”. In individual instances you can do that manually (why not just ask?) but where you have a data set you need to check, then tools like Flowtown automate and simplify that. But don’t limit it to customers, what about prospects, suppliers, the wider industry and even prospective employees?

The most unlikely instance of the “I won’t have anything to say” myth came from a journalist. It highlights the widely held belief that social media is about talking. In fact, it’s about listening and sharing. It’s about relationships, community and conversation. Talking at or broadcasting to your followers makes for a very short dialogue, it’s easy for them to “unfollow” and without doubt they will if they don’t appreciate the tone or content of your stuff.
If the bottom line is the only consideration and you’re hung up on the idea that “it won’t help me sell print”, that is a harder nut to crack. While sales enquiries are not unknown, the real benefits are connections and visibility and, as with offline, the ROI on any conversation is rarely measurable.

I know of several clients that have generated new business, tangible invoiced jobs as a direct result of Twitter. This came from requirements posted by users looking for something specific. They could have tried other avenues, searched through a directory and picked up the telephone even. But they didn’t. They choose instead to ask for help and recommendations from the people they follow on Twitter (their 'tribe”) because it was easier, quicker and a more trusted source.

Hopefully, the printers in question will go on to build long-standing relationships with these new clients to generate more and greater revenue.

There’s no scientific control to determine that these particular customer-supplier relationships wouldn’t have happened any other way, though I doubt it. And, as the saying goes, “you’ve got to be in it to win it”. When every other argument fails then myth number four - “I don’t have time for it” - comes into play. That’s not just for social media but, in my experience, as a good reason for shying away from marketing altogether. Don’t assume that you’re the only advocate your business has. Delegate the job, and choose a brand ambassador to represent you – you’ll need a policy, or at least to set some parameters, and the 18 year old work-experience kid that has a 1,000 plus friends on Facebook is unlikely to be the ideal candidate.

If you’re still not convinced take a look around you. The biggest brands have and maintain a presence that is growing and attracting additional focus and budget. They see its value and are using it to monitor what is being said about them and as a supplementary means of getting their message across. Acting like them a) gives you credibility and the exposure of your own brand to a wider audience, b) the opportunity to effectively listen in on what your customers are saying, c) to be party to what industry experts are sharing and d) even gain insight into what your competitors are doing. If you’re trading online (and if you’re not, why not?) there’s no better way to help with your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and drive traffic to your site. A compelling argument in itself.
Jacky Morgan runs Up Marketing delivering consultancy almost wholly in the commercial print space. More recently and under her direction, Shire Marketing Services has developed a portfolio of on- and offline marketing services to help create and deliver strategies that generate new business and cement meaningful, profitable client relationships. Email: jacky.morgan@shiremarketing.co.uk

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