Suvivors Guide To Social Media

Before a recent social media workshop for owners and executives in the printing industry I sent out three pre-workshop questions each participant had to ponder and try to answer before the session started:

  1. How does social media fit into your current marketing plan (if there is one)? If there isn’t a plan, what would you like to get out of social media?
  2. What is going to be said, by whom, using which channels and why?
  3. Could social media management be a service you could use to help your customers? If not, why not? If so, how?

The answers I got back were expected and it helped me develop the content for the workshop. Here is an example of one of the responses:

“I don’t know that I am able to answer these questions. I want to know:

  1. What social networking is
  2. How a business [printer] can use it to his benefit
  3. The step by step process to establish our social network.

At that juncture I expect I would be more prepared to answer the questions. I can tell you that we have a marketing plan; however, social media marketing is not part of it. What I want from social media marketing, like my overall marketing effort, is to develop more business.”

What follows is an abbreviated Social Media Survivors Guide you can use to help begin your journey in navigating the challenges and opportunities around social media.

What Is It? Social networking addresses the human need to interact. Social media are methods and channels to interact with other humans as part of a person’s network. Social networking isn’t new. The ways in which it can get done: blogging, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and many more are very new to most. According to Wikipedia, social networking transforms broadcast media monologues into social media dialogues.

Why Should We Do Anything? There is a video on the web worth watching as part of your survival training. The Did You Know? video is currently in its fourth version and describes global changes in the world, new technologies, convergence and the way people behave. The video asks us if we’re ready for the changes and I believe that sets up one of the most important success behaviors in social networking and business—having a plan. Developing a strategic approach to the opportunity is better than haphazard tactical attempts. An even more relevant reason to work on your strategy about how to deal with the changes is because most of your customers are trying to figure this out too, why not work on it together?

Where Does Social Media Fit In?
I’m not trying to overwhelm you with videos, but they are an effective medium along with print and there’s one you don’t want to miss. Eric Qualman wrote Socialnomics, a brand new book on social media. Eric developed a video that takes many of the social media statistics and puts them in an engaging presentation on how we are totally changing the way we communicate. The beginning of the video asks “Is Social Media a Fad?” By the end you will see that some form of social networking with new media tools will continue to grow in use and application.

What Can a Business (Printer) Do About This? No one likes the first part but it’s a good first step. Think strategically about what you could do. Where are you, where do you want to be? Where is your current customer and where are they going? And what about the customers you don’t have…where are they going and can you meet them ahead of time or help them get where they are going? It’s how you can win new business from existing customers and new customers by identifying what they want and having a process in place to deliver on it. That’s marketing.

The second part to the question is a tactical one. It’s got a 4 part answer according to Qualman and it works because I do something similar and help others do the same: 

  1. Listening: Choose a social media channel and set up an account. Find out who is saying what to whom and perhaps why. Following your customers, customer’s customers, vendors, partners and competition can increase your knowledge—and suck up a lot of time if you don’t watch it.
  2. Interacting: Participating in conversations, sharing ideas, asking questions, answering questions, exploring what can be done and said are all part of this step. 
  3. Reacting: Make changes to your social media approach, your business, your services, your customer service…your whole mission can happen here. FedEx listens actively on Twitter and follows up in minutes if someone Tweets about a bad FedEx experience.
  4. Selling: The first three steps will help you identify what a business wants. Keiger Printing in Winston-Salem, NC uses Facebook, LinkedIn, RSS, Delicious, Digg and more to show their customers they are listening and creating dialogs about how they’ve helped their customers beyond cost savings alone. They use case study content on their social media channels to show what can be done. They can even ask for business from some of those who follow them. 

When you leverage social media so people find you, listen to you, and ask you if you can do business with them—that’s a great indirect sales approach. There’s less selling and more helping. You have the opportunity to get paid for that help.

Four popular social media technologies for you to investigate should include a blog (for writing complete thoughts about trends, happenings, thoughts, challenges and more), LinkedIn (for posting information about yourself and your business and network with others who may be looking to find people like you or about topics you may know about), Facebook (to interact with people personally and/or professionally and create communities that are interested in common goals or ideas) and Twitter (to share a quick thought or idea about who you are, what you think, what you want others to know, what you can do to help and follow how others are doing the same in their own way). How you use these tools can help you find out things, get found and identify new opportunities to grow your business in a new way. Once you’ve started the journey you have experiences you can share. You could even set up services to help others do the same in their business.

Share what you learn along the way in some new media…that’s what being social is all about.

Keep the learning going, pass it on. ~Peter