Social Media 101 for Print Shop Owners: Part II

In my last article, I provided a definition of social networking and how it can benefit printers.  But knowing how and where to participate in social media can be a little intimidating because of the numerous options available.

For those starting out with social media, I advise you to start with one tool and get to know it well before trying out the others.  Without a doubt, the first place to start to create a social media presence for yourself is on LinkedIn.  With over 135 million members, it is the largest social network for business professionals online and the best place by far where you can put your professional self forward. Last month I provided tips about how to optimize your profile. This month, I’m offering advice about how you can increase your personal visibility on LinkedIn.

Connect with People You Know

If I ask you how you get new customers, you’ll probably tell me that it’s through a combination of attending business events, being active in your community and getting your satisfied customers to talk about you.  In other words, being social, right?  Similarly, you have to have to be “social” on LinkedIn.  After all, what’s why it’s called social media!  The first thing you are going to do now that you have created your online profile is to start adding connections.  Don’t just invite anyone, though.  Be sure to add people you know such as customers, suppliers, prospects, and other business owners.  Since you are exposing your network to your connections, there has to be an element of trust.  Once you are on LinkedIn, you’ll also start to get invitations from people you don’t know, so click on “ignore” button which is a way of not accepting an invitation.  Lastly, when you send out invitations, ensure that you personalize it with a short note, reminding your contact how you know them and why you’d like to connect with them.

Share a Status Update

Now that you have added people in your network, feel free to share an “update” with them.  What are appropriate updates?  First of all, keep in mind who your target audience is and share something that will not only be of interest to them, but also showcase your expertise in printing.  An appropriate update would be to share an online article, along with a sentence explaining why it’s interesting or informative.   Another suggestion would be to provide a useful tip about printing, binding or database management – again whatever your specialty is.  One more idea is to let your network know what type of business events you will be attending.  If you’re going to a trade show or conference, post it and ask “Who else is going?”  so as to solicit a response from your contacts.  It’s one thing to share, but never over share!  Keep all of your updates strictly about business.  Personal updates about your family or social life are not appropriate on LinkedIn.  Be positive, never use profanity and post no more than once a day because LinkedIn is not a “chatty” social network like some of the others. Remember that every update you make will leave people with an impression of you, so be sure to make it a good one.

Comment on Others’ Status Updates

Monitor the activity and status updates of your network.  If you notice that one of your contacts has changed jobs, then send them a note of congratulations.  If someone posts a question in their update, then try to answer it.  When someone indicates that they are attending an event that you are also going to, do let them know that you will also be attending and suggest meeting them in person.  Pay particular attention to the articles and updates shared by your prospects, because that will be an indication of the business issues or news that’s important to them.

Join a Group

There are over 800,000 groups on LinkedIn, so you are bound to find one that is of interest to you and relevant your business interests.   Start by joining printing related groups, to network with others in your industry.  More important though, join groups where you think that your prospects are. If your shop specializes in direct mail, then join a group where marketers are discussing the topic.  Before you join a group though, check out the “Group Statistics” to determine whether the membership profile is right for you in terms of location, and function or seniority of its participants.  Once you are a group member, be sure to share your knowledge and respond thoughtfully to discussion topics. It’s not appropriate to post blatant promotional messages about your company.

Answer a Question

Nothing demonstrates your expertise better than answering a question.  In the “Answers” section on LinkedIn be sure to type in key words related to the services you provide and then see if there are any questions that you can respond to.  Also keep your eye open for those questions that ask for referrals to suppliers.  When I typed in “large format printing” I noticed that someone asked the following question “Can someone suggest a good large format printer in Ottawa?”  Is that a possible lead for the right printer? You bet!

Be mindful that all of your actions on LinkedIn are visible (unless you turn them off), so ensure that the impression you leave with your network is a positive one.

In my next article, I will provide an overview of how you can set up a free Company Page on LinkedIn.  In the meantime, get social on LinkedIn.  See you online!

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