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Trade Comment

Social media

Social media continues to grow in terms of both its size and influence on potential customers. With this in mind, Rob Fletcher asks: “Is social media a useful tool for improving the fortunes of print businesses?”

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Adam Wilson-Bowen, director, Solopress

A balancing game

Social media is a strange thing; it is a place for people to ‘hang out’, have a rant, or just a place to waste some time during a lunch break. Everywhere you look now there are links to corporate Facebook and Twitter pages, ‘scan’ this or ‘like’ that. But what’s the best way to get most out of social media?

The truth is it works differently for different companies and for different platforms. For example, the way Solopress.com interacts with someone on Facebook would not be the same as Twitter. This is not only down the amount of characters available in a Tweet message, but also the tone you use and what you use it for. Facebook is a great way to build up a company profile and your brand, whereas Twitter is an excellent tool to engage with customers directly.

Don’t use Twitter just to shout out your offers, this will rapidly turn your followers into ex-followers

Remember with any social media channel, you’re broadcasting the message to all their followers and friends as well as your own. If someone was to complain about your company on Twitter, while this complaint will reach all their followers, so will your reply. If you deal with it correctly, you can quickly turn a negative comment into a great example of your exemplary customer service. The  fact that you have bothered to reply to someone on Twitter shows you care.

But can social media be used to actually sell print? Yes, but you need to do it right. Don’t make it too ‘salesy’, maybe try to be a bit cheeky. Don’t use Twitter just to shout out your offers, this will rapidly turn your followers into ex-followers. Social media allows you to show people what kind of a company you are, get them to trust you, see how you treat your customers, and help get you orders that way.

Laurie Cansfield, corporate communications manager, Potts Print UK

Honest and interesting

While the cynical might say it shows how long it’s taken the print world to embrace the ‘digital revolution’, others may read it as it’s intended —to mark the beginning of a harmonious relationship between the two mediums. Print was once a revolution too, so they do have that in common.

When I began work at Potts, doing digital in a print environment was a unique challenge. The hard thing turned out to be thinking of something to say. There aren’t a huge amount of potential clients who feel passionate about platemaking, perfect binding and particular Pantone colours. The solution was simple, Tweet about anything but print.

It’s all about sharing honest, interesting content that adds value to your client relationships and your brand

People in print companies do not only think, talk and live print. They have sporting and social activities to speak of, adventures and achievements to share, charitable and characterful acts to tell the world about.

As a result, the majority of our content naturally became about what people here are doing when they’re not doing print. This informal ‘behind the scenes’ style has been successful in getting people to tune in. Nobody wants their Twitter feed to be full of marketing messages. It’s all about sharing honest, interesting content that adds value to your client relationships and your brand.

Facebook has been useful in involving production staff in what’s going on outside the company, and Linkedin has been essential for new business. I don’t know of many print companies in the UK that are doing social media at this level, and that’s possibly because of the culture of forward-thinking at Potts. If nothing else, it makes us different from our competitors.

Clair Trebes, sales and marketing, RT Litho

A proactive medium

Without social media, the last twelve months could have proved very different for us. We have made considerable headway with how we promote our business mainly down social media being a part of our marketing mix. We are in a very competitive market but the clients are there, you just need to go and look for them—without ‘hard selling’.

Thanks to the work we have done, we now see our services recommended and our work praised. Every step of the way, we try to over deliver on the customer experience. With a £27,000 increase in turnover—and growing—thanks to the likes of Twitter, we feel this is where the future lies for developing our community and clients further.

As a business, we believe we started utilising these free tools at exactly the right time for us to move forward by being proactive, rather than reactive, to the industry going into a decline.

Social media has changed the way the world connects, and more importantly how it does business

Marketing budgets were being cut and people were spending less on their printed matter, but people still need print and will buy print. Social media has changed the way the world connects, and more importantly how it does business.

We are now reaching more business-to-consumer clients, and as a trade printer for over the last 20 years, we find ourselves working with a vaster variation of client now which is great. Social media forces us to keep a more personal connection with our clients and prospects, which is more valuable than ever for people to understand who want to be successful using social media.

Print certainly isn’t dead; even in the current state of the industry, but how people look for services has changed—the customer recommendation is stronger now than it ever has been.

Rod Fisher, managing director, Print-Leeds

Raising profile, not sales

Although social media may continue to grow in terms of both its size and influence, in my opinion it is only helping business-to-consumer companies improve their fortunes—it has not proved its usefulness to business-to-business firms, such as ourselves. 

Print-Leeds is a specialist print house, which over the last two years, has evolved and grown significantly. We specialise in wet-glue labels for the drinks and food industries, UV litho printing on plastic, and wide-format digital print. While we are consistently active on both Twitter and LinkedIn; we have also got a Facebook page, but this is only useful if you are actually engaging with consumer, which we are not. We are talking to both businesses and other printers. 

Our experience tells us that social media is not useful to print businesses looking to improve their own fortunes

We have been using Twitter for a a couple of years now and I can categorically say that our effort is not being converted into sales. The positives are that we now have over 600 followers, and this has doubled since we increased our tweeting. What it has done is help improve our relationship with the different media and it will also have raised our overall profile—that said, we do not have any solid proof of this. 

With LinkedIn, I am now connecting with the relevant people and groups, but this does not convert into orders either; but, once again, it is another useful method of raising our profile. Our experience tells us that social media is not useful to print businesses looking to improve their own fortunes. But, in terms of what can help this side of business, this is what I think is useful: excellent quality print, good old customer service and a proactive sales team. 

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