Its importance is increasing and yet many onliners still underestimate the potential of an appealing social media presence. But how do you utilize the opportunities presented by social media marketing?
Last year I profiled an alternative avenue into marketing for online print providers here at beyond-print.de. And given that taking a multichannel approach –with regard to the marketing activities of online companies – has long been important, I approached Maria Seywald, a member of the social media team at Krones AG. Her core remit is one of the most important components of an all-encompassing, sustainable marketing strategy, not just for B2C online print providers. And because, according to the latest figures on social media use, these channels are being used all the more frequently for corporate communications purposes the bigger the company is, small and mid-sized print providers , especially those operating in the B2B segment, would be well advised not to neglect this important avenue. But I am not going to reveal any more – have a read for yourselves.
Bernd Zipper: What exactly does Krones AG do and what connection do you have with the print and media industry?
Maria Seywald: Krones is a full-service provider for the beverage industry and a classic Hidden Champion. Every day millions of glass bottles, cans and PET containers run through a Krones production line. As a supplier of complete systems Krones provides breweries, beverage bottlers and food producers all over the world with individual machines as well as complete production facilities. In this respect Krones provides everything from process technology via filling technology all the way to IT solutions.
Historically Krones has attached a great deal of importance to communication and dialog. That’s the reason why we have such a large corporate communications team, which almost functions like an in-house agency. Within this department I and my team colleague shape the company’s social media showcase.
Bernd Zipper: What status do social media have within a modern company’s marketing strategy – and how important a role should they play in its communication policies?
Maria Seywald: Social media have been all but impossible to ignore for some time now – the various platforms have played far too important a role in communication and provided too many benefits. Modern thinking companies have acknowledged that fact and use these channels for their communication and marketing activities – and they have very different objectives. But basically you can say this – if I want to reach out to people, then I need to do so in the places they prefer to communicate. And those places happen to be the social media for an increasing number of people worldwide. Furthermore most channels offer a wide range of promotional options like specific audience targeting, which marketers should exploit.
Bernd Zipper: Where do you see German companies located in this environment?
Maria Seywald: I don’t want to make any generalizations in this regard. On the one hand there are plenty of German companies that are very skillful at social media marketing. On the other hand, however, there are still plenty of unexploited opportunities, in the German mechanical engineering sector, for example.
Bernd Zipper: What distinguishes B2B from B2C social media communication?
Maria Seywald: To put it simply, while I am able to sell a pair of sneakers relatively easily in the B2C segment by applying effective social media marketing, it’s a relatively tough job selling a labeling machine using the same method. The customer’s buying process is different, the target audience has a different mentality and B2B products are generally more complex. Nevertheless people working for large corporations also make buying decisions – and these can be influenced by (social media) communication. Employer branding also plays a major role for many companies operating in the B2B segment; in this respect there are considerably fewer differences to the B2C segment.
Bernd Zipper: The common social media platforms all have different main emphases. How do B2B businesses manage to links these channels properly?
Maria Seywald: In my opinion there is no broad-brush yet compact answer to that question. But the question that should be asked is not “What can I post on channel XY?”, but rather “What content is of interest to my target audience?” And if I have identical or similar target audiences on various channels, then the next step is to consider how this content can be edited to match the various channels. In an ideal world the different channels are then automatically linked via the content. However the channels’ different emphases are logical – therefore I don’t believe it makes sense to be obsessive about harmonizing content and target audiences on different channels.
Bernd Zipper: How can online print providers – especially small and mid-sized businesses – make effective use of social media for customer communication purposes?
Maria Seywald: First of all you need to have a clear objective in mind. Your target audience(s) and suitable channels can then be derived from that objective. Networks within your business then become a key factor very quickly: if your Social Media team does not forge a close working relationship with Sales and Customer Services, for example, it will have a very tough customer communication job if it is isolated within the company.
“Those entrepreneurs that utilize several channels at the same time for communication purposes and to reach out directly to target audiences can benefit from the advantages offered by the right platforms. But an accomplished social media team is a basic requirement to be able to do this.” – Bernd Zipper
Bernd Zipper: Are there three rapidly actionable tips that you can give small and mid-sized print providers, those operating online too, to help them to boost their social media presence?
Maria Seywald: Boiling it down to three pieces of advice, I would say:
- You’re better off concentrating initially on one channel and placing proper, high-quality content on it. Seldom-used corporate profiles are worse than no profiles at all.
- Keep approval loops as short as possible: content needs to be created quickly if necessary and messages and comments must be responded to promptly – without long agreement processes.
- Do not underestimate what impact your choice of images/photos can have. Virtually all social media channels function in a very visual way – a post or an ad often succeeds or fails on the strength of image quality. A blog post, for example, may be brilliantly written, but if the title image is unappealing, the post is not going to be effective.
Bernd Zipper: Where do you think evolution of social networks and their usefulness to companies are headed in the next few years? That’s because Facebook et al are evidently not immune to an “aging process” – in terms of the age profile of its users, Facebook’s clientele has aged.
Maria Seywald: You can certainly say that the social media landscape will continue to change. That is very exciting but can also be very demanding. As far as Facebook is concerned, yes, its user base is changing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Facebook is any less interesting. But as a consequence of that we are, for example, concentrating our training content to a greater extent on Instagram and using the Stories function more and more. In general I believe that moving image is and will remain the dominant trend and it works very well for B2B businesses.
Bernd Zipper: Will users of and content providers to social networks have to have a presence on even more platforms or social media channels? Which new platforms do you see here?
Maria Seywald: I don’t think that there will necessarily be more – platforms are frequently discontinued. And not every platform catches on in a sustainable way, it remains to be seen where Snapchat, for example, is headed. Right now one of the things we are keeping our eye on is how Ripple is evolving – an app that could be of interest for employer branding purposes.
My take: doing a bit of posting “here and there” is not worthwhile – a social media presence essentially depends on what its objective is and how professionally it is managed. I am delighted that Maria Seywald highlights one key point – namely networks and communication within companies. That’s because these are fundamental to successful external communication. Those with the requisite skills can use social media not just for customer communications but also to reach out to professionals. And given that the online print industry is crying out for skilled professionals in some disciplines, I don’t need to re-emphasize at this point the need to take urgent action. Delegates attending this year’s Online Print Symposium can look forward to the event, because Maria Seywald will be providing further input on the subject of social media for (B2B) companies and how to tackle the whole thing properly with regard to “target audiences with a different mentality”.