Getting Started in Social Media Marketing

It is rapidly becoming more important for businesses that are serious about connecting with consumers to participate in social networking communities like Facebook and Twitter. To the uninitiated, however, just thinking about creating a social media marketing strategy can be overwhelming. New social media networks like Google Buzz, Foursquare and Go Tribal are springing up all the time.

Getting started in social media marketing, however, becomes much easier when you can answer this one question: Where are your customers spending their time online? The online networking communities your customers are already participating in are the ones you need to target your online marketing efforts at when you are just getting started in s o c i a l media marketing.

You may wish to begin your research by asking your existing customers what social media networks they participate in through the channels you already use to communicate with them.

There are so many social networks on the Internet today, multiple ones in every imaginable niche, that I couldn’t begin to list all of them here. With that in mind, this article is going to focus on the most popular social networks that are open to people in all industries.

I encourage you, however, to apply the techniques we discuss in this article to the niche social networks that your customers also likely belong to. You may also want to consider using these broader, larger social networks to start conversations with members about the industry-specific social media tools they utilize.

At least four out of five adults who use the Internet use social media at least once a month, according to the 2009 report The Broad Reach of Social Technologies by Forrester Research. Half of adults who go online actively participate in social networks like Facebook, with the most rapid growth among consumers aged 35 years and older.

In February, the social media networking giant Facebook celebrated its sixth birthday. It also celebrated another milestone that same month when it reported having more than 400 million users worldwide, with a full-quarter of them accessing the social network with their mobile phones. It is the world’s largest social media site. It is quickly becoming the online marketing tool of choice for organizations of all sizes.

Although Facebook is the Internet’s largest social media network, the microblogging platform Twitter is the fastest growing one. According to a report released by the Nielsen Company, the amount of time Americans spent on Twitter last year swelled by 368%. By December 2009, Twitter had 2.7 million users.

Other members of the Internet’s top five social networks include MySpace, Classmates.com, and LinkedIn.

Once you have decided what social networks are most appropriate for your business, you will want to create profiles for each one that let the world know what your brand is all about. Then you will need to build your network on each social media site. Start by inviting people you already know to join your network.

If you actively engage with your social network, no matter how small, and post interesting content, your network will naturally grow over time.

It is crucial to the success of your social media marketing efforts and your brand that you not only engage in conversation with other members of social media communities, but that you also publish your own quality content on a regular basis. Here are some ideas to get you started:

    • Introduce new products and educate your customers about them with videos that you produce and post on sites like YouTube and Vimeo.
    • Obtain feedback on existing products through Facebook groups and fan page discussion forums.
    • Post articles and videos of interest to your target market on Twitter, preferably ones that are as entertaining as they are informative.
    • Solicit ideas for new products and services from groups on LinkedIn.
    • Build new relationships with potential supporters of your brand and enhance ones with existing ones through Twitter.
    • Make new business contacts by connecting with fellow alumni on Classmates.com.
    • Or, just dip your toes in the social media waters by finding out what people are already saying about your brand.

The Internet is a virtual market where an unlimited amount of information and products compete around the clock for people’s limited time, money, and attention. Doing whatever you can to make yourself stand out is a wise move.

One thing you could do to set yourself apart from competitors is to draw attention to your online presence with your product packaging. A lot of brands are promoting their products using social media tools, but very few have leveraged the potential product labels they have to help their online marketing efforts succeed. Some of the product makers who are leading the way are VitaminWater, Papa John’s Pizza, Pepsi, and a couple of Portuguese wineries that belong to Adegga, a social media site for wine lovers.

The label of Coca-Cola brand VitaminWater’s newest flavor, “Connect,” reads “Made by fans, for fans of Facebook.” Named after Facebook’s development tool for creating Facebook applications, the Connect label features many of the same design elements found on the top social networking site where Vitamin Water’s fan page is now more than 1 million members strong Starting last fall, VitaminWater asked its Facebook members to help create the new flavor with a Facebook application called “flavorcreator.” More than 116,000 Facebookers participated in the creation of the caffeinated black cherry and lime-flavored beverage by engaging in a series of quizzes and games that collected information about what flavors and ingredients they wanted the beverage to have. Later, Facebook fans used the flavorcreator to submit entries for a label design contest.

Papa John’s Pizza celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary by printing an augmented reality (AR) code on the bottom of its pizza boxes along with the URL of a Papa John’s microsite. When consumers logged into the microsite online, holding the AR code up to their webcam gave them entry to an online driving game where they collected Papa John’s coupons along their route. As a result of the AR codes, the promotional microsite received more than 200,000 visits within its first two weeks.

At least two Portuguese wineries have started incorporating quick response (QR) codes into their label designs. When one of these two-dimensional bar codes is scanned with a cell phone or webcam, the Internet browser on the cell phone or computer is directed to a page on Addega about that particular wine. The wine consumer is then able to find out what members of this online community of wine lovers think about the wine, and compare prices, read about the winemaker.

Pepsi leveraged a social media tool in a more subtle, yet highly effective way than the other trailblazing product marketers I have already highlighted. The soft drink giant recently launched a “natural” cola product named Pepsi Raw. To encourage feedback about the new product, they printed the product’s Twitter address on 1.4 million of the Pepsi Raw cans. Printing the address of your social media profile or website on your product labels is a particularly easy and cost-effective method of encouraging consumers to connect with you online. If this is something you think would be effective for your brand, we here at Lightning Labels would be happy to help you produce high-quality product labels for this purpose.

But what if you are not a product maker? Can you still leverage the power of labels and stickers in the offline world to help people connect with you virtually? Absolutely. Anyone with an online presence, not just product makers, can benefit from adding good old-fashioned promotional stickers to their marketing mix. For very little cost, you can have stickers custom-printed with your brand logo and social media address or website.

A local band, for instance, could have stickers custom-printed for very little cost with their name and MySpace address and distribute them at their shows. It would be an easy way for them to drive more traffic to their MySpace page, where fans could listen to samples of their songs, see where they are performing next, and find out how to buy their music.

Alternatively, you may choose to design your sticker around an image identified with your social media site of choice instead of your own logo. An illustration of a bright blue bird would work well to promote a Twitter URL, as a bright blue bird is Twitter’s primary mascot. If you are going to use one of a massive number of social media themed images available free of charge on the Internet, however, remember to use only high-resolution images that will look good when printed, and respect copyright laws.

(Christy Correll)

Material Descriptions

Materials

BIOSTONE

One of our eco-friendly options that is actually made of stone—no trees are used. This material should not laminated.

CAST GLOSS

This is another material specially designed for the wine industry. It is paper-based with a high-gloss white finish. Same adhesive and liner as Estate #9.

CHROME (SILVER) BOPP

This material has the same water and oil-resistant properties as our White BOPP and Clear BOPP, but has the "mirror-like" look of shiny chrome.

CLASSIC CREST

Best suited for wine labels, this is a white paper stock with a dull matte finish. It is not suitable for lamination and is therefore not waterproof. Same adhesive and liner as Estate #9.

CLEAR BOPP

This is the clear version of the Polypropylene (BOPP) material. It has the same waterproof qualities as the White BOPP. It provides more of a "no label" look and is also suitable for window stickers (where reverse printing of the image allows the label to be applied to the inside of a glass window and be viewed from the outside).

ESTATE #9

This is a great option for wine labels, gourmet foods or applications where a textured finish is desired. Being a paper stock, it's not as water-resistant or durable as BOPP, but its light cream color and textured feel add a touch of the "unusual" to the right product. It features a special adhesive (removable in 100+ degree hot water) and a stronger liner particularly suited to machine application. Not suitable for lamination.

GOLD POLYESTER (METALIZED)

This material will make your labels shine! Suitable for most labeling applications, it has a strong adhesive backing and must be laminated. Choose glossy laminate to make your label designs pop, or matte for a unique, elegant look.

KRAFT (RECYCLED)

This is a recycled 100% post consumer waste material. It is a 55# paper material that is a wonderful option if an “earthy” appearance is desired. The stronger liner is well suited for machine application. Depending upon face, substrate, water temperature and dwell time, label may be removed in hot water. It is not suitable for lamination; therefore, it is not water or oil resistant.

REMOVABLE WHITE BOPP

This material is the same as our standard BOPP, but has a special, "less aggressive" adhesive designed to allow the label to be removed or re-positioned after application. Depending on the surface it will be applied to, customer testing is strongly recommended. We can provide samples for this purpose.

SATIN CLOTH

Quite the unique material! Yes, it is woven satin acetate cloth. Think wine or spirit labels! This material will make your product packaging POP. The stronger liner is well suited for machine application. Depending upon face, substrate, water temperature and dwell time, label may be removed in hot water.

SQUEEZABLE

A white, 3mil film that is better suited for squeezable applications. This material has proven to work well in a variety of applications, so you can be confident it will perform well for you.

VELLUM (RECYCLED)

A great “green” choice, this 60# vellum is 100% recycled with 100% post consumer waste material. Cannot be laminated. Is neither water nor oil-resistant. The stronger liner is well suited for machine application. Depending upon face, substrate, water temperature and dwell time, label may be removed in hot water.

WHITE BOPP

This is our most commonly used material and is suitable for most applications. It's a polypropylene material with a permanent adhesive. It is impervious to water and oils, and is particularly suitable for bath and body products, as well as food containers.

WHITE EARTHFIRST PLA

A more environmentally friendly alternative to White BOPP. The PLA stands for Polylactic Acid (a biopolymer made from corn rather than petrochemicals). Similar look and feel to BOPP and suitable for most applications, but should not be used directly on candle containers.

WHITE FLEXIBLE VINYL

This is our most substantial material. The vinyl is thicker than BOPP, and is most suitable for outdoor applications where greater strength and durability are needed, or where lengthy exposure to the elements is an issue.

WINDOW DECAL (CLEAR/ULTRA-REMOVABLE)

We offer this window decal option as an alternative to static cling. The face stock is clear with excellent clarity. The adhesive is an ultra-removable featuring excellent weatherability and UV resistance. It removes cleanly from a wide variety of substrates without staining or ghosting. Why worry about static clings staying on when you can have removable adhesive there to hold it in place?

CAST GLOSS

This is another material specially designed for the wine industry. It is paper-based with a high-gloss white finish. Same adhesive and liner as Estate #9.

CHROME (SILVER) BOPP

This material has the same water and oil-resistant properties as our White BOPP and Clear BOPP, but has the "mirror-like" look of shiny chrome.

CLASSIC CREST

Best suited for wine labels, this is a white paper stock with a dull matte finish. It is not suitable for lamination and is therefore not waterproof. Same adhesive and liner as Estate #9.

CLEAR BOPP

This is the clear version of the Polypropylene (BOPP) material. It has the same waterproof qualities as the White BOPP. It provides more of a "no label" look and is also suitable for window stickers (where reverse printing of the image allows the label to be applied to the inside of a glass window and be viewed from the outside).

ESTATE #9

This is a great option for wine labels, gourmet foods or applications where a textured finish is desired. Being a paper stock, it's not as water-resistant or durable as BOPP, but its light cream color and textured feel add a touch of the "unusual" to the right product. It features a special adhesive (removable in 100+ degree hot water) and a stronger liner particularly suited to machine application. Not suitable for lamination.

GOLD POLYESTER (METALIZED)

This material will make your labels shine! Suitable for most labeling applications, it has a strong adhesive backing and must be laminated. Choose glossy laminate to make your label designs pop, or matte for a unique, elegant look.

KRAFT (RECYCLED)

This is a recycled 100% post consumer waste material. It is a 55# paper material that is a wonderful option if an “earthy” appearance is desired. The stronger liner is well suited for machine application. Depending upon face, substrate, water temperature and dwell time, label may be removed in hot water. It is not suitable for lamination; therefore, it is not water or oil resistant.

REMOVABLE WHITE BOPP

This material is the same as our standard BOPP, but has a special, "less aggressive" adhesive designed to allow the label to be removed or re-positioned after application. Depending on the surface it will be applied to, customer testing is strongly recommended. We can provide samples for this purpose.

SATIN CLOTH

Quite the unique material! Yes, it is woven satin acetate cloth. Think wine or spirit labels! This material will make your product packaging POP. The stronger liner is well suited for machine application. Depending upon face, substrate, water temperature and dwell time, label may be removed in hot water.

SQUEEZABLE

A white, 3mil film that is better suited for squeezable applications. This material has proven to work well in a variety of applications, so you can be confident it will perform well for you.

VELLUM (RECYCLED)

A great “green” choice, this 60# vellum is 100% recycled with 100% post consumer waste material. Cannot be laminated. Is neither water nor oil-resistant. The stronger liner is well suited for machine application. Depending upon face, substrate, water temperature and dwell time, label may be removed in hot water.

WHITE BOPP

This is our most commonly used material and is suitable for most applications. It's a polypropylene material with a permanent adhesive. It is impervious to water and oils, and is particularly suitable for bath and body products, as well as food containers.

WHITE EARTHFIRST PLA

A more environmentally friendly alternative to White BOPP. The PLA stands for Polylactic Acid (a biopolymer made from corn rather than petrochemicals). Similar look and feel to BOPP and suitable for most applications, but should not be used directly on candle containers.

WHITE FLEXIBLE VINYL

This is our most substantial material. The vinyl is thicker than BOPP, and is most suitable for outdoor applications where greater strength and durability are needed, or where lengthy exposure to the elements is an issue.

WINDOW DECAL (CLEAR/ULTRA-REMOVABLE)

We offer this window decal option as an alternative to static cling. The face stock is clear with excellent clarity. The adhesive is an ultra-removable featuring excellent weatherability and UV resistance. It removes cleanly from a wide variety of substrates without staining or ghosting. Why worry about static clings staying on when you can have removable adhesive there to hold it in place?

Artwork Specifications

Laminates

High Gloss

High gloss is our most popular laminate. It is the least expensive option and provides protection for the label and a high gloss shiny finish.

Matte

The Matte Laminate provides your label with a dull, non-glossy finish. Some customers consider this achieves a more "natural" look.

Thermal Transfer

This is a gloss laminate that is designed to work with most over-printing thermal transfer printers. We do recommend you get samples first to test through your own printer before placing an order with this laminate.

UV Outdoor Gloss

As the name implies this is best used for labels that will be used outdoors. It has a high gloss finish with excellent UV resistance. It is best paired with our vinyl material for the most durable outdoor label.