I was meeting with my accountant last week, and since I am always curious as to what other professionals and businesses outside the printing industry are doing, the subject of social media came up—LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, et al., and he just sighed and said, “You know, I just don’t want to do any of that.” This same feeling was echoed by an old friend of mine who is the editor of Police magazine—and is echoed by a lot of people in various types of businesses.

I can sympathize. It took me a while to board the social media train. I was on MySpace about five years ago, at the instigation of a friend of mine, and within a week I had committed “MySpace-icide” as I thought the whole thing was incredibly tedious. I also have no interest in sharing the minutiae of my life with, well, the world—how else can I maintain my reputation as an enigmatic man of mystery? (Or it could be that I’m just really boring.)

So for a while I resisted the whole social media thing—largely because for me, “social networking” is synonymous with Friday Happy Hour at Tiznow’s bar, or my Toastmasters meetings, or industry events. And, having a writer’s temperament, I was really looking for more “anti-social media”—you know, where you do searches for people you never want to link to and send them “I don’t want to friend you” notes. I think Facebook should have, in addition to “Add Friend,” an “Add Blood Enemy” button. (Oh, but I kid my Italian heritage.) Maybe what I need is GetOutofMySpace.

I signed up for a LinkedIn account a few years ago, and it really has been a chore to do anything with it—I may even still have outstanding link requests I have yet to respond to (if you are one of them, don’t take it personally).

About a year or two ago, I began investigating Facebook and given how many old high school classmates tracked me down (for reasons passing understanding) I can’t help but get the sense that Facebook is underwritten by the American Psychiatric Association. (When people ask me, “What do I need to get started on Facebook?” I respond, “A world-class therapist.”) Also, if there is an advantage to LinkedIn, it’s that its status updates, compared to those of Facebook, have fewer mentions of babies’ bodily functions. I also refuse to ever take quizzes—“Answer these questions and find out what type of bacterial infection you most resemble!” or some such. One of the advantages to being out of school is that I don’t have to take pop quizzes anymore! I’m waiting for my dentist to friend me and insist that I post status updates about how often I floss. (I also have problems with the word “friend” as a verb, but that’s a whole other issue.)

As for Twitter...I confess, I do rather like it. First of all, it’s good exercise, trying to get myself to say something in 140 characters. I can barely write my name in less than 2,000 words, to which this post will amply attest. Second of all, it’s fun to try to come up with one-liners. And some tweets from colleagues do provide interesting links and commentary, and retweets and other responses do generate interesting virtual conversations.

Recently, though...I’ve had a bit of a change of heart about the other social networking sites. Part of it was I delved into these things in more detail for my latest WhatTheyThink special report, “Social Media for Graphic Communications: A WhatTheyThink Strategy Summary Report—The Hows and Whys of Social Media.”

I have recently been playing with TweetDeck, and, curiously, having all my Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn feeds in one window actually does make me feel...well, connected in some way. (Some people tweet way too much and need to be stopped!) And then I found the TweetDeck iPhone app...there’s no escape!

But, getting back to my accountant’s comment—these things are not for everyone. Indeed, one New York Times blog cited the comments of New Yorker contributor George Packer:

he decided to attack Twitter in a blog post that ironically got much of its attention because a link to it was reposted more than 700 times on Twitter.

“Every time I hear about Twitter I want to yell Stop,” he writes. “The notion of sending and getting brief updates to and from dozens or thousands of people every few minutes is an image from information hell.”


“Twitter is crack for media addicts,” he writes. “It scares me, not because I’m morally superior to it, but because I don’t think I could handle it.

It’s a fair point, and not everyone likes these things. But then no one is forcing anyone to use social media—or are they? In many ways, it’s reminiscent of e-mail. Not everyone likes e-mail, even in this day and age, and getting people to respond to e-mail is often a chore. For others, it’s the telephone, and getting in touch with some people by phone can be a challenge. (Honestly, I hate the telephone. I much prefer texting, e-mail, instant messaging—heck, even carrier pigeon—to the phone.) Everyone has their own communication preferences, and frustration exists when these preferences clash. When one colleague or customer prefers e-mail and never answers his phone, it can cause trouble when another is the exact opposite. Trust me.

However, as businesspeople, we owe it to our businesses and to potential customers to be as available as we can. If we run a business and never check e-mail, we lose the business of those who prefer communicating with people via e-mail. Likewise, if we run a business and hate to answer the telephone and never have our mobiles turned on, we lose the business of those who prefer to communicate by phone. Trust me.

Social media is the latest extension to this, and if we ignore these things we risk losing the business of those who prefer to communicate this way. So while there are people who don’t want to tweet or be on LinkedIn, no one may be directly forcing them to, but they may be missing out on a significant number of business prospects. We may not like prevailing trends, but if other people do...well, that’s why they’re prevailing. And while we can rail against it all we want, what good does it really do us? You need to go where the customers and/or colleagues and/or competition all are.

Anyway, in the report, I address these issues, provide background data, and spend the bulk of the report going through each of these media channels one by one and explaining:

  • what it is

  • what is required to get started

  • what it costs

  • how printers can use it for their own businesses

  • how printers can use it for their clients

These things are not going away—and when you consider that all the social media that everyone talks about today literally did not exist five years ago, one wonders what we’ll all being doing in 2015, which will likely be the next stage or logical evolution of what we’re doing now (just as what we’re doing now is the logical evolution of the Internet, as well as the basic human need to communicate and talk to one another). So people can hold out all they want, and lament that these things are just a fad or a time toilet, but bear in mind that that’s what people said about the Internet circa 1995. And they were proven decidedly wrong.

This post was decidedly more than 140 characters. Sigh. Anyway, see you on TwitterFacebookLinkedInTweetDeck.