Today’s guest post is from Katherine Tattersfield, social media manager for

I have a confession to make.

When I first started working as the online marketing director for a commercial printing company, I felt a strong sense of irony. Since my background is strictly digital, I spent the early days of career trying to convince small business owners to abandon the printing ship for good. I wrote articles mocking print ads for their high costs and antiquated approach to outreach. My marketing game plan revolved around Facebook, Twitter, and search engine optimization. I was completely convinced that print had no place in the advertising budget of any local brand.

RSS IconThere was only one problem with my complaints about print media. They were baseless because I’d never actually managed a print campaign.

I just repeated the mantras I heard from my equally ignorant peers, and didn’t bother to do my own investigating. Since that time, I’ve had the opportunity to lead several successful print campaigns for clients. After downing a big old slice of humble pie, I can say for certain that print and social media are both valuable, complementary tools.

The Credibility Factor

Most small business owners know they need to be active on the social web, and they’re making a solid effort to build online communities. But here’s something most social media professionals don’t want brick and mortar businesses to know: social media content lacks credibility in the minds of consumers. Your customers visit your Facebook page to get an idea of what you’re all about, but they have a totally different mindset when they’re consuming digital media. Basically, they’re taking all that hard work with a grain of salt because of the medium. They go online expecting to be bombarded with inane ads, questionable information, and even outright deception.

Print media, on the other hand, commands respect. Countless studies reveal a strong bias in favor of print media with respect to authenticity. For this reason, it’s better to introduce yourself to new customers through a print piece inviting them to connect across your social channels than vice versa. Use this knowledge to your advantage by creating a flyer with an enticing offer that can only be redeemed through a Facebook app page or tweeting a specific hashtag.

Personalization Through Print

Market research confirms that personalized ads get a much higher response rate. Emails that contain an name instead of a generic greeting get more clicks because the receipt feels as though the message was tailor-made for his or her inbox. Outside of email, it’s difficult to craft online content that gives users the impression it was made especially for them. In fact, consumers often shy away from overly personal online interactions for privacy reasons. They also appear somewhat adverse to intimacy with marketers on social sites. Facebook users in particular typically disengage from brands they perceive as being too intrusive or irrelevant to their lives. This poses a real dilemma for small businesses because the human feel is what independent brands rely on for long term growth.

Thankfully, there’s one sure fire way for local advertisers to leverage the power of personalization: variable data printing. Without getting too technical, variable data printing uses software that allows for mass customization of documents. That means a restaurant can manage a direct mail campaign that includes menus along with a personal invitation for guests to join their neighbors for dinner on a certain day of the week. Said business would be able to invite everyone who lives on Elm St. in on a Tuesday and the folks over on Main to come in on Wednesday. Another idea would be to tailor the direct mail content to the recipient’s interests. Homes near an elementary school would receive mailers highlighting the children’s menu whereas residents in a trendy condo complex would get discounts for happy hour. Either way, everyone on the list will be encouraged to check-in at the restaurant on Facebook to share their real life experiences with their Internet social circles.

About the Author

Katherine is a professional copywriter and social media manager at She fell into online marketing in 2010, and built her career around this dynamic field. She earned her B.A. in Political Science from California State University, Northridge (Summa). When she’s not writing, Katherine enjoys photography, skateboarding, graphic design, and chasing her dog around with her husband. Connect with her on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google Plus.