One of the developments I've noticed this year is the number of dealers, collectors and others in the hobby starting to embrace social media.
When I set up Sports Collectors Daily's Twitter account last year, I found only a couple of hobby-related people had signed on. Since then Twitter has exploded. I'm still not sure of its long-term merits. But it's hot--and it's an easy way to share quick opinions, updates and stories that don't always make our pages.
Facebook is an even bigger phenomenon. What started on college campuses is now quite mainstream. We've launched a new Sports Collectors Daily Fan page, which includes our RSS feed, a few photos and other related bits. I'm also trying to get better about posting some notes on the Wall from time to time. It's a great way to connect--about hobby issues and just general stuff on a more personal basis.
There are plenty of big-time hobby businesses who haven't signed up for either Twitter or Facebook yet and some that have aren't utilizing it at all. Yes, it's "another thing" that takes time but I can tell you that you're crazy if you don't get on board. It's a huge, virtually untapped market. It doesn't take a lot of time to add something to your pages. And it's FREE advertising.
One mistake some hobby businesses have made, though, is to turn it strictly into a marketing tool. If you want to succeed in whatever kind of social media you engage, you've got to be more than that. Make an observation. Pass along a tip or a cool item you've just picked up. Show off your hobby knowledge. Engage other sports fans in a discussion that has nothing to do with cards or autographs or old baseball programs. Take a picture of yourself at a show and update live. Do something to show you care about your friends and followers. Social media is about being a community. Be a friend first. You can sell later.
Here's a link to our Fan page, by the way.
John Schenk, the St. Louis-area high schooler who's built an autograph business that was featured on the local NBC station in the spring, tries to help charities with his signings whenever possible.
Here's a link to a private signing with a few former St. Louis Cardinals players he's got going now. It's aimed at helping some of his fellow teen agers stay on the right track.