When Kevin Swindell was laid off from his management position in a printing company in November 2013 after 25 years in business, he didn’t waste much time. He founded his own company, Wyke Print Solutions. “Sticking to what I knew best was the natural thing to do”, he says. That doesn’t mean he just continued doing business as usual. Quite the opposite: Swindell recognized the potential of social media to grow his company and has used it in innovative ways.

Wyke Print Solutions is a printing business without printers. “I don’t actually print anything!”, says Swindell.  “Instead, I work with suppliers across the country, specialists in their field, to give our customers access to a huge range of printed material and latest technologies at competitive prices.” As a graphic and web designer, Swindell produces all the design work and creates suitable files for output; he also provides complete web design and hosting solutions. His equipment is light and portable: An iPhone, an iPad and PC, Adobe design software and WordPress. “Oh, and a little black book full of super print suppliers”, he adds.

As an enthusiastic Facebook user, he was convinced that social media could be a powerful marketing tool for printing business. While his former employer was skeptical, Swindell wanted to put his ideas to the test. “I guess he was the catalyst for my keen interest”, he says about his former boss. “I soon discovered that the two main players, Facebook and Twitter, both had very different audiences and therefore needed different content. This fascinated me”.

On Twitter, he found a local business networking hour and soon recognized an opportunity: “Do a great job and customers will use social media to tell their friends and followers. I guess there’s an element of luck involved, some share more than others.”

For Swindell, this realization led to a surprise: He became the printing solutions provider of choice for a whole street in one town – all because of social media. His first Twitter customer was from Sherborne, a town in northwest Dorset, in South West England. Helen Brown from Gathered Handmade was impressed with the service she received and tweeted about it. The next customer was from Oliver’s Coffee Shop on the same street, then from the Slipped Stitch and then from Sincerely Yours. The name of this street? “Cheap Street”! Fact.

Other customers that use Wyke Print Solution’s services include a small brain charity called Cavernoma Alliance UK and Albion Stone Limited.

For Swindell, the biggest challenge with social media and Twitter in particular is trying to build customer relationships using just 140 characters. “Understanding your audience and finding the best balance of networking “chat” versus “selling” can also be a challenge”, he says. The entrepreneur also recognized the importance of following like-minded businesses, competitors and suppliers. This provides useful insights into what other businesses are doing and into the newest technologies and business models. It has also helped Swindell find new suppliers or reconnect with businesses he had worked with before. “Just a week ago I stumbled across a company who I had dealt with many years ago but couldn’t remember the name of the company. Whilst browsing through businesses to follow I was amazed to find the company in a list delivered by Twitter’s algorithm.”

While it all started as an experiment to see how social media can be used in marketing a new business, Swindell is convinced by its power: “I can safely say that without social media my business would not be where it is today!”