With four tradeshows in as many months (Surfaces, Cevisama, Unicera, and Coverings), I’ve noticed several advancements within our industry that I felt should be pointed out. First, the increased usage of Quick Response (QR) codes and Microsoft Tags used by manufacturers to guide smartphone users to find more information, product videos and even promotions exclusive to those who scanned the codes.

The savviest of tile manufacturers understood that leading people to their website alone wasn’t enough so they created dedicated microsites specifically for this purpose. During the recently held Surfaces and StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas show in Las Vegas, I noticed QR codes everywhere on tile product boards and on literature. To mix things up, there were even two exhibitors who had configured black and white tiles into a large QR code that attendees could scan and enter to win products or room makeovers. Crossville went so far as to set-up and host a Social Media lounge with a live Twitter feed they used to monitor the show and their brand name.

What manufacturers, distributors, retailers and installers have realized is that having the best product around or possessing the best skills isn’t enough anymore. Your current partners and customers may know you and your impeccable track record, but what about everyone else? Unless you’re getting your name and brand out there in the world of Web 2.0, then you’re invisible to the hundreds, thousands and millions of people you should be reaching.

In the past, just having your business listed in a regional directory or B2B directory was good enough. Humor me and Google yourself and/or your business. What results did you get? Did you find a few obscure, unrelated results? If you want to remain relevant in the current economic market and you’re competing with someone who is on top of their marketing game, then you need to reach out of your tried-and-true safety zone via social media platforms. It’s all about brand recognition – a digital word-of-mouth per se.

Social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Linked and now Pinterest are continually gaining momentum. If you don’t have a presence on either of these platforms, then you are an unknown entity to the current purchasing generation.

Last year, during a tweetup held at KBIS in Las Vegas, Barbara Segal, the designer and founder of Twitter-based Interior Designer Chat (@IntDesignerChat), highlighted a chat response that said, “Gen Y will sign a contract on an iPad for a kitchen design quicker than any generation.” That bit of information spoke volumes to everyone in attendance.

Which brings me to another point, networking. In the past, you may have been too busy to attend networking events, for whatever reason. You might of thought, “I won’t know anybody,” “I have nothing in common with [insert industry name here] folks,” and so forth. Fair enough, but if you don’t go, how will you meet distributors, designers, architects, specifiers, installers or retailers – one of which who may be your next resource?

Finally, if after reading this, you’re ready to take the social media plunge but need a little guidance, then let me know. I would be happy to help you in any way I can. You can also joinTILEonTwitter, as well as ourFacebookpage, and LinkedIn group.