As I previously mentioned, LinkedIn, the professional social networking site, is a great place for connecting with industry colleagues and learning more about companies. Like other social networking sites, when you join LinkedIn, you create a profile with pertinent professional information. I make sure that my professional information is kept up to date and that I link to the Happy Cactus Designs website in my profile. A person viewing your profile on LinkedIn cares about where you've been, who you know, and how a potential connection between the two of you could add value to their own business pursuits.
LinkedIn also hosts industry discussion groups. I was surprised (and delighted) by the number of groups related to the stationery industry!
Greeting Card, Stationery & Gift Industry Gurus is the best of the stationery-related LinkedIn Groups that I have come across. It's well managed, and the discussions are usually informative. Members tend to post questions about manufacturing resources, printing, and packaging, as well as to request general feedback about their lines. Card & Gift Manufacturer & Sales Rep Exchange is good as well. I also belong to Greeting Card Network Group and Stationery Designers. In my opinion, the discussions in these two groups are hit or miss. There tends to be a lot of self-promotion and spammers posting random job announcements.
In the weeks leading up to the National Stationery Show, the show management has also hosts a private LinkedIn group for new exhibitors. I participated in the group last spring and discussions in the group tended to be sporadic. I heard from others in the industry that the group has been more active in years past.
Some groups are private and you must request to join; others are open. I've found that private groups with a good moderator, like the Greeting Card, Stationery & Gift Industry Gurus, tend to have better discussions and are not bogged down by spammers. I highly recommend electing to receive a daily digest of discussions for each group you join so you are not receiving emails all day long from group members.