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Sistine Chapel

Let's face it. Facebook (and Google+) love pictures. It ranks at the top of the news feed food chain above text posts, videos, and links. It's the primary reason that many people visit Facebook in the first place. They want to see pictures of little Timmy sliding into third base, the places that their friends and family are visiting, and cats. Don't forget the cats.

Unfortunately, many businesses have focused on cats (or similar Facebook-friendly images) as their source of content. It simply doesn't have to be that way. It's the lazy approach to find things that make us laugh and then post them on our business Facebook pages in hopes that other people will laugh as well and like, comment on, or share the image. What's worse than the laziness factor is that it's insincere; it's like trying to fit in at a party where people are frolicking in order to spring a sales pitch on an unsuspecting soul while in line for a drink.

What's worse than the insincerity is that it simply doesn't work. Sure, people may like the picture of the Sistine Chapel that your sister posted. They may even share it. You may even be able to loosely justify it by saying that it's improving your branding. These are fine delusions, but they don't address the core problem you have with your Facebook page. You aren't actually becoming anything to your fans other than another interesting page that posts content that they occasionally see and rarely enjoy.

If Facebook (and Google+) are mostly visual platforms and you want to capture some of the "magic" without being a poser, you'll want to find the various treasure troves of content to post. Here are some...


Finding Images for Facebook (and Google+)

Tilt Shift Car

One of the most annoying practices that businesses employ on Facebook is that they talk about anything other than their business. Don't get me wrong, it's much more annoying (and completely useless) to post a feed-based flurry of links to your website every day. Still, if you're going to post images (and you should), there are places to find them that will improve your overall presence by staying interesting while also staying on point.

In this example, we'll look at a local Ford dealership. What do they do? They sell and service Ford vehicles as well as used vehicles of other manufacturers. There's no reason for a Ford dealership to post pictures of cats. They have plenty of content available to them that would serve them much better.

  • Google - The obvious choice. It's the other form of the lazy person's approach, but it works and can still help you to stay on point. Search for specific cars. Search for engines. Search for images from the various car shows around the world. When you find something you like, post the image with a unique description. Be sure to add a localized or otherwise-relevant spin to the description. For example, if you're posting an image of a concept 2015 Mustang, you could ask a question such as, "Is this different enough to make it stand out from the current body style?" or simply make a statement such as "We can't wait to get these here in Fond du Lac!" As always, you'll want to post a link to the source, but only after you've included the image. You don't want this to be a link post with a preview generated, so add the link to the description after you've already selected the image. This works on both Facebook and Google+.
  • Shutterstock - There are various paid image galleries that offer different packages. These are particularly useful when you're posting content to your website or blog about the local area. In this example, we used Shutterstock to find interesting images of Wisconsin, the home state of the dealership itself. This gave us very sharable content (23 shares from a dealership's website isn't too shabby) on the website itself as well as a dozen images that we can share on the dealership's Facebook page spread out over time if necessary or posted as an album.
  • Your Store - This is quite possibly the most under-utilized source of content for most businesses. It's also the most useful. Sure, there are plenty of businesses that are starting to post images of their happy customers, but it's not really super-engaging content. The buyer and anyone who knows them might like or share the image, but it's not going to get liked, commented on, or shared by anyone else. However, there is plenty going on other than the customers. In the example of the Ford dealership, there are often "cars with a story" coming through service. It could be a Ford with 300k miles. It could be one that just came back from a trip in the mountains and is now covered in mud. It could be an interesting or funny bumper sticker, a cool modification that someone made to a motor, or even something very simple like a silly outfit the boss wore to work today. There's content floating around the store every day. You just have to keep your eyes open for it.
  • The Area Around You - Every place has something photo-worthy. Whether you're in a bustling metro area or a desert wasteland, there are things happening or interesting scenes that can be captured with your smartphone. Do it. I couldn't tell you how many times I would stop in every city I've been to in order to take a picture of something cool had I managed a localized social media profile in that city. Take advantage of your surroundings and you'll find treasures that your localized fans will recognize and enjoy.
  • Your Imagination - This is rarely used as well but when it's done right, it's awesome. By using your imagination, you can explore both the store and the local area and manufacture scenes that would make for great posts on Facebook (and Google+). For example, you can go to the roof of the dealership and take a picture of the lot itself, then apply tilt-shift manipulation to the image for a really cool final product. The image above was a normal image, but when tilt-shift is applied, it makes it look like it's a miniature car.

You don't need cats. You need effort, imagination, and a willingness to be interesting with what it is that you do best. Don't try to fit in on Facebook (and Google+). Try to stand out.
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When Instagram decided to block Twitter from being able to post the images directly onto the platform, we all knew it was a matter of time that Twitter would have its own variation. We didn't realize that it would only take a few days. We also didn't expect it to be such a useful portion of the app.


As it turned out, the app is very strong, possibly even better than Instagram in UI. Granted, it's not a true replacement for Instagram, but with a little manual effort it can actually be used to generate interesting content directly from the lot onto all of your social media pages and profiles.


Here's how:

Understanding the Twitter Photo Filtering Tool

If I have one complaint about what Twitter has done with their photo filtering tool, it's that it's only available through their mobile apps. It would have been nice and a great differentiator between the app and Instagram, but it will suffice.


When you take a picture of something at the dealership with your smartphone, you can then bring it into Twitter. There is a cropping tool, an auto-fix button, and the filters that many are familiar with if they've used Instagram. Adjust the image appropriately and it's ready to post.


Now, just come up with a clever Tweet to go with it and you're ready to go. If you're using a picture that you've already taken with your smartphone, no problem. Twitter allows you to either take an image at that point or insert an image already in a gallery on your phone.


Depending on your smartphone, you may face challenges if you're trying to import an image from your computer. You can always use syncing software, connect your phone directly to your computer, or just upload the picture to an image sharing site like Imgur and then download it to your phone.

Get it Posted to Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and (yes) Instagram

Now that you have it on Twitter, it's time to upload the image to Facebook, Google+, and anywhere else you might have a strong social account such as Pinterest, Tumblr, and even Instagram itself.


When posting to Facebook and Google+, you'll want to add the image, THEN add the link to the Tweet itself. When you add an image, it prevents the link from expanding. This is important because links do not do as well on Facebook or Google+ as images. Still, you want the link to the original Twitter post for a couple of reasons, most importantly to get some exposure to your Twitter account for some cross-channel promotions.


Why Go Through the Trouble?

There are easier ways to post to the various social media sites. This is a very manual effort and may discourage dealers from doing it like this. Everything listed above is done so for a reason.


Twitter is one of the most under-utilized tools for dealers. Utilizing the filters and linking to the Tweets from your other social networks allows you to highlight your Twitter account and draw in other followers. Used right, Twitter can be a tremendous marketing and communication tool, but that's for another blog post.


The other reason to do it like rather than posting directly to Facebook from Instagram is because of exposure. As cool as Instagram can be, it presents challenges in your Facebook timeline. If you're posting more than one image in a 24-hour period, Instagram photos get "batched" into an album. Neither this album nor the individual images can be liked, commented on, or shared directly from your news feed. People will have to click through to the image to be able to interact with it, and most won't. They'll just pass it right by.


Also, Instagram doesn't post directly to Google+ or Pinterest anyway, so you'll be adding them manually either way. Posting it like I detailed above to all of your social profiles takes about 2 minutes and expands the potential reach greatly.


Lastly, people recognize the filters from Instagram. It makes images look more real. It makes them look authentic. These are your images and people appreciate images that you took more than images you found on the internet. While the Twitter filters aren't exactly like the Instagram filters, they're still pretty darn cool.


* * *


Social media is about authenticity. If you're making the effort to take images at your dealership, you should be taking the time to separate yourself from the competition by positioning the photos in the best possible light. This process, long (2 minutes) as it is, will give you an edge over your competitors and will let your customers know that there are real people behind the profiles.

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There is a very distinguishable difference between SEO content and content that brings SEO value.

The easiest way to look at it is that SEO content is what you put on each page of your website to let both visitors and the search engines understand what the page is about, while content that brings SEO value isn't necessarily there to help the page rank but to help other pages on the site rank better. The easiest way to create content that has the ability to bring SEO value is to make sure that the content is engaging and that people will be willing to both link to and share the content itself.

This is Part III in the series about “Killing Birds With Content Stones”. Read Part I and Part II first.

It has to be real.

When most internet marketers think of using content for SEO, they think along the lines of using the appropriate keywords in the html content on the page to demonstrate the keywords for which they want the page to rank. This is, in many ways, harder than writing engaging content. There's a lot less science and practically no risk in writing engaging content. It's what Google and Bing want. As a result, giving it to them gives you little chance of triggering anything negative as a result, at least not from the search engines themselves.


With modern SEO, content has gone from being a tool to being the hub. If you use content marketing properly, you can enhance your SEO while still bringing value to the website and social media sites at the same time. Here's how:

How Engaging Content Works for SEO

If you are trained in search engine optimization, get one thing out of your head for the rest of this article. Keywords don't matter in engaging content. Our goals with writing engaging content have nothing to do with getting that page ranked for any particular keywords. It will rank because it's valuable and the keywords that it ranks for do not really matter. The goal is to get traffic, links, and social signals. These types of pages do not have to rank for the keywords that you want and they don't have to convert visitors.


It's hard to understand for many marketers. It's almost unnatural, to want to put out a piece of content that has no direct value from a search or conversion perspective, but it's the indirect value that can be so much more powerful when done right.


These engagement pages are designed to stay loosely on topic with the goals of the company or website, but only so much as to have a reason to exist. Using a car dealer as an example, the vast majority of the site might be geared towards selling cars, servicing cars, or highlighting the dealership, but the engagement content will only touch on the appropriate topics. It could be an article about the local area or even the state itself. At that point, it becomes an opportunity to highlight landing pages that are area specific.


When you create the page, it will be about a topic that allows you to work in links (or in many cases, a single link) to the target landing page. In the example below, the page is about iconic images in Wisconsin while the landing page it links to is specifically geared to rank for the term "Milwaukee Ford Dealers". Do what you can to make sure the link is naturally situated within the content.


The goal is to build a page that is engaging enough to be shared on social media to generate social signals for the domain as well as have the potential to be linked to by other websites that find the content interesting or useful.

Write What Your Visitors Would Want to Read

I've always thought it was easier to take a writer and train them on SEO than to take an SEO and train them to write well. Don't get me wrong - a strong SEO content writer is still valuable, just not as much as they have been in the past. Natural writing is prevailing in the search engines, so as long as someone knows how to properly describe what's going on with a particular page or the website/company as a whole, they should be able to piece together good SEO content.


Writing engaging content is harder and potentially more valuable from an SEO perspective. The example above was designed to appeal to people around the state itself. The subject should always tie in with the target landing page in some way. Since our landing page is targeting Milwaukee but the dealership isn't in Milwaukee, we posted about the entire state and worked in references to the bigger cities in the state - Milwaukee and Madison. Let's say our goal was not to target the brand and a city but rather a model and the local area. We might have posted something like "Most Used and Abused F-150's in Fond du Lac". A piece like that would require much more research and help from either the service department, locals in the community prompted by social media, or both. In that case, the landing page that we would create would likely be an inventory search page for F-150s or even a landing page highlighting the vehicle.


You know your area. You know your brand. You know your products. There's plenty of valuable content available to post about. It doesn't have to be an article or a list of images like the one above. It could be a video, an infographic, a review (written, not scraped or syndicated), or any of a dozen different types of content.


Always think about it from a sharing perspective. Would YOU be interested in sharing the content on social media sites if you didn't work there? Would you be willing to link to the page as a resource or piece of interest if you had a website about the subject? In the example above, the page could be sent to local newspaper websites (particularly if the images were unique to the business), a tourism site, or any website that had an interest in the state of Wisconsin. Schools, government agencies, travel sites - all make for a good potential link. They don't have to link to your target. Your page takes care of that for you. Your goal is to get links and social signals to the engaging content that links to your landing page. It's not as good as getting a direct link or social signals to the target itself, but the vast majority of landing pages do not have enough general interest to make them sharable. This is an alternative to direct links and if done right, it's the most effective way to move the needle in your search rankings.


In the next part, we will describe in detail how to get the most social media benefit from the same piece of content. Stay tuned.

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There's really no way around it. The only technique to truly maximize the effectiveness of your content to be engaging on your website, relevant for SEO, and useful for social media is to think three-dimensionally.

This is Part II in the series about "Killing Birds With Content Stones". Read Part I first.

We all understand that different content has different purposes. Our goal from an efficiency perspective is to accomplish as many goals as possible with each piece of content without taking away from the effectiveness towards one or more of the goals. It's easy to say that a piece of content helps a little with engagement and social but is really strong for SEO. It's another thing entirely to create a piece of content that works well across the whole spectrum.


It's hard. It's not impossible. Here's how.

Asking the Right Questions Before Producing the Content

Before you can produce the content, you have to make sure that the proposed piece is going to fulfill the goals appropriately. For this portion, we're going to use the example of a car dealership who is diving into content marketing. They want to produce content for their website that is engaging to their visitors, that assists in improving their search engine optimization, and that can effectively be used as content to spread through social media.


Some content is born from brainstorming or simply pops in one's head as a good piece of content to post. Other times, inspiration comes in the form of an event. For example, a Ford dealer in Seattle might have a purple Ford Focus drive into the service bay that inspires a marketing manager. They decide that they want to do a picture post about the different colors of Fords. Before coming up with the plan surrounding the content, they have to ask themselves a few questions.

  • Will this be a piece of content that's interesting to people who visit my site? In this case, the fact that the topic is Ford vehicles makes it interesting enough, but they can add an additional touch to it if they can keep it localized. Rather than just different colors of Fords, they may decide to make it different colors of Fords around Seattle.
  • Can this help with SEO? This is the easy question to answer. For this particular piece of content, since the topic surrounds vehicles themselves, they will be able to link to pages on the website that sell those vehicles. Under the image for the Ford Focus, they'll be able to link to an inventory search for a Focus and anchor it, "Ford Focus for Sale in Seattle".
  • Is it interesting enough to be shared on social media? It might be, particularly if the images are strong enough. Getting it shared on Facebook will be pretty easy if at least one of the images is strong. Getting it retweeted will require some clever titling. Since social media in general and Twitter in particular love trending topics, the marketing manager may decide to latch onto a semi-current topic and title the piece, "15 Shades of Ford Across Seattle", playing on the 50 Shades of Gray phenomenon. It's a little risky considering the subject matter of the book, but it's also been played with enough to allow certain discretion.

Now that we have a topic, it's time to determine the effort and timing.

Force it Now or let it Simmer?

There are two options for a piece of content like this. Since it's only time-sensitive based upon the popularity of the title, it's possible to let the piece simmer and grow over time. More on that later.


The first and most common option is to go for it now. We have the concept. Now, let's put the piece together. We should have the image of the first purple Focus (with permission from the customer, of course). Now, we need more. There should be at least a couple more vehicles on the lot that have interesting colors that make the vehicles look great. This is important - by mixing in some in-house images, it makes the overall story more compelling as it pertains to the business itself. Let's say we have 4 images total. Now, we need more.


Most will go to the internet for this, and they may get lucky and find some good images by searching for "Ford Seattle" in image searches. Even better, they may search for "Ford Mustang Club Seattle" and find images there. Wherever you find the images, always attribute the actual source. If you didn't take the picture, give credit to those who did.


There may be a desire to cheat a little and include images of Fords outside of Seattle, but that would be too risky. If there simply aren't enough available to make a valid piece, they may want to append the title to say, "15 Shades of Ford Across Seattle and Beyond". It's a cheat and not ideal, but efficiency is more important than perfection. If you don't have enough content, don't force it.


In this hypothetical instance, the marketing manager has 9 images - four from the dealership and five local cars they found online. Nine is good but doesn't have the oomph of 15, so if they absolutely must get the piece out now and they don't want to settle for non-local images, it's time to find them in the real world. It could be as simple as sitting at the corner and shooting pictures of a couple of cars at stop lights. This seems cheesy, but there's nothing wrong with it as long as you don't have license plates visible. The marketing manager may drive around searching. This is not ideal, but again, this is assuming you want the piece to go out immediately.


What would be ideal is to go with option two: patience. The content will come. Tell the service writers what you're doing and ask them to keep their eyes out. You may even want to be specific - "I need green, maroon, and light blue to fill out the spectrum."


The other technique is to reach out through social media itself. If your Facebook page is vibrant and has a lot of local fans, ask them for help. Tell them what you're doing and ask them to send in pictures of their own Ford vehicles if they have something that matches your needs. Over time, between what happens at the store and what happens on social media, your patience will pay off and you'll have a much more impressive piece of content than if you force it. This is the difference between good 3D and bad 3D. Both deliver the desired effect but one is more memorable than the other.


Make it Three Dimensional

You've asked the right questions. You have the right content. Now, it's time to make sure that it fulfills all of the goals.

  • Engaging Website Content - If you have a "fun" section on your website such as a blog, this is where you'll want to place the content. The worst thing that can happen is to take someone who wants to do business and distract them with frivolous content, so by placing it on the blog or in an area designed for "fun" topics, you'll keep the serious visitors serious while still engaging with those who are visiting for other reasons. Keep the spin of the content localized - people love seeing what's close to them on the great big internet. It helps to highlight their surroundings, gives them pride in their city, and offers a way for them to get involved with comments such as, "I saw that F-150 at Target the other day."
  • SEO Content - There's nothing wrong with linking to internal pages that are about business. People expect it. While they might not click directly to a search for Ford Fusion inventory, the search engines will definitely follow the link and attribute additional weight to the page as a result.
  • Social Media Content - With a proper three dimensional piece of content, there will be an inherent desire to share it. The content must be interesting enough to share and then must be exposed to locals so they can share it as well. This is most effective on Facebook, of course, where the degrees of separation between people makes an image much more likely to be seen by the owner of the vehicle. Have your employees share the page. They can highlight individual images in their Facebook feed. If you reached out to a local car club, contact them or simply post it on their wall with credit going to them as deserved. The art of exposing the content properly on social media is another blog post entirely, but I think you get the picture.

In the next part, we will describe in detail how to get the most SEO benefit from the content. Stay tuned.
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Over the past couple of months, I've been working on a standard operating procedure for a comprehensive social media marketing service. It has been a while since I had to develop an overarching strategy rather than one that was individualized for a business or organization, so my daily reading of the industry trends and changes has had my eyes bleeding by the time the kids get ready for school. My fingers have bled as well... from making adjustments to the SOP as the industry continues in its unending state of metamorphosis.


In the worlds of search marketing, there are needs to stay on top of things. Google and Bing make changes to their algorithms. Consumers make changes in their searching habits. Devices make changes in how they present the data. It's pretty rough trying to keep up with search. However, keeping up with the changes in search is a piece of cake compared to keeping a social marketing service fresh and operating properly.


My conclusion in putting together this SOP is simple - keep it general and fluid. It must be allowed to grow and adjust based upon the changes that are made by the social media sites and the users themselves. Here are a few examples of activities that may have been a part of a social media SOP if I made it last week:

  • Post an image to Instagram and have it feed through to Twitter.
  • Sponsor one post a day on Facebook that is business-oriented.
  • Get people to +1 your Google+ business page as well as recent posts.
  • Post to Pinterest three times a day and feed it through to Facebook.

These would have all been valid actions in a standard operating procedure last week. Today, they are all obsolete.


Social media moves way too quickly for concrete practices. Any full-service company that wants to run your company's social media needs to demonstrate the ability to stay informed about the maelstrom of changes that happen every week as well as the ability to keep a fluid service that moves with the trends and the changes themselves. If they're offering a social media service that is static, that is using techniques that have been "proven to work for a long time", then they do not understand the very nature of social media and should not be trying to run yours for you.

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In an ideal world, we would have the time and resources to create four types of content: converting website content, engaging website content, SEO content, and social media content.

Throw in public relations content, supporting content, and consumer resources and now you have a ton of content needs without a ton of time to create it.

This is where the bird-hunting content producers of the world can shine. Thankfully, just about anyone at a business can kill multiple birds with each content stone if they know how to do it right.

Understanding the Importance of Each Type of Content

Content that is placed on your website, blog, supporting sites, and social media is normally done so for a reason. Sure, there are people who love to write, take pictures, or shoot videos as a hobby, but in the business world we normally want to get a benefit from our efforts. One of the biggest speed bumps that businesses often make is that they don't know how to properly define the goals of their content. With a proper definition, the content has less of a chance of being successful.

For now, we're not going to look at conversion content, PR, support, or consumer resources. They are much more focused types of content and while it's possible to hit them with content that achieves multiple goals, it's best to attack them individually. For example, you can say that a press release is something that can help with SEO as well as get shared on social media, but it doesn't replace the real SEO content or content that is designed for social media engagement. It's an addition and therefore is normally not crafted to accomplish the other goals as well.

Let's focus on engaging website content, SEO content, and social media content. Done properly, the vast majority of the pieces of content you create for one can apply to all three.

  • Engaging Website Content - This is the content that is designed to bring people in who are not necessarily looking for your product at that particular moment. They were a nice-to-have type of content prior to the Google Penguin update of April, 2012, but now they are absolutely essential thanks to Google's adoration for content that can be enjoyed, that brings value to the visitor, and that can be shared through social media as well as being the target of inbound links. Engaging website content does not sell a product or service. It supports the sale of those products in some way. It might be as direct as showing clever integration methods between an iPhone and a car, showing how the new Ford Fusion has systems that SYNC nicely with your smartphone. It might be as indirect as a gallery of images from different angles of the Seattle Space Needle. For a Seattle Ford Dealer, both of these examples would work nicely to accomplish the goal of making their website engaging to their potential customers.

  • SEO Content - The days of writing content on or off of your site or blog for the sheer sake of manipulating your search rankings are far behind us. 2011's Google Panda update and the several tweaks and improvements since then have forced businesses to take a longer look at quality over quantity. It's about manual and unique versus automated and duplicated. Today's SEO content brings value to the table. This ties in nicely to the other two types of content listed here.

  • Social Media Content - It's hard for many businesses to understand the levels of quality that are required on social media because of the camouflage created by all of the bad content that's shared every day by others. It cannot be understated that well-crafted content posted on social media can bring more value than dozens of low value posts. In fact, these low value posts can actually do harm. Crafting the right content for social media is the only way to tie it in directly with SEO and website engagement.

"Quality" is a buzzword that is dramatically overused in today's content marketing atmosphere. As a result, it's often misunderstood. One does not have to be a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist to post high-quality content. Some of the best content producers I know can barely form a sentence without a grammatical mistake. It's about bringing value, entertainment, or both to the table. It's about being interesting. It's about posting on your expertise, namely the business that you operate. If you sell Fords for a living, chances are you know a lot more than the average Barney or Betty about the capabilities of an F-250 diesel. If you don't, someone at the store does. Use it.

In the next post, we will go into details about "Thinking Three Dimensionally" to help you select the right topics and take the appropriate steps to post. Stay tuned.

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Using Your Website As Your Content Hub

There has been a continued push for corporate and even local business blogging since marketers started discovering the potential benefits several years ago. We're often told that a blog is where you put your content that doesn't necessarily sell your product, and that an offsite-blog is the way to go. In today's content marketing world, both ideas are wrong.


The one constant in internet marketing (and everything else in life) is change. Ideas that worked yesterday may not work today, but may work again tomorrow. It's the nature of the beast. Content marketing is a portion of internet marketing that has evolved rapidly over the years. In recent months, it has become arguably the most important component of an internet marketing strategy because both search engine marketing and social media marketing have become extremely dependent on the quality and style of content.


Blogging is something that every business should be doing. Many are. The challenge is that the concepts of the past are starting to become less valid. For example, many (including us) have said that blogging off of your domain either on a standalone URL or a subdomain of the primary was the best way to go. It allowed for more powerful link-building from a search perspective as well as giving an additional destination that wasn't tied into the primary website. In short, you put your business material on your website and your human material on your blog.


There were those who believed that bulking up the primary website by putting the blog as a subfolder of the primary domain was the way to go. Today, this is correct, but not for the reasons that most once argued. Blogging is no longer an appropriate SEO play, at least not from a "bulk" perspective. The concept that you should blog to get more pages for Google and Bing to index is antiquated. Yes, you should be putting high-quality content on your website, but blog content in the traditional format doesn't quite qualify. Putting content on your website on or off the blog and using it as individual content "hubs" is the (current) right way to do it.


That can change. It almost certainly will. Thankfully, it's not one of those strategies that must be unwound later when things change.


Defining the Blog Versus Site Content Strategies

Pohanka Hyundai i.oniqWhether you put the content on your normal website template or add it to a folder such as "/blog" is determined by a few different factors. There are several different strategies to consider; here are a handful:

  • Blog-Only - With this strategy, every piece of content that you publish that isn't directly associated with selling, business information, or other services goes on the blog. This is ideal if you don't publish very often.
  • Blog "Fun Stuff" and Put Other Content on Your Website - If you're busting out a good flow of content on a regular basis, you may choose this strategy. In it, you'll post "fun" content such as employee-of-the-month or customer-highlights on your blog, but relevant content of general interest on your primary website. The example to the right uses this strategy. In it, a Hyundai dealership posts a promotional video and interesting images of a concept vehicle. This is relevant but not directly associated with selling anything in particular.
  • No Blog - The old ideas of what blogging should and shouldn't be have been blurred over the years. Just about any type of content can go on a blog, but that same content can find a place on the primary website as well. Rather than a chronological posting style, this technique employees categorization in the menu. If you post a customer testimonial, it goes in that category. If you then post a video and images of a concept car, that goes in another category. It doesn't matter when they were posted; both get equal treatment in the menu bar.


Once you've established a style, it's time to get the content out there.


Content Size is Important But Not a Guiding Factor

Size MattersThe biggest mistake that marketers make with blogging is to believe that there are size constraints. Some want all of their posts to be 300-words, 500-words, or larger. Others like to keep it quick and easy. In reality, content is content and as long as it brings value to the visitor, it's worthy regardless of size.


That does not mean that you should post only a paragraph or two with every blog post. Just because it's not a make-or-break deciding factor doesn't mean that you should opt for the shortcut. Let your content size be determined by the potential value it brings. If you have a killer video that tells the whole story, a paragraph will probably be enough to make it a valid piece of content. The video is the star of the page in that scenario, so highlight it.


On the other hand, a resource list of tools that people can use to buy a car should be more than just a list. Describe the pros and cons of each tool. Give a little history about them. Describe why you believe one tool is better than another tool for certain needs.


Above all, remember that high-quality, unique content is what you should be striving for in each piece that you create. Bring something to the table. It's better to spend the time to make a page that people will want to share rather than posting unworthy bulk content over and over again.


Say what you need to say to bring value. No more. No less.

The Importance of the Hub

Hub and SpokeThe hub and spoke model has been used in business, government, and life in general for centuries. You have a centralized focus point from which other components can branch out and draw their strength.


You website content should be your content marketing hub. Some have chosen to turn other tools into their hub such as Facebook, niche communities, or even Tumblr. These strategies can be effective if done right. Doing it right is the challenge; they are extremely difficult to pull off, particularly in a retail setting. Complex strategies surrounding these different styles may prove to be the best way to go in the future, but today the benefits do not outweigh the drawbacks.


Using your website (whether through a blog or your primary website itself) is by far the easiest way to get both a search and social benefit from the content you create. Depending on resources, time, and the type of business you're running, creating your content hub can be approached from different directions but the end result is the same:

  • Make your website sharable

Your goal is to put content on your website that others will be willing to share. The various types of social media sites out there give you a tremendous pool of potential share venues. Facebook and Twitter are the most common, but one mustn't forget Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, and some of the other social sites out there.


A website that gets shared on social media gets benefits from three fronts. The first is obvious; any time your website is shared there's a chance that people will come and visit it. Depending on the power and reach of the profiles sharing it, you might get a nice spike in traffic. Even though it's the most obvious, it's also the least important. Visitors are nice, but those who come from social media shares are often the lowest value.


The second is becoming more important every day. Social signals are important to Google and Bing in their search rankings. They're becoming more important with every update. The more your website content is shared, the better the domain can rank.

  • Notice that I said, "the better the domain can rank."


It's not just the page itself that gets a benefit from your efforts. The domain gains credibility from the shares. If you're a car dealer, there's a good chance that people are not going to share an inventory details page of a vehicle they just found. They're not going to share your service appointment page. They're not going to share your oil change specials.


They will, however, share an interesting video and great images of a Hyundai concept car that they found on your website. By sharing this and similar pages, the search engines give it an authority bump.


The final front from which social media sharing can help is in sheer public perception. This is of light importance today but will grow in coming months as the social sites focus on domain shares. What's happening is this: widgets and apps are displaying "most shared" or "other pages from this domain" on the social sites themselves as well as offsite. The perception that content is sharable on a particular domain is going to become more valid in the near future. If your website has lots of good content that people have shared, they're more likely to explore your website. Again, this is minor today but is growing in importance.


Further Questions

QuestionsIn upcoming articles, we will cover:

  • How to make content that people will want to share
  • Finding content ideas by exploring
  • The proper content sharing structure to gain maximum exposure
  • How to build power accounts that can make "going viral" a possibility


In the meantime, keep reading everything you can about content marketing. It's not just the future. It's already here. Those who do content marketing properly are able to bypass traditional search engine optimization and social media marketing strategies because the content can be positioned to do all of the work for you.

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When the topic of SEO comes up, many people envision HTML code and meta tag adjustments. They think of keyword stuffing. They consider the bounds set by the OEM of what they can and cannot do with their websites and how far they can push the boundaries to extend their market reach.

They don't usually imagine finding cool images and videos of epic cars or amazing places, but that's one activity that dealers and SEOs can do to affect their overall search rankings as well as reach out to their communities with amazing and sharable content.

Today, social has become a tremendous SEO tool. Content is the key to true social interactions. The best content is informative, fun, or both. You should see where I'm heading with this, but just in case...


Step 1: Find Content that YOU Enjoy

There are two connections between our virtual world and the real world that need to be noted. On one hand, you have the "sell sell sell" mentality that often prevents dealers from adding content to their website that isn't totally on point with the goal of the dealership: more sales. On the other hand, we're car people. If you're in this business, you love cars (at least you should). As such, thatconnection should definitely come through to the online presence of the dealership but it's often absent.

Above, you'll see an image of a 1956 Ford F-100. It's one of the coolest trucks (in my humble opinion) that was ever built. Why not pay tribute to it on a Ford website? That would be fun, right?

Perhaps more importantly, it can help your search rankings as well as your social outreach by doing so. Find content you love. Then...


Step 2: Put It On Your Website

The most important part here is attribution. I'm not a fan of stealing content. Whenever possible, use images that you've taken. If you must use the internet, there are sites such as Shutterstock that allow you to pay for content images and they have tons of pictures of both cars and locations. If you're going to rely on Google to get the images, be sure to attribute the source with a link to them. They are supplying you with content that will help your website. The least you can do is help them back by supplying them with a link.

With that out of the way, let's talk content. The reason that you're supposed to find content that YOU enjoy is because you'll be able to write much more easily about it. If it's something that you don't care about, it'll show in your writing. If you adore it (just as I adore the '55 and '56 F-100's I used in this project) then it'll show.

There doesn't have to be a ton of written content. If anything, that can be a detriment to have too much. Let the images or videos speak for themselves. With that said, you musthave some unique content on the page or it won't last. One, two, maybe three paragraphs is plenty.

Make it personal. This doesn't have to be the Wikipedia version. It can come from your heart. At your soul, you like cars, right? Let that shine through in the writing. Speaking of Wikipedia, you have to fight the urge to copy and paste. The content must be unique.

Check out the page itself on Holiday Automotive's 1955 Ford F100 page.


Step 3: Make a Couple of Quick SEO Decisions and Apply Them

It's great to have fun with your content, but you want to be able to get a benefit out of it without risking loss of a customer. The first benefit is to help with your search rankings. While it's possible for the page itself to rank for terms associated with F-100s, unless you're a classic truck dealer you're not going to benefit from this.

Instead, use the page to help your domain rank better in general and to help another page rank better for a specific keyword. In this case, we're going to work on getting the homepage ranked for "Wisconsin Ford Dealers", a keyword that they're currently not hitting with on page one. There are two other SEO benefits that we'll talk about below.

The other decision that you'll want to make is whether or not to include the page in your navigation. In most cases, one-off content like this should not be in your navigation. You want to drive traffic to a page like this through social media. No need to distract your normal website visitors with a "fun" page.

The exception to this rule is if you're going to create a lot of pages with amazing content. In such a case, you may want to consider having a section of the website dedicated to this type of content. It can be "Amazing Ford Vehicles through the Decades" with collections of pages similar to this one. It could be "The Best of the Best in Chicago" with pages dedicated to the amazing things and landmarks within the city. There are many options, but a time commitment is required. If you go with occasional one-off pages, you should probably keep them out of the navigation.


Step 4: The Social Buttons

Most pages on most dealer websites have social buttons. Some even go so far as to have toolbars at the bottom or "Share This" widgets. These are acceptable for most pages because, let's face it, nobody's sharing your site anyway. These toolbars and share widgets are smoke and mirror tactics used by some vendors to sell... nevermind - that's another blog post in the future.

The share buttons you'll want on a content page like this will be the ones supplied by the sites themselves. We recommend Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and Pinterest, though some may want to include others such as Tumblr, StumbleUpon, etc.

This is the second (and arguably most important) aspect to helping your SEO. Both Google and Bing have acknowledged that social signals play a role in the search rankings of a domain. For the most part, the content on dealer websites is unsharable... until now. These types of pages can be shared if you have the right content and the right social accounts in place to share them.

This is where the disclaimer must be made. This isn't A Field of Dreams. Just because you build it, that doesn't mean they'll come. At KPA we have accumulated some incredible social media experts that give us the resources to make sure our dealers get the social signals they need for success. Some would say it's the unfair advantage that keeps us at the top in SEO. It's definitely possible to get social signals without the "power accounts" that we have in our arsenal, but that, too, is another blog post altogether. For now, do what you can and even "fake it 'til you make it" by having employees, friends, and even family share the page on social media. After all, it's a content page. It's not like you're asking them to spam their social friends with a car for sale. This is an epic Ford F100. Share away!

Finally, you'll notice the "Embed this Image" code. This is best for infographics but it works for images as well. This is to assist in helping to get links to the page, which brings us to...


Step 5: Get Links to the Page

The concept of "link bait" is still a valid play in the SEO world and this type of page qualifies. However, unless you're able to drive massive traffic to the page, you won't get a ton of links organically. It's time to share it yourself.

Find content sites that would like to see this type of content on their pages. You have blogs (even your own blog), Tumblr, and other content sites that love compilations. In this case, we used Buzzfeed as well as some blogs.

As you can see in the image, we link again to the target keyword and include the images as the content on the page. The text content is unique - no copy and paste here either. It will only take a couple of links to get this particular keyword ranked if you're using the right sites.

Google's Penguin update is looking for link spam, so don't participate in those types of tactics. If you're going to be building a lot of links, make certain that it's natural and organic. Building links that all have the same anchor text is one thing that can trigger the algorithm's filter.

Do it the right way or don't do it at all. To much is at stake. In this case, the handful of links that we built will not hurt the domain and will help to get it ranked for our target keyword. It will also help the overall link authority of the domain. Whenever participating in link-building, always think quality over quality.


Step 6: Social Outreach

Now that you've got the page and supporting pages built, it's time to share it. If your social media pages are strong, it's as simple as sharing it by creating an image gallery. Keep in mind - this will not count as a Facebook like or Google +1. You can share the link from the page itself on your social channels but they will not get as much exposure that way.

Photos rule.

I did, however, link to the page in the comments.

The goal here is to drive some traffic. It won't be much, but if your social media presence is strong you'll get some traffic to it, particularly from Twitter and Pinterest. The goal is to "double dip" with the content so that you're allowing it to help your social pages to flourish. It's great content. Share it!


Step 7: Rinse and Repeat

Set a schedule for yourself. It could be once a week, once a month, or once in a while, but be sure to set aside some time to creating these types of pages. A content-rich website supported by links and social interactions is the key to overall success on both the search and social fronts.

A final note - this is fun and once you get good it can all flow very efficiently, but it does take understanding. If anything at all in this was unclear, please reach out to me. This isn't one of those things in automotive internet marketing that can be done partially well. You either do it right or you do it wrong - there's very little grey area and there's even less room for error.

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Build Pages. If You Can't, Change.

There as been a major shift in digital marketing that has been building up for a couple of years now. Content was once a tool used for search engine optimization and social media marketing, but today and in the foreseeable future content will be the most important (and easiest) way to advance in search and social. We discussed it in detail on ADM last month.

One of the advantages of working for an automotive SEO company is that we get to play with the vast majority of content management systems and back end tools that dealers use today. Some are very good at allowing page creation and management, including Vin Solutions,, and, of course, KPA Connect. Others are awful. If you're using a platform that has limitations on content creation, it's time to consider a change.

This isn't a pitch for our website product. It doesn't matter as much to me that you have our product or another product that allows you to easily create and distribute content from your website. It only matters that you have the ability to build two or three pages a month with content that comes from the dealership itself. Where to find and who can create this content is another discussion, but for now, it's imperative to gain the understanding of where content stands in the present and future of digital marketing.

Unique, high-quality content is the source of your digital marketing. It's where the magic can happen. You have to think along the lines of offering resources and points of interest for your local customers. Your standard website content cannot accomplish this. It requires the creation of content that people can find. Remember, it's not just about getting in front of the people who are interested in buying a car today. It's also about building your base, exposing your brand, and being at the top of mind for those who may be interested in buying a car in six months.

This is why "new" marketing trends like retargeting and video pre-roll require codes on your website to make them work. Getting these codes onto your potential customers' computers requires content. To make it happen, you must have a website platform that makes it easier.

Build pages. If you are limited with your backend, make a change. You have the potential to get a dramatic advantage over your competitors, but you simply cannot if you don't have a flexible system to make it happen.

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Content marketing is internet marketing. It has been for a while (which I'll discuss below) but in 2013 content management will emerge to become the "must have" component of automotive digital marketing strategy.

It was during a discussion on ADM where the venerable Ralph Paglia brought up a great point. In regards to an article about using your website as the content hub for both search and social, Paglia posted a comment pointing out that not all web platforms, particularly those in the automotive industry, give users the ability to post content as easily as they can on Wordpress, Tumblr, Ning, or any of the other platforms specifically designed as content management systems. Many automotive websites (and business websites in general) trap users with content restrictions. This has been an annoyance for years. Going into 2013, it will be a major drawback.


Content Has Been The Key Forever, But...

This isn't anything new. Content marketing has been a component of search engine optimization, social media marketing, affiliate marketing, and just about every strategy that relies on driving traffic from one source to another. The difference now is that it's going beyond the status of being a "component" and becoming the heart and soul of these various types of marketing techniques.


SEO for years has been a function of appropriate keyword-rich content, keyword-rich title tags, and powerful inbound links with keyword-rich title tags. There was a time when you could have next to zero content on your website and still rank well for challenging terms. Those days are behind us. With the Penguin update in April and the Panda update last year, Google forced search marketers to shoot for quality, to draw in the links based upon organic prominence. For this reason, content truly has become "king" even though it was really just a queen or a jack in the recent past.


Social media marketing can always relied on content as the driving force, but one could easily center the content on the social sites and still benefit from it. This strategy is still in play, particularly for big brands, but smaller or localized businesses (such as car dealers) should rework their social strategies to include the content that appears on their website.


The reality of the trends is this: content marketing was a part of larger marketing strategies before. Now, those other marketing strategies are easier to manage if you make the content aspect the central activity that bleeds over into search and social. It's a paradigm shift in many ways and is the reason why changes should be coming for many websites in the coming year. Some would argue that they shouldn't even wait for 2013, that now is the time to act. I tend to agree.


Post It or Move Along

There's an episode of Seinfeld where Cosmo Kramer starts receiving phone calls at his home from people wanting to get movie times. He tries to become Movie Phone. Unfortunately, he runs into some roadblocks.


Embedding is disabled, but watch it anyway.


This is sort of what's happening for many business website providers, particularly in automotive. "Why don't you just tell me what content you want on your website?"


They (dealer website providers) don't offer the tools that allow users to log in, post a piece of content, and make it live immediately. For some, you have to send them the HTML itself. Others tell you to email them the words and pictures and they'll post it for you. Some let you build a page, but won't allow it to go live until you call them.


Call them? Really?

To be able to perform the basic marketing techniques required for success in 2013, you must be able to post your content how you want it and when you want it without constraints. You must have the ability to put the right social media buttons on your content; that doesn't mean a blue "F" in a small box that links to your Facebook page. You need true share buttons. Social signals are becoming the most important tool in both search and social marketing. If your website platform breaks the codes, you need to make a change.


If you are unable to post content easily without putting a ticket into tech support, you will fall behind your competitors. If you cannot make your websites socially engaging, you will fall behind your competitors. People are really starting to "get it" when it comes to content marketing. Some of these people want to succeed over you. Will you let that happen?

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Social Signals

In May, 2010, Matt Cutts denied that social signals had an effect on search rankings. In December of the same year, he declared that they were actually starting to work in the buzz and signals they were able to get through social media into the site authority factor of their ranking algorithm. Six months later, Google+ was born.

The Penguin Update and subsequent tweaks to it have changed the way that search engine marketers approach aggressive optimization. The days of running rampant and blasting out bulk links are gone. Today, quality finally trumps quantity and the playing field has been leveled in a way that in essence puts a "governor" on how quickly they can ramp up the rankings on their domains.

Or has it?

As social signals grow in their effects on search rankings for both Google and Bing, the ability to create amazing content and promote it on social media is quickly becoming the most important technique that internet marketers have in their arsenal. In 2013, it will likely eclipse link-building as a ranking factor. Here are three things you must understand to make it work for you today and to be ready for what lies ahead.


"Quality" is a Function of Usefulness and Entertainment Value

Make no mistake. Google and Bing understand the difference between content that is heavily promoted using spammy techniques and content that is truly high-quality. They are employing criteria into their algorithms that mean Tweets, Facebook likes, and Google +1s are not created equally. They are engaging trust factors into the way they understand social signals and they can see right through manufactured results.

In short, they're not stupid. They know that retweets can be bought for pennies. They know that there are rings and networks of people and bots that are designed specifically to beef up likes and +1s. A share from a trusted account is much more influential than a share from one that has been deemed as spammy.

Much like the way they understand the quality of links, they are learning the quality of social signals.

For this reason, quality of content is (finally and thankfully) at the top of the list when it comes to using social signals for both search rankings and social media marketing. One must understand the criteria surrounding what makes something high-quality.

There are multiple types of content and styles of delivery that make the overall equation challenging, but just as one can get close enough in math by substituting pi with 3.14 in their calculations, marketers can get close enough to achieving high quality content if they focus on bringing one of two components to the table when putting their content on their websites.

Usefulnessis the easier of the two. Whatever your business or brand is doing, there's a good chance that you or someone in your company has an expertise in it. You know the tools. You understand the resources. You know what works and what doesn't work.

Apply it. Make content based upon your expertise. Who better than a Ford dealer would know the proper ways to make SYNC work best in a Ford Fusion? People are often baffled by the technology. Ford and Microsoft do what they can to put out resources, but it's the people on the ground at the dealership who deal with it on a daily basis that can offer the real help.

They're the ones who can be useful.

As such, a savvy Ford dealer may write up an article called, "12 Hidden SYNC Options that Aren't on the Menu". In it, they could detail some of the things that SYNC can do that few people know about. It's a sharable piece of content that people can appreciate and that can bring lasting value.

The other easy option for content is the entertainment valueyou can bring to the table. You see things in your business that the average Joe does not. You see things that are amazing, funny, clever, or downright spectacular that have relevance to your brand, products, or services.

If you start thinking along the lines of capturing this content when it happens, you'll find that it's pouring out at you at rates much higher than you could possibly imagine. Let's look at the Ford dealer again. On the surface, one might think that there's not a lot of entertainment happening at a Ford dealership. Dig a little deeper and you'll find that there's plenty. Here are some quick examples:

  • A showcase of local Mustangs that come into the shop or even drive around town
  • Even more unique than the Mustangs, a showcase of modified Fords - lifted trucks, modded Focuses, restored Fairlanes, etc.
  • A video of the service manager playing in her country band at the local bar on Saturday nights
  • An image gallery of the abused brakes that happen in hilly places like Denver or San Francisco
  • A video of a new Ford vehicle hitting up the local attractions

These are just quick brainstorms based upon real content I've seen, but with a little effort and a watchful eye, any business can find and post things with entertainment value.


Individual Content Affects the Domain as Well

This is the hardest transition in understanding for most marketers, whether they come from the search side or the social side. Your content and the social signals that go to it affects the entire domain. Technically, it always has just as link authority was affected by links to individual pieces of content, but going into 2013 there is a stronger focus on showing sharable content within the domain and allowing it to affect the search and social rankings across the board.

This actually makes things easier because the need to force manufactured content upon the visitors is much lower. You don't have to drive links and social signals to a page that was created to rank for "2013 Ford Fusion Los Angeles". Few will organically link to such a page and nobody will organically share such a page on social media. It has no value to anyone other than those looking specifically for the vehicle and none of them will share or link to it.

Going forward, you can create such a page and then support it on search and social by creating quality content pages. Nobody will link to or share that page, but if you create a piece of content called "The Short but Eventful History of the Ford Fusion" and then link to your target page from there, people will be willing to share and link to it. It's an indirect value being added, but in 2013 indirect value through links and social signals will be enough to improve your search and social marketing dramatically.

It isn't just about linked content. By creating a constant flow of quality content that gets shared well on social media, the entire domain itself gets a boost. In testing over the last few months, we've found that this boost can be significant and can improve search rankings across the board.

Moreover, social widgets and apps are being built regularly that help to attribute extremely sharable content within a domain. The "more content from on this social network" widgets are popping up and helping people explore websites based upon their social value rather than just visiting the site and surfing through the navigation bar.

Think of it as two forms of content - the "money" content that can lead to improved business results and the "sharable" content that can support the money content by improving rankings and social traffic.


Highlight Your Content To Ambassadors and Influencers

If a tree falls down in the forest and no one is there to hear it...

The other two concepts were easy. Understanding how to find and create content and understanding the importance it all has to search and social marketing are things that anyone can do. Making it happen from a sharing perspective is the hard part.

Once the sharable content is up and running, you have to get it shared. It's not "A Field of Dreams". Just because you built it doesn't mean that the people will come. You have to highlight it. You have to get people to share it. You need fans.

There are several ways to do it, but here are a few:

  • Become an influencer yourself on social media. Make friends. Post often. Engage in conversations. Most who are influential on social media didn't start out that way. They built their influence by engaging with others. You can guest blog, comment thoughtfully and regularly, and build up your own clout to the point that people see whatever content you post.
  • Use your email lists. If you have a newsletter or other form of bulk email marketing happening right now, get people to share your content. It's not as hard as it may sound. Sometimes, all you have to do is ask. "We posted this article about SYNC tips that we think can be very useful and we would love for you to share it on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ if you agree."
  • Find an ambassador. One of the most successful ambassador campaigns I've seen so far is what Terranea Resort is doing. They brought in local influencers through Klout to spend a weekend at the resort. They then held a contest to see who could share their experience during the weekend to the largest audience. The winner received the title of Ambassador and stays at the resort once a month for a year. During that time, the Ambassador tries out the various room types, restaurants, and amenities offered by the resort for free. In their case, they don't need to create content. They ARE the content.

Be creative. Find ways to promote your brand and the content on your website on social channels now. As search, social, and content merge in 2013, you'll be glad that your strategies merged as well.

* * *

This article was originally featured on Social Media Today.

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Focus on Value, not Word Count with your Content

It may be the biggest change in the Google algorithm that very few people noticed. The reason they didn't notice is that the change has been slowly happening since February, 2011. Between Panda, Penguin, and the rise of social signals, word count of content is not something that you should ever focus upon when writing content for search engine optimization or social media marketing purposes.


Here's a quick breakdown of the loose timeline. One of the first changes that happened when Panda, Google's low-value content algorithm change of 2011, rolled out was that the total number of unique words in stories had a predictable affect on SEO value. Stories with fewer words were deemed less valuable. This lasted for about a month. I cannot say for sure how the conversation went at Google, but at some point in the early days of Panda Google noticed that there was some great but very short content that was being hurt, while low-quality content with a lot of words was getting favorable treatment. This is where links and social signals started making a quick comeback into the realm of understanding the importance of a piece of content.

The example in the image above is what Google likes today. That's not to say that they don't like long, comprehensive content, but in the case above an infographic with a coupe of paragraphs of content but strong social signals to the page was able to easily trump much longer pieces of content on the same subject. It ranks exceptionally well for the target keywords despite the lack of words.

The content that you post should have a purpose. It should then fulfill this purpose in as few words as possible. This is a dramatic change from the days of old in SEO where more was better. Now, quality trumps quantity (as it does in so many other ways and in other arenas) to the point that giving your readers what they need without loading it with fluff is ideal. They will be more likely to share it, to link to it, and to interact with it if it's something that fits into their schedule. That's not to say that you should only write a couple of paragraphs on any subject and call it a day. It simply means that you should write your content to fit the need, to fulfill the goal, and to become a resource for your readers.

It's quality that makes the difference. You're better off focusing on a topic that is important and of interest to your readers, then bring the value to them quickly.

I do not want to be misunderstood on this: if a topic needs 1500 words to cover it properly, then write 1500 words. The point is that if a topic takes 300 words to cover it, don't think you have to fluff it up to any of the "magic numbers" like 500 words for it to be valid to Google. It doesn't. They know. It's better to have a short, concise, and valuable 200 word article with a graphic that gets shared on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social sites and that people are willing to link to from their websites than to have a piece that's fluffed up to hit a particular word count.

Write what you need to write, no more, no less. Focus on quality and get the concept of word counts out of your mind for good.

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This is Part 5 in a 5 part series. Please read the previous posts first or none of this will really make any sense.

There was a promise back in 2007 and 2008 that was made to businesses, particularly those with physical locations. It was clear that there was something about social media sites like MySpace, Delicious, Digg, and the up-and-coming Facebook that could be used to promote business activity in the real world. Fewer people were on it and most businesses either dabbled, waited, or dismissed it, but for those who dove in and really gave it a shot, the promise was that it could eventually become the most important part of online marketing. Some even said that it would replace websites altogether.

Fast forward to today and many of the promises are still on hold. Facebook has emerged as the primary network, something that most who were watching believed would happen, just not to the degree that it has. Despite the broken promises of social media curing all challenges, it is finally, in 2013, ready to become the hub through which the real world and the online word can meet and grow as a result. Some people knew from the start the lesson that is becoming crystal clear today - social media can connect people to businesses, but it's much more effective at connecting people with other people.

That's the key to success in 2013. The sooner that businesses realize that they can and must let their humanity shine on social media, the better their social media strategy will be. Done right, social media can become the venue through which nearly every aspect of business can flow.

It can become the hub. I'll go over how in a bit, but first let's talk about why.

Where's the Value in Focusing on Social?

When I asked a dealership if they would be willing to offer a $5 discount on service to anyone who mentioned on Facebook that they were getting their oil changed or brakes done or whatever at the dealership and were pleased with the experience, she said she would not. When worded differently, it made more sense to her.

"Would you pay a happy service customer $5 to tell five of their friends that they had a good experience getting their service done there and you could verify that they did just that, would you?"

That's the minimum that can happen when people talk about your business on social media. The average Facebook user has 140 friends. Over 70% of these friends are within driving distance. Of those, 47% check their Facebook at least once a day and a post by an active Facebook user will reach 42% of those people. That means 19 local friends saw that Jimbob enjoyed his service and received a $5 discount for telling everyone about it.

Let's take a step further while staying in automotive. If Supreme Honda's Facebook page tells people that they have great deals, nobody will believe it. If Jimbob bought a car at Supreme Honda, felt he received a great deal, and was treated with respect, his friends and family will believe it when he posts that on Facebook. It will register with them. The brand. The name. The fact that Jimbob had a great experience. All of these things leave an imprint on the minds of his friends and family. If they're in the market to buy a Honda or a used car today, they'll likely check out Supreme Honda immediately. If they enter the market in six months, they will be more inclined to check out Supreme Honda whether they remember what made them check it out or not. It's basic psychology, but it works.

All of this is easy to understand once you're seeing it from the right perspective. The challenge is having the willingness to commit with such a murky arena. Social media has not proven itself to a good chunk of businesses and dealers in particular. This is our fault. It's the fault of the vendors out there selling products that didn't work or never achieved the goals. This is changing. In 2013, it must change. There's too much being left on the table. One of my goals in writing this fifth installment was to find real-world examples of car dealers that were truly successful at using social media the right way. I assumed that I would surely find a few. After looking at 229 dealership Facebook pages (yes, I counted them up in my history), I realized that I was mistaken. Nobody is doing it right as far as I'm concerned.

This will change.

How to Make Social the Hub

This isn't a tip. It's not a collection of techniques, tricks, or best practices that a dealership can plug into their current social media strategy and expect success. It's a commitment. It's a paradigm shift. It's about understanding that when you center the online portion of your business around social media and enhance it with offline activities, that you can build a self-perpetuating marketing, branding, and communication system.

This cannot be stressed enough - if you want to be truly successful with social media, you will latch onto an individual at the dealership, preferably the owner or general manager, who can act as the representative of the dealership in all online activities. That doesn't mean that this person has to do all of the work. It means that they have to represent the communication centerpiece for social media, reputation management, and engagement activities such as charitable efforts. The majority of the most successful dealerships around the country have already done this with their advertising. Many do this at the dealership itself, having the "power personality" touch many of the deals and talk to a lot of the customers. This needs to translate over to social media as well.

You're building a local celebrity. You're branding the way that people crave in today's uber-social world, with real people and actual communication back and forth. It's where social media's power is derived. It's where the dealership's next level of success can be achieved.

Once this commitment is made and the power personality is selected, it's time to get them out to the social world. They should (through a representative managing the accounts) touch as many people as possible. They should be on videos, at events, participating in discussions, replying to reviews, and expressing opinions that align with the dealership but that add humanity to the way the dealership is perceived. People want to talk to other people. They want to interact with people who have power. They want to be heard, to be made to feel special, and to know that their actions are reaching the highest levels.

At this point, it's time for discussion. I have ideas about how this can best be accomplished, but upon learning that finding real life examples was a challenge, I decided to hold my specific recommendations for now and let the conversation center around the concept itself. What can dealerships do to truly become successful on social media through these power accounts? How can someone be truly elevated to the point that they are online and offline celebrities in the local area? What are some ways that this can be leveraged?

Let's talk.

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There are two truly valid ways to post on social media. It depends on the personality, goals, and bandwidth available within your business. Both have pros and cons. Both have chances of success and failure.

This is Part III of the series on timing. Please read Part I and Part II first.

Determining which way you'd like to go will guide your posting schedule immensely. We will post something in the future that goes into more details about each individual posting personality, but here's a quick overview of them:


The Business-Only Personality

It's a little surprising that more businesses haven't adopted this style. It's likely that a "guru" or two has spread the word that you can't only focus on business if you want to be successful on social media. This simply isn't true.


The business-only personality type will do just as the name says: stick to business. They should post infrequently, perhaps 2-4 times a week, and support their posts with ads on Facebook. Twitter, Google+, and the other social networks cannot benefit from ad support and are likely only seen occasionally in feeds and mostly as a destination, i.e. when someone visits the business website and then follows links to Twitter, Pinterest, G+, etc.


This is effective in one scenario and safe in another scenario. In the scenario where a business has established a strong fan base of customers, prospects, and industry people, the business-only personality can be extremely effective. It doesn't flood people's news feeds with daily posts that can often encourage them to unlike, remove from the news feed, or report as spam. Because there is a reduced chance of getting an EdgeRank boost (though a case could be made that it can actually improve the chances, but that's for a different debate), it is basically a requirement to support the posts through Facebook ads. As long as the content is useful, not spammy, and relevant to fans, a sustained Sponsored Stories strategy can work very nicely.


Fan growth is often slowed as a result of this type of strategy, but there's an upside. If a business is using their page for a particular business-related focus such as a car dealership that posts social-media-only service specials weekly, the quality of the fans can be stronger.


The other scenario where this strategy works well is for the "safe" social media business type. Those who are either not bought into social media as a marketing tool or who do not have the time or resources to manage it properly can use this personality type to keep a strong presence without putting much effort into it. It's not a growth strategy. It's a "checkbox" strategy. The good part is that it's safe. As long as the page doesn't go dormant, those who are somehow able to stumble upon the accounts will not be turned off by what they find.


The Engaging Personality

This is much more common by businesses that are trying to use social media for branding, marketing, and communication. It's also the more botched approach. If there's only one piece of advice that businesses get from this article, it's that you don't have to rely on internet memes and cat pictures to be engaging. If you're a car dealership, you should be posting about cars. Period. Pictures of cars, stories about cars, useful information about cars... stay within the industry. There are plenty of engaging pictures, interesting pieces of information, and personal business anecdotal stories that can be told to stay focused on your industry without being "all business".


For local businesses, there's another realm that help them to stay on topic without diving into memes to stay interesting: the local area itself. A Seattle business can occasionally post images of the Space Needle, for example. Nothing wrong with that to "mix it up" but don't rely on these types of posts. Stay relevant as much as possible.


The engaging personality type on social media strives to be a part of the conversations within their market. They post daily, often more than once a day, and do so in order to get more people to like and interact with their content. This style relies on the interesting aspects of their business to feed content to their social profiles in order to set up the "money posts" that they put up from time to time. The money posts are those ones with practical business applications whether it's to directly promote and event or to highlight a benefit of their business.


By engaging with the various communities, they are increasing the exposure of their money posts. On Facebook, for example, the goal is to play the EdgeRank game. In other words, be as interesting as possible throughout the week in order to make certain that the important posts get maximum exposure. On Facebook and Google+, a business can increase the exposure of their money posts by posting content ahead of it that their fans like, comment about, and share.


This is viewed by many as the free technique. In other words, if you go with this strategy, the need for Facebook ads is alleviated. That's not true. The Facebook advertising strategy for the engagement personality is different from the strategy for the business-only personality, but that doesn't mean that you don't have to spend any money at all. The way that Facebook pages appear (or don't appear) in fans' news feeds makes advertising a necessity regardless of personality type. The difference is in how much and how often.


Scheduling Based Upon Personality

Now that we have an understanding of the personality types, how does this affect scheduling?


  • Schedule consistently from week to week. If you have a coupon or offer that comes out weekly, it should be scheduled at the exact same time every week.
  • Take advantage of the social media sweet spots that we described in Part I.
  • Posts about events should be posted well-ahead of the event itself. Without the benefit of engagement, you'll want to maximize exposure by giving everyone a heads up.

  • Be sure that there's a 24-hour gap between image posts sent from the same platform on Facebook. For example, if you post images on Buffer, post them at the same time every day. This prevents "batching" of the posts into unlikable albums.
  • Take into account the types of posts and which times to post them. Part II of this series really dives into managing from an engagement personality perspective.
  • Ramp up event posts the sooner you get to them. If you know you're having a big sale in two weeks, post every other day about it the week before, then daily the week of the event.

As with all strategies, there are different variations based upon your goals. Play around with it. Post more. Post less. Find the personality type that works best for your business and stick with it. The biggest mistake you can make (other than abandoning social media altogether) is to continuously change strategies without reason. With major changes in the platform being the exception, try to avoid constant changes. Find what works for you and stick with it.
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For better or for worse, Facebook made it easier for people to report or block page posts in September. Since then, the need to tread carefully with posts has increased dramatically; too many reports or blocks can hurt a page's performance dramatically. This is an important topic that will be covered more in-depth in a future series of articles, but for now it's important to note.


As Facebook's ability to drive traffic and improve branding continues to increase, the need to understand the metrics grows as well. Fans, the way that many businesses in the past (and some still presently) judged their effectiveness has never been as important as total reach, but now it's even more important to note because of increased usage of the network. More people are on it and they're spending more time on a daily basis. Facebook is no longer an option for businesses. It's a must-have.


First, let's get an understanding of what reach really is on Facebook.

How are People "Reached"?

Facebook has always received some jabs from those in the programming world for their terrible site architecture. Those in the know would tell you that the site is held together by coding duct tape and superglue when the curtain is drawn back. However, the way they are able to track people and their eyeballs is unquestionably elegant.


When someone is "reached", it means that a post or advertisement was presented to them on screen. Facebook knows what you see and what you don't see. For example, if you post something on your page, it will be available for your fans to see on their news feed. For them to see it (and thus, be reached), it has to register as appearing to them directly. Let's say someone logs in and they start seeing some of the items in their news feed. If they scroll down far enough to see your post, they were reached. If you post is below where they scroll, they were not reached. The post had the potential to be presented to them but if it doesn't make it to their screen, they don't count.


We'll go into more detail about how to improve reach and sustain it in future articles, but for now, let's take a look at why reach is so much more important than number of fans.

Real versus Artificial Indicators

Social media is loaded with numbers that are relatively meaningless. One of those numbers is Facebook fans. That's not to say that you don't need them. It only means that a low number of high-quality, engaged fans would be much better than a high number of low-quality fans. In fact, having too many fans that aren't engaged can actually hurt your chances of having your message seen by those who are.


The image above is a snapshot of a page's reach statistics for a month. The total number of fans is relatively low - from 360 up to 404 beginning to end in the graph. However, you see a sharp spike in people reached. This was accomplished through Facebook advertising and clearly highlights how the reach was exponentially increased as a result.


Important Note: Do not fall into the trap of jumping straight into Facebook advertising without fully understanding it. Facebook users are extremely particular about what they see on their news feeds. Done improperly, Facebook ads can generate an incredible boost in the beginning, but this can fall very quickly even with an increasing budget if it's not positioned absolutely properly. Running Facebook ads is simple. Running them properly takes experience and understanding.

Getting the right fans, people who are interested in what you are posting, is extremely important. The number of fans is a blip on the overall Facebook marketing strategy. I would contend that a properly-run page with 500 good fans can get a higher and more worthwhile reach than a poorly run page with 50,000 weak fans. In Facebook, it's about how many people see your message, not how many people like your page. One has a loose effect on the other, but it's a misleading concept. The math and algorithms behind it all aren't difficult at all to understand. It simply takes a little research.


When you're gauging the effectiveness of your Facebook marketing efforts, look first towards reach. This is the number that you must manage. It's the number that is hardest to maintain at high levels with or without Facebook advertising, but it's also the one that has the greatest opportunity to improve your overall business performance.

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SEO is Dead... for those who can't keep up

Every few months, marketers around the blogosphere start the next batch of chants that search engine optimization is dying or dead. It's like clockwork; Google makes a change, their pages rank poorly, they declare that the party's over. I think I've written about the topic at least once a year since 2008.


The chants are starting again and I'm here to tell you that, as usual, they are premature. I'm not so naive as to make a statement like "SEO will never die," but the thought that the death is here is silly. It's not dead. It has changed. It changes frequently - perhaps more frequently in recent months - but it's not dead yet. In fact, those who are doing the right things are finding that their rankings are actually improving.


Why They Always Pronounce it Dead

Since the dawn of SEO, there have been tricks that work for a short period of time. We've always taken the stance that anything that smells like a "trick" will not last and should be dismissed. This concept has helped us to stay on top of our searches and the keywords of our clients.


For example, 2007 saw a major increase in the effectiveness of social news and social bookmarking links. It was almost too easy - if you submitted a piece of content to Digg, it would rank for easy keywords within a few hours and for tougher keywords in a few days. Smart marketers refused to play this game knowing that Google would catch on and instead learned to use sites like Digg and Reddit to drive real SEO juice by posting powerful content and exposing it to the social news world. This still applies today for many sites, though they are fading quickly from relevance (except Reddit, which is growing).


Any time one of these tricks stops working, the SEOpocalypse is declared.


The most recent change that has everyone up in arms is the devaluing of automated links. Footer links, sidebar links, link farms - Google and Bing both have found ways to not only discredit these links but to make them harmful when done too much. SEO is dead... for those who couldn't keep up with these changes.


Why SEO isn't Dead

Thankfully, smart marketers did not participate in the automated link-building programs. Personally, I'm shocked it took as long as it did for Google and Bing to figure it out. There was a time in late 2011 that I was starting to doubt my choice of not having our SEO team get in on the link-automation trend. I was getting questioned by some within the company because the path we chose, one of unique content and contextual link generation, was much more expensive to operate than the automated ways.


The corner was finally turned with the Penguin update and subsequent tweaks and my choices were vindicated.


Today, content is no longer a tool for SEO. It is an overarching concept that includes SEO as part of its mandate. In other words, the tool is now the goal and the goals of SEO, reputation, branding, and social media marketing all revolve around quality content.


When you're out there reading about the marketing trends of 2013, take note of those who are pulling away from social media or SEO and those who are pushing forward. This is easy for me to say since it's the direction that my company is heading, but it happens to be the truth. Quality content that people can enjoy, proper link-building and social signal practices that revolve around this content, and social media marketing that doesn't rely on funny cat pictures - these are the real trends that will drive proper marketing in 2013.

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Smart Kid

Last month I had a conversation with a potential client who was describing their content marketing strategy. They had a strong understanding of the theories of posting content that people will share and mixing in promotional content from time to time. It's a basic and effective way to build a community and a following while still getting the benefits of exposure for their business-focused messages. Post what they like, then post what you want them to see.

Fast forward to earlier this week and I finally had a chance to examine their content. What I found disappointed me. The way they were handling "content that people will share" was to post two types of content - entertaining content and content that could be a valuable resource. The challenge I found was that they drew an extremely clear line between entertaining posts and resource posts. The line was so clear that their entertaining posts brought zero value to the reader while the resource posts were as enjoyable as eating chalk.

Content marketing is quickly becoming the cornerstone to both search and social strategies. It is a best practice to try to make sure that what your posting has both entertainment and resource value. Each post can definitely lean in one direction or another, but your entertaining posts should be interesting as well while your resource posts shouldn't put the reader to sleep.

Here's an example of an entertaining post that is also mildly useful. It's a list of the top 5 most searched Dodge Chargers on Google. The entertainment value is clear - classic Dodge Chargers are loved by many drivers and high-resolution images of mint condition Chargers can appeal the target audience (in this case, a Dodge dealer's visitors). However, rather than just making a picture gallery of some cool cars and calling it "5 Epic Pictures of Classic Dodge Chargers", they inserted some resource value. First, the title itself shows that it has resource value: "The 5 Most Searched Dodge Chargers in History". There's not a ton of resource value floating through the page - it's mostly just trivia. However, a resource doesn't have to be a case study or a thesis. The two or three bits of trivial information that the reader can learn from this page are enough to give it value. Remember, this page is primary for entertaining.

Dodge Charger Page

Now, let's take a look at a resource page. This one is a historical look at the once-famous Willys Jeep. It has a graphic and information that is informative as well as a couple of images of the iconic vehicle. However, it's not presented in a way that makes it sound like it came out of a history textbook or even Wikipedia. The graphic is fun. The images are high-resolution and interesting. The text focuses on some little-known facts about the vehicle that help it to fall into both the resource and entertainment categories. It may be a resource piece, but there's nothing boring about it.

Willys Jeep Page

Posts that are exclusively resources or exclusively entertaining bring value to the table, but not nearly as much as doing both at the same time. People go to the internet for many reasons, but the three primary ones are communication, education, and entertainment. If you want them to do the first thing - communicate - then you have to master the second and third things first. When you can consolidate and kill two birds with one stone, the other bird will fall nicely into your trap.

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They say timing is everything. In social media, quality of content is almost everything. The rest of it does come down to timing.

****This is Part II of the series on timing. Please read Part I first.****

There are two primary components to timing that should be considered when planning out what content to post. You must remember the type of content to post at the different times as well as the goals of the content itself. To do this, you have to keep a strong MAP (marketing action plan) in place to guide you in order to have the right posts going out at the right times.


Type of Content

The personality, fan base, and availability to monitor the social channels all make a huge difference in the specifics surrounding your posting, but here are some general rules to keep in mind:

  • Inspire in the morning. If your personality type is the kind that has you posting motivational quotes, positive affirmations, or even Bible verses, this should be the first thing that comes out of your social media mouth in the mornig. If you're not quite so "deep" in your business social media personality, starting off with something fun and entertaining works just fine.
  • Business in the middle. If you're posting 3 or more updates a day, the middle of the day is when these come to play. That doesn't mean lunch time - as stated in Part I, your best times for business posts actually avoid lunch. Post prior to 11am or after 3pm for your best results.
  • Be thankful in the evening. This is when you should be posting about others. It could be a charity you support, a customer testimonial, or even something from outside of your business such as industry news. If you have nothing like that top post in a day, resort back to entertaining or inspiring text or image posts. Remember the mentality of your fans at different points in the day. In the evening, they are hopefully home from work and enjoying their evening casually scanning their social media. They don't want business-oriented posts popping up at them.

There are always exceptions and these suggestions are more of a guide to get your thinking in the right place rather than hard rules. Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience. Remember to take into account their mentality and likely location when seeing your updates. At night, for example, there's a decent chance that social media is happening as a second-screen experience. In other words, they may be watching television and surfing social during commercials. It's not a great time for hard-hitting business offers or long videos. Short videos, on the other hand, such as 30-second customer testimonials, can perform better in the evening than they do during the day.


Keeping Goals in Mind

As a proper MAP will dictate, you should be thinking ahead and planting seeds at the appropriate moments. For example, if you know you have a big sale coming up in a couple of weeks, you may want to post teasers about it every other day for a week, then every day leading up to it. This isn't the time to get boring; make them fun and increasingly informative whenever possible.


One of your goals may be to prompt your happy customers to write reviews on the various sites out there. This is hard to accomplish with social media, but there's a silver lining that has become more important lately. With Google, Yelp, and other review sites pulling down reviews left and right, it should be noted that the people who are able to be influenced to write reviews when prompted by social media channels are the highest quality. That's not to say that they'll write good reviews. It means that the personality type associated with these people is such that they are probably already active on the review sites and have a much better chance of having their reviews stick.


If, like many businesses, your goals with social media are strictly surrounding branding and name recognition, you have the luxury of posting at an extremely regular level. You could even schedule the majority of your posts well ahead of time. You also have the luxury of being able to post more often than businesses with goals that surround driving traffic to their website or landing pages.


This might sound odd, but if you are doing this strictly for the branding, you'll want to schedule your posts at the exact same time every day. Facebook batches images that are posted within 24 hours of the last one within an album. Unfortunately, they create albums for you based upon the source of the post. This includes scheduling with the native scheduling tool itself. So, if you are wanting to schedule 3 images a day, you'll get maximum exposure by scheduling them with three separate tools, including the native tool.


Posts that go up to itself manually are not constrained to these parameters. Unfortunately, everything else currently is, including mobile uploads, Instagram, and Pinterest (though Pinterest allows 2 posts in 24 hours before batching them).


As with the types of posts, this set of tips on goals is a miniscule idea-sparking teaser rather than a comprehensive guide. Because the goals of different businesses can be as diverse as the businesses themselves, it's important to put your own goals together (or contact us for some advice) based upon your specific business needs.


Days of the Week

If you want to get a leg up on your competitors, this is the easiest way to do it. Understanding when and how people are engaging with businesses on different days of the week yields some facts that surprise many (myself included).


The weekends are the untapped goldmine of social media for business. Fewer people check their social feeds on the weekends, but those who do check are much more active than they are during the week. Likes go up by a lot. People are more thoughtful on the weekends as well, meaning that they will watch longer videos, read longer posts, and check out entire albums rather than scanning through individual pictures as they do during the week.


Wednesdays weren't that bad just six months ago. Now, they're dropped below Thursday and Friday as the least engaging day of the week on social media. Don't even think about asking why - I have no idea. All I have is the data.


* * *

Remember, you're a business. You're not welcome on social media as much as individuals, but that doesn't mean you can't accomplish your goals. You just have to do it right. Think of it like television advertising. We all believe we don't like commercials. That's a common stance. However, there are certain commercials that pop up that are entertaining or informative enough that we'll actually talk about them with friends. We may even look them up on YouTube to see them again. I'll leave you with one such commercial that I still watch every year or so since first seeing it during a Superbowl.

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There are times when you're going to post a piece of content that is too good to post in just one place. It could be extremely informative, very timely, majorly entertaining, or perhaps you just really liked it and want to post it in other places. There are times when you can syndicate the content, but when it's your own site, you'll want to "reblog" it.

This is different from syndicating. If you have places where you can post and it makes sense to let the original content stand on its own, then simply copying, pasting, and reformatting is just fine. There are three instances when you won't want to do this:

  1. If you're posting on another one of your own sites where you control all of the content, reblogging can give you a reason for your visitors to one site to explore your other site.

  2. If you're posting on one of your domains that is not "aged and weathered" - in other words, it's either a newer domain or does not index very well in the search engines - then reblogging like this will allow you to make sure the content is unique without having to start from scratch on the same topic.

  3. If you have a topic that is extremely important and deserves more than one article to highlight it, reblogging is a fast way to write one long-form piece of content and then support it with other websites.

By reblogging, you'll want to do what is posted in the image above. We took a piece of content about Facebook pictures that we posted on Dealer Bar, then reblogged it onto the KPA Internet Marketing Blog. The original story showed five types of Facebook customer picture posts. The reblog focused on the reasons this is important. We put out three short paragraphs of original content, took an important excerpt from the original, and linked to it.

The easiest way to understand it is to start from the reblog and then follow it to the original post. You'll be able to get more mileage out of your content without having to come up with as many fresh ideas. You'll also be exposing your content to different sets of readers. It's a win-win.

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This is Part 4 in a 5 part series. Please read the previous posts first or none of this will really make any sense.

So, you have your power accounts. You've done what was posted in the previous parts of this series and you have a strong individual presence on Facebook and Twitter at the least plus hopefully other social media sites like Google+ and Pinterest. It's time to put these accounts into action and produce a return on your investment of time and energy. Where do you start?


As with most proper marketing strategies, it's time to plan. Your accounts should have a strong localized following by now. The names of both the dealership and the individual influencer at your dealership (preferably the owner or general manager) are quickly becoming very well known in the community. Like the Tracy Myers and Jeff Cryders of the world, the person who is representing your dealership should be out and about talking to customers at the dealership, outside of the dealership, and online.


One thing that wasn't unfortunately omitted from the previous articles but that's a very important note is that this person should be there for the good AND the bad. They should be the name used when responding to online reviews whenever possible. This is one of the reasons why a person of authority is best suited for this role.


With that out of the way, let's talk about planning...


Proper Prior Planning...

...prevents poor performance. There are actually many "power accounts" that I've seen in the automotive industry that were either under-utilized or turned into spamming accounts. Your power accounts must think like Goldilocks - not too hot, not too cold, but just right.


Every post should be thought out with precision. Posting at the right timesis extremely important. All of the major social media sites are driven by momentum to some extent; EdgeRank on Facebook, for example, gives prominence to posts by those who have had a lot of likes, comments, and shares on previous posts. The more you're liked, the more you'll be liked. Google+ is the same way. Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, and others work from a chronological feed, but the strategy remains the same for different reasons. You want to get retweets, reblogs, repins, etc, so that your posts are more visible to other people who may then choose to follow you. Same concept, different purposes.


Now that we understand that, let's talk about what to post. Just like when driving, you don't want to just look at the road directly in front of you. You drive by pointing your car towards the distant goal while keeping your peripheral vision on potential obstacles that may jump out at you. When you're in traffic, you switch lanes based upon your end goal as well as the flow of traffic in front of you.


Mixing up the proper types of posts isn't a random thing. You should know when to post for conversation and when to post for conversion:

  • Conversation posts are those that are designed to appeal to people's interests. These are often images or text posts that are interesting, entertaining, or useful. The goal is to use these to get the interest of your fans and friends of your fans, to increase exposure, and to set up the conversion posts that follow.
  • Conversion posts are the marketing posts. These are different from branding posts which we'll describe later. These are posts that have distinct goals in mind. It may be promoting an upcoming sale. It may be an especially intriguing vehicle that just came in on trade. It could be a contest, a charitable event, an interesting video advertisement, or simply a link to a landing page on your website.

Those two are the primary types of posts, but you'll also want to work in branding posts. These are designed to improve your standing in the community and spread a general message to increase goodwill. For example, when we post customer reviews or images of happy customers (no, not the boring types, the really awesome happy customer posts), we aren't trying to sell a car or promote a sale. We're just trying to let as many people as possible know that the dealership treats customers right.


This is where the planning comes in. You will need a calendar or scheduling software that allows you to get a bird's eye view of what your coming posts will say. Mix it up properly. Use conversational posts appropriately. For example, if you have a big sale coming up this weekend, you may have two or three really strong conversation posts that lead up to the first conversion post about the sale. This way, more people will see it when it does get posted.


Determining the personality of the posts is another important part of planning. There are too many "randomly interesting accounts" out there on social media. You are not George Takei, and but you can learn from him. He posts mostly geek-oriented humor posts. He stays within his niche and plays on it well. For your dealership and power account personality, you may want to lean towards being the ultimate vehicular genius in the area. You may want to start a mini-meme in the local area by taking pictures of the power account person taking a particularly awesome vehicle around to well-known places and businesses in the area. This part takes creativity and brainstorming, but here's a quick example of one that I truly enjoyed:

An owner would go to every baseball game when the local MLB team was at home. They would drive around and look for cars that were parking that had the dealership's branded license plate bracket. They would approach these people as they parked, ask them if they already had their tickets, and offer them use of the dealer's seats for the game. Season passes aren't that expensive, especially when they can be used for a strong social media marketing campaign. They would, of course, record the conversation with the happy customers and post it throughout their social profiles.

Remember, the goal is to make a plan that will help your dealership personality stand out. This isn't about post scheduling, though that's important as well. It's about putting together a strong action plan for today, next week, next month, and across the future. This is where the power accounts can truly start making an impact and exposing the brand to a wider audience.


I would be more than happy to consult with any dealership that wants to brainstorm some ideas and learn more about planning.


Once you have the plan, it's time to get your customers involved...


Getting Outrageous Support from Your Customers

Happy Customers

Having a power account makes things easier, but it doesn't change one ominous fact about social media: "It's not what you're saying about your business on social media that's important. It's what others are saying about you."


Power accounts are the ultimate vessel through which to get the raving fans that can truly enhance your business. It's not about getting fans. It's about getting absolutely delighted customers who are not only willing to tell others about you but are excited about spreading the word. Another article can be written about the importance of making your customers ecstatic and how the owner or general manager are the most powerful people when it comes to making this happen, but that's not for today.


Your power accounts need to be interacting with as many people as possible. They need to be celebrities in heart and mind. They need to participate whenever appropriate with the most amazing customers. For example, a dealership I recently talked to told me about a 4th generation buyer. A great grandma, her daughter, and the grandson brought in the great granddaughter to buy her first car. They all came in together. They told everyone in the showroom about the multiple experiences they'd had at the dealership for 5 decades.


I asked about the videos. There were none. I wanted to cry.


This is one of those rare opportunities when the owner or general manager should have done everything possible to make these people special. It was a social media story that could have carried weight for months. It was multiple photo opportunities. It was a chance for the ultimate testimonial video. The power account person should have offered to take this family to a nice dinner. So many chances here, all missed.


On the other side of the spectrum, I was visiting a dealership earlier this year. The GM took my team and his internet department to breakfast. A man approached as we were at the cashier and thanked the general manager for helping his son buy a car a month before. The GM didn't think twice. He shook the gentleman's hand, then grabbed the ticket from his other hand and said, "We appreciate your business, my friend. Breakfast is on Holiday Automotive this morning."


Had I had the chance to do it all over, I would have asked them all at the moment if they would mind if I put the experience on Facebook. From a dealership perspective, there's a fine line between bragging and making a random act of gratitude like this resonate on social media. Here's what I would have posted:

"Ran into a loyal customer at Moe's this morning for breakfast. We picked up the tab - it felt good! I'd love to do it again. If you see me at Moe's, come say hi. I really appreciate our customers and would love to buy your breakfast as well."


You don't have to wait around for extraordinary moments. Depending on the personality you've chosen for your power account, you can turn the boring pictures that so many dealerships take of their happy customers and turn it into something sharable. For example, the power account individual can take pictures with the customers holding up a whiteboard while standing in front of their new car. The message depends on the personality and desired message, but here are some examples. Again, imagine the buyer holding a whiteboard with the message and an arrow pointing towards the power account person:

  • "This guy just made me a deal I couldn't refuse for my new Altima."
  • "Ask for Hank and he'll tell you a joke, then make you a killer deal."
  • "The worst negotiator in the world just sold me this car. Ask for Hank!"
  • "This guy just treated us with dignity and respect. Not your stereotypical car dealer. Ask for Hank!"

There are many, many ways to get great content from your happy customers. The key is to make sure that it's something you can post, that the dealership page can post, and that the customers themselves will be willing to post on their own accounts. This is how to get conversations going. This is how to make a difference with your social media content.


In the past, some dealers would try to get their customers climb into the trunk of a car they were considering. It was a demonstration of control; if you could get your customer to climb into the trunk, you had control of the deal. Today, we want to get people into the "social media trunk". This is no longer about control. It's about creating an atmosphere of mutual respect and harnessing this atmosphere to take advantage of the word of mouth that social media empowers your customers to wield. Getting them to post is much more important than what you're posting. The power account is best positioned to make this happen.


Getting Your Message Shared

The social media power account at your dealership gains a certain power when they reach the top level within the community. They have the opportunity to go from being liked to being shared. This is the hardest part. It takes time, creativity, and cleverness.


This does not mean posting things such as "Share this if you believe that..." Posts that ask for likes or shares are weak. They turn people off. Never ask for a retweet, a like, a share, a +1, or anything else in the post itself. That doesn't mean that you don't ask. It means that you don't ask within the post.


Where the power account can get shares is often with the interaction that they have with others both in real life as well as on social media. Before getting to real life share requests, let's first look at interactions. When your power account likes, shares, comments, retweets, reblogs, or any other interaction with other businesses or individuals in the area, they are more likely inclined to return the favor. Reciprocity on social media is common. The more you like, the more you'll be liked. The more you share, the more you'll be shared.


There's an art and a science to understanding who will reciprocate and who will not. On Twitter and Pinterest, it's really easy, of course. Just find people who respond or retweet. Those who are only broadcasting will likely not reciprocate. On Facebook and Google+, it's more challenging but can be done. Test it out. Dedicate a little bit of time every day to engage with local pages and individuals (especially customers). Don't spam them or stalk them, but engage. If they reply, keep note of who they are and check them out from time to time.


In real life, it's a matter of asking and getting your staff to ask. It starts with them. If they aren't following and engaging with the power account online, they won't be willing to ask others to do the same.


It's not just about asking. Advertise it. Make signs and put them up around the dealership. In service, it could be a sign that says, "Hank gives customers free oil changes on Facebook and Twitter from time to time. Follow him and get something useful from social media instead of just funny cat pictures (even though Hank loves cats, too!)."


It could be much more blatant as well. "Receive a 10% discount on your current service. Just follow Hank and share one of his posts on your Facebook profile and get the discount immediately."


Again, be creative. This is your time to make your power account shine.


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In the final part of this series, we will bring it all together with real world examples of power accounts in action. Your social media reputation can become the hub through which you dealership's entire reputation stems. When this happens, you'll have much more control over what people are saying and hearing about you. More importantly, you'll have an opportunity to gain benefit for your dealership in an arena where your competitors are likely failing miserably. As social media continues to grow, there are only a few who will truly succeed and a vast majority who will not. Which side of the fence will your dealership choose?

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