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Are You Using the Right Channel?

When it comes to social media nowadays there are so many platform options, over 400 to be precise, so many that you may find yourself questioning which platform is best for you and your business. With so many options it’s easy to feel sucked into thinking you need them all, don’t worry, you don’t.
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Why Instagram is great for you...

As a dealership it’s important to stay on top of the most current social media trends. The most popular new form of social media is Instagram. This makes total sense considering “a picture is worth 1,000 words.” Instagram (IG) was established in 2010 and has been gaining “followers” ever since. IG is strictly mobile based, and at this time it is not possible to post a photo on via the desktop site, although a quick visit to instagram.com will provide a great photo viewer! Like Facebook and Twitter, IG encourages the use of Hashtags in photo posts. Hashtags allow you to link your photo with anyone else using the same Hashtag. The newest component of IG is the capability to record and share videos as well!

The largest draw to Instagram is the ability to put filters on your photos! With over 15 choices, and the ability to control a blur setting, and contrast, you have total control over your photos!

So, why would a strictly picture based app be good for your business? Well, first off According to Instagram.com/press the site has 200 million monthly users. That is a lot of potential customers! The key though is to make your picture or video captivating. You don’t want people to be scrolling through their IG timeline and glaze right over your picture without engaging with it. Even worse, you wouldn’t want to offend anyone with a photo post!

The same advice we’d give you for any other social media platform rings true with IG; you don’t want to over promote your brand! You want your posts to be a mix of relevant topics and things going on for you and your business. You can accomplish this with behind the scenes photos, or first looks at the latest technology! Keep in mind Instagram is a strictly mobile based app, but it’s super easy to download and sign up. All you need is an e-mail address to make an account. So, get to promoting your brand in a new way today!

For in-depth training on Instagram, give Dealer Synergy a call, we've got some great tips to turn you into an IG Master!

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First Peek at Advertising on Instagram

On October 24, 2013, Instagram announced that they would become the next social media giant to offer up advertising space on their mobile platform. From the consumer’s perspective, it’s easy to understand the resentment towards the announcement. One of the biggest perks of the platform was that users could actually choose the content they were exposed to. You didn’t have to worry about an overabundance of promoted posts or news stories getting in the way of the information you were truly concerned with ¾ information pertaining to our friends and family.

On the business end, however, Instagram’s announcement provides branding opportunities for companies worldwide. According to Instagram’s website, there are currently 150 million active users with over 60% of that population lying outside of the United States. To date, there has been 16 billion photos shared, 1.2 billion daily likes, and an average of 55 million photos shared per day. There is no arguing that Instagram has become one the most popular social media sites to date, but how will users react when advertisements pop up in their newsfeeds?

Instagram users got their first taste of what can be expected from Instagram advertisements when the platform released its first official ad by Michael Kors. While the ad did receive mixed reviews amongst Instagram’s population, the results were visible within just a few hours. According to Mashable, “as of mid-morning Friday, the ad had more than 65,000 Like and more than 540 comments,” a statistic which speaks for itself. Over the next few weeks, it will be interesting to see how consumers react to more businesses adopting advertising on Instagram, as well as how businesses incorporate Instagram into their existing digital marketing strategies. 

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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.

 

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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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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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There is a rise in niche-level outsourced social media that is refreshing on one hand and discouraging on the other. It's encouraging because when agencies take the stance of focusing on a single niche such as automotive or entertainment, they are able to build up several resources to make their jobs easier and the clients' social media presence more robust. On the other hand, it allows many to create an assembly-line, one-size-fits-all mentality of automation that can actually hurt the clients.

 

It's one of my biggest annoyances. When I sift through the hundreds of Facebook and other social media feeds that are attached to the car dealers I follow, I often see repetition. To some extent there's nothing wrong with this; a Ford dealer in Tuscaloosa sharing the same epic image of a 1967 Mustang that a Ford dealer in Boston shared is likely a safe practice, especially if they're not posted at the exact same time. However, when I start seeing feeds that are over half-duplicated with other similar dealers, I cringe.

 

Where's the personality? Where's the individuality that allows Facebook and other social media sites to pump up the good and dismiss the bad? Certainly the Ford dealer in Tuscaloosa has completely different goals with social media than the Boston dealer and a diverse personality through which their dealership's humanity can shine?

 

Unfortunately, this simply isn't the case. Many niche social media companies have adopted as much of an assembly-line mentality as possible. Knowing what I know about social media, if I were on the other side of the discussion looking for the right type of social media I would look for certain things out of my social media partner. This is easy for me to say since we do not currently offer a product that matches these criteria; I have the luxury of speaking without bias. This is exactlywhat I would want if I were a dealer...

 

Seven Criteria for a Social Media Partner

I understand the concepts of scalability, profitability, and building a product that can deliver on the goods without being too cost-prohibitive. I have eliminated those thoughts from this discussion for the sake of describing an ideal situation. No vendor today offers this level of advanced social media marketing in the automotive industry (including us) today. That's a shame because it would help reshape the industry and align goals with results.

  1. Constant Consultation for Both Parties' Sake - Running the various social media profiles that I do, I could not imagine being effective with them if I didn't have intimate knowledge of what was going on at the companies. This isn't something that can be accomplished by a monthly call. It doesn't necessarily require a daily call, either, as that would get annoying, but a weekly touch and an open phone line are absolutely required to make sure that we were taking full advantage of the best component of social media: real time.
  2. Diversity of Personalities - There is no "master plan" in social media that works universally. A Chevy store in Fond du Lac may have a personality that is deeply rooted in the community. They might be one of the centerpieces of the city that plays an important role in cultural growth, education, and bringing the community together. A Honda store in Shreveport might have a completely different approach with different goals for their social media. They might be best served posting 3 times a week instead of twice a day, posting only what is relevant to their fan base that has grown used to seeing service specials advertised to them regularly.
  3. A Budget for Facebook Advertising - Whether through Offers, Sponsored Stories, Events, or straight up Facebook ads, the idea that a page can be maximized without an advertising budget is like saying that a car can drive really fast without gas. I don't care if it's a Lotus - without fuel the only hope to go fast is to drop it out of plane. Facebook offers by far the most cost-effective form of advertising on the internet right now. The majority of vendors who deny this are either uninformed or simply don't want Facebook taking from their chunk of the pie.
  4. Understanding and Focus on the Right Networks - Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are non-negotiable and should never be automated. Dealers and vendors who plug their Twitter into Facebook and call it a day are missing out. Dealers and vendors who use Hootsuite or other tools to keep their Google+ updated have missed the point (this one topic could be a blog post of its own). Tumblr, Foursquare, Pinterest, and Instagram are important and may fall in line with a strong social media presence. YouTube, Slideshare, and Flickr work well for dealers who are positioned properly with the right content. Scoop.it and a handful of other startups that we're watching are moving up on the list. Pretty much every other social network is fluff at this point. Vendors that say, "Get your dealership on dozens of social networks" are either ignorant or they believe that their clients are ignorant. The concepts of "more is better" and "it can't hurt to try" are absolutely false in social media. I'd debate anyone on this point.
  5. Content that Starts at the Dealership - There is plenty of generic content out there that works pretty well. In the car business, there is no shortage of content. However, the only way to get real success out of posts is to localize them. A picture of a Hyundai concept car from the Geneva Auto Show is good, but a picture of a customer's tricked-out Hyundai that drives on the local streets is much better. Vendors who are not doing point #1 will never be able to accomplish this point.
  6. Search Integration - This is a huge one that nobody is doing properly right now. Nobody. Social signals are quickly becoming one of the most important aspects of search engine optimization. There are those who claim to be helping a dealership's search rankings through social media by getting additional inbound links, but this is a completely different strategy than social signal implementation. Again, this is another blog post waiting to happen, but if there is nothing in the strategy that includes getting high-quality organic social interaction on your website, you don't have a true social signals for search strategy in place.
  7. Reputation Reinforcement through Social Media - This is one that is a "must have" for dealers. Reputation is everything. There are a few vendors who do a great job at reputation management - getting reviews, monitoring them to get the dealership's responses, and redirecting potential negative reviews directly to the dealership to allow for one-on-one conversations. Kudos to them. However, a component that I've seen done well on only the occasional social media presence is reputation reinforcement. It's not just about putting a tab on your Facebook page with a reviews feed. It's about taking the extraordinary reviews and getting them exposed to potential customers proactively.

Social media done properly can be tremendously beneficial to dealerships and just about any business out there that works with consumers. It takes a personal touch from the business that can only be achieved by doing it themselves with strong strategies and proper guidance or through true social media partners that put in the efforts, that stay on top of the trends, and that are willing to get personal and understand the personality of the business instead of blasting out generic content and hoping for the best.

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Nataliya Hora / Shutterstock.com

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