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A few months ago, we confronted one of our dealers that had our website solution about why they were putting a watermark of their logo on irrelevant pictures and posting them to social media. Apparently, their social media vendor had a theory.

It was a process, really, and it went like this:

  1. Find viral images on sites like Reddit, 9Gag, and Buzzfeed.
  2. Slap the dealership’s logo in the bottom right corner.
  3. Get it liked and shared by hundreds of people around the world.
  4. Sell more cars as a result.

The biggest challenge with a strategy like this (and there are many) is that it hurts the brand’s image. Most people on social media have a nice flood of funny and interesting pictures coming through their feeds. The idea that a dealership needs to fit into this is ridiculous. Dealerships have to stand out.

The goal should not be to take an irrelevant picture and get it exposed to tens of thousands of people scattered around the world in hopes that enough of them are locals who can buy a car. The goal is to take truly local, relevant branding messages and get them exposed to thousands of locals only.

Would you rather your brand be associated with an image of a car nicely placed in front of the dealership with a the sign glowing bright on local people’s news feeds, or would you rather have people in Singapore or Tunisia loving a funny image that has made its rounds around the internet?

Social media isn’t like other marketing venues. On search, it doesn’t hurt to have your message reach people who aren’t in your market. On social media, it does. You want to be as localized as possible. You want a bare minimum of 80% of your fans to be within driving distance to the dealership. When you spread out too far, you are no longer able to post high-quality localized messages that the majority of your fans will recognize and care about.

It’s not realistically possible to keep 100% of your fans localized, but you can get close. In the image to the right, you’ll see that this page is small. It had practically zero fans less than two months ago. There are a couple dozen offshore likes; the only way to avoid this completely would be to manually inspect every new like and kick out those who are not helpful to the cause which is a waste of time. If you keep it over 80% localized (and these guys over 90% local) then the out-of-towners won’t do much damage.

Perhaps the biggest reason that dealers and vendors like bulk is that they follow the misconception that you can only reach fans. There has been this confusion that has followed social media sites, particularly Facebook, since they became marketing venues. The thought is that since this page has hundreds of fans, not tens of thousands of fans, they can’t reach enough people. This misconception is completely opposite of reality.

When someone likes, comments, or shares your post, it has the opportunity to be exposed to their friends in their own news feed. When two people in the same circle of friends like, comment, or share a post, it becomes much more likely that their friends will see it. By “much more likely” I don’t mean twice as likely. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the chances increase exponentially, but it’s a dramatic increase.

For example, Bob likes a post on your Facebook page. His friend, Sally, also likes the same post. They each have around 200 Facebook friends and 30 of them are mutuals between them. Their friends have a chance of seeing your post in their news feed, but their mutual fans have a much greater chance. Now, one of their mutual friends likes that post, and the dominoes start falling. The reach potential from Bob’s first like was small. Once Sally liked it, the reach potential increased. When Tom, their mutual friend, also likes the post, now we’re getting into a post with the potential to be seen by hundreds just from the Bob’s like alone. That doesn’t include the other people who are already seeing your posts. For those people, the potential can continue to grow as well.

This localized expansion of exposure is impossible when you have too many fans from outside of the area. Those people outside of the area hurt the potential for locals to see it because they’re less likely to interact with it. This lack of interaction can damage your posts algorithmically. In other words, by having too many distant fans, you hurt the chances of Bob ever seeing the post in the first place, which means Sally would never have seen it, which means Tom would have never seen it, which means those hundreds of locals who might have seen the post never had the opportunity.

It’s a little confusing. That’s why it’s just easier for dealers and vendors to think along the lines of accumulating as many fans as possible regardless of why they liked the page in the first place or where they actually live. Perhaps the easiest way to understand it is to see the actual reach of the page example above.

These numbers are decent for a page that was reaching nobody less than two months ago. They’re not fantastic; localized reach should be sustainable at five-digits with spikes in the six-digit range at times depending on the area targeted. Still, it’s a good illustration that a properly managed page with hundreds of local fans can still reach thousands of of people within driving distance to the dealership.

The bottom line is this: social media strategies in general and Facebook strategies in particular fall victim to misconceptions about fans and reach. You want to reach locals. You want to post content that is relevant. You want to brand the right way. You don’t need to employ tricks or schemes to become the most popular kid in school. You only need to employ sound strategies to reach potential consumers who can actually make a difference to your bottom line.

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Article originally appeared on

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Keep it Local, Local, or Local on Facebook

Local Buying a Car

I was moderating a small panel at a conference about two and a half years ago that focused on Facebook fans. The two panelists represented the two different sides of Facebook promotion at the time: one focused on local quality fans and the other focused on bulk fans. After the debate, one might have called it a draw. That was over two years ago. Today, there’s really only one side that deserves any representation at all. Local businesses should focus solely on getting local fans, period. To get a broad reach of fans outside of the market area as a local business can do more harm than good.

Only one side of the argument “deserves’ to be mentioned today, but unfortunately that’s not the case. There are still plenty of companies out there that try to use contests or other incentives to coax people to like their pages. Some even purchase fans. Both methods are antiquated.


Don’t Reach Too Far

This is still very prominent today and it needs to go away. No games. No giveaways. Get that our of your head. You don’t need to get fans that way.

To the right, you’ll see a standard demographic breakdown from a Facebook page we recently took over. They had been growing their fan base through contests for some time. Despite the fact that the drawing for a free iPad required that the winner had to come to the car dealership to pick it up, there were still hundreds of entries in the form of likes on the page that came from outside of the area, even outside of the country. I know that iPads are great and all but nobody’s going to hop on a plane to get the iPad they won.

Fan growth can and should be organic and transparent. We’ve had extreme success with stating the absolute truth. In one example, we took over a car dealership Facebook page in Honolulu that had 26 total fans. Three months later, they have over a thousand and their demographic composite is exactly what we want it to be:

Cutter Chevrolet Likes

Other than the four people in Cincinnati dreaming of living in Hawaii, the likes we’ve built have been completely localized. The goal should be that every person who follows you on Facebook should be within driving distance of becoming a customer. Some would argue that you can expand your reach beyond the immediate local area, but in the vast majority of America, keeping it hyper-local is the way to go. It isn’t just about focus, either. It’s about exposure. Your brand needs to be seen by as many locals as possible and the easiest way to do this is to make sure that only locals are following you.


Don’t “Coax” Fan Growth

Like Our Page

Here’s the thing. People will follow businesses. It has been proven time and time again that people are willing to follow businesses if they give them a valid reason to do so. A contest is not a valid reason. Getting the latest funny cat pictures is not a valid reason. The latest Facebook game is not a valid reason.

The valid reason that you’re looking for is all around you. You’re the expert in your field. People come to you and trust that you know what you’re talking about when it pertains to your business. If you’re a car dealer, you know cars. Period. Your content should reflect a deep understanding of the automotive industry, your brands, the local area, and your customers.

Present it just like that. There’s no need to promise that you’re going to be interesting. Promise tangible things that pertain to your business. For example, you can advertise that your Facebook page is “The home of the most important Chevrolet news, pictures, and videos that pertain to you, Honolulu.”

It works. We know. We’ve seen it in action.

When people like your page because they think they can win something, play a game, or perform any action that has nothing to do with your business, they will not be engaged. If they’re not engaged, they’re wasted fans. Having fans that are not engaged kills your EdgeRank and makes your actual business-relevant messages and branding invisible to your audience. I cannot stress this enough. In the future, I’ll compile a blog post that proves beyond a doubt that this is true, but for now, you’re just going to have to take my word for it.


When Your Fans Are Local, You’ll Reach More Locals

Waynseville FB

This is arguably the hardest thing to do on Facebook when a page has been algorithmically damaged by poor strategies. Getting the algorithm to like you again takes time, but it can happen. It’s a healing process.

In the example above, it’s clear to see where the engagement is happening. By keeping the page completely local, we’re able to more easily target the dealership’s message towards those who can come buy a car, get their oil changed, or interact in some way with the dealership.

This isn’t a large dealership. It’s not a large Facebook page. In fact, it has around 700 fans. Thankfully, those 700 fans are engaged and we’re able to reach the local audience with their message much more easily than if they had fans spread out across the country or around the world. That’s the key to all of this. By keeping it local, you can reach the people that matter. Unless you’re Dell or Skittles, chances are that you aren’t going for a global audience. Make sure your Facebook page reflects this concept.

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Carnival Stuffed Animals

Social media icons and signs that say “Like us on Facebook” or “Follow us on Twitter” aren’t nearly as common in brick and mortar stores today as they were a couple of years ago. Many companies who tried to make it work (or are still trying) found that the presence of signs didn’t do much to improve their following.

Today, it can be different. Many people use their mobile devices to stay active on social media, much more than they did a couple of years ago, but even with this the old school follow/like signs still won’t work. They can, but not if you don’t give them a reason. Thankfully, this is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to increase your following. To do it, you have to make it worth their while.

One car dealership I’ve worked with has found strong success by using the concept in their service department. They’ve gone so far as to give three reasons for people to follow them on Facebook (they aren’t as hip on Twitter yet but I’m trying to get them interested). There’s a sign at the pay counter that says, “Get a 5% discount just for liking our Facebook page.”

In the “small print” under the offer, they write, “We post 4 or 5 times a week and we won’t annoy you with bad jokes or links to our blog. Instead, we post Facebook-only service specials and only the best of the best cars for sale from time to time.”

It works like a charm. Their numbers are constantly rising. Then, the take it a step further with the third incentive in even smaller print below the second line. “If you like us already and still want the 5% discount, just post that you’re here and that you ‘like getting my service done at [dealership name] because _______.”

Signage is the least used effective way to get fans, followers, engagement, and endorsements. These are people who are already doing business with you and if they like the way they’re treated, you should encourage them to let their friends know. It doesn’t have to be a discount. It does have to include a reason. I know one non-dealer that has stuffed animals, the small ones you see at the carnival, stacked on the wall with a sign that says, “Get your kid (or yourself) a stuffed elephant or moose by becoming our Facebook fan.”

Be creative. Be fun. Make a promise about how your social media profile brings value to your followers and then deliver on that promise by making your pages and profiles awesome.

People won’t like or follow you without a reason.

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The First Car Carried By Facebook Likes?

The new Renault Clio was carried by Facebook Likes in the “Like Challenge”. See the story and video.

A social interactive live stream on Facebook connects the online and offline world in the newest social media campaign of Renault Netherlands.

Online likes measured the passion for the new Renault Clio.

Offline, a heaver construction with the car on one side and a Facebook box on the other, showed the weight of this passion.

In two weeks, the Facebook fans did succeed and showed that there is enough passion in the Netherlands for the new Renault Clio to carry the car.

How much passion do the Dutch people have for the new Renault Clio?

The passion for the new Renault model is measured by means of a heaver construction with on one side the new Renault Clio and on the other side the Facebook box.

Facebook fans show their passion for the car by giving a physical like.

Through a social interactive live stream the fans see how their online like is thrown offline in the Facebook box and how the weight in the Facebook box slowly increases.

Watch the video of the like challenge here:

The first car carried by likes
Renault fans shared their passion for the new Renault Clio. In two weeks more than 16.000 like thumbs were placed in the Facebook box and there was enough passion gathered to carry the new Renault Clio.

For the first time a car was carried by the likes of a Facebook community. At that final moment the live stream had already over 60.000 views and even reached the homepage of Ustream.

During the campaign Renault welcomed more than 12.000 new fans.

My Opinion?
Our frequent readers know that I am not a big fan of buying likes.

But this approach by agency Dorst & Lesser gives a special turn to the course of “buying” likes.

One: the like challenge is more entertaining than buying likes through a Facebook campaign.

Two: One of the fans will win a car that will give extra buzz and shares around the like challenge.

Three: Giving away a car of around 14.000 EURO makes the price per paid-for like more than reasonable.

What About You?
How do you rate this like challenge by Renault Netherlands? I’d love to read your opinion in the comments below.


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There are many mistakes made by dealers on Facebook. We detail the most egregious ones here from time to time in an attempt to help others not make the same mistakes. There's one mistake in particular that is almost unforgivable for the simple reason that it's so darn easy while being pretty darn effective. Dealerships are so focused on their own pages that they often neglect to take their pages out into the rest of the Facebook world and interact there.

Here's the short version of what you should be doing with your page: log in as the page (top right arrow next, "Use Facebook as:") and go like other pages and posts. Done right, it should take no more than 5-10 minutes a day. Like your local newspaper. Like local charities. Like other local businesses. Like the posts that are on those pages that you truly enjoy (more on that later). It takes a certain creative and professional personality to comment appropriately as a dealership on other Facebook pages. It takes the ability to read and click buttons to like things that others post.

Here's the longer version...


Interacting with the Community by Pushing the Like Button

Facebook Liking as a Business

Facebook gives you the ability to humanize your dealership. That's one of the most important attributes of Facebook as a marketing and public relations tool. It's great for communicating and most dealerships are starting to be more active on their Facebook pages when people seek them out and talk to them there, but so few are going out into Facebook as their pages and doing the interacting there.

This is way too easy of a task. It's so easy and so potentially effective that it's shocking so few do it.

Here it is, step by step:

  1. Using Facebook as your page, find relevant local businesses, charities, organizations, and publications to like.
  2. Be open but vet your selections. Make sure the pages are active, posting content that your business would agree with and that your fans would also enjoy, and have a real following. Avoid pages that are too big - your likes will not be seen if their page has hundreds of thousands of fans and each posts gets hundreds of likes. Think Goldilocks - not too big, not too small. If they're getting 1-10 likes per post, that's perfect.
  3. Like content on their pages that you enjoy. This is important - don't go through "blind liking" things on others' pages. Only push the like button if it's something that you would want to be associated with online and in real life.
  4. Check your news feed daily while using Facebook as your page. Again, be selective. The urge to save time and start hitting the like button a lot is strong for many, but be certain that you really like what you're liking.
  5. Set a schedule to vet the pages that you have already liked as well as finding new pages to like. I do it once or twice a month.
  6. Rinse. Repeat.


Why this Helps

This may seem like a frivolous activity. It's not. It works.

Every time you like something on another page, your business name appears on the post. The branding implications here are clear - repetition and reinforcement are keys in this uber-competitive auto sales environment.

More importantly, it's not just how often people see your name. It's where they see it. There's a certain level of goodwill associated with a like. This can register on a conscious or unconscious level. Either way, your brand is associated itself with worthy causes, other local businesses, and stories posted on publications that other people agree with or enjoy as well. When they see that you liked a recent post by the local March of Dimes chapter, for example, it shows that your dealership is potentially involved with good things happening in the community.

There's also the return-reaction factor. Let's say a car dealership likes a post by a local restaurant. The restaurant's Facebook page manager will likely see this. They might "return the favor" and go to your page to like something there as well. That's the minor benefit. The major benefit comes into play during those rare but real moments when an actual sale is made as a result. There's a dealership that recently liked and commented on a post by a local college promoting their book sale drive that was going to benefit the math department. A math professor at the university bought a car from the dealership a week later, noting that they were "in the market anyway and was pleased that the dealership was supporting his department."

A $35,000 vehicle sold as a direct result of clicking a button and writing a nice comment - it doesn't get any better than that.

Cases like that are ideal but obviously very rare. People are normally not so easily swayed. While the direct benefits are often never seen, the indirect benefits of branding, exposure, and goodwill are easy to understand. Remember, it takes 5-10 minutes a day at most. Some may do it less often and still find success. The key is to do it. If you don't have the time to be engaging with your local community by clicking the mouse a few times a day... who am I kidding. You do have the time. You just have to make it a priority.

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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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It was the 2011 Driving Sales Executive Summit when I was asked by Joe Webb to participate in a debate about Twitter followers. I had around 100,000 followers at the time and he wanted me to argue for the side of quantity being more important than quality. This made perfect sense except for one fact: I don't believe in quantity being a more important factor than quality. I did back in 2008 when Twitter was bright and shiny and "churning" for Twitter followers was a common technique, but those days are way behind us.


Today, size still matters. It's not the total size that counts but the size of your engaged audience. Under most circumstances, I hate using buzzwords like "engagement" but it fits perfectly here. Your engaged audience is all that matters from a business perspective.


Let's look at a handful of social networks for examples of how quantity and quality fit into the models for marketing in each. We'll focus on three areas: fan base (likes and followers), posting frequency, and interactions with others.

On Facebook

This is the big daddy in social media and deserves to be up top.

  • Fan Base - This is the most important component when discussing quality versus quantity, particularly for localized businesses. National and worldwide brands do not have to worry about it as much, but when you're promoting a local car dealership, you actually want fewer fans that are outside of your area. An ideal Facebook page fan base would be comprised entirely of locals, of people who would be willing to drive to the store. I'll take 500 local fans over 10,000 fans spread out any day, even if 500 of those spread out fans are local. Why? It's all about demographic and advertising. Facebook ads are extremely powerful and pages that are loaded with irrelevant fans actually hurts your ability to market to the locals. It drives up expenses and can make you look like a cheater to those who see your page and wonder why so many people outside of your area seem to like your page.
  • Posting Frequency - There are two different strategies here. On one side of the spectrum, you have the business-only Facebook strategy that puts up 2 or 3 posts a week all related to business and advances these through Facebook ads. EdgeRank will not be favorable to this strategy, but EdgeRank goes out the window with proper advertising in place. The other side of the coin is to go after 1-3 posts a day (or more) with the hope of being a part of the conversation on a daily basis. This works fine as well. The pages that fail are the ones that are posting constantly. This becomes noise and forces people to hide you from their news feeds. They aren't here to see a bunch of posts from businesses. They came to Facebook to see little Timmy sliding into third base. Don't overpost.
  • Interactions - Again, quality is better than quantity here, but it's less of an issue on Facebook. If you're posting comments, liking, and sharing the posts of other pages regularly but not too much, you'll be fine. The biggest challenge I've seen is in having people log in as their Facebook pages and actually interact. Most are willing to comment on their own posts when people respond to them, but it goes deeper, or at least it should.

On Twitter

The biggest problem that most businesses face with Twitter is automation.

  • Fan Base - I've seen accounts with 1000 avid and engaged followers that have more power and get more interactions than accounts with 250k followers. This is a big problem, the ease in which people can buy fake followers to bump up their numbers. It's a joke, really. Focusing on getting real people who are active on Twitter to follow your account is gold.
  • Posting Frequency - It's not really possible to overpost on Twitter. Posting too many at once is a challenge because flooding followers' feeds will make them unfollow you, but it's possible to get a ton of posts out there every day without making people too upset. However, automated posting tools such as RSS posters or Facebook post integration is a mistake. On some of the accounts I manage, I post over 20 times a day, but every single post is done manually. I schedule them - I'm not on Twitter 24/7 - but everything I schedule is manually vetted. More importantly, they're all hand-crafted. You can get more out of a properly written Tweet than five RSS-fed Tweets any day.
  • Interactions - I'm rude. I don't reply to every single person who Tweets at me or retweets me. It's not because I don't appreciate the interactions. It's because I don't want to flood my followers' feeds with a bunch of "Thanks for the Retweet" posts. As a general rule, interact with those who put in the effort. In other words, you don't have to talk to everyone who pushed the retweet button, but if they typed something specifically at you or added their two cents to a conversation, it's best to interact right back at them. Keep it fresh and don't talk to spammers.

On Pinterest

The newest big hotness in social media is making a splash on the business side. As a result, there is a need to understand the quality versus quantity aspect as it stands now. This can change as the site continues to grow, but for now here are some best practices.

  • Fan Base - For businesses, this is the only social network where size really does make a big difference. You can still be effective without a ton of followers, but they definitely help. Just like with Twitter, there are buying services available that let you bump up your numbers. Just like with Twitter, this is a terrible idea. You can grow your following by posting regularly, tagging appropriately, and interacting with the accounts that are also posting content that you like.
  • Posting Frequency - The first thing I do when I see my Pinterest page flooded with someone else's posts is to unfollow them. The elegant way in which Pinterest displays their feed makes it easy to spot the overposters. To me, the magic number is 10 a day if you can spread it out and no more than five at a time, but some would say you can post more in a day but should post less at a time. Make your choice based upon your schedule; if you can log in and post three or four times a day, post 1-3 at a time. If you're logging in once a day, get 3-5 out there during your Pinterest session.
  • Interactions - Pinterest and Tumblr are the social networks where it's okay to operate strictly from an interaction perspective. Twitter is as well when used strictly as a communication tool, but unless a business is truly dialed in and has integrated their Twitter into their standard operating procedures, they'll get more benefit by proactively engaging. Pinterest and Tumblr are sharing machines, so even if you never post your own original content, you can still be successful by simply being a strong curator. The benefit here is that it's easier to get engagement when you're working with other people's content.

This doesn't mean that having no friends, followers, and fans is a good idea on any social network. It simply means don't focus on size. Stay true to keeping things rolling along in the right direction and the right followers will find you.
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