Jim Flint, President Of Local Search Group Reviews the Internet Sales 20 Group in Los Angeles, Ca
If there’s one thing that gets under my skin the most about local businesses on social media, it’s that they rarely take advantage of one of the most important types of posts: local facts. It’s a low-hanging fruit that is completely missed by most.
It starts with having a local following and fan base, of course, but if your page is in what we like to call stage 2, then local facts are an easy way to get people talking to your and about you. It’s one of the most important tools in our arsenal that we use to promote clients but it doesn’t take a team of social media specialists to make it happen. You can do it very easily on your own.
In the example above, you see this Long Beach Chevy dealer has a post up about an interesting fact for the Long Beach area. Someone saw it in their news feed, recognized it, then tagged their friend in a comment. The friend saw the post as a result and commented as well. He recognized the house in this case… it was his neighbor!
The individual interaction has an exceptional algorithmic effect on Facebook. Whenever anyone likes, comments, or shares a post, it has an opportunity to be seen by that person’s friends. When something like this happens where two friends are having an exchange on the post, the chances of their individual friends seeing the post increases, of course, but the chances of their shared friends seeing it shoot up exponentially. Once one of those friends like the post, now it’s very likely that their entire shared circle of friends will see the post.
This is a great thing because chances are very high that the majority of the people within this circle are within the market area of the dealership. That’s one of the ways the Facebook algorithm works. It’s one of the easiest ways to get posts like this to be liked by 30 local people and seen by over 1000 locals.
Facebook has been a challenging venue for marketers and advertisers ever since it started really getting popular in 2009. At that time, it was clear that it was the social network to beat and the company started trying to cash in with different types of advertising options. Most of them failed miserably for the same reason that many marketers continue to fail today: people go to Facebook to be entertained, not to be the recipient of ads.
Today, it’s getting easier. People are more accepting of ads. A lot of it can be attributed to the way that Facebook has handled their promoted posts. They have done an excellent (some would say Draconian) job of keeping messages off of news feeds that are too promotional. Between the manual vetting they do of ads and the 20% text rule they apply to images, they’ve been able to keep a relatively strong balance between letting advertisers get their message out and keeping their users happy through minimized spam.
When it comes to putting out a message that resonates, that users can enjoy while still getting the promotional message out, businesses (local ones in particular) should consider adding a touch of fun and flair to their posts. In the example above, the goal of the car dealership in question is to promote their oil change special. There are a couple of different ways to go about doing this. They can make it a Facebook offer which can be very effective if the special is a true Facebook-only special. They could make it an event, but they would have to really make it a true event for that to work and few people would consider car maintenance an event. They could be direct – post about the special and throw some ad money at it. This is not recommended as the negative sentiment would murder the page’s EdgeRank.
In this case, they added the localized and timely flair of focusing on a wonderful aspect of living by the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It’s spring and people are thinking about what they’re going to do when school is out, when vacation time comes, and when the weather is in a state of awesomeness that they can venture forth and enjoy the world. The message is clear and ends with the “pitch”:
“Before heading out, make sure your ride is in “Mountain Ready” condition. Here’s an oil change special just for your trip…”
By positioning it in a way that takes a positive aspect of local life and applying the marketing message at that point, it allows for the post to flourish. Even though the page itself has around 700 fans, it was liked by 80 people, shared by 3, and commented on by several. Branding was achieved. Positive sentiment was achieved. The link to the special itself on their website received a nice amount of clicks. Most importantly, the message was seen by around 10,000 locals.
There’s a fine line between tricking people into interacting with a post to click on an advertisement and actually engaging with them on their terms and getting the message to them as a result. Using local flair is one of the easiest ways to make this happen.
Perhaps its Sean Bradley’s commitment to excellence and holding dealers accountable to walk away with action plans from a crowd of unusually focused [Internet Sales 20 Dallas] IS20 members.
Only a handful we’re checking cell phone messages while in session and when you attend the next IS20 you’ll know why; you’re captivated by the content where all the standard institutional auto conference rules and guidelines are smashed.
Instead you get a room full of all star experts and hungry to learn attendees who are captivated by their colleagues, speaking up when any one point or topic needed more explanation or would merit a rebut.
We can thank Sean for his highly conscious efforts to ringmaster a conference where the content was always relevant. My opinion, IS20 attracts some of the most innovative in the biz, who crave the most up to date practical content that provides the highest return on money and time.
IS20 is straight legit.
I spoke on a panel about the importance of online reputation. Based on the questions and comments I received from various dealerships, there are some looming problems in the area of managing internet reputation.
For example, Google says on their Conflict of interest page: reviews are only valuable when they are honest and unbiased. Dealers who are not focused on organically building reviews, and that means anything other than evoking a review from hot links in an email that leads that customer directly to 3rd party review sites may compromise their Google ranking, score and lead to endless hemorrhaging of removed or filtered reviews. Don’t get me wrong; there are all kinds of traditional ways to gently nudge a customer to leave a review soon after leaving the dealership, i.e., handing them a request flyer with where and how to find your dealership review sites and/or instructions for customers who have a gmail or dealerrater account as to how to post a review.
From what I see with our dealer clients, Google has been very kind to dealers that only allow reviews posted from the customer’s I.P. Yelp, different story. I couldn’t believe how much disdain I heard about Yelp from IS20 members. Same ol’ complaint I’ve heard from hundreds of business owners; “I accrue lots of positive reviews and when I don’t advertise upon their request, our positive reviews are removed overnight and negative is all that remains.” My suggestion; endure the pain of filtered reviews and diversify your portfolio of listing sites and offer customers other review sites to post reviews. If you’re comfortable with paying the ransom they indirectly hold dealers hostage to buy, then look forward to 5 fat stars. Some we’re saying at IS20 the believability of the star rating system on Yelp is disingenuous. Yelp is highly ranked; on the other hand, we know Yellow Pages are the second largest review site behind Google.
If your reputation management strategy and process is not organic, you’re short term gain, if any, will be weak at best. For example, posting reviews on a dealer owned web page may paint a picture of a dealer in more control of their reputation and no longer hostage to the Google and Yelp review removing sledgehammer. Sounds reasonable, but here’s the problem. 3rd party review sites will rank higher, particularly on mobile, than the dealers review web pages where content is controlled and future buyers can sense manipulation or an inauthentic amount of positive reviews and stars. I still haven’t found a dealer owned customer review page with negative feedback, let alone a negative review with a manager’s response to remedy the complaint. Negative feedback that is managed, influences prospects to trust you and is fuel that can flip a sour customer to a raving advocate who tells everyone they know.
I applaud dealers who leverage negative and respond on the dealer’s site, however responding to negative on the 3rd party review sites, specifically Google would help lift you’re Google score much more than reviews on the dealer site.
To the point of short circuiting negative complaints; why would you not capitalize on the moment you follow up via email, offering hot links direct to review sites like Google, and also welcome complaints from customers submitted to the Dealer. This protects your CSI, amongst a hundred other great things.
News Flash! I’m yet to see a disgruntled customer who submits an unsatisfied complaint that will also post on 3rd party sites. Why? They’ve voiced concern to the dealer and will give the dealer a chance to remedy the problem.
What worries me most are the looming problems for dealers, especially those who encourage customers to post an invaluable review on a web page other than Google or other highly ranked 3rd party review sites. I have found very few customer dealer review web pages that rank on the 1st page of Google when a “dealers name” with the keyword “reviews” is queried.
Every day I hear all the antics dealers use to capture feedback. One review building tactic that makes me cringe is allowing an outside reputation agency to collect customer feedback who then posts the reviews on behalf of the dealer from an I.P far from the dealership. Even if the agency is in town, the methodology is manipulative and not organic. If you’re not organic then don’t expect Google algorithms to give you the top ranking when your future customers are hunting for the best dealer using local search.
p.s go claim your top review listings before your competition does
With Google Local, formerly known as Google Places decision makers are scrambling to understand how ORM algorithms will drastically affect SEO rankings and high Google scores. Google says Google Local is “a simple way to discover and share local information.” Sounds like business listing are becoming more social.
In other words Google Local helps people like me who could very well turn the urge to buy a car— “Hey, I want to test drive a car today” —into an afternoon outing: “Perfect, there’s a Cadillac dealer with great reviews just two blocks from here. Let’s go.” It’s integrated into Search, Maps and mobile and available as a new tab in Google+—creating one simple experience across Google.
The new system is definitely much broader than the previous star system, given its larger scale. 17 out of 30 doesn’t sound incredibly great but if you look at the scale, 16-20 represents “good to very good”. 0- 30 is pretty wide range to cover the four individual ratings Google goes by:
2 Very Good
0 Poor to Fair
Google takes the average, and multiplies it by ten to come up with averaged scores featuring Zagat scores and recommendations from people you trust in Google+.
Algorithms are incorporated into all kinds of review sites where your brand is being talked about and Google is measuring a combination of indicators across all published reviews to determine your Score and overall ranking.
Survey results released a few months ago indicate that many of the top ranking factors are directly related to reviews, your top keywords in reviews, including Google measuring what kind of feedback or responses you’re providing to the consumer feedback on review sites.
Here is how a few of them ranked, according to that (out of the top 90):
7. Quantity of Native Google Places Reviews (w/text) (REVIEWS)
18. Product/Service Keywords in Reviews (REVIEWS)
24. Quantity of Third-Party Traditional Reviews (REVIEWS)
26. Location Keywords in Reviews (REVIEWS)
31. Velocity of Native Google Places Reviews (REVIEWS)
34. Quantity of Reviews by Authority Reviewers (e.g.Yelp Elite, Multiple Places Reviewers, etc) (REVIEWS)
46. High Numerical Ratings by Authority Reviewers (e.g.Yelp Elite, Multiple Places Reviewers, etc) (REVIEWS)
49. Overall Velocity of Reviews (Native + Third-Party) (REVIEWS)
50. Quantity of Third-Party Unstructured Reviews (REVIEWS)
52. Quantity of Native Google Places Ratings (no text) (REVIEWS)
53. High Numerical Ratings of Place by Google Users (e.g. 4-5) (REVIEWS)
62. Velocity of Third-Party Reviews (REVIEWS)
69. High Numerical Third-Party Ratings (e.g. 4-5) (REVIEWS)
74. Positive Sentiment in Reviews (REVIEWS)
According to Google, reputation management means interacting, responding to, learning from, and implementing ideas and improvements based on customer feedback. The good news is that feedback is everywhere. I’d take that as a hint from Google that a higher Google score is achieved with a multi pronged approach.
Responding to reviews, creating conversation with customers, understanding the underlying issues, and devising possible solutions.
The importance of a high ranking Google score will be directly related to two different potential benefits:
- SEO Influence. The exact algorithm for reviews is not completely clear, but Google says the correlation between a higher number of reviews and higher relevance (sometimes ranking) on search engines is apparent in any search query yielding a local result, not to mention fresh content being crawled by robots.
Therefore, it would make sense to incorporate reputation building avenues (follow up emails, etc) for customers
to share their experience, which can help increase the dealerships online reviews and become a more credible source for both customers and search engines.
2. Conversion & Purchasing Influence. The second benefit is the relationship between top level results and the likelihood of a user clicking on your dealer name. If your dealership continuously encourages customers to leave reviews (not from the dealerships I.P) and the reviews received are showing your business in a good light, then it is likely that you will rank higher on review results. See the logical equation below for Google
Total reviews + Quality of Reviews = Better Google Ranking (simple version as there are other factors involved)
Regardless of the ranking of the list above, it does stop and make you think about all the potential factors that could go into your local ranking, and many are certainly worth paying attention to.
It was one of the most used made-up words of 2012 (and in many cases, one of the most annoying). Just about every marketer in and out of the automotive industry used some variation of "SoLoMo" (Social/Local/Mobile) in a blog post, video, presentation, or declaration of things to come. The underlying concept - that many people and the sites they visit are becoming more social, more localized, and more mobile based - is likely here to stay for a while, but is it something that dealers should embrace in 2013 or something that they should wait on until it either explodes or fades into the same obscurity that QR codes and SMS marketing seem to be heading?
Before anyone jumps on that last statement, I'm not downplaying the effectiveness of either QR codes or SMS marketing. Used right, they can be very effective. They simply didn't materialize into the "next big thing" that many thought they would back in 2011.
I have three questions which I'll answer briefly just to spark the conversation, but I really want to hear from the ADM community.
Q1: Should they really be grouped together or should they be treated as independent marketing and communication forms?
There's a certain beauty in SoLoMo. With the rise of smartphones and tablets, the improvements by Google and Bing in serving consumers localized results, and continued expansion of social media into our daily lives, it all seems to tie together nicely. Social is accessed most often from mobile devices. Mobile devices and their operating systems are generating search results, apps, and other tools that tie in perfectly with localized engagement. Local interactions are becoming more prevalent in social media and through review sites.
It would seem that grouping them together is easy enough and presents the ability to save time and resources by consolidating strategies. However, each of the three components also have their own nuances and attributes that may require an active automotive marketing professional (both at the dealership and vendor level) to split the strategies into more focused campaigns and separate styles.
Should they stay grouped or not?
Q2: Is the time and effort required to make them "hum" worth it from an ROI perspective?
Let's get local out of this question immediately. Few would argue with the clear trends and data that shows the value of localized focus. Reviews, search traffic, retargeting - all have shown benefits that make the question silly in regards to local.
Mobile and social are different. Mobile is a tough beast to tame. It requires the right software, platforms, and strategy to get the desired effect, but is the effect worth the effort? Is there a large enough difference between good and great to make it worth the wholesale changes necessary to get to the highest level? Social is always a question from an ROI perspective - enough has been written for and against it so there's no need to rehash here.
Is there enough ROI to justify going to the next level?
Q3: Will SoLoMo grow in relevance or decline in 2013
I'm going to leave that question open. I have very firm beliefs about the direction of SoLoMo in 2013, but I'll hold my opinions until others are posted so as not to spoil the conversation prematurely.
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What say you, ADM?
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