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Some infographics are long for the sake of being long. They take up way too much space to make very few points or to present data in ways that simply don’t make sense from an graphic perspective. Then, there are those infographics that are long for a valid reason. This is one of those.

Social media is ever changing. In many ways, this is a good thing. Innovations come through change and the major social networks are all much better than they were just a couple of years ago. Other changes are annoying, especially for businesses that rely on their social media presence as a venue to drive engagement, communication, and branding. Having the appropriate matching of the brand look and feel is important. Unfortunately, just when you have the right graphics in the right places, they go and make changes to the size and location of these graphics.

It’s a drag. Thankfully, this infographic from Tent Social is up to date… as of right now. There’s no telling when Facebook will decide to make their cover images larger or when LinkedIn will change the dimensions of its logo space, but for now, here’s a good reference for everything from image sizes to post lengths.

Measurements” image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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When I was asked last year to develop a social media marketing service, the first question they asked was whether I already had software in mind or if it needed to be built. I told them that the software had already been developed and it was free. This didn't go over well at first; they’d always used premium social media software in the past.

“How good could it be if it’s free?” they asked.

I told them that it’s not only free, but it was also the best software available. I took the computer, typed in f-a-c-e-b-o-o-k-dot-c-o-m, and proceeded to explain why it wasn’t just about me being cheap, but that it’s also better to post to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest from facebook.com, twitter.com, plus.google.com, and pinterest.com.

Here’s why:

 

You Don’t Need a Shell on Top

With search engine marketing, there’s an argument that can be made that pulling in third-party data is a benefit. The sheer amounts of data available through the search engines and from outside sources makes it conceivable that there are benefits to using software to manage campaigns, track keywords (particularly for SEO reasons), and monitor results. Then again, the Google Adwords UI has become pretty darn slick in recent months, so I don’t think I’d even use software for that.

At least it’s debatable with search and other marketing arenas. On social, there’s simply no debate necessary. There is no software out there that makes posting, monitoring, and reporting results easier than the actual websites and mobile apps themselves. Are there benefits? Sure. There are also major drawbacks and too much room for error that makes them worthless.

A couple of years ago, they were effective because Facebook and Twitter hadn’t matured. Today, they’re doing just fine handling their own data, controlling their own posts, and making it easier to monitor.

It almost sorta kinda makes sense with a taco.

Don’t get me wrong. I use tools. I love Buffer for scheduling posts on Twitter to keep them spread out and on Facebook when I won’t be available to post myself. I like the multiple views available through software like Hootsuite. However, there are too many high-dollar shells being put on top of the interfaces that do nothing more than make the reports look pretty.

What’s worse is that many of them attempt to prove their value by offering features such as content suggestions and automated posting. Scheduling and automation are two different things and there’s simply no need to take content suggestions from software (more on that later).

 

Social Plugins Hurt Websites

This one might make some software companies really upset with me, but it has to be said. You should never, ever, ever, ever, ever add plugins or wigdets to your website without two things: a really good reason and the backing of a major software company. Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – their plugins and widgets aren’t perfect, but at least they’re safe. Everything else – dump them.

The native widgets are all you need. It always amazes me when I see Facebook plugins, for example, that weren’t built by Facebook. There was a rise in popularity of the little ribbon at the bottom of pages for a while. Thankfully, most realized that they slow the page load times down and can cause errors on certain browsers. They also realized that they didn’t do anything useful other than give the marketing manager at the company something to show the boss and put unearned cash into the pockets of the company that sold it to them.

They don’t work. They aren’t effective. They do much more harm than good. Unfortunately, those are the best-case scenarios. In some cases, they can actually do true harm to a site as can be seen in the image to the right.

There’s a reason that social media companies develop software. It’s less expensive for them to support software than to employ the people necessary to make social media actually work for their clients. It’s sexy because it’s visual, tangible, and seems to be sophisticated. In other marketing arenas, software is often all that’s needed. In social media, it does nothing other than make people feel good.

 

Social Media is Creative. Software is Not.

As I hinted at before, when software is used to find content or determine what to post, the battle is already lost.

I’d put my team of specialists up against IBM’s Watson if it did social media management. Until a piece of software is able to craft a Facebook post or Tweet that has the ability to reach the minds of the audience rather than just reaching their feeds for the sake of reaching their feeds, software is not the solution for this.

Some would argue that it saves time from having to look for content to post. I would argue that the technology to do that has been around for a while. It’s called Google. There’s also RSS feed readers (NOT to post automatically, of course) that gives any industry plenty of content in just the same manner as the social software provides. This isn’t new technology.

The biggest challenge with this is that it takes the human eye out of the equation in many circumstances. Software, for all the good that it can do, does tend to make us lazy. It’s laziness that turns good pages mediocre. Manual vetting of content and inspiration that only comes to humans can turn a good page into a fantastic one.

“But, it saves time!”

That’s what some will say. I would argue that the five minutes it saves a day isn’t worth being half as effective.

 

Dashboards are Completely Overrated

The data is there. Facebook Insights aren’t perfect, but they present the data in an acceptable manner. Dashboards definitely do make things prettier. They also speed up the reporting process for marketing companies. However, they don’t understand nuance.

I’ve seen both sides. I’ve seen gorgeous automated reports and dashboards that didn’t tell the whole picture and I’ve seen manually-created reports and native dashboards that deliver the real results. A dashboard doesn’t know that the picture of a local attraction that received 50 likes, 15 shares, and 10 comments is less successful of a post than an inventory item that received 20 likes, 10 shares, and 5 comments, particularly if that inventory item was sold the day after it was posted.

The information provided by the social sites themselves manually gathered and analyzed by humans gives a much more accurate picture of the effectiveness of a campaign than any dashboard or report. It doesn't matter how pretty the graphs are. It’s still only numbers being provided in a different format. Reports need to say more than just the numbers. They need to demonstrate success.

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Tomorrow's Buyers

A father and son walked onto a car lot and started looking around. As the salesperson approached, the son, 14- or 15-years old, was clearly directing his father towards a particular new vehicle. They met the salesperson in front of a Chevy Cruze and told her that they wanted to take it for a test drive.

As car deals go, this one was a pretty easy one. The negotiations were tough – they were informed buyers who paid well under MSRP after discounts and rebates on a 2013 with 2014 models rolling out – but otherwise it was pretty quick. They knew what they wanted and didn’t need much convincing that it was the right car for them.

When asked what helped them make their decision, the duo surprised their salesperson. “I’ve been following the car for a while on Facebook,” the son said.

She was perpexed. “Following the car?” she asked.

Apparently, the young man had been “following” several cars on social media for a couple of months. He told her something that shook her up a bit, which prompted her to tell her general manager, which prompted him to contact me. The young man told her, “My generation doesn’t trust the ‘expert reviews’ as much as we trust each other. We trust other people. The Cruze has been getting loved on by people all over Facebook and Twitter, much more than anything else in my price range.”

My price range,” his father corrected.

This was the younger buyer’s car, at least it was going to be if he got a scholarship when he graduated from high school. His father would be driving it until then but wanted his son’s input since it would be his (hopefully) in a few years.

This story sparked my inquiry into my 14-year-old’s social media activity. As a conscientious and terrified father, I keep tabs on my children’s internet activity, but I’d never done a deep dive into her activities. I was looking for boys contacting her, of course, but now I had a reason to ask her some questions. What she told me was somewhat shocking (a hard thing to admit considering the amount of time I spend researching social media).

On Instagram, she had friends at her junior high with tens of thousands of followers. Everything they posted would get hundreds of likes. On Facebook, it was much of the same. The funny part was that they weren’t just posting updates about Lady Gaga or nail polish. I saw posts about Chick-fil-A,  the Nissan Leaf (one of my daughter’s friend’s dream car), Qantas Airlines (they’re already picking airlines?), and even a nice debate about which tablets are best to take on vacation when stuck with the parents for the summer trip.

Today’s youths, tomorrow’s buyers, are turning to social media to learn more about brands than any other medium. They aren’t researching cars on Edmunds or KBB. They’re checking them out on YouTube, tracking them on Facebook, and following them on Twitter. They’re savvy enough to find what others are saying about them.

This is all fine and dandy for the future, but what about today? Then, my daughter pointed something out. Many major decisions are made by the family rather than just the parents. It’s more common today than ever before. Teen children are often major influencers when it comes to buying decisions.

Does this mean that businesses should turn their social media attention to be more like Justin Bieber or The Hunger Games? Of course not. Still, it’s important to know that it’s not just the direct buyers that are watching businesses on social media. It’s also important to note that tomorrow’s buyers are more connected through social media than today. This means that every day, as kids enter the buying market, more consumers are influenced by social media. It’s an important part of marketing today. It’s growing to become even more important over time. In the future, one might make the connection that social media could be the most influential component of a buying decision. That may be hard to imagine today, but the trends are clear.

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Tomorrow’s Buyers” image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Social Media Doesn’t Take Weekends Off

I was having a casual conversation with a counterpart at a different automotive social media company yesterday when he asked, “Why do you guys monitor on the weekends? The dealer doesn’t care and as long as we reply on Monday, they’ll be fine.”

The discussion that ensued was long and nearly got heated. Thankfully, cooler minds prevailed and I let him go about his business believing that 5-day/week social media was acceptable for his clients.

It’s not.

Despite the fact that you definitely do have more time on social media to reply than on something like chat or even phone, it’s unacceptable to let it linger for too long. The opportunities for sales are missed when days pass. The opportunity to make an upset customer happy can be missed in minutes sometimes. Take a look at this exchange:

The customer replied to a post on the dealer’s Facebook page at 8:26 on Sunday. The reply came in 5 minutes later, personalized and willing to make things right. The customer replied 5 minutes later. Then, the person who could make things happen, in this case the service manager, was able to call the customer on Monday and turn an unhappy customer into a happy one. This may not have been possible had they waited to make first contact the next morning rather than while the customer was still online.

This is just a single example, and it’s the reason that we’re adamant about monitoring clients’ pages seven days per week. The weekends are when the majority of potential social media interactions occur. To take the weekends off is a poor practice, especially considering the ease in staying connected with smartphones.

Obviously everyone needs a break. We don’t monitor on the seven major US holidays (despite my objections to that, the company I work for has a bigger heart than me), but otherwise it’s important for dealers to stay on top of what people are saying to them every day of the week. Hook up your smartphone and make it happen or find someone who can do it all for you.

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Are your posts fresh or recycled

Be sure to check out the Internet Sales 20 Group in November to learn more about this topic...

Look, I get it. I understand that it’s hard for vendors and OEMs to produce a social media solution for their dealers that scales properly while still bringing in good content. I do not, however, understand the concept of not even trying to mix things up. There’s an easy road and a hard road for automotive social media, but there’s also the right road, the one that scales properly while still maintaining individuality and creativity at the core of the service.

I know this for a fact. I’ve developed it.

It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t hard, either. It took some time, plenty of planning, a ton of testing, and an unyielding principle to do for clients what I would want done if I were at a dealership, but the results have been astounding (beyond my own expectations) and the effort is exactly as it should be – enough to make a strategy that helps dealers sell more cars but not so much that it become cost prohibitive. Every dealer and vendor should examine what they’re doing in social media and decide whether or not it’s worth risking your dealership’s reputation by reposting content from someone else.

Keep in mind, sharing is perfectly acceptable. If you see something on a different Facebook page that your audience will enjoy, share it! Don’t do it too often – it’s not algorithmically viable to have shared content filling your page – but it’s better than grabbing it and reposting it. What’s worse is to grab it and repost it on a bunch of other dealers’ pages as well.

I first noticed this during the Toyota Corolla launch a couple of weeks ago. We posted an image of the new Corolla and it did very well for our client. Minutes later, it was posted again. And again. And again. There’s no telling how many Toyota dealers had the same content posted almost simultaneously, but it wasn’t a case of imitation being the best for of flattery. It was ridiculous, but I let it go. Maybe someone was in a hurry. Maybe our post was just that compelling and needed to be shared. I didn’t think it was a standard practice, but now I know differently.

You deserve better. Your content should be unique regardless of how widespread your marketing company is. Again, and I cannot stress this enough, it’s scalable and extremely effective to post 100% unique content on Facebook for hundreds, even thousands of clients. It’s not acceptable to take shortcuts for the sake of a vendor’s bottom line. It shouldn’t be this way. There’s way too much potential with social media done the right way to allow laziness or cost savings to supersede a client’s needs.

That’s it. Sorry for the rant. This stuff gets me riled up.

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Bonsai Tree

There’s a challenge associated with Facebook advertising that isn’t as important when it comes to Google Adwords or similar advertising platforms. With Adwords, as long as your ads match well with the page that you’re advertising, you can maintain a high quality score and keep your ads working well. On Facebook, there is a much tougher audience than the Google algorithm that you have to win over. With Facebook, your ads fall under the scrutiny of the audience and if they don’t like what you’re advertising, they can hurt your current and future exposure.

When you advertise on Facebook, your posts get much more visibility. If the content that you’re advertising gets a good amount of negative sentiment in the form of reports and hides, it isn’t just the post itself that gets hurt. Your future posts will feel the wrath of the algorithmic damage that you do. It isn’t just negative sentiment that hurts, either. If your post is viewed by many people in their news feed and gets ignored, that too is damaging. When people see your post and don’t engage with it, Facebook’s algorithm recognizes that and will be less likely to present future posts to them.

Thankfully, the opposite is true as well. Facebook ads can be used to help future standard posts find the light of day by accumulating a high percentage of positive engagement. In the balance between conversational and conversion posts, focusing some ad dollars on the former can help the latter appear more prominently in news feeds. One of the easiest ways to do this is to highlight what the company is already doing in the real world – helping in the community.

“It’s important to keep a mix of community posts, conversation posts, and business-relevant posts,” said Louie Baur, social media manager for KPA. “The only thing worse than fan fatigue is spam.”

At first glance, the image above would appear to belong to a horticulture page or perhaps an arboretum. It’s a bonsai plant, something that you don’t see every day on Facebook but interesting enough nonetheless. When people see it in their news feed, there’s a good chance they’ll look at the description to see what the post is all about. That’s when it hits them. This is a post by a car dealer. They are supporting an event in the local community by posting it on their Facebook page. They even sponsored the post.

This does a few things. First, it does the most obvious thing – helps to promote a worthwhile community event. This is the most important thing it does and as long as the intentions are sincere, the benefits will be real. Second, it gives a piece of content that will resonate with a different set of people than standard content posted to the page. They are a car dealership and they post a lot of information about cars, of course. Mixing in a picture of a bonsai and connecting that to the community and the dealership itself is a strong maneuver from a strategic perspective.

Finally, it is a strong aid for future posts. Fans will interact. The beneficiary, in this case a local arboretum, will likely interact. As people like, comment on, and share the content, more local people will see it. This is where the magic can happen. The combination of strong organic interaction, paid views, and viral views can combine for a very powerful little campaign.

In this case, the total cost  of the campaign will be $5. The value of the thousands of views of the message and branding (for both the beneficiary and the business itself) will be priceless.

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Bill The Butcher

I’m always hesitant to talk to people about the wonders of Facebook advertising. It’s the most cost-effective way to get the word out to the right people. The targeting capabilities make Google envious and the effectiveness, when done right, is nothing short of a work of art for driving business.

The hesitation comes with the major caveat that surrounds Facebook advertising. It can be both a wonderful thing and a terrible thing because, unlike Adwords or other forms of digital advertising, you can actually do harm to your page and your future posts.

Facebook is governed by one of the most fickle algorithms ever created. It works in real time and has a long memory, making it like walking on eggshells when trying to promote a business. There are strategies for content posting that are specifically designed to play up to the algorithm just as there are strategies for playing properly with search algorithms. The difference is that there’s no attachment between paid and organic in search while paid and organic promoted posts on Facebook are connected at the hip.

Here is an example of the “Boost” options on a Facebook page that we manage for a client. It has around 1500 fans and thankfully we were able to build it nearly from scratch – they had 26 fans when we took the page over 4 months ago.

The numbers represented here show the estimated reach for the different numerical values available to be spent. These are stereotypical numbers of a well-managed page of this size with a history of posting strong content. It’s lower than what a fresh page can expect; Facebook gives first-time advertisers a wide range of people who can like their posts before reducing it down based upon successes and failures. The reduction is inevitable because as people see posts in their news feeds and do not interact with them, they become less likely to see the next post you put up. Unless you’re posting Shakespeare-quality unique content that is driving your audience to become mad fans, you will certainly see a major dip in reach potential.

The numbers go up and down, but as long as you can keep them reaching the total number of fans you have on the page with the lowest denomination of spend, you’re in a good place in the eyes of the Facebook algorithm.

Now, here’s an example of a different page. Same industry. More fans. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have nearly the reach potential.

Sometime in the past, they burned enough people who saw their posts that they’re having challenges reaching them a second time. It could have just been poor content, but a scan of the page doesn’t lend to this theory.

The only other explanation is that they’ve used Facebook ads in the past and butchered them. They posted content that was deemed spammy and then promoted it to a ton of people.

It would be like picking up a bullhorn and screaming fowl language at people as they walked by the store.

The damage is done. It’s reversible, but we have a pretty long road ahead with this much damage to correct. If the offending post or posts was so bad that a lot of people reported or made their posts hidden, it might turn out to be a better idea to start over from scratch.

Facebook is an extremely powerful advertising tool, but there are right ways and wrong ways to harness that power. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t use it for business-relevant posts. It just means that you cannot use it to spam the wrong messages. Before posting or promoting anything, ask yourself if you would want to see something like it on your news feed if it was from a different industry. In other words, if you run a car dealership, before posting this week’s newspaper ad and promoting it to 50,000 people, ask yourself if you would enjoy seeing a newspaper ad selling furniture popping up in your news feed between posts of little Timmy sliding into third base and your hilarious co-worker’s hilarious rant of the day.

Bill the Butcher was one of the greatest characters in movie history, but Bob the Butcher (you know, your Facebook ad guy) isn’t going to win you an Oscar for best Facebook post if he’s promoting content that doesn’t belong on Facebook.

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Never Upload Pins to Pinterest. Ever.

Pinterest Board

Yesterday, I found myself utterly mortified. I caught a Pinterest page that my team was managing uploading images to Pinterest. After several deep breaths, I talked to my teammate and corrected this for the future.

Pinterest has an image upload feature. I wish they didn’t. There’s absolutely no reason to pin an image directly to Pinterest. I won’t even use the mobile app for this reason.

As a traffic-driving social force, Pinterest is close to the top. As a social signal for search engines, it’s an important component. When you upload an image directly to Pinterest, you lose both opportunities. It’s not like Facebook, Google+, Twitter, or Tumblr where direct uploads have benefits over linked posts. There’s zero difference between uploading directly to Pinterest or pinning an image from another site other than the loss of the two benefits the social network offers.

If you have an image that you want to Pin, put it somewhere else first. Post it to your blog. Put it on Tumblr, Upload it to Google+. Do something, anything other than uploading it to Pinterest itself. It’s an extra few seconds of work but yields an actual benefit other than simple exposure of that great image of the Ferrari you saw at dinner last night. When you pin from a different source, you’re getting the full value from Pinterest.

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It Takes a Village

This is the first (and most likely last) time that I will use a Hillary Clinton book title as the concept for a blog post. I didn't read the book, but the concept is definitely applicable in social media.

I was speaking to a potential client yesterday who was telling me some of their challenges with social media. The main challenge they were having was in coming up with interesting content to post that was associated with business. As a car dealer, they had plenty of pictures of cars to post, but they weren't very active in the local community and the person in charge of social media didn't consider herself to be creative.

"Does anyone at the dealership do anything interesting?" It was a simple question that sparked a 2 minute conversation that turned into an hour-long brainstorming session. At the end, we came to the conclusion that she worked at the most interesting dealership in the world and didn't know it.

The parts manage was in a country band that played at the local steak house saloon on Saturday nights. They had a customer that came in 5-days a week to get what he considered to be the best coffee in town with their fancy cappuccino machine in the service waiting area. A sales person was a little league baseball coach that recruited the top talent in town to take to tournaments across the country.

Last night, she did some further research and found even more interesting things. The land on which the dealership was built turned out to have a rich and somewhat controversial history. One of the secretaries had a son who was likely going to he starting for the state university basketball team the following year. Another sales person had a photography business on the side where people posed in or around classic cars.

Everyone gets into a rut. We try our best to be creative and to come up with interesting things to post to Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Google+, but sometimes it seems that you're posting the same things over and over again. Finding images is easy. Unfortunately, social media needs to be richer, more robust. It's not just about pieces of content. It's about stories that affect the local area and the people that make up your business, customer base, and community.

You don't have to live on social media island. There are people around you who can inspire you, spark an idea, or become the subject of content that can all be tied back to the business itself. The difference between being isolated on social media and having a flood of potential content is often about getting up from your desk and talking to people. In essence, the key to successful social media is often as simple as being social in the real world and applying it to your business presence.

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Post More than Just Links to Twitter

Tweet

Stop the madness! I, unfortunately, might be part of the cause of the recent trends happening on dealer Twitter profiles and for that, I am truly sorry.

For years, I've been harping on the concept that Twitter is something that no dealer should avoid because of how quick and easy it is. There's no huge investment of time required to have a strong Twitter presence. This advice and the advice of others has been turned into something that it should not have been, namely a willingness to completely automate Twitter. Please stop.

Twitter doesn't take much time, but it should take some time. Rather that go over the long list of things that you should and shouldn't do on Twitter in an extended format, here's the bullet points. Rather than try to convince anyone, I'm just going to state what I believe and let questions come in if there's need for further clarification. Just trust that I makes these statements with reasons in mind. They're not just spewing out of my mouth (or any other area) randomly.

  • Don't feed from Facebook. It's all too common nowadays to take automatically post whatever you put on Facebook directly onto Twitter. This is a bad idea.
  • Minimize the other feeds on Twitter. In an ideal world, there would be no feeds populating your Twitter account, especially your own blog, because it just doesn't save a ton of time and it limits the effectiveness. With feeds, you can't craft hashtags, you can't personalize the statements, and you aren't truly vetting the links.
  • Post more than just links. Sadly, links get much lower engagement than purely text posts. Express an opinion. Give an interesting piece of information. Tell a little story. Ask questions. The posts with no links get much more attention than those that do have links.
  • Don't use Hootsuite to post images. Hootsuite does not post images through Twitter directly and therefore they're not inline. They're just a link to the image itself hosted on Hootsuite. Your images should be through Twitter itself or through a tool that uploads the files to the native Twitter feed such as Bufferapp.
  • Include @replies to people. It's very easy to see if a Twitter account sucks or is automated because they aren't talking to others.
  • Retweet, but not too often. It's good to have other faces on your page, which means a direct retweet. This can be done through some tools such as Hootsuite or Bufferapp. Make sure it's a true retweet rather than one which is a mention.

Twitter is definitely the easiest of the social networks to manage and monitor. Done right, it should take less than 5 minutes a day. That doesn't mean that it's easy to skip days. That, my friends, is something you absolutely shouldn't do.

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This post originally appeared on Automotive Social Media.

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Conversation

This isn’t going to be a long post (I know a lot of mine have been too long, lately) but that doesn’t make it any less important. It’s short because the concept is simple. Unfortunately, many are missing out on this easy technique.

There are plenty of types of content that you can post on Facebook, but they invariably fall into one of two categories – conversation and conversion. You’re either posting to help spark conversations that are on topic with your industry or you’re posting content designed to drive conversions of some sort to increase business. In some cases, a post can fall under both categories, those these types of posts are normally not as effective at achieving either goal.

The point of conversational posts is simply to earn the right to post conversion content. You have to earn this right from two different entities. The first is Facebook itself. The EdgeRank algorithm is very fickle. Because people are less likely to interact with content that is pushing the big sale this weekend than if they’re seeing an image of a concept Hyundai crossover, too many conversion posts can hurt you in the algorithm. Facebook knows the activities that happen on their site including a lack of activity. In other words, it’s not just those unavoidable occasions when people will hide or report your content. Your EdgeRank is hurt when people simply do nothing, when it appears in their news feed but they scroll right passed it without engaging.

The second entity for which you have to earn the right to post conversion content is the user base itself. People get fatigued. If they see post after post of “sale-sale-sale” appear on their news feed, they will eventually block you. They are much less likely to do that when the conversion posts are spread out, when there’s real conversational posts hitting their news feed and drawing their attention. Then, when they see the conversion posts, they’re less inclined to offer negative feedback because they get it. That’s one of the toughest things for businesses and marketers to accept. People get it. They know that you’re running a business and they’re accepting of the occasional conversion post as long as they hold a good sentiment towards your company and social media presence because you’ve earned their trust through strong conversational posts.

The conversion posts are the easiest to grasp but are much harder to deliver properly. It isn’t about advertising the big sale or the oil change or the individual vehicle that you just took in on trade. It’s about presenting the big sale, the oil change, or the unique vehicle you just took in on trade in a way that is engaging to them.

John Hinderer Pilot

The example above is not ideal. It’s not a super rare find or a killer manager’s special. It’s just a car, but there’s personality in the way that it was presented. That’s one of the keys. The second key is that the conversation that ensued as a result of the post included very responsive action. Someone in the local area inquired further about it. That’s good. It’s better that the response came with instructions on how to proceed.

These types of posts would not work if that’s all that ever got posted by the dealership. Most people passed this post up because they weren’t in the market at that particular moment for a used Honda Pilot. Even those who aren’t buying today will eventually need something, but more importantly you’ll want to get engagement from those people because of EdgeRank. Someone might not be in the market, but one of their friends might be. When the person not in the market likes, shares, or comments on your posts, there’s an increased likelihood that their friend who is in the market will now see the proper posts as a result.

Mix it up. There’s no magic formula. If I were cornered with a knife to my throat and forced to answer the question about the proper mix of content I would say something like 6:1 – six conversational posts for every conversion post, but I’d be guessing and generalizing. The reality is that it’s different for every page, every market, every demographic. Some can get away with 3:1. Some can only muster 10:1. Whatever is right for your page and your business is the way to go. It’s not a copout response. We spend a lot of time determining the personality and limitations of each individual client and the ratios listed above are real-world ranges that we’ve seen and applied. The key is finding what works best for you.

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Glengarry Glen Ross Steak Knives

"Second place is a set of steak knives."

When Alec Baldwin's character lectured the sales team in Glengarry Glen Ross, he made it clear that the winner was the one on top, that everyone else was lucky to have a job, and that if they continued to perform the way they did they wouldn't have a job for much longer. The same holds true in social media. If you're not winning, you're losing, and all too often the strategies used in social media marketing are designed to lose.

I'm referring to branding. It's become too apparent over the last couple of years that many businesses and the social media companies that support them have turned branding into the ultimate goal of social media efforts. They believe that sales cannot be attained, that leads cannot be generated, and that trying to define the benefits is best left with something intangible like increased exposure of the brand. While this isn't completely wrong, it's selling the industry short. Social media can do so much more than branding.

In the automotive industry, for example, the goals of social media marketing should be first to drive foot traffic to the dealership. The 2nd place prize of every effort would be to drive website visitors. When all else fails, branding is the tertiary goal, the consolation prize. When that perspective is taken and an understanding is had that so much more can and should be done, the branding actually has the opportunity to flourish even more as a result.

Focus on business. Do the right things. Hire the right agencies, the ones that can demonstrate tangible ROI from their efforts rather than falling for the pitch that exposure is the best thing you can hope for. When branding becomes the top level goal, it's possible for one to be convinced that they should be posting funny cat pictures in order to get the exposure they need on social media. That couldn't be further from the truth. In reality, the goal is to get tangible benefit. Cat pictures won't do that.

Here's a video I did that highlights this myth and demonstrates why it's possible to have a proper hierarchy of goals to achieve the fullest level of success.

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5 Signs that Your Facebook Page Sucks

Don't Suck

Facebook has a promise that it has made to businesses. It’s not an official promise in writing anywhere on the site. It’s an implied promise. “We have the attention of the masses. If you want to get in front of them, we’re the biggest game in town.”

The unfortunate reality is that the majority of businesses, particular small and medium localized ones, are completely missing out on the potential benefits of their Facebook page. It’s not all about the page, but that’s a good place to start and the best venue through which to have control over your own destiny.

Here are some signs that your social media strategy has your page operating at a low level. Don’t be discouraged – the vast majority of pages out there are feeling the same types of pains you are. The good news is that with a little help, businesses can make a swift turnaround and find success. It just takes understanding the realities of Facebook marketing.

 

1. Your Engagement Ratio and/or Total Engagers Are Low

Engagement Ratio

As we’ve said in the past, the total number of fans is such an unimportant number that it’s not even funny. It’s all about reach, but that’s another story altogether. You can tell a lot about the effectiveness of any page by looking at two numbers up at the top.

The number of people “talking about this” compared to the number of total likes is your engagement ratio. This is the most important of the two parts when it comes to reaching more people through Facebook. In the instance above, there are 84 out of 5,737 people actively engaged with the posts coming out of this Facebook page, yielding a 1.5% engagement ratio. This is bad, but in many ways it’s because the engagement ratio in the automotive industry in general is bad, average around 1.75%.

The second part of the equation is the total number of people talking about the page. If 10 people are talking about a page that has a mere 50 fans, then the 20% engagement ratio isn’t going to help very much.

It’s important to understand the dynamic here, though. Some would think that having a ton of fans and a lot of people talking about it at a low ratio is fine, but it’s not. It hurts the page’s overall ability to allow the posts to be seen by locals. In other words, if a page has 100,000 fans and 2,000 people talking about it, then it has a low 2% ratio but a good total number. However, and this is often the hardest aspect of all this to understand, that low engagement ratio is still hurting the page and minimizing the potential. It’s possible to reach more local people on a page like this:

John Hinderer Engagement

This page has fewer than the 2,000 people talking about the hypothetical 100,000 fan Facebook page, but it has a much higher potential to reach people, particularly the locals, because of the 15.1% engagement ratio. Facebook can see statistically that people are much more likely to like and engage with the content when it’s presented to them and it makes advertising and promoting the page much easier as a result.

More importantly, it allows for localization of the promotions at a massive scale. 157 people have engaged with this page recently, but a ton more locals were able to see the posts and be exposed to the messages as a result. Take a look:

John Hinderer Reach

As a result of getting the right type of local fans and operating a properly-structured advertising and promotions campaign, we are able to target a lot more than just those 1,040 fans who have liked the page.

Anyone can see what the engagement ratio is on a page simply by looking at the public numbers. In the automotive industry, the average is 1.75%. Anything over 4% is considered adequate. We strive to hit and stay above 10%, though we’ve seen some that sustain 30%+. It won’t last forever, but keeping it that high for a month or two means epic levels of exposure for the business messages.

 

2. There are Irrelevant Images on Your Wall

Irrelevant Post

You shouldn’t have pictures of cats on your wall unless you’re a veterinarian. You shouldn’t have pictures of childhood memories on your wall unless you’re an individual.

That’s the point, right? Businesses post irrelevant things to their walls because they were likely told by some social media guru to try to fit in, to post viral images and ask questions that have nothing to do with business in order to get people to engage with your business page.

Here’s a quick tip: people don’t want to engage with you over irrelevant posts. They already have plenty of friends and family filling their news feeds with such things.

Here’s a more important tip: you can get much more engagement by actually being transparent, relevant, and posting the type of content that has to do with your business. It’s a hard concept to understand for some reason, but when a car dealer posts images of cool cars, they’re staying relevant. When they post images from the local area, they’re staying relevant. When they post Facebook-only oil change specials or intriguing trade ins that just hit the floor, they’re staying relevant.

When they stay relevant, they have an opportunity to fulfill the purpose of the page’s existence. When they stay relevant, they’re able to fulfill the promise that was implied when people liked the page in the first place.

People like business pages for one of two reasons:

  1. They were interested in the industry and wanted to have a source on Facebook for things pertaining to that industry, from localized specials to interesting bits of information that can help them.
  2. They were coaxed to like the page for bizarre reasons (we covered this recently).

Not a single person woke up and said, “I want to see funny cat pictures and reminisce about my childhood today. I think I’ll find a local business on Facebook and follow them to satisfy this need.”

Stop trying to fit in. Your Facebook page should be designed to stand out. Don’t chum up to your fans. Inform them. Educate them. Amaze them. Give them information about things that relate to your business.

 

3. You’re Trying to Coax People to Like Your Page with Games or Giveaways

Irrelevant Giveaways Facebook

I just posted about this yesterday so I’m not going to rehash it now.

Read: Why Irrelevant Giveaways and Games Are Killing Your Facebook Page

 

4. You’re Not Getting Engagement on Individual Posts

No Engagement on Posts

Sorry for all the purple – trying to block out identifying content to focus on the point of this. It’s a stereotypical business Facebook page – 1300 likes but very few people liking, commenting, or sharing the posts themselves. In this example, there was a post that had 13 likes and another with 11 in the last month, but he majority had 0, 1, or 2.

There are going to be duds. It’s not possible for every post to be successful, but most of them should be. You should be averaging around 1% engagement on each post. In the example below, the page has around 900 likes, which means that on average 9 interactions should be happening with each post (likes, comments, and shares).

Graduation

It got 37 likes. This is good because some posts on the page are under the 1% mark with only a handful of likes. Some will do well, particularly those that resonate with the local community the way this one did. Some will not do as well. Keeping as consistent as possible is the key. Unfortunately, most pages are performing consistently poorly.

 

5. You’re Not Finding the Right Mix of Conversation and Conversion

Sale Sale Sale

This is the only component of Facebook marketing that takes real skill and analysis. Everything else takes a little, but playing with the algorithm, monitoring the results, and tweaking the strategy are all part of finding the right mix between conversation and conversion.

Conversation is the fun stuff. Again, no cat pictures, but for a car dealer to get conversations going, they’ll want to post content that isn’t directly businesses related but that is still relevant to the industry. A Chevy dealer might post pictures of the new Corvette, for example. A Seattle dealer might post images (or better yet, ask their fans to post images) of the Space Needle. These fun posts get the community involved and allow your overall Facebook footprint to be as big as possible.

The conversion posts are all business. They’re talking about the big sale this weekend. They’re talking about the brake special from the website. They’re highlighting and individual used car that is just too amazing to miss. These get less engagement (normally but not always) but are the real reason you’re on Facebook in the first place. It’s not all about branding. You can increase business as a result of using social media and these are the posts that do it for you.

The two types of posts go hand in hand and finding the right mix is the tough part. You need to “earn” the right to post conversion content by posting enough high quality conversational content. It’s an algorithm play as well as an audience play, which means that you have to play with it. Too much conversation and you’re not getting a relevant message out to increase business. Too much conversion and people will shut you out, making your posts virtually invisible.

The example above was all about sales. Everything they were posting was about conversion which meant that very few people were actually seeing the posts. The opposite is no more useful; getting all kinds of conversations going without affecting business does nothing to help grow.

* * *

There are other bad things as well as good things that are going on with pages, but these are the easiest way to tell in a glance whether or not you’re being effective. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or to find out what we can do to help you.

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Basic Equation

In my recent exploration of various social media profiles being used by local businesses, I found a disturbing trend. While there are definitely those who are doing it right and utilizing Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest the right way, there are also plenty who are simply failing at it miserably. They are forgetting the most fundamental aspect of managing their profiles, namely posting the right way.

There are components of this infographic by MyCleverAgency that I don’t fully agree with, but they are minor points, opinions really. For the most part, the advice is sound. You should be posting with a mobile perspective in mind onto Facebook. You should be engaging with users on Twitter, not just posting blog post titles and links. Unless a post is about people, don’t include people (particularly faces) in your pins. Tag, tag, and tag some more on Google+. These are great pieces of advice.

Here’ the infographic. Read each point in it and ask yourself if you’re doing these things on your Facebook page or not.

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Facebook Marketing is an All or Nothing Endeavor image Training 600x334

Commitment. It means different things to different people. When it comes to social media marketing and Facebook in particular, it means making the choice to work hard, keep going, and stay disciplined.

Facebook is extremely fickle. Its algorithm relies on momentum, something that dies very quickly after only a few bad posts or skipped days. It’s for this reason that businesses and marketers have to make a choice before diving in. Are they going to take it all the way or is it better to keep it slow and simple?

Both methods work at achieving their respective goals. The majority should consider going for the latter as the effort that goes into going “all the way” must be sustained indefinitely to be successful. There are plenty of strategies that work with each method, but before we get into those, here’s the difference between the two.

Keep in mind, there’s really no in between.

The Easy Road

This isn’t the “stick your head in the sand approach”. Let’s assume that you wouldn’t be reading this article if your goal is to pretend that social media doesn’t exist, that it’s a fad, or that your business cannot benefit from being on it.

The easy road is one that is only targeting interested parties. It isn’t about aggressively going after new fans. It isn’t about using Facebook advertising. It isn’t about playing the algorithm game or going for additional reach for your message. The easy road is only targeting those people who will find your Facebook page through search or through your website. This isn’t about getting into users’ news feeds.

This path takes very little time. While I would never suggest using automation such as RSS feed posts, it’s just a notch above that. With this strategy, the goal is to make sure you’re presenting a strong presence for those who find your page. It means posting text, images, links, and videos on a regular basis. Once a day is plenty but a business on this path can easily get away with a couple of posts a week.

This takes very little time and effort. Use Post Planner, Buffer, Facebook’s native scheduling tool, or any tool with a queue feature and make sure it’s loaded up. That’s it. Put a week’s worth of posts in every week, schedule the replenishing tasks once a week, and let your presence become a good representation of your business for those who proactively seek your page.

There are plenty of advantages to this style. It takes much, much less time. It requires fewer touches of your social accounts. Your posts can be easily scheduled and as long as you’re monitoring via email or alerts for inbound contacts, this method is almost foolproof.

Again, it’s important to remember that you will not be getting into news feeds. Very few people will see your posts, but those who do see them will not be disappointed by seeing and abandoned page or one that is RSS automated.

The Hard Road

The other option is to commit. It’s that simple. If you’re wanting to use facebook as a true advertising and marketing platform, you will want to be extremely active. You’ll need to learn about and keep up with the algorithm, touch your account daily (possibly multiple times per day depending on your reach), and craft content perfectly.

This is the path that most want to take because it’s aggressive. It is the way to get real exposure through Facebook, to get into news feeds and to get your message in front of as many people as possible. The key point is to understand that social media doesn’t sleep, it doesn’t take weekends off, and it knows when you’ve been away for an extended period of time.

It also requires an investment. Any expert that says Facebook can be effective in an aggressive strategy that does not include a Facebook advertising spend is trying to sell something to a potential client. It cannot be done unless you’re an A-list celebrity or a major brand. Local businesses, smaller brands, and just about any entity that is not a household name within their market cannot achieve maximum success on Facebook without spending on ads. I’d happily debate that with anyone who says something to the contrary.

The hard road requires constant monitoring and interaction. If someone comments on a post, it’s imperative that there’s a very quick response. The next day often won’t cut it. You can get more engagement when people are replied to while they’re still online and the comment is fresh to them. It’s also the quickest way to get your posts to spread quickly. When a long conversation thread can be sustained, those involved will help your post become visible on others’ feeds, they’ll tag people that they want to join the conversation, and suddenly the post has the ability to get real traction.

Most of these things are obvious to those who have been doing it for a while, but one thing that so many are missing is that you can never waste a post. There is too much algorithmic damage that can be done with bad posts. They all have to count – every single one of them. They all need a purpose whether it’s creatively delivering a business-oriented message or just posting high-quality content that can be universally liked to boost your algorithmic authority.

One can still use tools and plan out posts, but it’s important to not let them make you lazy. Just because you’re scheduling posts ahead of time doesn’t mean that you can let it sit dormant or that you can stop paying attention for a little while.

This isn’t intended to scare people. It definitely doesn’t mean that you have to live on Facebook to be successful. It’s just necessary to make the commitment to spend enough time, energy, and money to make your Facebook presence strong and to aggressively pursue greater reach. It’s not a matter of fans. The truth is that fans are a very small part of an aggressive strategy. The hard road takes you down a path where reach is 99% of the goal. The more people you can get to see your message and to communicate with you, the more success you can have.

To reach this success, you have to be willing to go all in. There is no gray area. There’s no middle ground. A halfway aggressive approach is not half as successful as the aggressive approach. It’s barely more successful than taking the safe road, which is why most businesses should opt for that path.

It’s all or nothing. Which is best for you?

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Post Inventory the Right Way to Facebook

Cutter Chevrolet Rabbit

Here’s the sad truth about the way that most dealers are posting their inventory to Facebook. It’s not getting seen. None of it. Not at all.

Currently, there are three primary ways that dealers are posting their inventory to Facebook. The most common method is to have a tab on their Facebook page with their inventory. This doesn’t work. The click stats that we’ve studied using three different inventory types show that even the most active dealer Facebook pages are seeing next to zero traffic, clicks, or leads from this form of inventory posting.

The reason is obvious – people don’t visit your Facebook page unless they get there through search, a link from your website, or an ad on Facebook. In these three scenarios, they’re either not interested in seeing you inventory (if they were, they’d just go to your website) of, in the case of referrals from your website itself, they’ve already seen it. Now they want to see you and your personalization.

The other way is to feed your inventory manually or automatically through Facebook posts. This is a really, really bad idea because it will kill your page’s algorithmic authority and render your posts, inventory or not, essentially invisible.

The third way, the one that we recommend, is to be creative, selective, and persuasive. You have to post vehicles that deserve to be on Facebook. By that, I mean that the vehicle has to have something special about it that you can focus on, it needs to be relatively unique, and it has to have a compelling story behind it. In some cases, the cars create the story itself. We all covet that 5-year old car that was driven by a grandmother who literally took it to the grocery store and church and accumulated 20K miles over her five years of ownership. A car like that would definitely fit the criteria and the story clearly would write itself.

The more common circumstance is that you’ll want to create your story for the vehicle. In the example above, the story was that it was a unique car. We focused on the paint job to turn it into something that is at least a little interesting to the Facebook fans for this page, then we told a little about the car, just enough to let people know that they’ll be clicking through to a vehicle details page. This is important. You do not want to try to trick people into clicking through to a link that is trying to sell them something.

Be transparent. The car speaks for itself, so the image won’t make people report it or block the page, but if you then try to get them to click through without letting them know that you’re wanting them to buy it, you run the risk of them landing on your website, getting upset that you conned them into clicking through to what they thought was an image gallery, for example, and then clicking back and giving your post negative feedback. This is a bad thing.

Look at the example above. It’s a nifty little used VW with a different paint job. Rather than simply saying, “Check out this VW Rabbit…” we put a cute little spin on it. As a result, we know three things:

  • It did well in the news feed, garnering 38 likes.
  • It did not receive negative sentiment such as reports or hides.
  • The vehicle sold less than 48 hours after it was posted to Facebook.

You don’t have to wait for a car with an interesting paint job. Chances are you have something on your lot, particularly a pre-owned vehicle, that has something interesting about it. Here’s another example:

Waynesville Camaro

In that example, the focus is on the year. It’s a used car, but it’s a 2013. Every lot should have some of these available. Hot newish car without the new car price – that’s a story that’s Facebook worthy, especially with a nice image of the vehicle itself.

This is where some creativity comes into play. You can’t just say, “2013 Camaro with 16K miles for sale, click here…” You have to tell a story about the vehicle. At the time of writing this article, the post is only 33 minutes old so we don’t have any statistics on it, but you get the idea.

Social media isn’t just for branding. With KPA Local Engage, we highlight the right vehicles, specials, and dealership activities that will resonate on the various social sites. Done properly, your social media can start producing real ROI. The branding – that’s the consolation prize. Focus your social media on getting tangible results.

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Originally posted on the KPA blog.

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Amaral Auto Sales Homepage

Take a look at those familiar little icons in the top right corner of the screenshot above. Four of the primary social media sites’ logos adorn a prominent position on the homepage. It’s not an uncommon sight. Some put them at the top. Other put them at the bottom. Some make them large and prominent. Others make them small and subtle. One way or another, most dealerships put them somewhere. They do it for a reason.

The reason is presence. We’ve all heard about the potential of social media but few local businesses and car dealers in particular have found the level of success that they would like. Finding that success is not the topic of this particular article (important though it is). Instead, we’re going to gain an understanding of the importance of social media outside of the obvious.

We all know that Facebook, Twitter, and the other networks have the potential to drive business when done right. Some would say that the effort and cost are too high, that the spend of both time and/or money can better be allocated elsewhere. This may be true for some; finding demonstrable success and true ROI from social eludes the vast majority of dealers. There’s assumed benefits, but real ROI – that’s a whole series of other posts. For now, let’s assume that you’re cruising along with a social media strategy that is basically there for presence only. You have to be there because you have to be there, but the effort or investment are currently minimal. Perhaps you’ve tried it yourself or with a social media vendor and couldn’t justify the cost. For whatever reason, you’ve taken your eye off the social media ball.

It’s okay. Many have. There’s nothing wrong with it. However, it’s important to understand one thing, one spark of an idea that you should consider before abandoning it all together. Whether you’re paying attention to it or not, others are. Your customers are. Your employees are. Even if you’ve given up on the “social” aspect of social media, there are other reasons that make it to where you must pay at least a little attention to it.

If you’re already out there finding the type of success that I’ve seen in recent weeks (and there aren’t a ton of you from what I’ve seen), then this article isn’t for you. If you’re just not sure of the importance of social media, read on…

 

It’s Search.

Amaral Auto Sales Search

People look for you by name. Take a look at your analytics and you’ll see that the majority of your traffic comes from people searching for a variation of your dealership by name. As with any search, there will be those who look at the search results page as a whole and click to more than one spot.

Thankfully, those who are doing their social media properly can have their social profiles easily found on searches for their name. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and LinkedIn all hold strong authority in the eyes of the search engine. This is the case for a reason. The search engines know that people like to click on the profiles. If they didn’t, the search engines would not present them so prominently. That’s one of the key factors in the search ranking algorithm – searcher activity.

When they click through from search, will they be pleased with what they see or will they be embarrassed for you over your social profiles? Will they see that you’re using social media as a communication tool or a place to put funny cat pictures? Will they see that people are commenting and you’re commenting right back at them?

If you want to give people a bad taste in their mouths before they even attempt to do business with you, have a dormant or mismanaged social profile for them to click through from search. That’ll do it very quickly. Remember, millions of Americans take their social media seriously. Studies show that 64% of social media users are much more inclined to do business with a company that is maintaining the profiles on their beloved social media sites. Is your profile up to par or better than your competitors when people click through from search?

 

It’s Reputation.

Recommendations

This is one of the most challenging concepts to communicate to clients. When we think of reputation and reviews, we think of review sites. While these are definitely important, they are best suited for defense. In other words, people look at your ratings on review sites when they’re already in the market. They do so just to make sure that you’re a dealership they’re willing to do business with, but there are challenges to that which I’ll explain below.

First, let me explain the difference in how social media reputation works. In the old days before the internet took over, asking a dealership about reputation made them think of “word of mouth”. Many made a living off of word of mouth – repeat and referral business normally led down an easier road to the sale as well as higher gross margins. That concept has been replaced in many ways to where the thought of reputation has been isolated to review sites.

The problem there is that word of mouth is not only still alive and well, it’s actually more prominent today than ever before. It’s social media. Reviews are “name defending” to allow those who would consider you to continue down that path. 4-stars, 25 point rating on Google, good on the easily visible comments – that’s a great defense. When people see that, they’ll continue looking at you.

Social media takes your reputation on the offensive. It’s not the review components on your social media page as those are rarely used and even more rarely seen by consumers. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m referring to proactive customer sentiment communicated through their wall posts, Tweets, etc. I’m talking about making sure that people are saying positive things about you through social media. When people leave a review on a review site, there’s no commitment. They’re not really voicing an opinion that will be seen by the right people. Yes, it’s helpful, and I hope that everyone understands the distinction here. It’s just that there’s no “skin in the game” the way there is on social media.

When they post something about you to their own social media profiles, they’re telling their portion of the world (much of which is in the local market) through a venue that means something to them, their friends, and their family. This is aggressive, proactive reputation marketing and it can only be done by the consumers themselves. If they say they had a good experience at your dealership on Yelp, there’s not a great chance that anyone who knows or trusts them will ever see the review. Yes, you get the stars, but that’s defensive.

Their Facebook wall, however, is sacred. It means something to them. Their friends and family will see what they said and it will register because they trust that person. It’s word of mouth on steroids. No, you don’t need robust social media profiles to have it happen to you, but it certainly helps. When they can tell that you’re active on social media, they are much more likely to interact with you as well as commend you publicly through these venues. This is the golden ticket that, with very little effort or investment, can translate into increased business. It’s not just about defending your reputation. It’s about advancing it. This cannot be done through review sites. Social media is the word of mouth for the digital age.

 

It’s Presence.

March of Dimes

The last reason that social media is so important to dealers beyond the actual social aspects of it is presence. This is the easiest place for you to shine as a company. Community involvement, employee spotlights, customer highlights – all of these things express a positive sentiment about your dealership that can have an impact on your potential customers.

It’s through social media that you’re able to humanize the company. This is where the “big, bad, scary car dealer” can be shown to have a heart, to be active in the local area and charities, and to be another business just like the bakery down the block. It’s this presence component that makes abandoning or going through the motions on your social media profiles such a huge mistake. This is no longer a world that relies strictly on proximity and newspaper ads to help them buy vehicles. It’s a world that is open to the realities of entities such as businesses.

You have an opportunity through social media to show your potential customers that you’re truly better than the competition. In many ways, some dealers have decided that they’re not reaching people through social media because they don’t see the interactions. This is confusing because so many times as I talk to dealers they tell me just how active they are on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or the others, yet they somehow feel that their own presence on social media is invisible. If the strategy is wrong, they very well might be invisible. However, when the strategy is strong, the possibilities open up to turn social media into a true advertising medium.

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These aren’t techniques to help you find success. These are simply reminders that social media is hot for a reason, that bad experiences in the past do not have to be repeated, and that there’s more to it than just getting likes and fans. Stay focused on improving your social media presence. Don’t let it slip. As the world becomes more and more social, you’ll want to maximize the potential benefits that can arise from this ever-changing and ever-growing medium.

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Reach

I’m not a broken record, at least I’m not trying to be. It seems that I’ve covered this topic from different angles a lot lately, but it’s simply that important to understand. In business in general and in automotive marketing in particular, getting more Facebook fans is a very low priority compared to reaching more people.

This seems to be counter-intuitive. One might argue that getting more fans on Facebook is the way to reach more people, but they dynamics of the social network make it to where this isn’t the case. A page can be extremely successful and reach the masses with very few fans. Conversely, a page with hundreds of thousands of fans can reach next to nobody. It’s a challenging concept to understand until you get down into the way the Facebook algorithm works.

In essence, it’s not size but quality that counts the most on Facebook. Just because someone likes your page doesn’t mean that they’re going to see any of your posts. Just because someone doesn’t like your page doesn’t mean that they won’t see your posts. It’s for this reason that getting more likes is such a small component of the overall Facebook marketing picture.

Here’s a quick video I did for the automotive industry that highlights a couple of examples of this principle. In it, a decent Facebook page with 4K fans is getting 1/10th of the reach of a great Facebook page with 700 fans. If that isn’t convincing enough, I’m not sure what else to say.

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Relevant Questions

During a discussion with a potential client, something came up that surprised me. It shouldn’t have considering the types of information that are floating around the internet and being spread by “gurus,” but it did.

“I post pictures to Facebook and links to Twitter,” she told me.

That was the sum of their strategy. In a way it sort of made sense – rather, I can see how someone can make sense of it – but it’s not a proper strategy and definitely isn’t the way to take full advantage of these networks.

Yes, Facebook likes images and Twitter likes links. That much is clear. The challenges are many, but the most important ones can all be summed up in one word: fatigue. People get sick of seeing variations of the same themes over and over again from a page or profile they follow. It’s easy to see that a picture of a hot classic car can get a ton of engagement and it’s even easier to fall into the trap of constantly posting hot classic car pictures from that day forward. Unfortunately, it doesn’t leave room for business-relevant posts and it turns your fans and followers off.

There are four primary Facebook post types (not including special post types like Offers):

  1. Pictures
  2. Text
  3. Links
  4. Videos

Now, there are variations that go along with some of them. For example, pictures can be broken down into albums and each album plays differently with the algorithm based upon posting source, success of previous posts in that album, posting frequency, etc, but those are the four basic types.

Twitter has even more distinct options:

  1. Pictures
  2. Text
  3. Links
  4. @Replies
  5. Pure Retweets
  6. Quote Retweets
  7. Vines/Videos

Dealers must mix it up on both networks to find the highest level of success.

 

On Twitter…

A Twitter account that posts nothing but links will be the most unfollowed account type out there. When you mix it up on Twitter, you’ll reach more people. Many don’t even look at any posts with links in them, preferring conversations. In fact, text posts (particularly those that properly use hashtags) are by far the most engaging.

Pure Retweets give your Twitter profile itself a look of diversity, as do @Replies. When people visit your dealership Twitter page and see that you have Retweeted others and that you’re talking to other users, they’ll be much more inclined to follow you and engage with you.

Pictures and videos go inline, so posting them directly to Twitter (or through tools that allow native embedding – Buffer does, Hootsuite does not) allows people to see the content without clicking away from their stream. This gives the content more exposure than simply posting a link to it hosted elsewhere.

 

On Facebook…

There was a time not too long ago when images ruled completely on Facebook. They’re still the most prominent today, but not in how the algorithm treats them. They run a close second to text posts, the content that gets presented the most to people in their news feed.

Does that mean you shouldn’t post links or videos? Of course not. You just have to use those types sparingly. I do not believe in posting formulas or generalizations, but if I were forced to give a baseline frequency of post types, I’d recommend 50% images, 30% text, and 10% each for links and videos. Again, this isn’t a standard or even a best practice. It’s a starting point from which you’ll be able to find the formula that works best for your dealership.

Everyone has different strengths, different fans, and different personalities. Finding the right mix is about testing, retesting, and then re-retesting. The key is to have a mix. Don’t go stagnant. Go bold. Do it right. Find success.

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Article originally appeared on AutomotiveSocialMedia.com.

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The Scariest Part of Social Media: Change

Oil Changes

We all get our oil change. It’s a relatively constant thing. Most people are comfortable with getting their oil changed regularly. Some cars tell you when it’s time. Most people have a sticker on their windshield that tells them when it’s time. Heck, our internal clock often reminds us.

Now, imagine that you don’t know when it’s time to change. Instead of the 3000-5000 miles, your car doesn’t have a set time. It just decides that it needs to be changed. Imagine that your car doesn’t tell you, that you have to check it every now and then.

What if the type of oil changed regularly. You might need 5W-30 this time. Next time, your car requires 15W-40. Then, you hear that your car actually wanted the 5W-30 this time and the 14W-40 needs to be drained immediate – that doesn’t start working until next month.

For those mechanically minded, imagine that the configuration of your engine itself moves between oil changes. This time, you have to do it like normal but next time you may have to put it on a lift and change it from the bottom, or your car spontaneously develops a way for you to change the oil from the cabin of the car, but it must be moving at over 30 miles per hour at the time for it to work right.

This is the world of social media. I’m not trying to scare anybody. It’s just a statement of the way things are. What worked yesterday may not work today but may work again tomorrow. Today, text posts work best on Facebook. Two months ago, it was images. There are those who say that they’re seeing an increase in the engagement on images again and a decline in text post engagement.

Pinterest was nowhere to be seen a year ago in automotive social media. Today, it’s a big thing. Tomorrow, it could be dead again, replaced by Scoop.it or Overblog or any of the up-and-comers in social media. It could be replaced by something we haven’t even seen yet.

Instagram was a neat app a year ago. Once Facebook bought them, they became more of a thing. Facebook, Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, and even Apple are constantly in the market for social products of some sort (though Apple hasn’t pulled the trigger just yet). When they buy them, what happens? Do they improve? Become more relevant? Get ruined?

Techniques, strategies, best practices – they all change constantly in social media. Again, I’m definitely not trying to use fear tactics to tell can’t do it on their own. You can. It doesn’t take a lot of time or energy to come up with the right strategies, to track the changes, and to play with the various dynamics involved in a strong automotive social media presence. I’m simply saying this: if you’re going to do social media for your dealership, be sure to stay on top of things. Make it a priority to read, study, and test.

I was asked by a peer why I hadn’t written an automotive social media book yet. I told him that by the time I made it to chapter 6, chapter 2 and 3 would be obsolete. Social is moving. It always has and it always will. Keep that in mind when pursuing your own strategy. If the scariest part about social media is change, the worst thing that you can do is get complacent.

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