For a long time, I assumed that this was a well-known technique, but after talking to some clients I realized that it’s not as common as I thought. If you have a Pinterest account (you should) and you don’t mind using it for business (you might), then you should definitely be mixing in some business-relevant posts.
Here’s the basic idea – your personal Pinterest or other social media accounts may or may not be off limits. It’s totally understandable to not want to mix them with each other. Many people hold their personal accounts as, well, personal, and therefore are unwilling to pollute them with posts about business. There’s nothing wrong with this. If you aren’t one of those people, chances are you don’t use your account very often or you don’t even have an account to begin with. If you have the time and the energy, go ahead and build your very own Pinterest account now. It takes no time at all.
Once you have an account, the fastest way to use it for business is to not use it for business at first. I know it’s counter-intuitive, but if you dive in and start talking business, business, business, you won’t be able to get a following at all. You need a following to make it effective.
The ways to get a large following on Pinterest would encompass at least one full blog post of its own, but the basics are these: be friendly, repin others, follow boards of like-minded people, and post your interests. It could be cars. It could be celebrities. It could be religious. It doesn’t matter, really, as long as its something that at least loosely represents you.
Once you have a following, you can now start pinning stuff from your own website or supporting sites. An example of this is above. In this case, it’s a cool car (I love cars) at an interesting angle that will play well on Pinterest. I gave credit to the business page on which I found the vehicle and added a couple of relevant hashtags to the mix. That’s it!
Pinterest is more than just a social site. It’s also one that transmits strong social signals to Google to be used for ranking in the search algorithm. Most dealers don’t get a lot of pins, Tweets, likes, or Google +1s to their website, so this is a definite bonus. It takes very little time and can be effective to get you that little boost you need.
Did I mention that Pinterest is sort of fun as well? More bonus!
There have been valid business reasons to use hashtags for years. Twitter started it off. Pinterest added to it. Google+ mastered it in many ways. Instagram, Tumblr… the list of social sites on which hashtags are relevant is long. Facebook was the last major holdout. Now that they’ve joined the bandwagon, it’s go time.
Mastering the use of hashtags takes practice, testing, experimenting, and more practice. Thankfully, there are few things you can keep in mind that will make the journey much easier. Here are some basic techniques for using hashtags that should help you find your own strategy pretty easily…
Send a Message through Emphasis
This is hands-down the easiest and arguably most effective use of hashtags on a regular basis. It’s also, oddly enough, the most misused or underutilized. In the example above, there are no major hashtags that people search for or click through to on a regular basis. They aren’t designed to market anything in particular. They’re meant to make the words themselves stand out in the text and to enhance the message itself through emphasis.
Notice the words that are hashtagged – affordable, beauty, performance, reliability. There aren’t a whole lot of better words to use in a description of a used Chysler 300. It makes the message stand out in the stream and helps to punctuate the overall message of the post itself.
Latch on to Trending Topics
This is the most used technique to use with hashtags and is also arguably the least useful, especially for a local business. Trying to “trend surf” can be dangerous as some businesses have found it. It also means trying to stand out in a very large crowd. However, that doesn’t mean they’re useless.
The easiest way to make them effective is to latch onto national campaigns associated with hashtags that are relevant to business. For example, a Toyota dealer would want some posts with the hashtag #Toyotathon when the event comes around. Local trending hashtags can also be useful. For example, #Travelers and #Golf were both trending in Connecticut at the beginning of the Travelers Championship held in Cromwell, CT.
If you can make this one work, you’re a winner. Many big brands fail miserably at this. They can turn into debacles that allow the trolls of the internet to desecrate a brand and their message. However, it’s worth noting as something to explore when you have something really strong to promote.
The essence is this – make and spread a hashtag that is attached to your brand, then ask (hope) people will use it in a positive fashion. No need to go into the gory details here, but this backfires much more often than it works. Still, businesses will continue to try it and occasionally some of them strike gold.
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Hashtags work. They should not be overused. They should not be utilized for spamming. Put in the proper context, they can be great ways to highlight your message and get it exposed to a wider range of potential customers.
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.
There’s just no excuse for car dealers to not be on Pinterest. Some would say it’s worthless. Some would say it’s hard to understand. Some might even say that it’s a fad. They might all be valid arguments under normal circumstances, but there’s on thing that trumps them all.
It takes no time, almost literally. You can maintain a very strong, daily-updated Pinterest presence in less time a day than it takes to get a fresh cup of coffee.
With the “Pin It” bookmarklet on your browser, you can pick out an interesting inventory item and have it Pinned in seconds. That’s all it takes. If you set it up to where you’re following the right boards, you can repin interesting automotive content in even less time just by clicking a couple of buttons. There’s also a “Cars and Motorcycles” category that makes finding the best automotive content super simple.
The video below is under 3 minutes, including the intro and outro. In it, I add two pins to my board. Done right, it’s such a small investment of time that you should be doing it on a daily basis. Surely there’s two minutes every day when you’re not so busy you can’t plug in a little effort, right? If not, it’s time to get an assistant.
Here’s the video:
This article originally appeared on automotivesocialmedia.com.
There’s a case against Twitter and Pinterest that is being waged by some in the automotive industry. They’ll say that there simply isn’t a good return on investment, that they aren’t worth messing with because it’s just too hard to find a benefit from them. This is true until you look at one major factor: time.
Twitter and Pinterest require very little time to maintain and keep vibrant. Before we get into the ways that dealers can streamline their efforts to make them more suited for a proper ROI, let’s first take a look at the three major aspects of them that make them worthwhile:
- Time Driven Algorithm – Unlike Facebook and Google+, the Pinterest and Twitter feeds are completely time driven. When you post something, it appears in the feeds of your followers immediately. Over time, they move down. This is a good thing for their purpose because they’re ideal for getting real-time engagement.
- Communication – At the end of the day, they are great as communication tools. Twitter allows you to communicate with people about ideas and events while Pinterest allows you to communicate visually.
- Google Loves Them – If there’s one major reason to improve your Twitter and Pinterest posting habits, it’s Google. From a social signals perspective, they are adored.
Now that we have that covered, let’s go over a proper posting and monitoring strategy that can streamline it down so they aren’t a waste of time.
Quick Visit Twice a Day
Three minutes. That’s all it takes to keep a strong Twitter and Pinterest presence. If it helps you sell on car a quarter, it was worth it. If it helps you get your pages indexed and ranked better so that you sell more than one extra car a quarter, you’re seeing better ROI than anything else you could have possibly done.
Log into Twitter. Check for and reply to Direct Messages. Check for and reply to @replies. Post something. It’s 140 characters. It doesn’t take much effort.
Log into Pinterest. Check your recent activity. It will be mostly repins of your posts, but see if there are any comments. Pin or repin something. It’s easy.
For Twitter, I prefer Buffer. It’s super quick, there’s no need to mess with timing because it uses a queue, and it shortens all of the links for you as you post. The best part is that it can be a Chrome or Firefox plugin which means that you don’t have to visit the app itself. As you’re browsing throughout the day, you can Buffer it very easily.
Regardless of which tool you use, be sure that you keep your queue relatively full. While I don’t recommend planning your Tweets weeks in advance, you can definitely stay ahead of the game so that on days when you simply don’t have the time to mess with it, at least you have content going up.
A quick note about automation – I never recommend feed posting. In other words, setting any RSS feed to autopost, even if it’s your own blog, is a mistake. From sources that you don’t control, feed posts means that your posts aren’t manually vetted. People can tell. It also means that if someone makes a mistake and posts something that is either inappropriate or a mistake, your feed posting program will get it onto your Twitter feed regardless. I remember seeing a car dealer Tweet a post that said something to the effect of “Empire Avenue verification post 2342hkhk!kj32&hh”.
Regarding your own blog, you should be posting it to Twitter manually. It’s your content so you should highlight it appropriately. Use hashtags. Ask for feedback. Make the title more Twitter-appropriate. It bugs me when people auto-feed their own blog posts because it saved them seconds while costing them an opportunity to truly highlight the important content appropriately.
Lastly, don’t feed your Facebook page posts onto Twitter or visa versa. Not everything that goes on Facebook is appropriate for Twitter. More importantly, it simply doesn’t save much time. If you post something to Facebook that also works on Twitter, do it manually. Seconds, folks. That’s all it takes.
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They don’t take much time. There’s simply no reason to not include Twitter and Pinterest into your social media strategy. Done properly, they can enhance more than just your social presence. They can help with your website rankings, your blog traffic, and the general perceptions that people have about your dealership. We didn’t even get into the more advanced ways that you can use these sites to promote your business. At this point, I’d be happy if dealers were simply using them on a regular basis.
The Social Media Statistics for 2013 across Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest provide us with an interesting opportunity to review where we may want to spend our social media dollars and time in the coming year. Quicksprout recently published the below infographic outlining the major differences between the three social networks with some key statistics you should be aware of.
Of course gender is always a key consideration when weighing up social media statistics, and Pinterest is certainly a good option if you’re target audience is women. Boasting the highest female user base, especially if you’re looking to sell online, Pinterest has a strong higher education and high earnings base which is sure to prove valuable in an e-commerce scenario. On the other hand if you’re marketing to men, you may want to look at Twitter or Facebook as the social network of choice in 2013. Both Facebook and Twitter boast similar user base statistics and present an excellent opportunity if your target audience is middle class male workers with University qualifications, so check your selling point.
With the previous target audiences in mind, when it comes to igniting e-commerce spend online, Facebook is king, however recent statistics have shown there is growing value on Pinterest. A driving factor which defines this is the visual nature of both these social networks, and is something Twitter has not fully embraced thus far.
When it comes to time spent online in 2013 across social networks, it’s quite astounding to note that Pinterest users spend over an hour on average which is almost unheard of. When compared with Twitter’s 36 minutes and Facebook’s 12 minutes, this is unusually high, and presents an unparalleled opportunity for those looking to sell, especially in the home and entertainment industries. Although Pinterest’s time on site is very high, it should be noted that both Twitter and Facebook users’ time on site is excellent and not to be discounted.
In summary 2013 is shaping up to be a changing year in the online social media landscape. The Pinterest user base and relationship with online spend is likely to grow, Facebook is likely to roll out more products changing the landscape time and time again, and the Twitter user base is likely to grow, however Twitter needs to counter the issue of visual content quite quickly to compete in the e-commerce space. When considering where to spend your social dollars, be aware of your target audience, and wherever possible take the time to improve the visual nature of your content and you should begin to see some great results.
In the automotive industry we can't unfortunately just spend all of our energy on just one media site it's imperative that we have a strong presence on all the aforementioned sites. In some industries your target market may be a certain age however, in the automotive industry our target market is all age groups.
It's imperative for dealers not only to just place emphasis on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. But it's also important to have exposure with the other sites like YouTube, LinkedIn, Craigslist and online classified ads just to name a few. Dealers are really dropping the ball when it comes to building brand awareness which will give a competitive advantage to the dealers that have a strong exposure on all these sites. It's like what Sean Bradley says when teaches about Googleopoly. Your dealership must dominate the first page of natural Google when consumers begin the research and buying process.
Last but not least some very intriguing information that I wasn't aware of was the amount of time that users spend on Pinterest versus Facebook and Twitter. Very compelling when you look at Pinterest users that spend over an hour online versus Facebook 12 minutes and Twitter users at 36 minutes.
One of the biggest problems faced when businesses try to use social media as a marketing tool is that there are simply too many social media sites. A day doesn’t go by when I’m not asked about this new site or that old site and whether or not they can be used is marketing. Most can. However, most simply do not have the reach to make them worthwhile. For the majority of businesses, if they stay focused on four current social sites, they’ll have the vast majority of their marketing covered.
Some big sites were excluded. It’s not that Tumblr doesn’t have its place or that Foursquare is useless. It’s that the time and energy necessary to make them stronger is not worth the return on investment. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest are the big dogs right now. They don’t take a ton of time to master and the results are strong compared to the effort put into them.
- Facebook – This is the only no-brainer out there. If you only use one social media site for your marketing, this is it. From both a social interaction perspective as well as a public relations perspective, Facebook can cover as much as 70% of your social media marketing efforts.
- Twitter – This is often the hardest for businesses to understand. They look at it, give it a try, and believe that the results aren’t worth the effort. The problem with that argument is that Twitter is still extremely popular and more importantly the time necessary to have a rock-solid Twitter presence is minutes a day at most. Don’t abandon the low-hanging fruit just because the results aren’t apparent. If you use it right, the results will come.
- Google+ – Even if you don’t believe that Google+ will emerge as a true social media force (it will, but I won’t argue that here), the search engine marketing benefits of building up and maintaining a strong presence on the platform cannot be argued. Few would say they couldn’t use better search results or more traffic from Google. Their social network is one of the ways to improve those results.
- Pinterest – Just like Twitter, Pinterest falls into the category of low-investment, higher-returns. One of the things that differentiates Pinterest from other social sites is that they’ve embraced business usage more readily than other platforms. Posting and maintaining a quality Pinterest presence can be literally less than a minute a day and many of those who use the platform swear by it.
There’s a common theme here. Effort versus reward. If you measure your returns relative to the amount of effort put into the maintenance, you’ll find that these are the sites that generate the highest level. Used properly, just about any business can benefit from a strong presence on these four social media sites.
Over the past couple of months, I've been working on a standard operating procedure for a comprehensive social media marketing service. It has been a while since I had to develop an overarching strategy rather than one that was individualized for a business or organization, so my daily reading of the industry trends and changes has had my eyes bleeding by the time the kids get ready for school. My fingers have bled as well... from making adjustments to the SOP as the industry continues in its unending state of metamorphosis.
In the worlds of search marketing, there are needs to stay on top of things. Google and Bing make changes to their algorithms. Consumers make changes in their searching habits. Devices make changes in how they present the data. It's pretty rough trying to keep up with search. However, keeping up with the changes in search is a piece of cake compared to keeping a social marketing service fresh and operating properly.
My conclusion in putting together this SOP is simple - keep it general and fluid. It must be allowed to grow and adjust based upon the changes that are made by the social media sites and the users themselves. Here are a few examples of activities that may have been a part of a social media SOP if I made it last week:
- Post an image to Instagram and have it feed through to Twitter.
- Sponsor one post a day on Facebook that is business-oriented.
- Get people to +1 your Google+ business page as well as recent posts.
- Post to Pinterest three times a day and feed it through to Facebook.
These would have all been valid actions in a standard operating procedure last week. Today, they are all obsolete.
Social media moves way too quickly for concrete practices. Any full-service company that wants to run your company's social media needs to demonstrate the ability to stay informed about the maelstrom of changes that happen every week as well as the ability to keep a fluid service that moves with the trends and the changes themselves. If they're offering a social media service that is static, that is using techniques that have been "proven to work for a long time", then they do not understand the very nature of social media and should not be trying to run yours for you.
The difference between cheating and playing smart is often a very thin line. In social media, the line gets a little thicker.
This is an exercise that I wish I had time to perform more often. There’s probably a proper name for it somewhere in the social media blogosphere, but I simply call it “Profile Peeking”. When you work in a niche the way that 90% of my time is spent in the automotive industry, you have to connect with the right people. Networking at events, referrals, LinkedIn – all of these are valid methods of expanding your network. However, they can be slow and I don’t like to wait, so I often peek in on my competitors social media profiles to find more people with whom to connect.
This is very effective on the three majors right now – Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ – but it can be applied to almost all other social networks. I’ve used it on Pinterest a few times. The bottom line is this – check other people in your industry. Look at who they are following. Find people that you should be following and that you hope will follow you back. Interact with them when possible (if their privacy settings are conducive to it). Then, check out who they are following.
It’s a path that can engulf you for a time, but it’s well worth it. In the game of network expansion, it’s often easier to find than it is to be found. Until you get to the point that you’re a known entity in your industry, being aggressive and reaching out to influencers is the fastest path to an improved network. With a bigger network comes more reach. With more reach comes more business. It’s pretty simple.
There are two truly valid ways to post on social media. It depends on the personality, goals, and bandwidth available within your business. Both have pros and cons. Both have chances of success and failure.
Determining which way you'd like to go will guide your posting schedule immensely. We will post something in the future that goes into more details about each individual posting personality, but here's a quick overview of them:
The Business-Only Personality
It's a little surprising that more businesses haven't adopted this style. It's likely that a "guru" or two has spread the word that you can't only focus on business if you want to be successful on social media. This simply isn't true.
The business-only personality type will do just as the name says: stick to business. They should post infrequently, perhaps 2-4 times a week, and support their posts with ads on Facebook. Twitter, Google+, and the other social networks cannot benefit from ad support and are likely only seen occasionally in feeds and mostly as a destination, i.e. when someone visits the business website and then follows links to Twitter, Pinterest, G+, etc.
This is effective in one scenario and safe in another scenario. In the scenario where a business has established a strong fan base of customers, prospects, and industry people, the business-only personality can be extremely effective. It doesn't flood people's news feeds with daily posts that can often encourage them to unlike, remove from the news feed, or report as spam. Because there is a reduced chance of getting an EdgeRank boost (though a case could be made that it can actually improve the chances, but that's for a different debate), it is basically a requirement to support the posts through Facebook ads. As long as the content is useful, not spammy, and relevant to fans, a sustained Sponsored Stories strategy can work very nicely.
Fan growth is often slowed as a result of this type of strategy, but there's an upside. If a business is using their page for a particular business-related focus such as a car dealership that posts social-media-only service specials weekly, the quality of the fans can be stronger.
The other scenario where this strategy works well is for the "safe" social media business type. Those who are either not bought into social media as a marketing tool or who do not have the time or resources to manage it properly can use this personality type to keep a strong presence without putting much effort into it. It's not a growth strategy. It's a "checkbox" strategy. The good part is that it's safe. As long as the page doesn't go dormant, those who are somehow able to stumble upon the accounts will not be turned off by what they find.
The Engaging Personality
This is much more common by businesses that are trying to use social media for branding, marketing, and communication. It's also the more botched approach. If there's only one piece of advice that businesses get from this article, it's that you don't have to rely on internet memes and cat pictures to be engaging. If you're a car dealership, you should be posting about cars. Period. Pictures of cars, stories about cars, useful information about cars... stay within the industry. There are plenty of engaging pictures, interesting pieces of information, and personal business anecdotal stories that can be told to stay focused on your industry without being "all business".
For local businesses, there's another realm that help them to stay on topic without diving into memes to stay interesting: the local area itself. A Seattle business can occasionally post images of the Space Needle, for example. Nothing wrong with that to "mix it up" but don't rely on these types of posts. Stay relevant as much as possible.
The engaging personality type on social media strives to be a part of the conversations within their market. They post daily, often more than once a day, and do so in order to get more people to like and interact with their content. This style relies on the interesting aspects of their business to feed content to their social profiles in order to set up the "money posts" that they put up from time to time. The money posts are those ones with practical business applications whether it's to directly promote and event or to highlight a benefit of their business.
By engaging with the various communities, they are increasing the exposure of their money posts. On Facebook, for example, the goal is to play the EdgeRank game. In other words, be as interesting as possible throughout the week in order to make certain that the important posts get maximum exposure. On Facebook and Google+, a business can increase the exposure of their money posts by posting content ahead of it that their fans like, comment about, and share.
This is viewed by many as the free technique. In other words, if you go with this strategy, the need for Facebook ads is alleviated. That's not true. The Facebook advertising strategy for the engagement personality is different from the strategy for the business-only personality, but that doesn't mean that you don't have to spend any money at all. The way that Facebook pages appear (or don't appear) in fans' news feeds makes advertising a necessity regardless of personality type. The difference is in how much and how often.
Scheduling Based Upon Personality
Now that we have an understanding of the personality types, how does this affect scheduling?
- Schedule consistently from week to week. If you have a coupon or offer that comes out weekly, it should be scheduled at the exact same time every week.
- Take advantage of the social media sweet spots that we described in Part I.
- Posts about events should be posted well-ahead of the event itself. Without the benefit of engagement, you'll want to maximize exposure by giving everyone a heads up.
- Be sure that there's a 24-hour gap between image posts sent from the same platform on Facebook. For example, if you post images on Buffer, post them at the same time every day. This prevents "batching" of the posts into unlikable albums.
- Take into account the types of posts and which times to post them. Part II of this series really dives into managing from an engagement personality perspective.
- Ramp up event posts the sooner you get to them. If you know you're having a big sale in two weeks, post every other day about it the week before, then daily the week of the event.
As with all strategies, there are different variations based upon your goals. Play around with it. Post more. Post less. Find the personality type that works best for your business and stick with it. The biggest mistake you can make (other than abandoning social media altogether) is to continuously change strategies without reason. With major changes in the platform being the exception, try to avoid constant changes. Find what works for you and stick with it.
It was the 2011 Driving Sales Executive Summit when I was asked by Joe Webb to participate in a debate about Twitter followers. I had around 100,000 followers at the time and he wanted me to argue for the side of quantity being more important than quality. This made perfect sense except for one fact: I don't believe in quantity being a more important factor than quality. I did back in 2008 when Twitter was bright and shiny and "churning" for Twitter followers was a common technique, but those days are way behind us.
Today, size still matters. It's not the total size that counts but the size of your engaged audience. Under most circumstances, I hate using buzzwords like "engagement" but it fits perfectly here. Your engaged audience is all that matters from a business perspective.
Let's look at a handful of social networks for examples of how quantity and quality fit into the models for marketing in each. We'll focus on three areas: fan base (likes and followers), posting frequency, and interactions with others.
This is the big daddy in social media and deserves to be up top.
- Fan Base - This is the most important component when discussing quality versus quantity, particularly for localized businesses. National and worldwide brands do not have to worry about it as much, but when you're promoting a local car dealership, you actually want fewer fans that are outside of your area. An ideal Facebook page fan base would be comprised entirely of locals, of people who would be willing to drive to the store. I'll take 500 local fans over 10,000 fans spread out any day, even if 500 of those spread out fans are local. Why? It's all about demographic and advertising. Facebook ads are extremely powerful and pages that are loaded with irrelevant fans actually hurts your ability to market to the locals. It drives up expenses and can make you look like a cheater to those who see your page and wonder why so many people outside of your area seem to like your page.
- Posting Frequency - There are two different strategies here. On one side of the spectrum, you have the business-only Facebook strategy that puts up 2 or 3 posts a week all related to business and advances these through Facebook ads. EdgeRank will not be favorable to this strategy, but EdgeRank goes out the window with proper advertising in place. The other side of the coin is to go after 1-3 posts a day (or more) with the hope of being a part of the conversation on a daily basis. This works fine as well. The pages that fail are the ones that are posting constantly. This becomes noise and forces people to hide you from their news feeds. They aren't here to see a bunch of posts from businesses. They came to Facebook to see little Timmy sliding into third base. Don't overpost.
- Interactions - Again, quality is better than quantity here, but it's less of an issue on Facebook. If you're posting comments, liking, and sharing the posts of other pages regularly but not too much, you'll be fine. The biggest challenge I've seen is in having people log in as their Facebook pages and actually interact. Most are willing to comment on their own posts when people respond to them, but it goes deeper, or at least it should.
The biggest problem that most businesses face with Twitter is automation.
- Fan Base - I've seen accounts with 1000 avid and engaged followers that have more power and get more interactions than accounts with 250k followers. This is a big problem, the ease in which people can buy fake followers to bump up their numbers. It's a joke, really. Focusing on getting real people who are active on Twitter to follow your account is gold.
- Posting Frequency - It's not really possible to overpost on Twitter. Posting too many at once is a challenge because flooding followers' feeds will make them unfollow you, but it's possible to get a ton of posts out there every day without making people too upset. However, automated posting tools such as RSS posters or Facebook post integration is a mistake. On some of the accounts I manage, I post over 20 times a day, but every single post is done manually. I schedule them - I'm not on Twitter 24/7 - but everything I schedule is manually vetted. More importantly, they're all hand-crafted. You can get more out of a properly written Tweet than five RSS-fed Tweets any day.
- Interactions - I'm rude. I don't reply to every single person who Tweets at me or retweets me. It's not because I don't appreciate the interactions. It's because I don't want to flood my followers' feeds with a bunch of "Thanks for the Retweet" posts. As a general rule, interact with those who put in the effort. In other words, you don't have to talk to everyone who pushed the retweet button, but if they typed something specifically at you or added their two cents to a conversation, it's best to interact right back at them. Keep it fresh and don't talk to spammers.
The newest big hotness in social media is making a splash on the business side. As a result, there is a need to understand the quality versus quantity aspect as it stands now. This can change as the site continues to grow, but for now here are some best practices.
- Fan Base - For businesses, this is the only social network where size really does make a big difference. You can still be effective without a ton of followers, but they definitely help. Just like with Twitter, there are buying services available that let you bump up your numbers. Just like with Twitter, this is a terrible idea. You can grow your following by posting regularly, tagging appropriately, and interacting with the accounts that are also posting content that you like.
- Posting Frequency - The first thing I do when I see my Pinterest page flooded with someone else's posts is to unfollow them. The elegant way in which Pinterest displays their feed makes it easy to spot the overposters. To me, the magic number is 10 a day if you can spread it out and no more than five at a time, but some would say you can post more in a day but should post less at a time. Make your choice based upon your schedule; if you can log in and post three or four times a day, post 1-3 at a time. If you're logging in once a day, get 3-5 out there during your Pinterest session.
- Interactions - Pinterest and Tumblr are the social networks where it's okay to operate strictly from an interaction perspective. Twitter is as well when used strictly as a communication tool, but unless a business is truly dialed in and has integrated their Twitter into their standard operating procedures, they'll get more benefit by proactively engaging. Pinterest and Tumblr are sharing machines, so even if you never post your own original content, you can still be successful by simply being a strong curator. The benefit here is that it's easier to get engagement when you're working with other people's content.
This doesn't mean that having no friends, followers, and fans is a good idea on any social network. It simply means don't focus on size. Stay true to keeping things rolling along in the right direction and the right followers will find you.
For the past several years, content has been a component of search engine and social media marketing that fell far below the tricks and techniques that helped achieve business goals. It was possible to be successful with limited or low-quality content. In fact, there are those who were able to succeed with no content at all, fooling the search engines and social media sites with methods that proved to be more fruitful than actually creating content that the audience wanted.
Those days are finally behind us. It has been a long time coming, but now that search engines, social media sites, and people themselves have seen through the tricks, it's a whole new world in marketing. Today, content rests at the top of the marketing funnel with search engine optimization and social media marketing reduced to components of an overall content marketing strategy. Here's what it all means:
Why Content is Finally King
Despite the proclamations of many marketers over the years, content has not been "king" until very recently. It was always useful, but great content without supporting inbound links would not rank and great content without strong social media promotions would not go viral. Things have changed.
Amazing content that is useful, entertaining, or both now has a better opportunity to be seen through both search and social. Google is finding the content more easily, making it possible for it to be found without having to artificially inflate the inbound link count. Today, link-building is still an extremely important component of a proper search strategy, but it must center around quality content rather than boost up poor content.
Good links are still powerful and high-quality content can help to generate these links. With a little seeding, the links can come in more easily than in the past when most of the links that marketers created were bulk rather than quality.
From a social perspective, there's still a distinct need for some promotions. Unlike Google, Facebook and the other social media sites will not actively find your content. However, by getting it a little promotional exposure by sharing it and focusing on it from the website homepage or landing pages, the content can be found. From there, it's a matter of allowing the content to be easily shared.
Rising social sites like Pinterest and Tumblr are ideal for seeding the promotions of content. It can be shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ as well, of course, but the tighter communities on Pinterest and Tumblr actually create an easier path to take content viral on social media than the larger sites. There's a need for a strong account or two to promote them, but it's not as involved as building power accounts on Facebook or Twitter. One can be exceptional at Tumblr and Pinterest very quickly.
Content is at the top of the marketing food chain. It's the spark that generates search marketing links and social signals. It's also the source of social media sharing. Rather than use content for SEO or social media marketing, smart marketers will switch it up and use the content as the central point through which search and social marketing can flow.
There is a rise in niche-level outsourced social media that is refreshing on one hand and discouraging on the other. It's encouraging because when agencies take the stance of focusing on a single niche such as automotive or entertainment, they are able to build up several resources to make their jobs easier and the clients' social media presence more robust. On the other hand, it allows many to create an assembly-line, one-size-fits-all mentality of automation that can actually hurt the clients.
It's one of my biggest annoyances. When I sift through the hundreds of Facebook and other social media feeds that are attached to the car dealers I follow, I often see repetition. To some extent there's nothing wrong with this; a Ford dealer in Tuscaloosa sharing the same epic image of a 1967 Mustang that a Ford dealer in Boston shared is likely a safe practice, especially if they're not posted at the exact same time. However, when I start seeing feeds that are over half-duplicated with other similar dealers, I cringe.
Where's the personality? Where's the individuality that allows Facebook and other social media sites to pump up the good and dismiss the bad? Certainly the Ford dealer in Tuscaloosa has completely different goals with social media than the Boston dealer and a diverse personality through which their dealership's humanity can shine?
Unfortunately, this simply isn't the case. Many niche social media companies have adopted as much of an assembly-line mentality as possible. Knowing what I know about social media, if I were on the other side of the discussion looking for the right type of social media I would look for certain things out of my social media partner. This is easy for me to say since we do not currently offer a product that matches these criteria; I have the luxury of speaking without bias. This is exactlywhat I would want if I were a dealer...
Seven Criteria for a Social Media Partner
I understand the concepts of scalability, profitability, and building a product that can deliver on the goods without being too cost-prohibitive. I have eliminated those thoughts from this discussion for the sake of describing an ideal situation. No vendor today offers this level of advanced social media marketing in the automotive industry (including us) today. That's a shame because it would help reshape the industry and align goals with results.
- Constant Consultation for Both Parties' Sake - Running the various social media profiles that I do, I could not imagine being effective with them if I didn't have intimate knowledge of what was going on at the companies. This isn't something that can be accomplished by a monthly call. It doesn't necessarily require a daily call, either, as that would get annoying, but a weekly touch and an open phone line are absolutely required to make sure that we were taking full advantage of the best component of social media: real time.
- Diversity of Personalities - There is no "master plan" in social media that works universally. A Chevy store in Fond du Lac may have a personality that is deeply rooted in the community. They might be one of the centerpieces of the city that plays an important role in cultural growth, education, and bringing the community together. A Honda store in Shreveport might have a completely different approach with different goals for their social media. They might be best served posting 3 times a week instead of twice a day, posting only what is relevant to their fan base that has grown used to seeing service specials advertised to them regularly.
- A Budget for Facebook Advertising - Whether through Offers, Sponsored Stories, Events, or straight up Facebook ads, the idea that a page can be maximized without an advertising budget is like saying that a car can drive really fast without gas. I don't care if it's a Lotus - without fuel the only hope to go fast is to drop it out of plane. Facebook offers by far the most cost-effective form of advertising on the internet right now. The majority of vendors who deny this are either uninformed or simply don't want Facebook taking from their chunk of the pie.
- Understanding and Focus on the Right Networks - Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are non-negotiable and should never be automated. Dealers and vendors who plug their Twitter into Facebook and call it a day are missing out. Dealers and vendors who use Hootsuite or other tools to keep their Google+ updated have missed the point (this one topic could be a blog post of its own). Tumblr, Foursquare, Pinterest, and Instagram are important and may fall in line with a strong social media presence. YouTube, Slideshare, and Flickr work well for dealers who are positioned properly with the right content. Scoop.it and a handful of other startups that we're watching are moving up on the list. Pretty much every other social network is fluff at this point. Vendors that say, "Get your dealership on dozens of social networks" are either ignorant or they believe that their clients are ignorant. The concepts of "more is better" and "it can't hurt to try" are absolutely false in social media. I'd debate anyone on this point.
- Content that Starts at the Dealership - There is plenty of generic content out there that works pretty well. In the car business, there is no shortage of content. However, the only way to get real success out of posts is to localize them. A picture of a Hyundai concept car from the Geneva Auto Show is good, but a picture of a customer's tricked-out Hyundai that drives on the local streets is much better. Vendors who are not doing point #1 will never be able to accomplish this point.
- Search Integration - This is a huge one that nobody is doing properly right now. Nobody. Social signals are quickly becoming one of the most important aspects of search engine optimization. There are those who claim to be helping a dealership's search rankings through social media by getting additional inbound links, but this is a completely different strategy than social signal implementation. Again, this is another blog post waiting to happen, but if there is nothing in the strategy that includes getting high-quality organic social interaction on your website, you don't have a true social signals for search strategy in place.
- Reputation Reinforcement through Social Media - This is one that is a "must have" for dealers. Reputation is everything. There are a few vendors who do a great job at reputation management - getting reviews, monitoring them to get the dealership's responses, and redirecting potential negative reviews directly to the dealership to allow for one-on-one conversations. Kudos to them. However, a component that I've seen done well on only the occasional social media presence is reputation reinforcement. It's not just about putting a tab on your Facebook page with a reviews feed. It's about taking the extraordinary reviews and getting them exposed to potential customers proactively.
Social media done properly can be tremendously beneficial to dealerships and just about any business out there that works with consumers. It takes a personal touch from the business that can only be achieved by doing it themselves with strong strategies and proper guidance or through true social media partners that put in the efforts, that stay on top of the trends, and that are willing to get personal and understand the personality of the business instead of blasting out generic content and hoping for the best.
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I want to preface this article by saying this is merely an opinion article. No Social media statistics in this one! Would love everyone's feedback, though!
"Are you Still Underestimating the Intelligence of Your Social Network?" It's an interesting question. By "Social Network", I'm not simply referring to sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, or even Pinterest. Instead, what I mean is your actual network. The network of fans and followers on those aforementioned sites.
Here's the bottom line: If you're still assuming your "social network (Fans & Followers)" is unfamiliar with the world of social media, how it operates, you better think again. If your social media strategy consists of posting car specials (Lease, Finance, Used/New) onto your Facebook page every single day, then you might need to head back to Square One. In my experience, handling the social media accounts for all of Dealer Synergy's clients, I've come to realize that Mr. and Mrs. Smith, with a huge family and full time jobs, aren't going to your page to see what your latest specials are. If they wanted that intel, they'd head to your website or give your internet department a call. They are heading to your page to connect. To check out what cool stuff you're posting. Perhaps, they purchased a car from you or their in-law did. There's a plethora of reasons that people are checking out your Facebook page. Regardless, if you continue to "spam" your network with ads, you're going to drive them away, and chances are they may not come back.
As most of us know (at least I hope!), Social media isn't a fad. People are using social media for all different reasons. Some may use it for a release from everyday life. Others use it to connect with long lost friends & family. And, then there are those who create a Facebook or Twitter account to offer praise (or a complaint) for a business (i.e. your dealership).
Subsequently, if Mr. Joe Smith posts something negative onto your Facebook page after a bad experience at your dealership and your social media prerogative is to keep posting car specials, then Mr. Smith will be sure to tell his friends not to even bother to go to your page, telling them it's run by a emotionless robot. This is counterproductive, obviously. The ultimate purpose of creating a Facebook or Twitter account is to build your brand, as well as work on community and local outreach.
So, are you underestimating the intellingence and the know withal of your social community?
Think you know all there is to know about Pinterest? Think again. Here are Five things that perhaps you may not know about the Pin-loving social network:
1) Pinterest is the Third Most Popular Social Network
- Of course, we can classify a website's popularity in many different ways. However, since launching in 2010 and gaining a head full of steam this year, Pinterest has cemented itself as the 3rd most popular social networking site, just behind Facebook & Twitter
- In March, they received 104 MILLION visitors. (I'll let that sink in.....)
- That is immense growth for a site that is barely two years old.
2) It's not Just Women....
- Once Pinterest gained traction earlier this year, a narrative grew around the social networking site claiming it was just for women. But, a closer look indicates otherwise.
- The percentage breakdown is this 65% women/35% men. While this isn't necessarily a balanced scale, it does indicate that the website isn't just used by one specific gender/group of people.
3) You're spending more time on Pinterest than...
- Believe it or not, users are spending more time on Pinterest than they are on Facebook. A recent study found that the average Facebook user spends approximately 12 minutes on Facebook, keeping an eye on what their "Friends" are doing, while Pinterest users are spending 16 minutes on the site.
- For some perspective, the average YouTube user spends 16.5 minutes.
4) Silicon Valley?
- While most tech startups seem to originate in the depths of Silicon Valley and some in New York City, Pinterest started in the Midwest. It goes to show you: a great idea can take you anywhere, regardless of its latitude!
5) Self Promotion is indeed allowed
- When Pinterest was first unleashed into the virtual world, it was simple: pin a few recipes, a few photos to a board, and interact with others.
- However, now the folks over at Pinterest (as of March), have allowed self-promotion for businesses.
Are you a Pinterest addict?
As Pinterest continues to rise in exposure and prominence in social media, many dealers have been asking me how to make it work for them. There are certain techniques that we, fortunately or unfortunately, save for clients, but here's one that you can use today to help improve the virality and SEO of your website.
It starts with being interesting. Nobody on Pinterest (and social media in general) wants to see the special you have on your 2011 program cars. They want to see something "cool" on social media. Pinterest can make the fun part of managing your dealer website actually have value for your online marketing efforts.
Here's the technique:
- Using your website content management system, create a page that looks something like this: 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge.
- Be sure to include unique content - a paragraph or two is fine.
- Don't forget your image credits! It's important that you link to the sources of the images. It's the right thing to do.
- Include links at the bottom that go to your website or other websites that you're trying to optimize.
- "Pin It" on Pinterest. Assuming you have a following (or want to build up a following) you'll want to have something awesome to show them such as the GTO.
- Share the Pin on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, etc.
The goal here is to help your website be part of a viral spread. It isn't the direct traffic that you receive from the Pin or the social media sites you place it on. It's the authority you receive in the eyes of the search engines from all of the links that are generated.
Pinterest links are no-followed. Don't let that hamper you. Social signals are a part of rankings, but more importantly your goal isn't to rank for that vehicle necessarily. Your goal is to build that page as an authoritative source. By doing so, the links at the bottom of the page will help you rank for the important keywords you want to improve.
It may be complicated, but give it a shot. Depending on which CMS you're using, this could be a weekly process that takes about 15 minutes.
Originally appeared on Driving Sales.
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