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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,,, and

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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Facebook has been a promising venue through which to market a dealership ever since it reached a high level of popularity back in 2008. Back then, it was just breaking the hundred million user level and was showing signs that it would be able to be business-friendly in contrast to its rival MySpace. Now, it’s 10 times bigger and commands more time of humans than any other website.

The problem is that it’s not the easiest marketing platform to master. Unlike Google, Twitter, and other players that are used on a daily basis, Facebook has algorithms that keep dealers from finding success. Google has an algorithm, of course, but because people go to it to find businesses, they make it very easy for those willing to pay money or play by the optimization rules to get the exposure they need. On Facebook, users aren’t going there to engage with businesses so trying to “sneak in” marketing and advertising is an act that goes contrary to the desires of the users. This is why the algorithm can be so harsh.

It’s difficult, but it’s not impossible. There is plenty of advice on the internet that tells businesses and marketers how to have success on Facebook. Unfortunately, some of it is poor advice. Others are simply antiquated. Most make general assumptions. There aren’t very many specifics that small businesses can use to make an impact.

The best way for a local business to move the needle is to get to a point of local exposure and built up trust that allows them to give their marketing messages exposure and that promotes communication with customers and potential customers through the network itself. Accomplishing this takes a process.

The first three steps in the process are the easiest, the ones that can all be described in a single blog post. The stages beyond the first three get much more complex, not because they’re so much harder but because they become very specific to the goals of the dealership as well as the personality of the team. We can’t go into those, but the first three should be enough to get you going:

1. Grow locally

Here’s the bad news. If you have accumulated a ton of fans outside of your market area, there’s a good chance that you’ll have to dump everyone and start over. It’s not fun. It’s not easy (unless your following is so extended that you have to delete the page altogether and start from scratch – that’s easy). It can be one of the most gut-wrenching decisions you’ll ever make pertaining to your social media marketing, particularly if you’ve been doing it for years. All that effort, wasted. It hurts.

The good news is that building back up from scratch isn’t as hard as most think. It requires money – Facebook advertising is the best way to get a local following built up – but not much. Many businesses are already through this stage and can boast having a mostly-localized following. Regardless of how you get there, this is the first step – get your following up to acceptable level.

2. Get engagement

This is always the scariest piece of advice and the most challenging stage to implement. First, the term “engagement” is so overused and misunderstood. To so many, it means cats. The internet is loaded with cats. People post pictures of cats all the time. It seems like a great place to start.

On a local business page, there should be no cats allowed unless you’re building a page for a veterinarian.

Every business has some sort of relevant content that can be posted. No business is so boring that they can’t find interesting things to post that pertain to what they do. This is paramount – car dealers should be posting cars, automotive tips, and localized events because that’s what the people who liked their page expect. There’s no need to get too clever. Strong content doesn’t have to be contrived. It doesn’t have to be shared from George Takei’s awesome Facebook page.

Keep it organic. Keep it real. Keep it relevant. Your fans will like it and become engaged (whatever that really means).

3. Earn the right to market

There was a question asked on a forum about how to judge success on a Facebook page. They had built up to a nice number of fans. Their fans were mostly localized. They had engaging content on the page (though there were some cat-like posts that we don’t recommend, but otherwise it wasn’t bad). Now, they wanted to see where the ROI was.

Unfortunately, there was none, at least not that was noticeable. They had made it through to stage three but hadn’t taken it to the next level.

Facebook users aren’t as silly as we often believe. They don’t like a local business page without the understanding that they’ll likely see some marketing materials cross their feed from time to time. If they don’t want the marketing content, they wouldn’t like a business in the first place.

Some take this to the extreme and post only marketing stuff. This is a huge mistake based upon what was mentioned above – the algorithm. Marketing content does not perform very well under most circumstances, so having only marketing content won’t work. You’ll lose fans. You’ll move down in the news feed based upon poor EdgeRank. You’ll be broadcasting messages that nobody will ever see.

In stage three, local businesses have to earn the right to post marketing content by doing a couple of things. First, they have to be very proficient at step 2 and have an audience that is engaged. Then, they have to craft their marketing content in a way that can get the message out there while doing minimal damage to EdgeRank or following. There is no way to post marketing content that won’t turn some people off. You simply want to minimize the damage. Done right, there are more positive effects to EdgeRank from the right marketing material than any of the negatives that are bound to happen.

It must be timed appropriately. That timing is based upon the activities on the page on a regular basis, but the right mix of conversational and converting content should be worked in. Too much and you lose too many fans. Too little and there’s no ROI. Finding the right mix is the key and it’s something that must be diagnosed on an individual basis rather than prompted in a blog post.

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These are just the first three stages. There are more, but again they are really dependent on more factors than that can be described in a post. Whatever you do, don’t jump ahead. Engaging content is worthless if you have 20 fans. Marketing content is worthless if you have the fans but they’re not engaged. If you start here, you can get to the next level which is true return on investment. You have to start somewhere.

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The Relationship Era

SXSW Can't Buy Me Like

When it comes to advertising today, things have changed. In some ways it’s due to social media. Oh, who am I kidding? If it wasn't for social media, most brands wouldn't be held as accountable as they are today. Even local businesses, car dealers in particular, rely on social media and review sites to tell their story beyond the cars themselves.

It's all about relationships.

Searching for “I Love Zappos” yields 2,000,000 results. Searching for “I Love Dow Chemical Company” yields 3, according to Bob Garfield and Doug Levy at the SXSW panel titled “Cant’ Buy Me Likes”. Thanks to their presentation, this number is sure to go way up as people discuss it (such as this blog). By contrast, searching for “I Love Satan” yields 293,000. It’s not a good thing to be loved less than the prince of darkness.

What has happened? Why is it that billion dollar ad branding campaigns get usurped by a YouTube video by a disgruntled customer? They described that scenario of United who has been pushing their brand forward for years with a familiar tune, “Rhapsody in Blue”, only to watch it fall apart when they had a disgruntled musician post a sing about them.

Again, it’s all about relationships.

Here are some quick takeaways that dealers can use to understand the way that things are really working in this relationship era.

“The reality is that thinking of trust as a means of encouraging a transaction is like having a child for the sake of tax deduction,” said Levy.

Purpose and incentives can go hand-in-hand, but people can tell the difference. If a consumer smells insincerity, it won’t matter how much good you’re doing in the world. Do good. If the world enjoys and admires the good that your company does, that’s great but it’s not the goal (at least it shouldn’t be).

“Brands that are admired for the totality of their activity perform better than companies that are only excellent at their business goals,” said Garfield.

Branch out. Being the best at what you do is great, but sometimes the things you do that have nothing to do with your business are the ones that last. What do you remember when someone mentions a brand like Goodyear? You might have thought of tires, which is their business. You also might have thought of a blimp over a sporting event which is not their business but helps to sustain their brand in a positive way. The same can hold true on social media.

“The fundamentals of relationship era marketing are trust, belief, purpose, and authenticity,”

Yes, yes, and yes. And yes. You have a relationship with all of your customers – past, present, and future – regardless of whether you want it or not. Embrace it.

This is where it goes wrong

Things were going great. The points being made by Garfield and Levi were insightful, well-researched, and thoughtful for most businesses. Unfortunately, their advice took a turn for the worse, not because it wasn’t valid but because the ideas that they were giving their audience of media professionals were incomplete. I totally understand the need to sell more books and to use events like these for teasers, but the concept of telling businesses to stop focusing on their primary marketing techniques and switch to finding funny videos of laughing babies and branding that way was a poor direction to take.

Will cat pictures be more liked than business-related posts? Of course! Does that make them more effective? Absolutely not.

I haven’t read their book so I don’t know if they expand on the concept in there in a way that won’t turn businesses in the wrong direction, but that doesn’t matter. They shouldn’t have hinted in that direction to the audience without giving them the caveats. I’ll go into more detail when I get back from SXSW but for now, don’t jump to YouTube and find videos of babies to post to your social media profiles. Hold off until I rebut.

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Facebook purists will pan this post. They will say that the best way to post to Facebook is to post whatever you’re doing or thinking right now, that “planning” posts is not only insincere but that it undermines the point of Facebook altogether. Their points are valid and noted. Now, let’s talk about reality.

Busy people who have their own social media and potentially the social media profiles of sites and companies with which they work need tools. It’s true that the best way to post to Facebook is through the native interfaces – itself and their mobile app. However, there are drawbacks. You can schedule posts that go on pages through, but you can’t schedule for profiles. Perhaps more importantly, Facebook has an on again, off again glitch with scheduled posts that often “batches” them into an unintended album for any posts that are not at least 24 hours apart. This holds true for mobile image uploads as well. The problem there is that these batched albums cannot be liked, shared, or commented on in the news feed. If they can’t be interacted with in the news feed, they don’t really exist. Nobody clicks through to interact with them.

These are some of the tools that I’ve used in the past or that I’ve seen others use that have shown to be effective. To be effective, they have to be easy to use, formatted properly, displayed well in the news feed, and “play well” with EdgeRank. Keep in mind, EdgeRank can be adjusted based upon interaction. For example, if your posts from a certain tool tend to get more likes than posts with other tools, those future posts from that tool will appear higher in the news feed. The opposite is true as well. If posts from a certain tool are not as effective, they’ll fall further in the feed and become less visible as a result.

At the end of the day it comes down to personal preference. Which tools work for you? These work for me and people that I know, but that doesn’t mean they’ll demonstrate the same benefits for your posts. Go with what works. This is only a guide of a handful of suggestions.


Post Planner

This tool is invaluable to me. It allows me to manage my profile as well as my pages from within the Facebook environment because it’s an actual Facebook app. I pay for it and it’s worth every penny. I am able to control branding and links through it – everything I post has a link to my “app” which is a redirect to my blog. My only complaint is that it only works in 5-minute intervals. It would be nice to post at any time but I understand the constraints of the Facebook environment. Given what they had to work with, the end result was amazing.



This isn’t just great for Facebook. It works nicely (maybe even better) for Twitter. I often cross post an image to both networks and this is the only tool I’ve found that handles that properly, showing in both networks as an uploaded image rather than a link. You can find the times that work best for you and set it up to post at different times on different days if you choose. It works chronologically so there’s no need to input times. You add something to the feed and it drops into the next available slot. Moving posts up or down is also relatively easy and there’s even a shuffle option if you’re scheduling a lot ahead of time.



The social media “recipe builder” is nothing short of brilliant. “If this, then that” allows you to connect your social profiles in ways that are changing the lives of users. It makes it simple to integrate so many different types of content that if I had to pick a favorite based upon pure ingenuity, this would be the hands down winner. For example, you can have a recipe that says if you post to Buzzfeed, the post will appear on Facebook as well and here’s how you want it to look. Takes a little while to master but once you get it, nothing will be the same.



If you weren’t one of those who abandoned the service once they went rogue with their terms of service, you’ll be happy to know it’s still a very nice way to put interesting personal posts on Facebook. In fact, it’s my app of choice when posting images that I’m taking from my smartphone. Nothing fixes the low quality of smartphone images like a hipster-friendly filter. Don’t overpost – the app has a tendency to batch and appears lower in the news feed as a result.



Use sparingly. Pinterest has an interesting way of getting batched. If there have been two pins posted to Facebook recently, they show up side by side or one on top of the other with unique interaction buttons. It’s a nice way to mix it up, but it doesn’t appear as well on the news feed. Still worth the occasional post.


What NOT to use to post to Facebook

As with any good list of tips, there needs to be some advice about things to avoid. These are some of the tools that do not work as well on Facebook and should be avoided if the goal is exposure.

  1. Tumblr – For whatever reason, whether it’s just the threat of another addictive social network or a challenge in the coding, Tumblr posts that go on Facebook do not perform well.
  2. Foursquare – The app plays okay with the news feed, but people simply don’t like it as much. Even when images are included, people are less likely to interact with the excellent stalker app as they are when Facebook places integration is used.
  3. Twitter – I’m likely in the minority on this one, but I’m not a fan of any interaction between the two services. I don’t like Tweets that come through on Facebook and I don’t like when Facebook status updates come through as Tweets. Call me what you will but neither path seems to work as well as posting independently of each other, even if it’s the same content being posted.
  4. Hootsuite – I really like Hootsuite for Twitter and as an overall social media management tool. The Google+ integration and automation has been a lifesaver with all of the G+ pages that I manage. As a posting tool to Facebook itself, I had to stop using it a month ago. It just didn’t do as well in the news feed as the other tools available.
  5. Flickr – Just like with Tumblr, Flickr doesn’t do very well. It could be because Facebook spent a billion dollars on a direct competitor with Instagram. That might just be my imagination. However, I love using IFTTT to post from Facebook to Flickr, so not all is lost.
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There’s always a risk when it comes to aggressive advertising and marketing that many are unwilling to take. On television, radio, search, and display ads, there will be those who do not appreciate what you’re putting in front of them. On social, this is greatly amplified because people have the ability to respond.

It is nearly impossible to post effective content and make it visible to your target audience on Facebook without running into the occasional hater. In fact, if you’re not getting any negative comments at all, chances are either your message is not business-effective (are you promoting cat pictures?) or you aren’t reaching enough people. Even with fan-only, highly-targeted Facebook posts, there’s a chance that something someone finds on their Facebook wall will rub them the wrong way and make them leave you a negative comment.

There are a few unavoidable reasons for this:

  • People don’t understand how Facebook advertising works – Let’s say you’re targeting a specific city. You select “automotive” as an interest and you post automotive content. Suddenly, you get a comment that says something to the effect of “How did you weasel your way onto my news feed” or “why is this spam showing up – reported!” There are many users who, regardless of what you post, will not appreciate that you’re appearing ahead of pictures of little Timmy sliding into third base and will react negatively as a result.
  • Just because they liked your page doesn’t mean they like your content – People like pages for various reasons. Perhaps you ran a contest a few months ago. Maybe they clicked “like this page” on a post that one of their friends liked thinking that it was their content. There are many reasons that people might have liked your page in the past. If they haven’t seen you in their news feed before, they might react negatively having forgotten or never realizing that they liked your page in the past.
  • The feed and privacy controls on Facebook are still awful – Despite repeated attempts to make the waters less murky, Facebook has never really made it easy for people to control their news feeds. Most go with the default views and privacy settings which allow for targeted Facebook ads. By appearing in their feed, they think that you’ve done something to get there without realizing that they opted in by not opting out. The biggest lie told by every person on the internet happens when they accept the various terms of services that say, “I have read and agree to these terms of service.” Ya, sure.
  • Friend of fans – One of the easiest ways to expand reach on Facebook is to promote some posts with the “friends of fans” option on promoted stories. This gets more views, but it also exposes your content to people who do not want to see it. As a result, the hate comments are bound to come sometimes.

Regardless of the reasoning for the hate, there are two options to address it. You can reply back to the hate comments in a professional manner. Don’t try to explain it to them – they often won’t buy it and trying to get people to understand the way that Facebook handles marketing is about as easy as getting them to understand the tax code without an accountant handy. The other option, useful only in the most extreme circumstances, is to delete the comments. They will still appear to the person who made the comment as well as their friends, but the majority of people will not see the comments. This is a last resort – transparency rules on social media – but if the comments get out of hand or offensive, there’s nothing wrong with getting rid of them for the bulk of your fans. Do not take it to the next level by blocking or reporting them. This can open up a can of worms.

There are those who argue that there should be nothing at all promotional on one’s Facebook page. It’s a valid strategy and one that can help to avoid any of the negatives that come with using Facebook to promote your business or products, but it’s often a slower path that requires more time and effort. Even then, there’s a good chance that you’ll still be met with some hate even if your content is absolutely awesome and universally relevant simply because many people don’t like seeing brands in their feed at all regardless of the content. Don’t fret either way. You can’t make everyone happy. You can, however, minimize the hate by posting valuable content and keeping quality at the top of your guiding principles.

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Hate” image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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“I sit down at the computer and think of things to post on social media.”

This is the problem. It’s the challenge that faces many dealers as they try to explore new ideas to post about on social media. They have “social media time” set aside, and while this is good to schedule and maintain, it also allows people to miss some of the best opportunities available in social media.

It’s what happens in the day to day affairs of a dealership, the things that come to us when we least expect it, that really makes for strong social media posts. Dealers all too often try to come up with their social media posts while they’re at their computer and fully in “social media mode”. This is a mistake.

Social media is a reflection of life. In business, it’s often what happens at the dealership every day that makes for the most interesting social media posts because it is during these times that the reflections of real life actually occur. Examples:

  • The happy customer who is really excited about their new car (beyond what we normally look to for testimonials)
  • The employee who’s going to be playing with their band this weekend at a local bar
  • A great coffee mug that an employee brought in
  • An interesting quote from someone at the store
  • A random thought that pops up in your head that is both relevant to your business and interesting enough to share

These all seem simple. They seem like they’re mundane aspects of life. They are. That’s a good thing. Find the little things that happen every day and make them interesting through creativity while in “social media mode”.

If you walked around the store or simply chatted with people throughout the day, both customers and employees, you’ll be shocked to find what kind of interesting things are happening at the dealership at that very moment. Take notes. It could be as simple as pulling out your smartphone and hitting the voice-recorder to get the ideas in a safe place for when it comes time to “do” social media. It could be recording a video at that very moment or shooting a picture of the scene. There are lots of choices available to us through the various technologies at our fingertips. Often, it’s just a matter of staying in “social media mode” at all times.

The best social media posts are natural. If you keep your eyes open for the opportunities, there will be nothing blocking you when it comes time to make the post itself.

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Opportunities” image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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There are tools. Tools are great if used properly. The biggest challenge with tools is that they can be turned into a crutch that actually takes away from the exposure of the post. In other words, you can "tool yourself out of the message" by overusing them or by using them improperly.

Today's webinar was about tools and we discuss many of them, but I think the big takeaway for dealers is the portion around the middle where I go through the actual posting process. Here's what I do, step by step:

Find the Content

First and foremost, you don't have to post cats. I know that there is a strategy that involves posting funny pictures and trying to be entertaining, but the internet is loaded with many people and businesses more entertaining than you or your social media provider. It was a semi-effective strategy a couple of years ago. Today, it simply isn't necessary.

People want experts. You're probably not an expert on shaved dogs or hipster fashion. You're an expert on cars. Post cars. Lots of them. Old cars. New cars. Concept cars. Take what you know as a car dealer and apply it to your social media.

With that said, finding the right content can be easy. You probably have something really cool on your lot right now. Nissan dealers, for example, have a huge advantage if they have a GT-R on their lot. Social media LOVES the GT-R, particularly Tumblr and Pinterest. This translates nicely on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter as well. Instagram can go crazy over it.

Use what you have, but you don't have to stop there. Services like Shutterstock are excellent for finding images of particular vehicles, skylines of your metro, or interesting events in the local area. Taking pictures is best, but if you are constrained on time (who isn't?) then the good ol' stock photo works just fine, particularly if you have some interesting information to go along with it.

Post to Facebook and Google+

Once you have your content, get it up on Facebook and Google+. Try not to use a posting tool whenever possible - Facebook gives preferential treatment to posts from itself and Google+ tools like Hootsuite post the images as links, not images. If you've already posted or it's not the ideal time and you have to schedule it, that's fine, but avoid whenever possible.

Post it on Tumblr

If you don't have a tumblog yet, you should. It's super easy to post to Tumblr and we've covered it in past automotive webinars.

Get the image up on Tumblr as an image; too often I see businesses posting as links or text and adding the image which doesn't get the same amount of coverage. You have an option to include a click-thru link. If the image is on your website, you can plug that page in. You can also plug in your Google+ post. Neither is required but it's a benefit to do so.

Take it from Tumblr to Pinterest and Twitter

Go to the post itself (not your Tumblr homepage) and Pin it onto your Pinterest board. While pinning, be sure to select the "Post to Twitter" option so that it goes onto Twitter as well.

That's it. Four minutes. Quality post created and shared. Time to get back to other business. Here's the full webinar...

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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.

This is Part III of the series on timing. Please read Part I and Part II first.

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.
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Poor Writing Is No Laughing Matter

The title of Lynne Truss’ runaway bestseller Eats, Shoots and Leaves (Gotham Books, 2003) illustrates the impact of a wayward comma:

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots into the air.

“Why?” asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

“I’m a panda,” he says, at the door. “Look it up.”

The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

“Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

Although Truss’ anecdote is humorous, poor writing by employees is no laughing matter, and in fact can cost your company millions—or billions—of dollars in rework and misunderstanding. A 2008 white paper by International Data Corporation (IDC) showed that businesses in the United States and the United Kingdom were losing an estimated $37 billion as a result of “employee misunderstanding.” The term is defined as “actions or errors of omission by employees who have misunderstood or misinterpreted (or were misinformed about) company policies, business processes, job function or a combination of the three.” The authors wrote,

Employee misunderstanding is a very different proposition to a deliberate disregard for the rules or a plain mistake, whereby an employee simply does something that they didn’t mean to (like forgetting to back up computer storage or putting a decimal point in the wrong place)…. The financial cost of employee misunderstanding is immense…. Of the industries we researched, banks suffer the greatest losses and transportation the least. Loss of business due to unplanned downtime was the largest area of loss attributed to employee misunderstanding.

What causes employee misunderstanding? Poor, unclear, or no communication, leaving employees without the knowledge they need to do their jobs correctly.

There is more evidence. An SIS International Research study prepared for Siemens Enterprise Communications in 2009 explored and quantified communication difficulties experienced by small to medium-sized businesses, up to 400 employees. The researchers concluded that waiting for information, unwanted communications, inefficient coordination, barriers to collaboration, and customer complaints caused productivity losses estimated to be $26,041 per knowledge worker per year.

Unfortunately, even college graduates are not getting the preparation they need to communicate effectively in writing. In Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses (University of Chicago Press, 2011), authors Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa concluded that 45 percent of students “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” after two years of college; and that 36 percent “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” after four years!

In an article about the book, Scott Jaschik of the Chronicle of Higher Education wrote,

[The authors] review data from student surveys to show, for example, that 32 percent of students each semester do not take any courses with more than 40 pages of reading assigned a week, and that half don’t take a single course in which they must write more than 20 pages over the course of a semester.

What are employers to do?

Clearly, there is a case for businesses hiring for potential and training for skill in writing. But do you know what you are getting? Does your company administer a writing test to job applicants? You should, says Kyle Wiens, chief executive officer (CEO) of iFixit, the world’s largest collection of online repair manuals. In a July blog post entitled, “I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why,” Wiens wrote,

Everyone who applies for a position at either of my companies, iFixit or Dozuki, takes a mandatory grammar test. Extenuating circumstances aside (dyslexia, English language learners, etc.), if job hopefuls can’t distinguish between ‘to’ and ‘too,’ their applications go into the bin.

Admittedly, he says, he and his colleagues “write for a living.”

But grammar is relevant for all companies. Yes, language is constantly changing, but that doesn’t make grammar unimportant. Good grammar is credibility, especially on the internet. In blog posts, on Facebook statuses, in e-mails, and on company websites, your words are all you have. They are a projection of you in your physical absence. And, for better or worse, people judge you if you can’t tell the difference between their, there, and they’re.*

Writing skills are important now more than ever in this age of digital communication, says consultant David Silverman, contributing editor to the Guide to Better Business Writing, 2nd Edition (Harvard Business Press, 2011). “With text messages and emails, most business communication nowadays is written,” he says. “Unfortunately, our reliance on written communication, which is increasing, is inversely proportional to our abilities and our willingness to learn.” Yet written communication, he emphasizes, makes up the private and public faces of your company.

Silverman helps employees in government agencies and corporations of all sizes develop better written communication skills. The worst mistake we all make? Writing too much. “Being succinct requires time and effort, whereas including everything under the sun seems safer,” he says.

Many companies see good writing skills as an indicator of leadership potential, Silverman says. So what should knowledge workers be able to do?

“Tell a story that people will remember,” Silverman says. “Tell a story with pictures, and remove extraneous information.” In other words, think about what will be in your reader’s mind as you write. Is it cluttered, or is the path to the crucial information straight and clear?

Naturally, the rules for good writing depend on your goal, Silverman notes. Are you striving to instruct, or just to entertain? “The only viable reason to send a business email is to request action,” he says. To write emails that people will read—and act upon—use clear subject lines and include your call to action at the top. “Your messages must answer the reader’s questions, ‘What do you want me to do?’ and ‘How will I know I’ve done it?’” Silverman emphasizes.

We all make mistakes. So for critically important email messages and other documents, Silverman recommends these three steps:

Proofread carefully.
Have someone else read your work.
Wait an hour and read it again before pressing Send.
As you prepare your training budgets for 2013, consider devoting some of your expenditures to developing your employees’ writing skills. After all, even if you only cut that lost productivity of $26,000-plus in half, that is a pretty significant return on investment (ROI).

*Although the word “grammar” may seem yawn-inducing to some, it is a hot topic: Wiens’ post has generated more than 3,200 comments since it was published.


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I know it's the heart of football season and the beginning of basketball season, but baseball is the sport that truly helps to illustrate this particular post. On social media, not all times are created equal. It's important to know where and when to place your pitches to let your fans and followers hit home runs for you.


There have been much more scientific studies that detail this. I have to disagree with most of these because they ones I've seen have missed an important aspect or two. For the most part, they're basing their research on when people are most active on social media and the volume of posts happening at that time. Unfortunately, this is an incomplete data set. I've based my research strictly on business engagement - when are people willing to interact with the companies they like and follow.


Also, I've taken into consideration the science behind the Facebook feed itself. For example, one of the "sweet spots" that nearly every study I've seen skips the dead zone of 5:00am-5:30am. Fewer people are up and about checking their social media at this time, so it's not on the list. This is a huge mistake. Getting in line to appear on Facebook and Twitter feeds means posting at the moment or right before people pick up their smartphones, flip open their tablets, or switch on their computers to hit social media. Posts in the dead zone performed exceptionally well for businesses as they weren't shoved down on the feeds by the ever-important friend posts.


In other words, people saw and engaged with these posts first thing in the morning, setting up a nice day with quick likes, comments, and shares. This helps with posts throughout the day.


It's important to understand where this data originated. Since May, 2012, I've been researching with actual business pages about times, content, tools, etc. This has been a real-world study based on trial and error as well as result tracking. I've read the studies. I've guided my research around them and improved on them with months of testing. These aren't theories. I've seen it all working in action.


With that out of the way, let's go straight into the sweet spots:

  • 7:30pm-8:00pm - While most studies considered 5am as too early to post, most of them also considered 8pm as too late. Data shows differently. This wasn't the case in the beginning of my research; the times when people are engaging with businesses on social media has elongated. On 37 of 42 pages posting at this time, we received the highest number of likes and comments as well as retweets and reblogs for posts that happened between 7:30pm and 8:00pm starting in August. Prior to that, the numbers were better from 7:00pm to 7:30pm. This is contrary to daylight trends and did not see a change after the most recent clock change, so I can say with a near certainty that the change is based upon people either staying on social media longer or starting later in the evening. Either way, this sweet spot is a must-time to post, particularly with messages that are either not time-sensitive or relevant for the following day.
  • 5:00am-5:30am - Again, this time is contrary to other studies, but as I mentioned above it's shown to be an amazing time for businesses to post. Strangely, this was not the case for my personal posts; things that I personally post on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and my other individual social networks do not perform as well as the business posts.
  • 5:30pm-6:00pm - Depending on the study, this is either too late or right at the end of the best times to post. Engagement was high for these posts and helped to set up the engagement on the later post.
  • 10:00am-10:30am - This falls well within the recommended posting times on most studies I've read and performed better than posts done earlier or later in the morning. Videos did better at this time than other times, something that makes one wonder what people are doing a couple of hours after they get to the office.

One glaring omission is early afternoon. Nearly every study I've seen proclaims this time as social media gold. It is if you're posting pictures of little Timmy sliding into 3rd base. It's not if you're a business. Your posts get lost, particularly with recent changes to the Facebook news feed algorithm. We ran afternoon testing on over 120 business profiles and found that they simply didn't reach the audience the way that morning and evening posts did.


* * *


This post has been coming for a long time. For the sake of transparency, I should note that I've been "sitting on it" for a while and relishing in the poor data and bad studies that are guiding many others in the industry, but guilt won out and it became time to come clean.


At the end of the day, the best thing to do is to find your sweet spot. Just like in baseball, not every batter likes it right down the middle. Some like it high and inside. Others go yard to the opposite field when they get pitches low and away. Your business, your demographic, your fan base - those are the things that should determine when you post. This is only a guide.


In the next part of this series, we'll discuss ideas surrounding the types of things to post at different times as well as the importance of understanding the days. The weekend can be a flurry of activity for your business profiles, while Wednesday in general is awful - surprising facts when you consider that businesses generally post more on Wednesday than Saturday and Sunday combined. Stay tuned.

* * *

Aspen Photo /

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Are Dealers Starting to Overpost on Facebook?

There was a time not too long ago when it was hard to get dealers to post enough. The mythical beast known as EdgeRank (which Facebook technically hasn't used in a long time, but that's not important now) compels people to want to maximize the exposure of their posts by keeping a constant flow of positive engagement going towards their Facebook page. More on that in a moment.


Before we get into the numbers surrounding posting, let's look at this from a human perspective. Facebook is the venue through which people are able to communicate in their own way with their friends and family. By "in their own way," I mean that not everyone makes it a two-way conversation, but they're still receiving information through Facebook. Those of us who are avid users couldn't imagine not liking, commenting, or sharing, but there is a large chunk of active Facebook users who rarely interact on it but who still log in and check it on a regular basis. These people are important, but again, more on them in a moment.


From a human perspective, most people are not interested in what a dealership has to say outside of ways that it can benefit them directly. Coupons, specials, events, etc - they don't mind seeing these for the most part. That's what they were likely expecting when they liked the dealer's page. It's not like Skittles; some brands are able to gather a following based upon simply being utterly entertaining. With car dealers, it's possible to be like that but extremely difficult. It takes time, effort, money, and often a willingness to drive away from the direct business needs into a realm of branding that is risky.


Now, let's get an understanding of the math, as promised.

The Algorithm: Why Posting Often is Good

We won't get into a lengthy discussion on the intricacies of the Facebook news feed algorithm - I'm not sure that a single blog post dedicated to the subject would be enough to do it justice and it's changing so rapidly (a big change just yesterday) that it would be outdated in weeks at best. There are, however, a few basic underlying premises that are important to understand today and that will likely stay in effect in one form or another for a long time to come.


Every time you post something to Facebook, it will be exposed to certain people in different ways. This exposure does not necessarily mean that they will see your post. It just means that they have an opportunity to see it in their news feed. The age of the post is one criteria that determines how high on the news feed they'll see it. If you post something and someone starts looking at their news feed right afterwards, that person has a better chance of seeing it than someone who checks their news feed 5 hours later. Where your posts stand from an engagement perspective with each individual person plays an important role as well. If someone has liked, shared, or commented on some of your posts in the past, Facebook will push your posts higher in their news feed. Yours might show up higher than posts by other businesses whose posts the individual has not liked.


Finally, there is the "friends who liked it" factor. If Bob likes a picture of himself that a dealership took and posted on their page, Bob's friends will be more likely to see it in their news feed as well.


This is just a basic overview and there's a lot more that goes into it, but it's enough to discuss why frequency and timing of posts is important.


The Humanity: Why Posting Often is Bad

Little Timmy sliding into third base. It's for pictures like these that the majority of pure Facebook users visit the site in the first place. They want to see what their ex-boyfriend from high school is doing. They want to see videos of their cousin at her recital 1400 miles away. They want to see if the guy in the accounting department is finally single again.


For the most part, they don't want to see what new trade in a local dealer just got on the lot. That's not to say that they won't interact with it if they do see it. Heck, there's a chance (a very good one if done properly) that this might spark them to want to see what else the dealer has since their car started making a weird noise on the way home from work today, which is why we continue to believe in the promise of social media. However, it's not the intent. They didn't check their Facebook feed in hopes of seeing a car. They wanted little Timmy.


This is especially true for the people I mentioned earlier, the ones who do not interact often but who check Facebook regularly. For these people, cat pictures will not be effective.


It's the human factor that makes it the most challenging for businesses to get a foothold in social media. Some have tried to "blend in" by posting funny cat pictures to their feed. They believe (in many cases, rightfully so) that they can get into the mix of their fans Facebook feeds by entertaining them. While this strategy can be effective, it's also very challenging, especially over time as fatigue sets in.


There's only so many funny cat pictures you can post before you start annoying people. They might like it. They might appreciate your funny cat for a time, but in the end they came for little Timmy and if you can't deliver him, you're not going to stay high on their list forever.


To Overpost or Not to Overpost

That is the question. Hopefully you're not totally confused at this point, as I've basically said there are advantages and disadvantages to posting often. The reality of the answer comes down to your dealership and which social media personality you want to hold. There are two primary extremes: the business-only infrequent poster and the community-engaged frequent poster. In between, there are more complex strategies that I'm not going to go into directly, but here's a breakdown of the two ends of the spectrum:

The Infrequent Poster

  • Posts 1-4 times a week
  • Posts only relevant business posts such as offers and customer testimonials
  • Takes a big risk of never being seen without paid Facebook promotions
  • Stays on point and has a lower chance of being unliked or removed from the news feed


The Frequent Poster

  • Posts 1-4 times a day or more
  • Mixes in relevant posts with engagement-driven posts
  • Takes a big risk of being unliked or removed from the feed for fatigue
  • Has the opportunity to play the EdgeRank game and get their brands exposed to the broader community

Now, to answer the original question from this post. Are dealers starting to overpost? Yes. Running with the second strategy can be more beneficial if done right which is why posting often is becoming the norm. However, it's so often botched or misused that it's starting to become completely ineffective. To make it happen as a frequent poster requires a very specific strategy, one that takes time and expert understanding to get right. The potential benefits are high but the risks are high as well. It's very easy to take an extremely effective social media presence and destroy it by trying too hard.


My advice: if you are not absolutely sure your strategy of frequent posting is going to work OR if you are not keeping up to date (3 major changes in the last two weeks) with the Facebook algorithm OR if you're not investing money into Facebook ads, than you're better off toning down the posts. This goes contrary to what I have said as recently as three months ago, but that's the nature of this game. It changes so rapidly that someone like me who isn't knee deep in trying to run a dealership, who spends several hours a day exploring, practicing, and staying on top of social media, still must make adjustments to recommended strategies on a regular basis.


Be the best or play it safe. Don't overpost unless you're positive you know what you're doing. If you think you're on top of it enough, take a look at the related posts below. These all discuss a few major changes that Facebook has made in the last week.

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