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Auto Industry Failing to Tap Power of Social Media to Deliver Actionable Sales Leads, Says Report by CMO Council

CMO Council Report Finds Auto Ecosystem Marketers Looking for Better Ways to Integrate Marketing With Sales Generation and Sales Funnel Activities

SAN JOSE, CA--(Marketwired - Mar 3, 2014) - The auto industry ecosystem should do more to leverage social media as a platform for drivingbusiness leads into sales pipelines, argues a new report by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council. Social media is stimulating extensive auto-related conversations and content that create major opportunities to identify likely buyers and engage them based on their preferences and purchase intent, according to the report, which is entitled "Turning Social Feeds Into Business Leads."

Developed in partnership with hoojook, Inc. -- a Silicon Valley social media intelligence company focused on the auto sector -- the new report finds auto industry marketers are in various stages of adopting social marketing strategies and practices. Most see social as a potentially powerful medium for understanding and engaging consumers, but they are early in the development of marketing and business metrics, as well as processes that integrate social media data more effectively in the sales funnel.

"Social represents an important marketing frontier for the automotive industry," said Donovan Neale-May, Executive Director of the CMO Council. "Senior marketers recognize its capacity to deliver actionable, real-time insights that can help drive overall marketing effectiveness. They also see its value as a dynamic channel for influencing brand preference and purchase. Now they need to take the next step by integrating social more directly into the sales funnel and using it as a new platform for delivering qualified leads."

There is plenty of evidence demonstrating the potential of social as a marketing channel across manufacturing brands, dealerships and aftermarket products and services. For example:

  • Thirty-eight (38) percent of consumers say they will consult social media in making their next car purchase.1
  • Twenty-three (23) percent of car buyers say they use social media to communicate their purchase experience.1
  • Eighty-four (84) percent of automotive shoppers are on Facebook, and 24 percent of them have used Facebook as a resource for making their vehicle purchases.1
  • Forty (40) percent of new car purchases over the next 10 years will be made by millennials.2
  • Ninety-four (94) percent of millennial car buyers gather information online.3
  • Clicks on Facebook auto ads climbed from 16 percent to 39 percent between October 2012 and April 2013.1

Based on interviews with senior marketers and executives from auto manufacturers, dealer networks, aftermarket service providers and B2B automotive solutions companies such as Autonation, Costco Auto Program, Nissan, Cadillac, Car MD, KIA, Aspen Marketing Services, Express Oil Change, Mazda, Snap-on, Dealertrack and DME Automotive, the report finds that senior marketers are highly interested in developing and using new systems and processes to leverage social more effectively for lead acquisition and acceleration. However, most say they are only in the very early stages of the process and often express caution about possible brand reputation issues when overtly marketing to individuals on social.

Nonetheless, the report argues that the use of social in combination with natural language processing and big data analytics, along with social's ability to deliver meaningful content and commentary in context, has the potential to make it a highly effective medium for identifying, segmenting and engaging consumers based on preferences and where they are in the purchase cycle.

"The technology now exists to process and analyze social streams -- not only to understand broader consumer attitudes and reputational issues, but also to identify, segment and profile individual consumers based on where they are in the purchase cycle, their preferences and needs, and even psychographic characteristics that influence how they want to engage with brands and service providers," said Shauli Chaudhuri, CEO of hoojook. "Consumers are using social media to find product recommendations, access dealer reviews, voice complaints, display preference, consider peer opinions, capitalize on coupon offers, and engage in ongoing dialogues with their favorite automotive brands. We believe the auto industry will benefit greatly from data-driven analytics to identify potential customers and social content delivery systems that bring automotive OEMs, dealers, aftermarket service providers and other members of the ecosystem closer to the consumers who are looking to make purchases."

The full strategic report is available for download today and features valuable insights, including:

  • Campaigns focused on cars generate much higher consumer engagement and interest than other social media initiatives, such as charitable causes.
  • Reputation management is seen as potentially the most critical aspect of social marketing, with consumer-generated content and commentary having a huge influence on purchasing decisions.
  • Marketers view social as most effective when integrated with other channels and marketing approaches; many view social analytics as an invaluable source of insight for other digital and offline marketing efforts.
  • Facebook is widely regarded as the most powerful social channel for automotive, but marketers say other channels can be more effective, depending on the need and strategy.

To download the report, please visit http://www.cmocouncil.org/r/social-feeds-into-business-leads

Source: http://www.marketwired.com/press-release/auto-industry-failing-tap-power-social-media-deliver-actionable-sales-leads-says-report-1884480.htm

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With the increased emphasis on content in social media marketing this year, video has emerged as one of the key areas of focus. Even last year, Forbes was touting the strengths of utilising video content, highlighting the significant response rate of video over other formats. But while the numbers emphasize the considerable benefits, many businesses lack the time, resources and/or budget to create video content. Enter Vine. Vine has changed the way marketing teams look at video, expanding the options and reducing the overheads. If you’ve not considered using Vine in your marketing efforts, here are three reasons why you should re-investigate your options to ensure you're not missing out on a great opportunity:

1. Visual content significantly boosts content marketing success. All the stats show it, the marketing experts support it. Brands can achieve great reach and engagement results with visual content. A recent report from Cisco suggested that video will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic by 2017. A Nielsen report found 64% of marketers expect video to be a key part of their strategic planning moving forward. The logic behind the numbers is clear – information can be communicated faster in video, people are more likely to share video content, a growing number of consumers say product videos make them more confident in a purchase. With video becoming more accessible via SmartPhone, its popularity has increased exponentially, and consumer expectation has also been heightened as a result. Video is a familiar and powerful medium that generally require less time commitment than written content and can generate a strong emotional response in very short exposure time. As noted in this piece from The Guardian ‘if a picture paints 1,000 words, one minute of video is worth 1.8 million’.

2. The barrier for entry is much lower than it once was. It used to be that you’d need to pay a third party video production company to shoot and produce video content. Not anymore. Vine is structured around a low-tech approach – the editing options are limited and there’re no additional filters - you shoot what you want, then send (note: it is possible to access additional editing options by using the VineClient app). The six second limit also means the cost is kept to a minimum, whilst not lugging you with the burden of lengthy production time. Vine is designed to be quick, easy and accessible to all users, from tech experts to kids. And just as Twitter changed the game on communications with its character limit, Vine’s run-time limit re-imagines the approach to video, forcing you to expand your creative thinking on how you’re going to capture attention and convey an intelligent message in such a short amount of time. These constraints have lead to some amazing content, all made for relatively minimal cost. And while the time limit is restrictive, it’s also freeing, knowing that you’re not under obligation to fill minutes or hours of content. You get in, present what you need in it’s most direct form, then get it out. This was simply impossible ten, even five years ago.

3. Brand Vines are shared four-times more than any other online videos. This is the clincher. Not only are Vine videos relatively cheap and easy to make, but they are 400% more likely to be shared than other forms of video content. That’s a pretty compelling case right there. That sharing is not on a limited scale either - nine tweets that include a Vine video are sent every second of every day. A Facebook group that collects the best Vine videos, ‘Best Vines’, now has 19 million likes – that’s more than the population of most countries. The popularity and reach of Vine content cannot be underestimated. One of the major appealing factors of Vine is it only takes seconds to watch – people are more likely to press play knowing that it’ll only take a moment, then they can get on with their day. If you can condense a clever brand message into that six-second time frame, there’s a high chance that it’s going to get seen and shared, spreading your brand message.

There are many examples of brands using Vine creatively and achieving great results (check out ‘Brands on Vine’ for inspiration). Whilst it may seem like video content is beyond the capacity of your business, if you look through the examples, you’ll find many pieces are extremely simple. You still need to create great content, but doing some research and expanding your thinking on what’s possible may lead to you having a ‘light bulb’ moment for a Vine piece. And even if you try it and it doesn’t pan out, it’s not going to blow your budget. Vine offers great opportunity for branded content and is a platform that all companies with a social media presence should consider using. Who knows, you could become the next viral sensation.

Source: http://socialmediatoday.com/adhutchinson/2190466/three-reasons-why-your-business-should-consider-using-vine-2014 

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It's easy for us to take the high road and call it abysmal to utilize the strategy demonstrated below. We would never do it to two dealers, let alone dozens. We also understand the need to make a solution scalable for the sake of profits as we have worked for companies that need to scale to serve hundreds or thousands of dealers. With that said, it is still atrocious and should stop immediately. This gives quality automotive social media marketing companies a bad name when they pull this sort of stuff.

When Brian West from @FusionZONE Automotive, Inc. showed this to me today, I begged him to let me expose it. He cordially allowed me and now I can't really say much about it without spewing more vitriol than I'm used to spewing.

The justification that I've heard for this type of activity is that nobody will like more than one dealership on Facebook. This is a naive statement, especially considering the rise of the pay-to-play social media model, the fact that they're posted at the same time, and sheer silliness of the question itself. Some of the stores for which the question was posted were in south Florida on a day when it was 75 degrees.

Social media is about creating a channel of communication between the dealership and local people. It's about posting relevant messages and exposing those messages to potential customers. It's about participating in the community that is comprised of the very people who can and should be buying cars. To auto-post using an automated, push-button strategy is absolutely worthless.

Here's the post itself. Looking at the dozens of dealers that posted this content led me to realize that this wasn't a mistake. It wasn't a one-off instance. Every piece of content is posted across the board.

This infuriates me. It isn't just lazy and ridiculous. It's sad that dealers are actually paying for this to happen. It doesn't have to be this way.

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Over the last couple of months, I've been researching reputation management companies in and out of the automotive industry. On one hand, I found a couple of shining stars that stood out from the competition. On the other hand, they were only the best but were still missing the boat when it comes to the true potential of what reputation "management" should be.

I've been told that my posts are too long, particularly when I'm in rant-mode, so I'll keep this as brief as possible. Car dealers deserve better. The industry started getting flooded with reputation management services a few years ago and they all migrated to the same basic premise: solicit reviews through emails. While this in itself isn't a bad thing (and I'd debate anyone who thinks it is a bad thing, including anyone at Yelp), it's only a small piece of the puzzle. For a true reputation management solution to work, it needs to have an holistic understanding of how to utilize the components of online reputation as well as a grasp of how to turn a quality reputation into an amazing marketing tool.

Again, I'll try to keep this brief. It will be challenging.

More than Defensive

We've learned that defense wins championships. However, the concept that reputation management is about keeping your review star-ratings high is like saying that a car is about having a place to sit while you travel. Your reputation can do so much more for you than a star-rating just as a car can do so much more for the owner than just act as a moving seat.

The concept of reputation marketing is completely underutilized at best and butchered by some at worst. The first step, getting your star-ratings higher, is good to keep people from dismissing you altogether when searching for you. That part's fine. However, those who click through to the review sites are most likely looking for dirt. They want to know what you've done wrong. They're scanning beyond the good reviews and going straight to the bad ones.

A strong reputation management solution should go on the offensive. Expose the great reviews. When someone is out there talking about how they just bought their fifth vehicle in the last decade from your dealership, your reputation management company should be getting that out to as many people as possible. No, that doesn't mean an automated feed from the review site to your Facebook page that will end up getting seen by 50 people in their news feed and actually read by somewhere between zero and one of them. It takes more effort than that and I haven't seen anyone doing it properly yet at the vendor level.

The Search Component

How in the world has nearly every reputation management firm in the automotive industry missed the tremendous benefits (and potential pitfalls) of utilizing reputation for search engine optimization? When I was at the SXSW convention last year, Google pretty much declared that online reputation and review sites would play a role in organic rankings as well as PPC exposure, yet I haven't heard a peep about it other than a mention on another site noting that Google had taken down an Adwords account because the dealership had a bad reputation.

The two companies that had the best solution that I reviewed both touched on the benefits of reputation from a search perspective but neither have taken the appropriate actions to put together a working strategy, yet. Hopefully, that will be coming, but most in the industry haven't even made the connection despite the clear message from Google.

Botching Social Media

I'm going to keep this part extremely short because I'll start spitting and foaming at the mouth if I talk about it too long. The absolute butchering of dealership social media pages and profiles by reputation management companies and their 2008 social media strategies makes me insane. I want to grab them by the shoulders and force them to listen to reason.

Just because reputation management and social media have a connection doesn't make a RepMan consultant a social media expert. Cars and planes are similar - they're vehicles that get people from point A to point B - but that doesn't mean that having a driver's license gives you the skills to fly a 747. The potential synergies between social media marketing and reputation management are clear, but so far I've seen nothing that even remotely approaches a cohesive and intelligent plan of attack to make them sing in harmony. It's like they took peanut butter, jelly, and bread, tossed them all in a blender and said, "Look, I made a PBJ!"

(wiping foam from mouth now)

Sorry for the Rant

Okay. I'm done. It's been bugging me since NADA and after seeing what I saw last night I had to get it out there. At the end of the day, it's the responsibility of a dealership to train employees on the art of treating customers well. Those of us who have been on the retail side of the car business know that you'll have customers who will burn you no matter how hard you try to please them, but their frequency can be minimized by an appropriate company culture and a well-trained staff.

That's the onus of the dealer. On the vendor side, I'm making it a personal mission to educate reputation management companies on the proper way to position this potentially powerful marketing tool. We deserve better. You deserve better.

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Where, What, and Why: The Content Marketing Trio

Having tracked data for the last seven years in the automotive marketing arena, I can tell you a few things that I've learned that have brought us to where the content marketing world is today. It's all about process and answering the questions that consumers are asking and it's something that, as I've said time and time again in the past, needs to be viewed holistically.

Rather than go into a long post about how to make it all sing properly (that's for future posts), it's important to understand the content marketing trio. No, they have nothing to do with the Three Stooges, but those who don't understand the consumers' mentality might ended up looking like stooges in 2014. This is that important.

To get this understanding, you have to put yourself in the consumers' shoes. You buy things. Take what you know about that and apply it to the mentality and process below.

 

Where

If they can't find you, they can't do business with you. This is a no-brainer. You can advertise on the various networks, get your branding in place through billboards and radio, put ads in third-party sites across the internet, and a dozen other ways to help people find you, but it's search marketing that truly answers all of the questions that start with "where".

Since content marketing can help your search engine optimization tremendously, it fits in as the first of the trio. Most people are probably finding your website by the name of your company. While this is fine, you don't need to be heavily optimized to be found for your name. It's the other people, the ones that are doing generic searches for you by product or service in your local area, that can have a double impact on your business. By being better optimized, you are moving yourself up in searches which means you are also moving a competitor down.

 

What

This is your website. "What" you're trying to sell should be easy to determine once visitors get there. The challenge is that having a website that's just like every other website in your market is silly yet so commonly practiced thanks to the mega-vendors and forced OEM adoption.

There is a psychology that goes along with websites that says, "different is usually better". If your customers visit five websites, four of which look pretty much alike and the fifth, yours, looks different, they'll wonder why. It will register, even if only on a subconscious level. If the design and content are compelling, you have an advantage.

 

Why

In industries such as automotive where the differences in price are measured in small percentage points, the "why" factor comes into play. Most have a page that's a variation of "Why Buy from Us" on their website but it gets very few visitors. It takes more than that to get a consumer to consider you over a competitor.

This is one of the many places where social media comes into play. When are people most likely to click on the social media buttons on your website? When they're done. In other words, they might visit a handful of websites and put in leads at two or three of them. Once they're done, there's a decent chance that they'll click through to your social media presence to see what you're up to from the human side of the company. What will they see? Will it be a ton of ads? Will it be a ton of "look at me" posts?

What if they saw your community involvement? What if they saw your happy customers? What if they saw the local community engaging with you and you engaging back with them? They might look at you and two of your competitors during the course of their browsing. Will you be the most compelling? Does you social media presence give them a good reason to want to buy from you rather than the store down the block that's posting boring or unauthentic content on their social media profiles?

Holistic

In future posts, we'll go into how the holistic method of content marketing can make the whole greater than the sum of its parts, but it's important to understand that reasons that it's all tied together. Don't think search, websites, and social. Think where, what, and why.

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2-to-1: The Magic Ratio for Twitter Image Marketing

Epic 1967 Mustang

Let's state this for the record. I am not convinced that using the new image features on Twitter is the best way to go when it comes to marketing your business. It still smells too much like spam and if it's not handled properly it could do more harm than good.

With that said, there are definitely instances when it could do VERY well, particularly when it comes to gaining exposure and picking up more Twitter followers. The key is making sure you're keeping a 2:1 ratio aspect ration for your images.

They are displaying that way regardless of the size or shape of the image when seen in the screen. They can be enlarged, of course, but that's so old school. With the new Twitter feed displaying them inline without a click and the fact that they've added the engagement actions under each post across all of the platforms, it makes sense prevent people from having to click to see the whole picture.

Look at the example below, a tale of two Tweets. As you can see, the top image that I just posted fits perfectly into the frame that Twitter gives us. The one below it forces you to click through to see it. It doesn't matter how compelling the message is, only a handful of people will click to find out what the punchline was. They're much more likely to skip right past it, particularly if they're like the majority who check Twitter on mobile.

Proper Proportions on Tweets

If your images are twice as wide as they are tall or close to that ratio, you'll be able to get the most impact out of your Twitter image marketing. Don't go out and make a bunch of ads at that ratio. Again, this can be abused and you'll turn more people off than ever before if you spam the system (and feeds). Keep it legit and everything will be just fine.

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Hello everyone,

I wanted to reshare this article written for Dealer20.com

The broken process in our industry is sending a templated email with one or two phone calls and then trying the next day.

I call 4x a day, with a video message, a confirmation to that video message, a handwritten card or thank you postcard, a text message and I call 4x a day.

The process closes over 20% of internet traffic.



 

Branding yourself on Youtube is no simple task however Elise has managed to make her videos so popular amongst those in the auto industry that some stores are using them for training purposes. The Youtube Diva is on the cutting edge as far as incorporating the technology available to us today into her sales process. She’s also become quite good at it; being recognized by the likes of Jim Zigler as far back as 2010. She’s now sharing a lot of her insights at automotive industry conferences and of course via her YouTube channel.

In the beginning Elise’s videos were very focused on the vehicle, that the customer stated they were interested in, per the customers email or form filled out on the dealer website. Her videos strained to hold the attention of the prospect in todays busy world. They contained loads of information up front and rounded out at about 5 minutes run time. Elise found that by paring these videos down, to focus on starting that relationship with the customer, she had a lot more success and better customer response. Focus on the customer experience and the personal relationship, more than the vehicle and sales pitch right off the bat. You want to put the customer at ease, show them you are a real person and begin a friendship. Including referrals has also become a trademark of Elise’s videos to customers.

This process has been tried and tested with exceptional success by Elise. Below is her process for contacting new internet leads step-by-step:

1. From your Office Line, Call the customer at about 9am.
a. Tell the customer that you have “Some Great News” and ask for a return call
b. Keep it short and non-specific but give your hours and contact information
c. Let the customer know that if you don’t hear back from them you WILL try them again later today
2. Send your Video email message immediately after your first call attempt.
a. Introduce yourself and your store
b. Tell the customer briefly what you discussed if you got ahold of them and thank them for speaking with you
c. If you left a voicemail then give them your vehicle options that match the customer enquiry e.g. “We have the 2013 Honda Accord available in the red or white today”
d. Give the customer your direct contact information clearly and your hours in store
e. Make it Personal. Use the customers name and be casual and conversational
f. Keep your video under 90 seconds and under 60 seconds is optimal
g. Ask for the Call back and let the customer know that you WILL contact them again if you don’t hear from them.
3. From your Mobile Phone, Call the customer at about 11am.
a. Do NOT leave a message
4. From your Mobile Phone, Call the customer at about 2pm.
a. Again Do NOT leave a message
5. From your Office Line, Call the customer at about 5pm.
a. Leave a Message again with your contact details and hours in store today
b. Ask for the call back and explain that you WILL call the customer back again tomorrow if you do not hear from them before then

Some people may call this borderline harassment, but the simple fact is that the customer has requested this information about a car that interested them on your lot. You may get some negative feedback on occasion however for the most part it is your job to reply to these leads and you aren’t doing your job if you don’t get in touch with the customer.

The goal is to Set an Appointment. You can’t sell a car if you don’t get that customer on the lot. How you begin your relationship with each lead will determine if you get that appointment set. Treat each lead as Elise suggests above and I bet you set more appointments. It’s our job to sell cars and put the numbers on the board sure, but giving the customer the most wonderful car buying experience should also be high on your personal agenda. Once you get the customer on the lot they can fall in love with the car. Videos and that personal touch will build trust and help the customer to fall in love with your store. It also removes the awkward from your first appointment as the customer feels that they have already met you and you can get straight down to it when they arrive.

Source: http://www.dealerelite.net/profiles/blog/show?id=5283893%3ABlogPost%3A395399&xgs=1&xg_source=msg_share_post

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Linking Social Networking For Business

Social Networking for Business does Work! I needed to mention that first to my readers and help them move beyond what may have already become an impossible or even expensive venture. I have been working with social and networking sites over last decade and in the last five years I have been implementing and testing a series of strategic processes and procedures designed and profitable for the Automotive Industry on a local dealer level. Today I want to bring to the attention of those who are or those who desire to utilize Social networking for business and need to see a return.

The process and the message can be the beginning of your success or the start of your failure, our approach to social networking and how we choose to market and/or advertise effectively must not contain any traditional type platforms that we may have had success with in the past. We have entered a new Paradigm and the Rules For Engagement Have Changed, I have monitored other industries, their do's, their don'ts and how they play by the rules inside this new Paradigm and many of us have taken an approach as a consumer…..here is where we go wrong!! The true connection must come through a chosen message to your customers and then that message must be placed everywhere your customers and potential customers are located online.

 

The viral marketing effect or the principals’ of viral marketing, for which many have already experienced success, can be manually implemented to work for your business, connecting your message and moving it across the internet, has become the end result of SCD and ASMN. The processes I have introduced to The Automotive Industry is a science, but a controlled and manageable science that can be taught, monitored and profitable through technology and the human element.

Dr. Harold Elam Jr
Bleecker Automotive Group

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The Easy Way to Master Facebook

Master Facebook

Don’t get me wrong. There’s an extremely complex and effective methodology behind utilizing Facebook as a true marketing and advertising tool that requires some specialized training, a strong sense of creativity, a willingness to experiment, and an unrelenting focus on keeping up with the latest and greatest from experts and Facebook itself.

Then again, there’s a simple way as well. As much as I would love to turn this into a lengthy blog post, I would only be adding fluff. It’s too easy.

Here are the steps:

  1. Post really amazing content on a regular basis
  2. Do NOT post anything that isn’t absolutely amazing just for the sake of getting a post up
  3. Support all of it with Facebook ads
  4. Reply to everything that people post in reply or on your wall

That’s it. Sorry to disappoint those who specialize in social media as a career (I’m one of them) but those are the steps required to make Facebook sing for your business. If you do those steps, you’ll be doing better than literally 99% of your competitors.

With that said, there’s a caveat. This will get you to the top. It won’t keep you there. The truth about Facebook marketing is spreading and more people are starting to get it. This is why there’s hope for people like me. The next 17 steps in the process are much more complicated and result in a stronger Facebook presence designed to drive business. Thankfully, these are the steps to make clients stay ahead of the 99% now as well as next year when 10%-20% start to “get it” with Facebook.

Today, the best way to do it is to hire a professional or to diligently perform the 4 easy steps above.

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Promoting on Pinterest with a Personal Account

Papas Pinterest

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!

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Facebook Contest

There's a trend on Facebook that simply won't die. Many dealership pages continue to offer giveaways, contests, and even "exclusive" games on Facebook in order to get more fans. It has been proven over and over again to be ineffective at getting targeted, high-quality fans but there seems to be an insistence on continuing it in order to bulk up the numbers.

The problem with this is that it actually hurts a page more than it helps, especially for localized businesses.

The example above demonstrates a "popular" dealership page that has over 250,000 fans. In 14 hours, it's been able to accumulate three likes and likely a handful of clicks, but the important thing to note is that it leads to an app that forces people to like the page in order to play the game and have a chance to win a million dollars or an iPad Mini. This cannot be stated more clearly - you do not want people to like your page because they think they're going to win something or get to play a game. The people that like the page for these reasons will not be engaged. They're not interested in your content. They aren't there to buy a product. They're on you page to try to win something or to play a game.

It's important to understand what this does to the page. The Facebook algorithm is very picky when it comes to presenting business page Facebook posts on news feeds. Every negative action as well as non-actions count against your posts' likelihood to be seen. It's not just the people who hit "hide" or "report" on your posts. They are bad enough, but the people who simply pass over your posts are also counting against your future posts' abilities to be visible on news feeds. Every time someone sees a post and scrolls right passed it without liking, commenting, clicking through, or sharing the post, they are less likely to see future posts... as are their friends.

The Facebook algorithm is designed to reward authenticity. It's made to allow their users to be presented with the content that they are most likely to enjoy, which means that for a business page to "coax" people into liking their page is a localization disaster.

Posts should be real. They should be designed to encourage engagement and to offer people what they expect to see. If they like a business page because they want to see things that the business knows about (such as information about their business and industry) as well as special deals that can come to them as a result of being a fan, then that's exactly what they should be delivered. It's the type of content that will get them more engaged and help them to spread that engagement to their own friends. Using contests or giveaways to bribe people into liking a page demonstrates an obvious misunderstanding of how the algorithm works and how Facebook itself can be useful for a local business.

There is, however, one type of contest or giveaway that can be effective. It's the type that rewards local people for visiting the business itself. These types of giveaways and contests can be golden. It would take a couple of blog posts to go into details about how these types of contests and giveaways work, but the important thing to remember is that a giveaway or contest should be an incentive for physical visits, not to try to accumulate worthless Facebook fans.

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Orkut

For the last 7 years, I've been watching Google very closely. Sure, they are in the news all the time so it's not something that's exactly hard. What has been more challenging is keeping up with their long-standing obsession with social media and understanding why it's so.

They have some big wins (YouTube, Google+) as well as dozens of losses (Orkut and just about everything else that they've touched that smells social). They looked at Facebook before Microsoft jumped on first. They took a long, hard look at Digg during the social news site's heyday, then suddenly bailed out the moment they opened the books and saw the duct tape coding underlying the site.

Google knows two things very well about social media:

  1. If they have any chance of truly transcending beyond technology to gain a true understanding of intent and desires, they need to get a ton of social data.
  2. They haven't been able to crack into the type of data that Facebook has about people.

Google+ is similar to people, but does not hold the attention of its users. It will get there. It has to. It's Google's last, best hope for getting this data.

The reason they want it so badly is because just about everything they rely upon (search, advertising dollars, fulfilling the hopes and expectations of their customers, just to name a few) as a company would be exponentially improved by understanding true sentiment. They have all of the data that people want. They just don't have an easy way to perfect the delivery and usage of this data.

With this understanding, it's much easier to anticipate what Google will do with their advertising platform as well as their search engine. They are close to perfecting the latter, believe it or not. Most will point to the rapid pace in which Google makes changes to their search algorithm, but that's not an accurate characterization. They made major changes with Panda and Penguin. They made a minor (and completely overblown) change with their recent Hummingbird update. What we see now is close to the end game. Now, all they need to do is tweak it and wait for the next breakthrough.

They have achieved at plateau. Rather than major algorithm changes, they are now in the mode of perfecting the results by turning knobs rather than making the major changes that have hit every year since 2007. The holistic view of Google search that allows optimization to be broken down into the three major components (content, inbound links, and social signals) will not change until the reach a tipping point of understanding social data.

What's the point of all this? That part is harder to explain. For years, I've been reading and experimenting the best ways to market on Google. Now that they've reached a plateau, the anticipation game has changed. Those of us who try to stay on top of current algorithm trends while looking ahead to the changes can sit back for a while. What we see is what we're going to get for a while. It's all about the three components. However, there is one thing that hasn't manifested itself yet that technically changes everything.

The primary reason that Google wants to understand social data and personal sentiment is because they are on a quest for quality beyond the empirical data itself. The data is as good as it's going to get through pure technology. They cannot advance the understanding of sentiment any further until a breakthrough. Today, the great search marketer will be doing two things:

  1. Put out quality content with the proper mix of high-quality inbound links and social signals to improve rankings today.
  2. Put out quality content with the proper mix of high-quality inbound links and social signals with the understanding that once they achieve their goal of understanding sentiment, the quality component will make the search rankings soar.

As you can see, it's an approach that will kill two birds with one stone. There are challenges with the data that Google cannot reconcile today. For example, if someone wants to find a phone number for a business, they might search, click through to a website, find the number, and leave. This takes seconds and technically from Google's current perspective this wasn't a successful endeavor, especially if the searcher then clicks back to the search results and goes to a different site. Even though the mission was accomplished by the searcher, Google will count this as a bounce and a short time on site.

On the other hand, someone might be looking for something in particular, land on a page from a Google search, click around trying to find what they wanted, get frustrated when they can't find it, and leave. From Google's perspective, this was a good visit. From the searcher's perspective, it was an utter failure.

This is the type of sentiment that Google wants to understand. They want to know if you like what they presented to you. They want to know if their information was useful to you. They want to know if a website they "recommended" by having it listed first in the search engine helped you achieve a goal. Today, they can only guess. Tomorrow, they may be able to find out with a near certainty. At that point, we'll see the next major upgrade in search. One might even call it "quantum search" since it would probably take a quantum computer for them to make sense of all that data.

Thankfully for them, they're building a quantum computer right now.

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Mazda Keys

Content has been the big play for over a year now in the world of marketing. It’s the glue that holds social media marketing and search engine marketing together and it’s becoming so prevalent that the old ways (the ones everyone started using this year) are already starting to become obsolete.

Don’t get me wrong – the techniques themselves still work. The problem is that everyone is starting to get it. The competition level for content marketing at the small business level has gone from non-existent at the beginning of 2013 to hyper-competitive before the end of the year. It’s too easy, too important, and has too many people talking about it for most companies to miss.

Perhaps as bloggers, we did our jobs right. Now, we’re faced with a dilemma – taking it to the next level. Thankfully, the strategy is pretty much the same with an expansion into a two-style mode. By going with this format, you’ll be able to stay ahead of the competition that is starting to catch up to you.

 

Style 1: The Local Content

This is the easy part. For localized small businesses, it’s all about talking to to and about those in the local area in order to build buzz. The concept is this: post content that is enjoyable or useful to your potential customers and they will share it on social media as well as generate an occasional link or two.

It’s the style that everyone’s starting to get. Just in the automotive industry alone, we’re seeing multiple dealers in the same city making videos about how to change a Mazda key fob battery, writing articles about their first shipment of Chevy Corvettes, and bringing in local celebrities for interviews and discussions.

Just because so many are starting to do it doesn’t mean that you should stop. It means that you have to step up your game. You have to make your content better, get more people to share it, and post more often than your competitors. It means that you have to work harder than everyone else, but that’s one of the things that are necessary in order to stay ahead of the game.

 

Style 2: The Broader Content

The goal with all types of content is to become the authority on your topic. We have known for a while that localized content works, but it’s not able to stand alone anymore in most industries because of the competition level. To make it stand out ahead of the competitors, you need to hit the national arena.

This means that you can no longer just be the local authority. You have to get the type of content out there that can resonate with a broader audience. This is only possible if you’ve already mastered the local content style and you have a strong following for it.

Going broad is harder. It requires that the content have a more general appeal. It means that your local following will share it as well and that their friends and family from the rest of the country or world will see it and find value as well.

It could be reactions to national news about your industry. It could be universal help items that are not localized. It could be great videos, images, or infographics that anyone anywhere in the country can like.

It also requires a bit more professionalism than the localized content. An iPhone video might work for a quick walkaround of a new inventory item, but to get the national appeal, it has to be better made than that.

* * *

This is the type of thing that many people fear. Just when you thought you had localized content mastered, hearing that it won’t be good enough to keep the gap large between you and your competitors in 2014 can be disheartening. However, if you really think about it, every new challenge like this is an opportunity to shine above and beyond them.

Change is good as long as you’re on top of it.

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Use LinkedIn To Sell More Cars...

This is a great article I first read a few months ago about how LinkedIn is the best tool used by top sales reps to gain great leads. 

I recently interviewed 54 top salespeople about how they use LinkedIn to research accounts, prospect for leads, and generate sales. All of the study participants sell technology-based products to the IT departments of mid to large size companies.

The study included three types of salespeople: 33% were inside salespeople who sell exclusively over the phone, 41% were outside field reps responsible for acquiring new accounts, and 26% were outside field reps who managed existing client account.

The results suggest there are four basic LinkedIn user classifications:

Enthusiasts: Twenty-five percent of the study participants would be classified as “Enthusiast” LinkedIn users. Enthusiasts have fully developed LinkedIn accounts and use LinkedIn continuously during the day. They believe it is an important tool for generating product interest and promoting their company to potential customers. Enthusiasts were more likely to be outside salespeople responsible for acquiring new accounts. The average Enthusiast has around 700 contacts, and one had over 1200. Half of Enthusiasts have paid for an upgraded LinkedIn subscription at their own expense.

Casual: Forty percent of participants would be classified as “Casual” LinkedIn users who access their account on a regular basis. They consider LinkedIn a useful tool to research and learn more about prospective clients. Casual users have about 250 contacts on average, and all use a free LinkedIn subscription.

Personal: Fifteen percent of participants would be classified as “Personal” LinkedIn users. Their LinkedIn accounts have ample information about their job history and past accomplishments. Their main purpose for having a LinkedIn account is for job-related networking and they rarely, if ever, use LinkedIn for work-related purposes. Personal users averaged around 300 contacts.

Non-Participants: Twenty percent of the salespeople were “Non-Participants.” Non-Participants don’t have a LinkedIn account or their profile contains very little personal information and fewer than 20 contacts. They don’t consider LinkedIn a priority and seldom log-in to their account. These people were more likely to be older than Enthusiasts, and the majority worked in the same position or at the same company for many years.

Here’s how data from the first two groups breaks down:

How Salespeople Use LinkedIn

Contact Types

The composition of contacts varied greatly between Enthusiasts and Casuals. About 30% of Enthusiasts’ contacts were with existing clients, compared to only 5% for Casuals. Over 85% of Enthusiasts indicated they use their LinkedIn account to engage prospective customers during the sales process, while only 20% of Casuals did. Twenty percent of Enthusiasts contacts were prospective customers, on average, whereas it was less than 4% for Casuals. Partners (resellers, consultants, industry influencers, etc.) who affect customer purchasing decisions account for about 28% of contacts for Enthusiasts and roughly 17% of Casuals.

Customer Research

Every Enthusiast and nearly half of Casuals use LinkedIn to find out who they should contact in order to secure customer meetings. Over 90% of Enthusiasts and 65% of Casuals use LinkedIn prior to customer meetings to find out more about the people they will meet. Specifically, they are interested in where they have worked in the past and who they might know in common. Both groups also use LinkedIn extensively to verify a person’s title. About 55% of Enthusiasts and 10% of Casuals use LinkedIn to research their competition. In addition, Enthusiasts mentioned they will monitor a prospective customer’s connections to find out which competitors and salespeople are working on the account. Overall, LinkedIn was rated as a research tool (on a scale of one to five with five being highest) by Enthusiasts at 4.1 and 2.5 by Casuals.

Account Prospecting

Less than 15% of Enthusiasts and none of the Casuals ever reported making an unsolicited initial customer contact directly through a LinkedIn invitation. Nearly all salespeople commented they were fearful this would be perceived negatively by the prospective client. Instead, over 85% of Enthusiasts and 50% of Casuals indicated they would use LinkedIn to ensure they were contacting the right person but make first contact via email. The majority of both Enthusiasts and Casuals indicated their companies supplied better prospecting tools than LinkedIn. Overall, LinkedIn was rated as a prospecting tool by Enthusiasts at 3.8 and 2.1 by Casuals.

Use of Groups

On average, Enthusiasts belong to 12 groups and Casuals to four. Both Enthusiasts and Casuals indicated their main purposes for joining groups was to keep in touch with colleagues they worked with in the past, follow companies of interest, and to improve industry related knowledge or sales-skills. About 40% of Enthusiasts and less than 20% of Casuals responded that they belonged to groups that their prospective customers were part of. No one indicated they had generated an initial customer meeting based upon a group membership.

Existing Client Communication

Seventy percent of Enthusiasts and 18% of Casuals reported they had used LinkedIn to keep existing customers informed about their company’s offerings. Those who did used LinkedIn to send short messages that contained links to press releases, white papers, analyst reports, product announcements, and company produced videos. However, both groups overwhelmingly preferred to use e-mail to stay in touch with existing clients. LinkedIn was rated as an existing client communication by Enthusiasts at 2.1 and 1.5 by Casuals.

LinkedIn Generated Revenue

Over 40 percent of Enthusiasts indicated they have successfully generated revenue based upon LinkedIn-related efforts. Conversely, less than 20 percent of Casuals successfully generated revenue directly attribute to LinkedIn.

Overall, 18% of all survey respondents indicated they have generated additional sales as a direct result of their LinkedIn activities. However, this number is deceiving. In order to truly measure LinkedIn’s effectiveness you must take into account how many salespeople are Enthusiasts, Casuals, Personals, or Non-Participants.

SOURCE: http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/04/top-salespeople-use-linked/

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Social Signals Significance in Search

If you do a search on Google for “search marketing” and compare it to a search for “social marketing”, you’ll see that there are pretty much no similarities. The two disciplines have been separated for a long time and companies usually focus on one or the other (though it seems like everyone offers a little of both). As 2014 draws nearer, the need to keep these two disciplines separate is starting to fade.

In fact, talking about them separately is starting to become a huge mistake.

Search is getting more social. Anyone who is watching the way that Google and Bing present their results and determine rankings on keywords can see this. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest (not to mention Google+, which is trying to seamlessly tie in search with social) are all becoming more prominent in search while continuing to improve their own internal search engines. These two facts are pushing us towards a collision course where search marketing and social marketing are becoming the same overall concept.

It is already a best practice to consolidate strategies around a singular overarching goal. That has been the case for years, even before the rise of social and the true harnessing of search. The change that is happening today and looking to intersect completely in 2014 is geared more around the activities that are required to make both sing properly for a business.

Search is looking to social

All that one has to do to truly see the importance of social signals from a search engine optimization perspective is to look at the most recent Search Engine Ranking Factors analysis from Moz. As you can see in the image above, three of the top are social. One may think that it’s a small portion compared to the number of factors, but with the majority at the top of the list having to do with inbound linking, it’s clear that those are all individual portions of the same basic factor.

In other words, if you break it all down properly, you’ll understand that page authority is #1, Google +1s are #2, inbound links are #3, and Facebook sharing is #4. Page authority is an abstraction of the following three plus the domain authority itself, so the actual actions that are at the top of the list would look like this:

  1. Get Google +1s
  2. Get inbound links
  3. Get Facebook shares

Two of the top three ranking factors that one can act upon to improve rankings in Google are social signals according to the survey that gets the opinions of the best of the best in search marketing. That’s significant.

Social is a part of search

It’s hard to do a search on either Google or Bing that does not pop up something from a social perspective. Bing recently integrated Pinterest directly into their image listings. Google+ pages are instantly added to any search where a business is associated.

Searching for companies by name will yield the company website first followed by a flurry of social and review sites. If the Facebook and/or Twitter accounts are active, they’re almost certainly listed on the front page of search results.

Taking it a step further, most social sites are working their own variations of internal search engines to make content on the sites themselves easier to find. Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are constantly tweaking their search engines to show more, more, and more.

What it all means

There can no longer be two separate strategies for search and social. To try to separate them is like trying to serve portions of a meal at different times. Instead of giving them spaghetti and meatballs, you would be serving the spaghetti noodles first, then bringing out the sauce and meatballs on a separate plate when they were done with their noodles. It’s an odd analogy, but that’s really what many businesses and marketing agencies are doing with search and social.

The strategies must be unified. It has worked okay in 2012 and 2013 but as we draw near to 2014, the distances between the two disciplines must be removed. We cannot treat them as two different disciplines. They should be worked together with an overall strategy that makes the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

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“Social Media” is without question the most talked about thing in online marketing right now. But how does it apply to your current marketing strategy, and why should you get involved? Social Media is an incredibly powerful way of speaking to your customers. When you enter their Social Network you are entering a circle of trust – these customers want to hear from you.

One of the most time-consuming tasks within social media is finding, reviewing, editing and posting relevant content your fans/followers will deem valuable. Taking the time to consistently post quality content frequently each day is an important factor to building followers and relationships. If I could take a moment of your time and ask if you would “Imagine This”…..

Here at Bleecker Automotive Group we manage the complete development of our pages, applications and functionality of our links, a real-time virtual community of our customers from our DMS, employees, neighbors and friends all collaborating and interacting online in real-time, sharing ideals, photos, comments and more!…..sounds a lot like Facebook, LinkedIn or even Twitter?….Well It’s not, It’s Facebook & Beyond!!

We currently utilize team management solutions, which reduces the time required for this function by implementing content syndication and automatically pulling our tweets, blogs, news streams, Google alerts search term and any RSS feed content directly into a database with headings, links and descriptions. The Bleecker content can be reviewed, edited, grouped and appended to date/time posting schedules that can be exported and immediately uploaded into our social media management system for syndicated posting…..Change The Way You Increase Business, When You Change The Way You Do Business

Not From the Good Doctor

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Investigating

Over the last couple of weeks, my exploration into the world of effective automotive social media has turned more towards pitches and consultations. We’ve spent 9 months now digging deeper than ever before into what constitutes success and we’ve come to the conclusion that it’s pretty simple – if you aren’t selling cars and driving business to the service drive through social media, you’re not doing it right.

The posting strategies that have proven to be successful are a whole other topic that couldn’t fit into a single blog post, so for now I just want to explore the quick and easy methods that I’ve used to tell if a Facebook page is working or not. It comes down to reach, which means that the answer has absolutely, positively nothing to do with fans. I’ll demonstrate that in a moment.

First, let’s take a look at what you want to see on your page or other pages to determine if they’re posts are actually being seen and having an influence on local people on Facebook.

Low Engagement Ratio

All of the examples above have varying levels of likes, many of which are higher than most dealers. This is used to grade how well a page is doing, but it’s a false positive. The real number to look at rather than likes is the number to the right – “talking about this.” You can determine how many people are actually being reached based upon this number. For example, look at the second example from the top. It has a ton of fans so it must be doing well, right? Wrong. With only 67 people talking about it, that means that the vast majority of the “fans” are not seeing the posts at all in their news feeds.

Keep in mind that it’s a small ration of reach. In other words, the bottom example that has 70 people talking about this is reaching much more than the one above it that has 14 people talking about it. As a rough estimate, you can multiple the number of people talking about it by 20 and that’s approximately the number of people being reached by the page in a given week. In other words, the bottom example is reaching around 1400 people per week and the one above it is reaching around 380 per week.

Here are some examples of what pages should look like after a few months or even weeks of doing the right things on their page:

High Engagement Ratio

As you can see, the engagement ratios (determined by dividing the number talking about this with the total number of likes) are much higher in this batch. Even the page at the bottom with a mere 267 likes is talked about by nearly three times as many people as the page above with over 73K fans. The number of people reached by the dealerships’ messages through use Facebook news feeds is much, much higher for these properly managed pages.

It’s not just about how many people you’re reaching. It’s also about where the people you’re reaching live.

Here’s an example of a page that is reaching a lot of people:

Wrong Area

As you can see, they have 2,769 people talking about the posts. They have a good engagement ratio relative to their fans and they’re growing nicely. They are very popular in New York City and reaching more 18-24 year olds than any other demographic. You can easily tell when they started targeting more people with Facebook ads based upon the graph.

It all looks great, right? Well, considering this is a dealership in California, it’s likely that they’re focused on getting nationwide popularity. This is a very bad idea.

I went through 74 people who had liked, shared, or commented on their posts. I could not find a single person engaging with the dealership that was within 30 miles of the store. You cannot easily sell cars to people when you’re targeting the whole country. Is it possible? Sure. Is it much less likely than if you maintain a strong local following and target the people who can actually drive to the dealership and buy a car or get their transmission serviced.

In thirty seconds and two clicks of the button, you can tell very quickly if your Facebook presence is working even without seeing the Facebook Insights. I’ve shown dealers how to dig deeper into their insights to prove it even further, but these two telltale signs are very clear indicators of a page’s presence and how well it is working.

Facebook should be localized. The number of fans is a much less important indicator than the number of people who are actually seeing your posts. The sooner you understand the way that Facebook marketing truly works, the easier it will be for you to find success and start selling cars as a result.

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Very Busy

The worlds of automotive social media and automotive search marketing are converging. We've known this for a while and I've been preparing for the collision in order to help our clients make the most out of the changes. The only thing I wasn't expecting was how tremendously complex it all was going to be.

For the last month, we've been pushing hard to help educate and assist dealers on both fronts, but social media has been my primary focus. Most know that I spent the early part of my career focused almost solely on search but the transition from search to social has been happening for a couple of years now. Today, I'm happy to say that the transition is complete and I'll be discussing more about the merging disciplines over the coming months.

To those who inquired, who were checking to make sure I hadn't fallen off the face of the earth, thank you for your concern and all is well. In fact, it's all very well. I'm continuing to explore new and innovative techniques that dealers can use to enhance their social media presence.

This leads me to the point of this post. I'm looking for participants, those willing to engage in case studies and discussions about the merging search and social marketing future that we all face. It can be dealers or vendors - I'm not picky. I just want to get some people together to bounce off ideas over email, at the upcoming conferences, on Google Hangouts - anything that works to make the industry better at the two most important components of marketing for 2014. If you're interested, contact me or leave a comment below.

The goal is to put out the best educational content available on the subjects. I'm not being completely altruistic with this - the more I learn, the better I can make our products. I've spent the last six years honing my skills in a bubble. Now it's time to take what I've learned and enhance it with what you all know. I look forward to seeing this move forward.

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