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Post More than Just Links to Twitter

Tweet

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

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

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

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

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

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This post originally appeared on Automotive Social Media.

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Conversation

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

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

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

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

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

John Hinderer Pilot

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

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

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

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Glengarry Glen Ross Steak Knives

"Second place is a set of steak knives."

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

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

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

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

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

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5 Signs that Your Facebook Page Sucks

Don't Suck

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

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

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

 

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

Engagement Ratio

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

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

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

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

John Hinderer Engagement

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

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

John Hinderer Reach

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

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

 

2. There are Irrelevant Images on Your Wall

Irrelevant Post

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

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

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

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

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

People like business pages for one of two reasons:

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

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

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

 

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

Irrelevant Giveaways Facebook

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

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

 

4. You’re Not Getting Engagement on Individual Posts

No Engagement on Posts

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

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

Graduation

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

 

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

Sale Sale Sale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Basic Equation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Easy Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hard Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Post Inventory the Right Way to Facebook

Cutter Chevrolet Rabbit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waynesville Camaro

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

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

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

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Originally posted on the KPA blog.

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Amaral Auto Sales Homepage

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

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

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

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

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

 

It’s Search.

Amaral Auto Sales Search

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

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

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

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

 

It’s Reputation.

Recommendations

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

It’s Presence.

March of Dimes

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

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

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

* * *

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

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Reach

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

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

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

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

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Relevant Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter has even more distinct options:

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

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

 

On Twitter…

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

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

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

 

On Facebook…

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

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

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

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Article originally appeared on AutomotiveSocialMedia.com.

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The Scariest Part of Social Media: Change

Oil Changes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Content Flow

If there’s one major flaw with the way that many businesses use automation tools, it’s that they’re not able to properly control the flow of content from its longest form down to it’s shortest form. This is unfortunate because using RSS feeds to post to Facebook and Twitter from a blog, for example, doesn’t save much time at all but minimizes the effectiveness of the networks.

It’s all about flow. It’s about taking advantage of the strengths of the various networks will not falling into the traps that each allows.

Let’s take a look at an example of content flow. In this case, we’re going to work it down from a standard piece of website content rather than a blog post or YouTube video. Those are easier. If you can master the creative elements of promoting standard website content, the other types of content will be a piece of cake.

Original content

Original Content

This is where it all starts. Here, we see a sales special. It’s not the type of content that any social media pro in his or her right mind would ever consider promoting through social media. They wouldn’t want to be accused of spamming. They wouldn’t want to turn of their fans. They would believe in most cases that this is the type of content that had no chance of resonating with a social media audience.

They would be wrong.

There is tons of content on a business website that has absolutely no chance of seeing the light of day on social media, but there are other types of content that simply need a little bit of playfulness, cleverness, and creativity to tweak them into an appropriate position. Take a look at that special. Do you see anything that you would be able to latch onto if you were trying to promote it on social media?

Put it on Facebook and Google+

Hinderer Honda Starbucks

If you were to say something to the effect of, “Take a look at our amazing specials – Honda Civic is only $8 a day,” you would watch your posts get reported, blocked, and hidden into oblivion. You would actually do algorithmic damage to your posts and your profile in general.

If, however, you made it clever and worded it in a way that people would be able to relate to, you could still get the message out with a reduced risk of negative sentiment. In the case above, the post had a modest 16 likes and the link was clicked 32 times. It’s not a home run compared to some other examples out there, but it’s a realistic expectation that a local business could achieve with the right techniques.

Be creative. Branch out. Put a little bit of effort into it. It doesn’t take a lot – this particular campaign took about 2 minutes to craft and post. It’s worth the time spent.

Put it on Twitter and Pinterest

Hinderer Honda Tweet

This is both the easiest and hardest part. It’s the easiest because it’s only 140 characters. It’s the hardest because you have to take full advantage of those 140 characters and craft it in the most appropriate way possible.

On both Twitter and Pinterest, getting people’s attention is the key. The firehose on both networks has such a wide stream today that there’s a good chance the majority of your messages are being seen by very few people. This is where hashtags come into play and it’s the main reason that automating Tweets for anything important is one of the silliest activities out there.

A Tweet takes seconds, literally. Is it worth making something almost completely ineffective for the sake of saving seconds?

In the example above, the post was highlighted with a couple of different hashtags. The first is relatively worthless other than getting people’s attention from within their feed. The mind is trained to look for things unconsciously that are important to that person, so if someone is looking for a car and is considering a Honda Civic, they don’t have to read it consciously for it to catch their eye.

The second is one of the hooks. As Twitter search and hashtag use continue to grow exponentially (much faster than the site itself), it’s important to have at least one keyword that can attract your targets. In this case, the Tweet is targeting the local state. It could have as easily been a city, a lifestyle (#green, #economical), or even something slightly off topic (#coffee).

The most important part about Twitter (but not Pinterest) is that you can take a message and repost it over time. It’s good to come up with a couple of different variations, but for the most part as long as you’re spreading out the repetition of the message, you can reach more people without spamming them.

* * *

Applying proper content flow strategies allows you to get the most out of the content that you produce as well as the content that’s already on your website. Crafting the messages around the mediums is harder than just putting them into a feed machine, but the results can be exponentially improved as a result. That’s not to say that nothing should be automated. It’s just that important things should not be.

Flow” image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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KGB

The KBG. Komitet gosudarstvennoy bezopasnosti. The Committee for State Security for the former Soviet Union was one of the most feared agencies in history. Thankfully, this post isn’t about them.

Here, we’re going to talk about a different type of KGB, the type that is plaguing social media on pages across the internet, hurting businesses and striking fear into the hearts of knowledgeable internet marketing professionals around the world. It’s the type of bad posts that were once thought to be effective but that have been debunked time and time again, yet so many businesses (and even vendors) continue to post them.

Today’s social media KBG is this:

  • Kitties
  • Games/Giveaways
  • Bogus Questions

If you or your vendor are still using these things, stop immediately. They aren’t helping. In fact, they are hurting the cause of using social media as a proper advertising venue through which to increase business. Here’s why:

 

Kitties

Kitties

Don’t misunderstand. I have nothing against felines. By “kitties” I’m referring to the type of posts that have absolutely nothing to do with business but that are designed to become popular on social media for their general appeal. They are often funny, sometimes cute, and almost always fluffy (not in the feline way).

Do they work? If the goal is strictly to get more likes in an effort to improve Facebook EdgeRank, then technically they can be effective. The problem is two-fold. First, they turn many people off. They get enough kitty posts from their friends and family. Many people don’t like it when they see business pages post irrelevant kitty pictures because it is insincere. “You’re a business, not a buddy.”

The second and arguably more important reason is that your business has plenty of relevant content to post. Stay focused. A car dealer should be posting cars. There are plenty of awesome cars that work just fine to get engagement. Local businesses have a world of potential content surrounding them in their community and within proximity to the store. Kitty images are simply not necessary for driving engagement and the risk of turning people off as a result is simply too high to dismiss.

 

Games and Giveaways

Giveaways

Just as with kitties, games and giveaways intended to inflate the fan counts on the various social networks (Facebook in particular) can be effective in achieving its goal. Just as with kitties, it’s not necessary and can have dramatic negative consequences.

Who wants fans to like their page so they have a chance to win something? What are the chances of getting any engagement from that person? How many people do not win the great prize and get a negative sentiment about a business right from the start?

Most importantly, it’s just too easy to acquire high quality fans through transparent advertising to give games or giveaways any consideration. Through transparency, pages are able to grow at a much better pace. Is it faster? Sometimes, but not always. That doesn’t matter. I’ll take 100 fans who came in for the right reasons and with the right expectations over 1000 fans hoping to get something for free any day.

 

Bogus Questions

Bogus Questions

Of the three components of KGB-style fan acquisition techniques, this is arguably the most annoying. You don’t care and we know it. There, I said it.

No business outside of a movie theater cares what their fans’ favorite movies are. It’s so apparent to anyone who’s been on Facebook for more than a month that companies who ask irrelevant questions are doing so to get you to talk to them. It’s a desperate move that is apparently so to the people who see the questions.

If you’re going to ask questions (which is a good thing when done right), keep it relevant. Keep it in line with what your business does. Ask questions that you might ask a customer if you were sitting with them in the waiting room or met them at a party. Don’t ask questions that are simply there to drive engagement. People know what you’re doing and they don’t like it.

Will some people respond to any question? Of course? Is this a good thing? No.

* * *

There are too many transparent and effective methods to get fans and increase engagement. Using these types of techniques is so antiquated that I can’t believe there are still companies that use them.

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Pinterest

There’s just no excuse for car dealers to not be on Pinterest. Some would say it’s worthless. Some would say it’s hard to understand. Some might even say that it’s a fad. They might all be valid arguments under normal circumstances, but there’s on thing that trumps them all.

It takes no time, almost literally. You can maintain a very strong, daily-updated Pinterest presence in less time a day than it takes to get a fresh cup of coffee.

With the “Pin It” bookmarklet on your browser, you can pick out an interesting inventory item and have it Pinned in seconds. That’s all it takes. If you set it up to where you’re following the right boards, you can repin interesting automotive content in even less time just by clicking a couple of buttons. There’s also a “Cars and Motorcycles” category that makes finding the best automotive content super simple.

The video below is under 3 minutes, including the intro and outro. In it, I add two pins to my board. Done right, it’s such a small investment of time that you should be doing it on a daily basis. Surely there’s two minutes every day when you’re not so busy you can’t plug in a little effort, right? If not, it’s time to get an assistant.

Here’s the video:

This article originally appeared on automotivesocialmedia.com.

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Twitter Tweet

There’s a case against Twitter and Pinterest that is being waged by some in the automotive industry. They’ll say that there simply isn’t a good return on investment, that they aren’t worth messing with because it’s just too hard to find a benefit from them. This is true until you look at one major factor: time.

Twitter and Pinterest require very little time to maintain and keep vibrant. Before we get into the ways that dealers can streamline their efforts to make them more suited for a proper ROI, let’s first take a look at the three major aspects of them that make them worthwhile:

  1. Time Driven Algorithm – Unlike Facebook and Google+, the Pinterest and Twitter feeds are completely time driven. When you post something, it appears in the feeds of your followers immediately. Over time, they move down. This is a good thing for their purpose because they’re ideal for getting real-time engagement.
  2. Communication – At the end of the day, they are great as communication tools. Twitter allows you to communicate with people about ideas and events while Pinterest allows you to communicate visually.
  3. Google Loves Them – If there’s one major reason to improve your Twitter and Pinterest posting habits, it’s Google. From a social signals perspective, they are adored.

Now that we have that covered, let’s go over a proper posting and monitoring strategy that can streamline it down so they aren’t a waste of time.

 

Quick Visit Twice a Day

Three minutes. That’s all it takes to keep a strong Twitter and Pinterest presence. If it helps you sell on car a quarter, it was worth it. If it helps you get your pages indexed and ranked better so that you sell more than one extra car a quarter, you’re seeing better ROI than anything else you could have possibly done.

Log into Twitter. Check for and reply to Direct Messages. Check for and reply to @replies. Post something. It’s 140 characters. It doesn’t take much effort.

Log into Pinterest. Check your recent activity. It will be mostly repins of your posts, but see if there are any comments. Pin or repin something. It’s easy.

That’s it.

 

Tools

For Twitter, I prefer Buffer. It’s super quick, there’s no need to mess with timing because it uses a queue, and it shortens all of the links for you as you post. The best part is that it can be a Chrome or Firefox plugin which means that you don’t have to visit the app itself. As you’re browsing throughout the day, you can Buffer it very easily.

Regardless of which tool you use, be sure that you keep your queue relatively full. While I don’t recommend planning your Tweets weeks in advance, you can definitely stay ahead of the game so that on days when you simply don’t have the time to mess with it, at least you have content going up.

A quick note about automation – I never recommend feed posting. In other words, setting any RSS feed to autopost, even if it’s your own blog, is a mistake. From sources that you don’t control, feed posts means that your posts aren’t manually vetted. People can tell. It also means that if someone makes a mistake and posts something that is either inappropriate or a mistake, your feed posting program will get it onto your Twitter feed regardless. I remember seeing a car dealer Tweet a post that said something to the effect of “Empire Avenue verification post 2342hkhk!kj32&hh”.

Regarding your own blog, you should be posting it to Twitter manually. It’s your content so you should highlight it appropriately. Use hashtags. Ask for feedback. Make the title more Twitter-appropriate. It bugs me when people auto-feed their own blog posts because it saved them seconds while costing them an opportunity to truly highlight the important content appropriately.

Lastly, don’t feed your Facebook page posts onto Twitter or visa versa. Not everything that goes on Facebook is appropriate for Twitter. More importantly, it simply doesn’t save much time. If you post something to Facebook that also works on Twitter, do it manually. Seconds, folks. That’s all it takes.

* * *

They don’t take much time. There’s simply no reason to not include Twitter and Pinterest into your social media strategy. Done properly, they can enhance more than just your social presence. They can help with your website rankings, your blog traffic, and the general perceptions that people have about your dealership. We didn’t even get into the more advanced ways that you can use these sites to promote your business. At this point, I’d be happy if dealers were simply using them on a regular basis.

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Hamlet

Everyone who plays in the Facebook page strategy game has their opinions about the types of content to post. Car dealers and vendors have tried different things over the years. Some have found success while others have let it fall off completely, dismissing it as unimportant or too time-consuming to mess with on a daily basis.

For those who are doing well or wanting to do well with engagement on their pages while still demonstrating real ROI, here are some content types that have worked well for us. It’s important to mix things up on Facebook. Fan fatigue happens regularly, especially when a dealer or vendor finds a particular type of content that works well. They tend to favor this type of content in their posts. Some even go so far as to post only one type of content such as cool cars. Your fans watch. They know. By the 10th car in a row, they start to get tired of seeing them regardless of how cool they are. Mixing it up is important.

While there are definitely more than three content types that can be effective, the three below are the ones we’ve found that can account for the vast majority of your posts and still keep your fan base growing, liking, and generally engaging with your page in their news feed.

 

Local Content

Honolulu at Night

It’s extremely important to understand that this type of content only works well if your page has been built with mostly local fans. We’ve covered before that nearly all of your fans should be local, that having too many fans out of the area can actually hurt your ability to use Facebook for marketing to real buyers. If your fan base is not over 90% localized, you should get that fixed before posting a bunch of local content.

Once you have that established, it’s time to take advantage of what you have around you. The local area is always loaded with interesting places to visit, amazing places to photograph, and intriguing people to highlight. This should be the focus of your localized social media posts.

Local places are easy. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a major metro or out in the country. The people around you area like to see the local area highlighted on Facebook and they appreciate the businesses that do the highlighting. In the example above, we were given an easy pitch to hit. The fans are completely localized (they had 26 fans when we started so we had a clean slate with which to play) and the area is a gorgeous one: Honolulu. As a result, getting nearly 400 likes on the post was a piece of cake and didn’t require a huge amount of Facebook ad spend to make it happen.

While local places might be the obvious choice, there are others. For example, highlighting other loved local businesses or organizations is easy. A post with a picture of a popular local diner, for example, could lead with “We visit Stan’s Diner every Sunday for the pancakes…” These types of posts won’t be as popular as scenes like the one above, but it’s good to spread the love to others. If they see it (and if you have a strong enough Facebook page, they will) they will appreciate the mention.

Lastly, focusing on local people is always a hit. One popular post we did last year highlighted the three local baseball players at the high school that made the all-state roster. It’s something that can be universally liked by the community, particularly if you’re in a small town.

 

Automotive Content

Automotive Content

Not much needs to be said about this. Being in the automotive arena, there’s never a shortage of “carporn” out there for your fans to ogle over. There can be a temptation to flood your page with this type of content, particularly after you’ve had your first viral post, but don’t get too car picture heavy. Again, fatigue will follow if you do.

Something that a lot of dealers are starting to do is to post helpful tips on subjects such as car maintenance. These are great but again they should be used sparingly. Most people aren’t out there changing their own oil and the internet is loaded with how-tos if they ever get the inclination to do it themselves. An occasional post or a quick tip doesn’t hurt.

 

Dealership Content

Waynesville American Cruisers

Some dealers do this too much. Some never do it at all. It’s expected of local businesses that they should be at least a little business-centric with their posts. These are often the most important posts because they are intended to drive foot traffic, website traffic, or both.

Doing it too much can put a strain on the algorithm and force your posts to become virtually invisible. It’s not all about “me, me, me,” on Facebook (at least not for businesses) and this will turn people off. They don’t have to report or unfollow you to have a negative algorithmic effect on future posts. If they simply pass over your posts in their news feed without interacting with it, there’s still a negative effect.

One common trend has been to post pictures of happy customers in front of the car they just bought. Doing this too much is a big mistake because of the algorithm. It’s a post that has an isolated chance of getting liked. Remember, just passing over the post is enough to cause some damage to your page and people won’t normally like pictures of people they don’t know. There are definitely ways to make it fun and get people to promote their own images to friends and family, but that’s a longer discussion than we have time for in this post. The short of it is that if you do post images of happy customers, keep it to a minimum.

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As I mentioned above, there are tons of different types of content that can be posted. However, there is also plenty of content that should never be posted. Keep it relevant. Remember, you’re a business and people want to view you as such. Trying to sneak into the conversation by posting funny cat videos is an easy way to turn the wrong people off to your posts.

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Checkbox

Over the past several months, we’ve been doing a ton of research in the automotive industry about how dealers perceive social media marketing. It’s something that has both thrilled and alarmed us because the results have been greatly mixed. On one hand, many dealers are starting to realize that social media is more than just a fluffy form of marketing that has not demonstrable ROI, a perception that had been growing in 2011 and 2012. Those tides have turned. However, the one alarming piece of information we discovered is that many dealers are considering social media to be a “checkbox item” for reputation management. In other words, if their reputation management provider offers social media, they’re covered.

Unfortunately, this is a bad trend. There are some pretty strong reputation management services available today. They perform some of the right activities that can be performed on the dealership’s behalf when it comes to getting more positive reviews on sites like Google Local and Yelp. The problem is that most of the social components that we’ve seen in these products and services are lacking quality and true return on investment.

It’s much the same battle that we have fought when it comes to search engine optimization. Almost all web vendors offer SEO, but must are simply not that good at it. Again, SEO should not be a checkbox item for a website any more than an engine should be a checkbox item for a car. Nobody goes out and says, “I like the way the car looks and it has all of the seats that I need. Does it have an engine? Okay, good, I’ll take it!”

Back to social media. The automotive industry has, for some reason, lumped reputation management and social media marketing into the same budget, the same type of product. This is very far from the truth. It’s a little discouraging because the effort put into a proper social media marketing strategy and the campaigns associated with it are of utmost importance and having a social media presence that is not aggressive, that acts as a checkbox to be clicked just to say it’s present for the dealersthip, is a huge mistake. Social media is growing so rapidly in both mindshare and timeshare. More people are on it and thinking about it. They’re spending more time on it than ever before. To dismiss it is a problem.

Reputation management is important. It acts as a way that dealers can protect their potential when it comes to business. People who are actively considering doing business with a dealership can be turned off as a result of bad reviews. It’s not common, but it’s present and should be treated appropriately. If having a strong reputation management service can help to save one or two deals a month, it’s probably worth the investment.

Social media, on the other hand, is proactive. It’s intended to take people and get them into the dealership and/or onto the dealer’s website. Even when it fails to do that, the fallback benefit is in the branding, getting the name and logo of the dealership in front of as many local people as possible as many times as possible to make the dealership a top-of-mind consideration when it’s time to buy a car or have service done.

If anything, reputation management should be the checkbox item. Social media needs much more attention and bad social media marketing partners can do more harm than good. Vet them carefully.

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Black Book

Branding is important. It’s something that most businesses want but few do well enough considering the tools that we all have at our disposal through the internet in general and social media in particular. However, too many are starting to use social media as a branding tool only. The reality for local businesses is that it can and should be used to drive foot traffic and website visitors. Branding should be a secondary benefit, a side-effect of a proper promotional strategy.

Look at the image above. It’s compelling. It’s branded (though not by the company that posted it). It combines the power of the OEM’s brand (this is posted on a Chevrolet dealer’s Facebook page), the trust associated with a partner brand (in this case, Black Book), and the clever wording in the description designed to achieve a goal. In this case, the goal is website traffic to a form that is specific to the message of the post. Here’s how the message reads:

“First and foremost, check out that beautiful Camaro. Once you’re done reminiscing about a body style that didn’t really get the attention it deserved, look down at the bottom left corner. You’ll see a logo that you should trust. We trust it.

“Black Book is the most accurate way to get an idea of what your trade in is worth. Before you go shopping for a new car, prepare yourself with knowledge about your own trade in… http://bit.ly/13nyr5E

At the end is the call to action, of course. Sometimes it’s good to make the link the focus of the post. In this case, because it’s a permanent page (a trade in evaluation tool) and not a time-sensitive landing page surrounding a short-term event, it’s best to hook the viewers with the image and description, then give them a valid and relevant reason to click through to the website itself.

After 18 hours and with the bulk of the Facebook advertising budget still available, it’s at 48 likes and has been seen by 1,300 people. Both numbers will go up in the coming days, as will the number of clicks to the link.

The challenge facing most who attempt posts like these is getting them enough localized traction. There are some posts that are good for branding that have no call to action. Even in those cases, the goal is to massage the Facebook EdgeRank algorithm to favor the page’s posts and display them in more news feeds. Those posts are primarily designed to enhance the success of the “money posts”, the ones with a specific promotional message designed to drive foot traffic or website visitors. If every post that goes up is a “money post”, the algorithm will start kicking the posts down on the feed. If all of the posts are “fun posts” designed strictly for branding and popularity, the point of using social media for business is lost.

Branding-only strategies are easy, which is why many businesses and even marketing agencies focus on them. It allows for intangible benefits. It also makes the success level much harder to track.

As you develop your strategy and campaigns, keep this post in mind. You can definitely have some fun and feel like you’re accomplishing something with a branding-only strategy. Unfortunately, it’s not the way to make social media really hum for your business.

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Smoky Mountains

Facebook has been a challenging venue for marketers and advertisers ever since it started really getting popular in 2009. At that time, it was clear that it was the social network to beat and the company started trying to cash in with different types of advertising options. Most of them failed miserably for the same reason that many marketers continue to fail today: people go to Facebook to be entertained, not to be the recipient of ads.

Today, it’s getting easier. People are more accepting of ads. A lot of it can be attributed to the way that Facebook has handled their promoted posts. They have done an excellent (some would say Draconian) job of keeping messages off of news feeds that are too promotional. Between the manual vetting they do of ads and the 20% text rule they apply to images, they’ve been able to keep a relatively strong balance between letting advertisers get their message out and keeping their users happy through minimized spam.

When it comes to putting out a message that resonates, that users can enjoy while still getting the promotional message out, businesses (local ones in particular) should consider adding a touch of fun and flair to their posts. In the example above, the goal of the car dealership in question is to promote their oil change special. There are a couple of different ways to go about doing this. They can make it a Facebook offer which can be very effective if the special is a true Facebook-only special. They could make it an event, but they would have to really make it a true event for that to work and few people would consider car maintenance an event. They could be direct – post about the special and throw some ad money at it. This is not recommended as the negative sentiment would murder the page’s EdgeRank.

In this case, they added the localized and timely flair of focusing on a wonderful aspect of living by the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It’s spring and people are thinking about what they’re going to do when school is out, when vacation time comes, and when the weather is in a state of awesomeness that they can venture forth and enjoy the world. The message is clear and ends with the “pitch”:

“Spring in Waynesville, NC. You know what that means, right? Time to plan a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

“Before heading out, make sure your ride is in “Mountain Ready” condition. Here’s an oil change special just for your trip…”

By positioning it in a way that takes a positive aspect of local life and applying the marketing message at that point, it allows for the post to flourish. Even though the page itself has around 700 fans, it was liked by 80 people, shared by 3, and commented on by several. Branding was achieved. Positive sentiment was achieved. The link to the special itself on their website received a nice amount of clicks. Most importantly, the message was seen by around 10,000 locals.

There’s a fine line between tricking people into interacting with a post to click on an advertisement and actually engaging with them on their terms and getting the message to them as a result. Using local flair is one of the easiest ways to make this happen.

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Fans

For years, the acquisition of a bigger, “better” Facebook page has been a focus of many in the social media marketing realm. There are companies that are dedicated to the task. The reality now (and for a long time, actually) is that fan acquisition for business Facebook pages is such a minor piece of the puzzle that it’s something most businesses should push to the back burner. It’s not that you don’t need them at all, but the success of a Facebook page is determined by reach and fans are only a small part of the equation.

When someone likes a page, they have the potential of seeing your posts. For better or for worse, Facebook has made it challenging for the majority of your fans to actually see your posts on their news feed. They have to really, really like your posts a lot for them to appear on their news feed without help, which causes a chicken and egg conundrum. They have to see your posts to be able to like, share, or comment on them, but they need to like, share, or comment on them before they start seeing them in their news feed, at least organically.

This is where Facebook ads come into play, but there are distinct challenges there as well. Those who discover the reach potential of Facebook ads often make the mistake of promoting the wrong content. It’s not just about posting the “fun” stuff naturally and using Facebook ads to boost the promotional content. That is only effective until the content starts getting negative feedback. Remember, every time someone is presented with the content and chooses not to interact with it, that’s a bad thing.

A common series of events with Facebook ads looks like this:

  1. A user tries Facebook ads for the first time and their reach explodes for very little money spent.
  2. The content wasn’t super-viral and while it gets more interactions than most of the page’s content, it doesn’t do well in relation to the people it reached.
  3. Over time, the Facebook ad budget starts to yield reduced results. Hundreds of thousands reached becomes tens of thousands, then thousands.
  4. Budgets go up but engagement and reach stay stagnant.

Play the ad game the right way with EdgeRank in mind. That’s an entire other post. For now, let’s get back to reach versus fans.

Here’s an example of an above-average car dealer’s Facebook reach statistics:

Scott Robinson Reach

In this example, you see that they’ve done a pretty good job of keeping it local. They have a page for their dealership in the Los Angeles area with around 4K fans. They post good, engaging content regularly. Their reach isn’t bad for an organic-only strategy.

Here’s an example of how a properly managed Facebook page should look for a local business. In this case, it’s a car dealership in Waynesville, NC:

Waynesville Reach

The targeting is hyper-localized. They’re getting almost all of their views and engagement from within a 50-mile radius and the vast majority within a 20-mile radius.

They have around 700 fans.

Getting fans is important, but it’s only important in that it helps to expand a page’s reach. It isn’t who likes your page. It’s who sees the posts. The more people you can get to see your posts, the more effective your social media campaigns can be. Fans are part of it. Ads are part of it. Content is part of it. Putting together the exact right mix of the three is one of the biggest keys to success.

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