Serious about increasing shop revenue? Get up to speed on social media ASAP

In a 10-page special section on “unleashing innovation in energy” in Monday’s Wall Street Journal, the takeaway news for the automotive aftermarket was not about alternative energy; it was about the rising importance of social media as a marketing tool.

Social media is a fast and easy way to share thoughts, pictures and videos with customers and potential customers. Unlike traditional media, social media provides a chance to be engaged with existing and potential customers, and a chance for them to talk to you.

This Monday’s Wall Street Journal reported that some utility companies have reduced customer turnover by 20 percent using social media. That is a finding that no service business can afford to ignore.

Consider what that statistic could mean to your bottom line: a fifth of the customers that would normally get lost get saved.

Utility companies are larger than aftermarket shops and have more resources to spend on marketing. But companies of all sizes are using social media to gain market share. Some of the things utility companies are doing can be adapted by any service company. They are hosting Facebook contests for the best picture of pets keeping cool in the summer, offering customers incentives to achieve energy efficiency targets, offering prizes to customers for helping to redesign service bills, presenting YouTube videos with celebrities on ways to save energy, posting photos of company events or of crews working in the field, and more.

No doubt, hiring someone to oversee an aggressive social media presence costs money. But weigh that expense against saving 20 percent of the customers lost every year. Also, consider this expense against what it costs your business to replace 20 percent of your lost customers.

There are two big reasons the automotive aftermarket cannot afford to ignore social media marketing. One is the demographic reality that younger consumers who are “addicted” to social media are becoming car owners at a rapid rate. For more on this, read the recently released Google White paper, “The Road to Winning drivers; what drivers want in automotive aftermarket service,” at

The other big reason is that telematics, which is turning cars into smart phones on wheels, extends social media’s reach to an even more captive customer base: people in cars. New cars are using telematics to provide maintenance alerts, predictive diagnostics, and other messages. Carmakers are using this technology to steer aftermarket work to OEM dealers.

The AAPEX and SEMA shows in Las Vegas this fall once again are offering sessions on social media marketing. AAPEX also has a session on what aftermarket organizations and equipment manufacturers are doing to address the telematics challenge.

Automotive aftermarket businesses know the importance of customer relationships. Social media gives a customer service business a way to interact with them regularly. You can pose questions, offer advice, and maintain a timely presence.

Those companies that embrace the future will survive and may even prosper.