Using social media to increase your business

March 1, 2016
Social media is an effective and low-cost means for automotive businesses of all kinds to increase their business, however, businesses have to concentrate on being creative with their content and be committed to it by making regular posts

The secret to running a successful social media program is, what else? Cat videos.

Oh, c’mon, as if you didn’t know that already. Well, I’m only being partially facetious. Cat videos are entertaining, compelling and engaging content for cat lovers the world over. Who can resist watching a video with a baby chick sitting on the head of a sly looking cat? Moreover, who can resist tweeting it or posting it on your Facebook page?

Cat video viewers are connected in the truest sense of the word because they want to share them with other cat lovers. Although the viewers didn’t create the videos, they feel some sort of ownership in passing them on to others in the cat community.

OK, before you stop reading this to go watch a cat video, let’s get to the purpose of using social media for your business, whether you are a parts manufacturer, a parts distributor, a repair shop, an exporter, an importer, insurance company or any other business related to the auto parts business. Simply, the purpose is to be the source for the segment of the industry you serve. It’s a lofty goal, which you have to be committed to, but if successful, you likely will increase your business because you will build your brand in the process.

In order to attain this kind of status, you have to connect with your audience, which is achieved with the content you create. And your content should be unique and creative. If you can make it entertaining and humorous you’re going to have more success because it will be more memorable and is more likely to be shared. Most social media gurus agree that the social media hounds are hunting for the absurd, atypical, zany, maddening, wild — in a word, fun, content. To that, you can add inspirational content (an employee who was wounded overseas but has come back to work) or rewards, i.e., giveaways that are valuable (a free oil change for people who tweet the offer to friends, or viewers who can pass a car care quiz).    

Ideally, and I can’t emphasize this enough, it is best to strike viewers’ interest in the context of automotive service/repair and offer real value in an entertaining way. Mix entertainment with usable content and you are a social media genius. For example, an Automotive Body Repair Network (ABRN) article says, “Don’t just tell people it’s important to have their airbag properly repaired after an accident; post a link to Honda’s video showing what an improperly timed airbag does to a watermelon.” This example shows how a serious, relevant subject is covered in an entertaining way without offending anyone. There are plenty of carnage videos that could deliver the intended message but not with the entertainment value of an exploding watermelon. No doubt that such a video will create a storm of responses in the form of likes, shares, favorites and comments.

Creating activity is a goal unto itself, but ultimately, in you quest to become the content source, you have to establish credibility and trust. To achieve this, ABRN recommends sharing information about industry influencers and the community you serve. By imparting this kind of useful information, you prove to your audience that you are knowledgable and that you want your audience to know what you know.

The cardinal sin that many social media novices commit is to make their content too promotional. Of course, you have to talk about your business but you have to do it in a subtle way. For example, let’s take a look at what a repair shop can do to promote spring car care. Rather than just name a long list of services (that everybody has), you could focus on one of your technicians. Perhaps you have a tech who is celebrating his 20th year as a master tech at your shop who can provide some car care tips. Or maybe one of your techs could discuss the weirdest car that ever came into the shop — like a car with a working house air conditioner installed in the passenger side window (true story!). Still, something a little more traditional mixed with something unusual, can be effective. For instance, offer a free multi-point vehicle inspection for your customers’ vehicles and a professional massage (just like at the airport) for your customers while they wait. The only problem you might have is getting them to leave.

So let’s assume you have the right message to the right audience but how do you choose which social media channel will serve you best? The answer to that is that you have to be on the sites your customers use. More than likely, the first choice is going to be Facebook (e.g., in an ABRN study on social media, 73 percent of the respondents said that Facebook was their preferred social media channel), but there are many other sites that can be equally effective or more effective depending on what you’re trying to achieve. For example, Google+ offers Google Hangouts where you can invite customers to participate in informal video conversations or, at the more elaborate end of the spectrum, you can present a webinar. In other words, the content and intent can range from having interesting discussions to full-blown educational sessions which, incidentally, can be done at no cost.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with social media sites, but you might save yourself a lot of time if you’re a student of demographics and match the audience to the channel. As ABRN points out, millennials respond most favorably to visually-driven content, rather than informational content. They want it quick and they want it funny, and they can get both on Instagram.

But if you’re going to get a feel for any of these sites, you have to post consistently. In fact, that is a basic rule of social media — it is not something you do occasionally. You have to be committed to posting content regularly. And just as important, you need to respond to the people who respond to you. That’s what friends do because they want to be part of a community. 

I understand the reluctance that some of you may have in using social media. Not since YTK has there been so much electronic communication bewilderment. It’s the opposite of traditional media, which is a one-way street. Create the ad, print it or record it…and wait for people to show up at your door…or not.   

But if you need an ounce of convincing, just look around you — in your office…on the street…in your own home — and what do you see? Chances are people are looking at their mobile devices almost hypnotically, rather than conversing with people around them. That’s how you get social these days, no matter how anti-social it seems to be.

By the way, has anyone seen a video of a cat driving a car? Find one and you have a good start for a social media campaign, as well as the bonus of joining the cat community.

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