Social Web for the Repair Shop:
There are plenty of for-fee services that will help you organize everything being said everywhere about your company, but you can do a quick estimate by typing your company name, your name and the type of work you do into any search engine. Other service providers include BuzzLogic, Collecta.com, Analytic.ly, PeopleBrowsr (via Twitter), SocialMention, Radian6, Google Alerts and Blog Search.
Look at the results of consumer opinion polls and surveys on the industry, such as those from Gallup, The Pew Institute and news organizations. Your own customer surveys will reveal patterns in the data. Examine your own customers' questions, praise and, especially, their complaints and grievances. Pay attention to the types of content being passed around on the various networks. Determine which are recurring themes or topics, and notice what types of data are missing. This is the starting point of your killer marketing plan that will have everyone talking.
4. When 1 percent matters most. There is an axiom among Internet marketing experts that the sum of any Web-based audience can be split into three groups:
• Main audience: About 90 percent of any site's visitors are "consumers," those who view content, but add nothing.
• Participants or editors: Comprised of approximately 9 percent of a site's traffic, these visitors may add a comment or additional information, but rarely create unique content.
• Active content creators (aka "Influential Users"): This mere 1 percent of visitors will generate anywhere from 20 percent to as much as 50 percent of a site's traffic through their actions, which in turn results in at least one additional site visitor.
Although capturing the hearts of the main audience may seem the path to follow, the key to any social media plan's success lies within that golden 1 percent - the evangelists and cheerleaders who will take action on your message. Now, you have two goals:
• Identify how many of your customers fall in that 1 percent on your chosen social media network.
• Convert as many as possible of that social network's influential users into customers you can count on.
5. Ensure your website shines. Your ultimate goal is to get people in the door of your shop, so you'd best make sure your first impression available to them - your website - is ready to go before you send them there. Make it easy for visitors to want to share your information.
Fix broken links. Update your news and newsletter sections regularly with fresh content. Add polls and surveys to capture information about visitors and trends. Polish your message to give "influential users" a remark-worthy experience.
Do you have some video, such as a television commercial or clinic you presented to motorists? Be sure it's highly visible on your site and can be shared with other websites. Speaking of sharing, add "Like," "Retweet" and other social media sharing buttons where appropriate, including your online newsletter, coupons, specials and consumer education pages.
6. Flaunt your expertise. One of the best ways to let people know about your expertise is blogging. It doesn't take much to set up a blog online for free, but it will benefit your search engine rankings (not to mention how people view you) if it's incorporated into your existing website. However, blogging takes a real commitment of time; you can't post once a month like a newsletter. But you can start off slowly; if you are going to do it, commit to one blog post a week.
Take on an issue in the industry or a question from a customer, and put your thoughts down for everyone to see. Share it on your social media networks, and then step back. Don't be disheartened if you don't get comments or reposts immediately, but keep working at it.
Also, expand your expertise beyond your own website. Regularly read and when appropriate, submit comments on the influential blogs within the industry. Don't feel the need to always jump in with a comment, but leave a message when you have something remarkable to say.
You can also build your online credibility by visiting Q&A sites such as Facebook Questions, Ask.com and AnswerBag. Users submit questions, leave answers and in some cases, compete to be voted the "best answer." By sharing your knowledge, without a sales message, you can earn a reputation as an information sharer, while leaving your calling card for anyone with more questions. A word of caution: Be honest about who you are and what you represent. The last thing you want is to be branded dishonest and accused of steering a conversation for your own personal gain.
7. Enlist the media. Today's news is just as easily picked up through bloggers and other social media as the traditional media outlets. Reporters and writers are constantly searching for educated, knowledgeable sources for their stories. So be sure you are giving the media what they want.
Send out press releases to your local media when it's appropriate. If you redesign your website or launch a blog, let them know. If you've just gained another ASE master technician or your location has just been remodeled, tell the world. Not sure how to begin? Check out the online PR kit in the members only section of ASAshop.org for tips and sample releases.
When you get those media mentions, take full advantage of the exposure: Post links on the social networks and your website.
8. Selling is the goal, not the means. Ensure that the conversation you have online is two-way; instead of selling the service of the week, ask your customers what they want to know most about their vehicles. Ask them what they'd like to see if they could be inside your shop for one day. Ask as many questions as you can, and then listen and comment when appropriate - with deference to the tone and driving forces of the conversation.
Use social media to provide better-than-average customer service: Respond quickly to negative reviews or comments respectfully and openly, asking customers to resolve the matter offline when possible. You may catch some heat for standing your ground on an issue or for a mistake you made, but you'll gain a large amount of respect for addressing it transparently. However, don't allow yourself to be drawn in to a public spectacle.
9. Turn employees into ambassadors. Nearly 40 percent of companies outright ban employee use of social media during work hours, citing "security risks," according to eMarketer. Now, in a repair shop, it's likely that your staff is not spending their time posting items to Facebook or Twitter, but they are definitely online after work. Encourage them to be your company's cheerleaders.
You don't have to require them to post items about your company, but you can ask them to become a fan or follower to the company's social media pages. And you can encourage them to answer questions from customers or comment about the shop's latest training class. Including them in your social media efforts expands your company's pool of expertise, reinforces your message and strengthens your staff's involvement in the health of the business.
10. Measure your success. Unfortunately, there is no one single tool that measures all social media and your website to provide you with the analytics you need. However, the tools you used to build your social marketing program (from tip No. 3) - the ones that provided you the insight on where your customers were and what they were saying - will be immensely helpful in measuring the success of your program.
Your website's analytics program should also be employed to show you where people were coming from, and if you used specific landing pages during a campaign, the traffic stats of those pages. Be sure you understand how your analytics program works before you start any campaign. You don't want to be learning while you are in the midst of determining if your efforts are working or need adjustments.
Social marketing is a powerful tool for your company, but it's best to remember to either do it well, or don't do it at all. The point is to strengthen, not replace, offline relationships. The goal is to build your business' reputation as the expert in your field, in your locale.
"While common wisdom suggests that they [social networks] should be tremendous enablers and amplifiers of word of mouth, few consumer companies have unlocked this potential," says Michael Zeisser, senior vice president at Liberty Media, in a recent article with "McKinsey Quarterly."
Committing your shop's image to the social landscape means committing to creating only the highest quality interactions. Make sure your online actions reflect the positive, professional reputation you have carefully built with your customers.
Additional Reading and Resources
90-9-1.com: Provides an excellent explanation of the 1 percent rule referred to in this article.
blog.hubspot.com: Hubspot recently posted a great reference tool to help you keep up with the ever-changing social media lingo. It's too long to publish here, but search the phrase "101 marketing terms" for its "Ultimate Glossary."
MotiveLab.com: Check out its social media blog and white paper offerings.
Wordpress.org/Glossary: A great source to help demystify blog- and website-related terms.
IAB.net: Download the Interactive Advertising Bureau's "Social Media Buyer's Guide" for insight on the metrics you should be measuring.
SocialMediaExaminer.com: An interesting series of blogs discussing social media and marketing.
SmallBizTrends.com: Commentary and articles geared to the small business owner.
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