Putting to Rest the Concept of “Organic” Social Media

Organic

There was a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish, it was so fragile.

Okay, so that’s not really original. Any opportunity to plug in a line from Gladiator, I’ll take it. Despite the overly serious tone of the quote, it plays well with the dream that was social media. The idea of having a set of free venues through which businesses could interact with consumers and the consumers could interact back presented itself as a grand concept to be desired and cherished. Unfortunately, the dream is dead. Success on modern social media requires one of two things: serious fame or cash invested.

[Read more...]

Recycling Social Media Content is Getting Out of Hand

Tweet from 2013

I get it. I understand the need for more content to serve to an ever-growing flow of content consumers. The art of recycling content is important, particularly on sites like Twitter where a piece of content can and should be used multiple times in order to get the message out to everyone. It’s a chronological feed, after all, and posting it once will only get it seen by an extremely small portion of your audience.

With that said, it’s getting out of hand. I have been finding posts that are months old and no longer relevant hitting my feed from car dealers around the country. There’s a limit. Old news is old news. In the case of the Tweet above, the article posted on Twitter by a Toyota dealer on March 30, 2014, is a link to an article from July 4, 2013. That’s too long for this type of news.

When recycling posts on Twitter, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Is it relevant? Old posts are find if there’s context that makes it work today. For example, posting an article about Tesla’s early days in trying to launch with dealerships would make sense to post considering their current stance.
  • Is it timeless? Some posts, particularly advice posts that give the reader information they can use today, can be posted up until the point that they’re obsolete. An example of this would be a video that demonstrates how to change the batteries in a key fob. Until they change the way you open the key fob, it still makes sense to post for months, even years after the original.
  • Is it nostalgic? There are times when old posts are even better than new ones. A picture of an old Honda ad from the 70s would play well to show how far the company has come over the years.
  • Has it been posted very recently? This is one of my biggest pet peeves. If a post comes through today that is just a different wording on something posted yesterday, than it’s not acceptable. The exception: timely events. If you have a big sale or charity event this weekend, then posting a different variation of the same thing over and over again is acceptable and demonstrates focus on the event.

As more companies use content libraries to keep the feeds flowing, it’s important to keep in mind that the libraries must be refreshed. They must be pruned. In the case of the post above, it’s simply not acceptable. That was news for about a month. There is plenty of content out there in the form of current news about every manufacturer and the local area. Don’t get stuck beating a dead horse with your posts.

Website Chat Should Shoot for Quality First, Quantity Second

Tearing Down the Wall

There’s a disturbing trend I’m seeing in the automotive industry when I visit websites. Perhaps it’s been like this for a while and I simply took my eye off the chat ball. When I see chat windows that instantly prompt for the customer’s contact information, it makes me cry a little inside.

This isn’t what chat is supposed to be about. I’d love to have that debate with anyone. Chat is an alternative means of instant information. In other words, it’s more akin to phone calls than to anything else. If you believe in having a barrier of entry for your customers to chat, then you should have your receptionist answer the phone with, “Thank you for calling XYZ Motors. Can I have your name, phone number, and email address, please? No? Okay, thank you for calling.”

[Read more...]

Localize on Social Media or Else

University of Albany

Don’t worry. This isn’t one of those “feel good” stories about how social media is all about interacting with your local community. That part’s true, but you should know that already, right?

Today, let’s go over a quick explanation of how social media algorithms, especially Facebook’s, work and why you’re actually hurting your local page’s chances of being seen by having too many people outside of your local area liking your page. It isn’t just a matter of them not being interested in your content the way that locals will. It is an algorithm play that can actually prevent locals from seeing your posts.

[Read more...]

Defined by the Quest: The Three Types of Marketing in 2014

Quest Marketing

One of the most amazing parts of my job is spending time reading, watching, and testing the practices of others. It’s conceivable that the true secret to my success over the years has less to do with creativity and more to do with listening and deciphering. You have to listen to the channels like Google and Facebook. You have to listen to your customers. You have to listen to your customers’ customers (if you’re an agency like me).

The annoying part of my job is sifting through the recycled techniques and reinvented terminology that surrounds so many marketing practices. In most cases, it’s the same old things repackaged into a different form or applied from a different angle. Those are valuable, but not gamechanging. Still, it’s important to go through them all in order to find the hidden or not-so-hidden gems that arise. The best practices I’ve found over the years haven’t been on the pages of Mashable, Search Engine Watch, or Social Media Today. The real winners have come from some of the least likely sources.

With all of that out of the way, let’s get to the point. There are three types of marketing. Despite all of the various names – push and pull marketing, social media marketing, gravitational marketing, search marketing, influence marketing, content marketing – the easiest and arguably most pure way of looking at it is to tackle everything from a perspective of venue and intent. Where are the people going and what are they doing when they get there? It’s important for me as well as business owners to look at it from this perspective because the collision of the various marketing types is forcing a holistic marketing model to outperform niche marketing techniques or specialized strategies.

In other words, if you look at venue and intent, you can craft your overall marketing strategy much more easily. We look at it as following the quest – what are they doing, why are thy doing it, and how can we be there to help them choose our clients. When people buy your products, they are fulfilling a quest. No, they’re not slaying an actual dragon, but if they’re on a quest to buy a car, then your dealership selling them a car is the culmination of that particular quest.

Here are the three types of marketing for 2014 (well, early 2014 at least – it changes so quickly) that we like to tackle:

Fulfilling the Quest

This is the easiest to understand and often the hardest to achieve because of the simplicity of purpose. Everyone knows that if someone is interested in buying a car, they’re probably going to go to Google, Bing, or one of the various classified sites to start looking. They might go to review sites and OEM sites as well, but for the most part they’re ready to seek the fulfillment of their quest, they’re going to try to look for cars.

Search engine marketing of all types, whether it’s SEO or PPC, gives you the opportunity to drive them to your website so they may fulfill their quest. They aren’t searching for Honda dealers to have fun. They have a purpose. They’re in buying mode. This is where you have to be in order to help them fulfill their quest.

Renewing the Quest

More businesses are starting to do this. Many of them tried to do it in 2009-2012 and failed miserably. Part of it was because the venues such as Facebook, banner advertisements, retargeting, and other forms of “passive” marketing arenas weren’t developed to the point that they are today.

Now, the goals have come full-circle thanks to the overall availability of the internet. Mobile devices have made checking social media sites and reading websites the common activity when there are no activities to do. As people ride a bus, wait in line at the bank, or even perform other mundane activities like watching television, they are also surfing the internet. They aren’t going to Facebook to buy things, but they’re open to the concept. They’re open to having their quest renewed.

When they go to Fox News to see what’s going on and the retargeting ad pops up in front of them, they are reminded that they are still on a quest even if they aren’t actively on it at that point. When the business they visited last week pops up on their Facebook news feed, they get that reiteration that they still need to buy something. It might take a dozen instances of seeing a brand and its message before they actually click through, but the statistics are showing that it’s working. Not every sale is made through Google. In fact, some of the most important and actionable clicks come through other venues when they’re not in active buying mode.

Creating the Quest

Of the three, this is the one that’s ignored the most. It’s the hardest to do and the least rewarding when not done right. However, it can be the most rewarding when companies are able to make it sing. This is one that we focus on in particular because in our industry, nobody is doing it right.

In many ways it’s like good old fashioned advertising. No, it’s not like the commercials that we see on television today. Think along the lines of the early days of television when brands were built by establishing a problem that people will see in the normal course of their day and then having that problem solved either in the middle of the initial marketing effort or after further research.

The reason that it’s so hard today is because of attention span. We have seconds instead of minutes to get the message out through most advertising and marketing venues. There’s no longer time to tell a story…

…or is there?

The art of creating the quest is about putting the right content on the right venues that will reach people and establish a need whether they’re in the market right now or not. With this particular article already breaking the 1,000-word mark, there’s not enough time to go into it in detail. We’ll do that next time. Instead, watch the following video that shows two commercials that worked well in their day. Today, having a minute-long television commercial isn’t practical for most businesses, but taking advantage of the various channels online to accomplish the same goal and better is something that we know will move the needle. It’s hard. That’s the point. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

More on that next time. For now, here’s the video:

How to Handle Complaints on Social Media

Social Media Complaints

There’s a rule when it comes to handling complaints and bad reviews on social media. The same rule applies for compliments and good reviews, but those are easy. Handling the complaints can be challenging and you may not want to do it, but as a rule you must reply to everyone who is talking to you publicly whether it’s good or bad.

This is an absolute rule. There are a couple of extreme situations when you don’t reply, but they are so rare that I hesitate to mention them for fear that it could downplay the message that you should reply to everyone.

There’s another rule that is unfortunately getting broken just about every day by many social media and reputation management companies. Canned responses should never be used. Every response should be personal, written by an actual human and not repeated. It’s better to make a short, sincere response than anything that came out of an automated system. People can tell. You will never appear more insincere as a company than when you reply to someone talking to you on social media with a form letter.

In this infographic by Pardot, we have a chance to take a look at five of the most prominent “complainer types” on social media. If you can identify the category that a complainer falls into, you’ll have a better opportunity to handle it appropriated. One does not have to be a psychologist to understand personality types. You just have to open your eyes and ears before opening your mouth.

Social Media Complaints Infographic

Dealer Authority: A New Venture in Automotive Internet Marketing

Dealer Authority

Change is good, sometimes. We all have those moments in our lives when we just want to branch out on our own. This is my moment.

I’ve been working for TK/KPA for the last seven years. I have absolutely nothing but positive to say about the company. They’ve treated me better than I probably deserved and I believe we’ve had a mutually beneficial relationship – both parties have grown as a result. I plan on referring KPA for many of the services that I do not offer because looking at it from the inside and seeing what else is out there, I know that they have what it takes to help their dealer clients find amazing success.

With that said, the company is still a growing corporation and I have wanted to operate in more of boutique situation for a little while. As a result, I am launching my own automotive internet marketing firm that will focus on premium social, search, and content marketing services. Dealer Authority is not for every dealership. The expectations are high and the costs will match. For the vast majority of dealers, the power I’ll be bringing to the table would be overkill. For truly aggressive dealers wanting to make a huge impact on their marketing efforts, I’m here to help.

Check out the website, get a feel for the direction that I’m heading, and make a choice: are you ready to get aggressive?

Good and Bad Examples of Social Media Image Marketing

Automotive Social Media Image Marketing

If you’re reading this, you’re probably failing at social media image marketing. That’s not me being cynical. By examining dozens of business social media presences every week, I get to see what so many are doing and the unfortunate fact is that 9 out of 10 are doing it wrong or not doing it at all. I’m being conservative with that estimate.

The “unfortunate” fact really isn’t that unfortunate, especially for those who are reading this. You see, you can actually do it right, which means that you’re going to have a leg-up on the competition. When things are too easy or too well known, they have a tendency to become universally good. When they’re universally good, that means that everyone is average.

Image marketing on social media is not about taking advertisements and posting them as images. It’s not about talking about your big sale next week in the form of a banner that you post to Twitter or Instagram (though there’s a way to do that which I’ll demonstrate below). It’s not even about taking pictures of happy customers in front of their latest purchase jumping in the air with the caption, “Oh what a feeling!”

Proper image marketing should accomplish some of the following goals listed in no particular order:

  1. Improve branding
  2. Promote an upcoming event
  3. Demonstrate a lifestyle advantage associated with your product
  4. Connect with the community
  5. Make a statement
  6. Drive traffic to a landing page

It doesn’t have to do all of these. It can do one of them really well, a couple of them very well, or knock out three or four of them with a single post. To highlight this, I’ll use examples that I found in my Twitter feed just in the last couple of hours. This does not only apply to Twitter; Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, and Facebook can all work nicely here.

It should be noted that size and aspect ratio are extremely important and arguably the biggest miss by most. Twitter has an aspect ratio of 2:1 while Instagram is 1:1. Small images don’t do as well. on any of the platforms. Pinterest is the only platform that does vertical images well. Appearance on mobile is more important than appearance on desktop. These and other technical aspects of image marketing will be covered in a future post. For now, let’s just look at the content…

 

Bad Examples of Social Media Image Marketing

These ones are bad. Don’t do these. I blocked out the business that posted one but I kept the one posted by Ram only because as a manufacturer, they should know better by now…

Bad Twitter Image Marketing

The image quality is poor. The car is cut off. There’s no visible branding for the dealership in the image. Overall, it’s extremely boring. This is not going to get anyone’s attention and nobody who sees it in their feed will care.

* * *

Bad Twitter Image Marketing 3

It’s a nice image of a mountain. Wait. Is that a truck at the bottom peeking up over the edge? It’s good that they are getting their fans involved, but the picture should have been edited to appear properly on Twitter before posting it. This is the lazy way out and accomplishes none of the goals.

 

Decent Examples of Social Media Image Marketing

These aren’t bad. They aren’t good, either. They’re good enough to get listed here just to show the differences between them and the ones further below so you’ll know what mistakes to avoid.

Decent Twitter Image Marketing

The attempt by Nissan is pretty strong. They’re trying to do well on Twitter and they’re doing an above-average job at it. This particular piece is missing something: impact. The message in the image means nothing other than stating a minor incentive. It gives no reason for people to actually click through to the landing page other than the boring message itself. With image marketing, you need to make a statement in order to get clicks. They should have put more creativity into the messaging rather than state the offer plainly.

More importantly, the offer itself is designed specifically for those who already plan on buying a Rogue, so the incentive is in the reservation itself. At first (and second, and third) glance, this appears to be another rebate offer because it looks like another rebate offer. There are brighter minds than mine that could have fashioned a better message, but it should have been less statement of the facts and a bit more mystery and uniqueness to draw people to click.

  • This Rogue wants to be reserved (and it will pay you to reserve it)
  • What do reservations and $250 have in common? The 2014 Nissan Rogue.
  • Early Bird gets the cash on their Rogue
  • No Reservations Necessary (unless you want an extra $250)

* * *

Decent Twitter Image Marketing 2

This isn’t bad because it does accomplish one goal – making a statement. The only thing keeping this at decent rather than good is that the message is a personal one and should have been delivered in a personal manner. While the picture is cool and the message in the text is strong, it would have been better to have a member or former member of the military (there’s probably some working at the dealership right now) by a car or the dealership’s sign with an American flag in hand. This is a bit generic but a good attempt – still better than 9 out of 10.

 

Good Examples of Social Media Image Marketing

Here are some good ones. These are nearly great but are missing a couple of minor components. If you did your marketing like this, you’d be ahead of 99/100 others.

Good Twitter Image Marketing

Great aspect ratio. Hot car. Good message and most importantly there’s a link to the inventory search for the vehicle itself!

* * *

Good Twitter Image Marketing 2

This one is much like the previous except a different variation for two reasons. First, it uses a stock image, which is only good if the image is as good as this one. The thing that brings it up from “decent” is that the link takes you to a vehicle specific landing page which is more appropriate on Twitter than a straight vehicle search. Remember, if they want to search, they will. Putting them on a page with information about the vehicle is better for higher-funnel customers that you’ll get through social media.

 

Great Examples of Social Media Image Marketing

These are the best that I’ve seen so far… after searching four hours back in my Twitter feed. There are better ones. There are plenty of worse ones. They aren’t perfect but they’re pretty darn close.

Great Twitter Image Marketing

This one hits goals 1, 5, and 6 nicely but it really nails home #3: Demonstrate a lifestyle advantage associated with your product. It doesn’t need to show the whole car. It doesn’t need a beautiful background. It has a simple, elegant four word message that can reach the target audience where it hurts.

* * *

Great Twitter Image Marketing 2

Remember, it doesn’t have to nail several goals to be effective. This time, it does a wonderful job of branding but keeps it touching the community with the localized weather factor. This is exceptional and if the following is engaged, it’ll resonate.

* * *

Great Twitter Image Marketing 3

Simple and powerful. This is what Nissan missed when they promoted their message. Well done, Mr Potratz and Mr Ziegler.

* * *

You don’t have to be a professional photographer or a creative genius to get it right with social media image marketing. You just need to have a good strategy, solid execution, and a willingness to know the “rules” well enough to break them ever so slightly.

Trackable vs Verifiable: The Social Media Conundrum

Return on Investment 2

“ROI” and “KPI” are the longest sustained buzzwords in the world of marketing. They’ve been around forever and while they might fade for a short period of time from the talking points in sales presentations and blog posts, they always bounce back up with a vengeance. We’re on the high-buzz portion of the cycle right now and more people are asking again, “How can I track my social media ROI? What are the KPIs in social media?”

Return on Investment is the amount of benefit received for any investment of money, time, energy, or resources put into a particular marketing endeavor. Key Performance Indicators are the statistics that demonstrate whether or not a marketing action is doing the things that will make it successful or not. In the world of social media, both of these are extremely important when trying to understand whether or not your strategy is working or not.

Let’s throw them out for now. We’ll get back to them some other time, but they’re only confusing the real issue with social media.

Most businesses and agencies using social media are getting locked into the trackability that is required to determine both ROI and tangible KPIs. It’s sad because, much like television, tracking can be done but often to the detriment of the actual results. Today, let’s focus on the verifiable benefits of social media.

A wise old car dealer once told me, “I wasn’t sure whether or not my television advertising was working until I turned it off. Sales dropped. I turned it back on and sales went up. That’s how I know TV works.”

Thankfully, social media doesn’t have to be quite as ambiguous, but it does take more verification than tracking to know whether or not it’s working.

 

Good: “…as a matter of fact…”

Most will call this method anecdotal at best. It is, but unless you’re spending tens of thousands of dollars per month on social media, it may be all you need to be able to track your social media campaign effectiveness. Consider this scenario:

In the car business, there is one department that talks to everyone no matter what. The finance department has to get the paperwork ready and make a car deal legal regardless of how they’re paying or what they’re buying. This final touchpoint prior to delivery is an ideal time to ask the magic question.

“Are you following us on Facebook?”

90% will reply with one of two answers. The first is, “no.” If they say that, then the response is quick and easy. “Well, we post interesting stuff there every day. You should check it out. Now, let’s talk about GAP Insurance.”

The second likely answer is, “Yes, and as a matter of fact I…”

Some say they found the vehicle they bought or another vehicle that they didn’t buy while surfing social media. Others will say that they have been following for a while and they love the updates. A few might even say that they might be following you but they don’t spend much time on Facebook. These and a couple of other variations are the common ones.

If you’re doing your social media the right way, getting massive exposure in the local area for pennies on the dollar compared to television, then you will find that these types of responses are oddly common. The funny part is that the most common winning response is a different variation of “no.”

 

Best: “No, but…”

“No, but I’ve seen your posts pop up on my Facebook news feed.”

This is the winner. It’s the one that demonstrates that your social media marketing really is reaching people. Just as with any form of advertising in just about every industry, being in front of people is often the subconscious prompt that makes them pull the trigger. This brings up the most important lesson that I’ve taught thousands of people at a dozen speaking events since 2009.

Social media is not about getting likes or followers. It’s about getting your message in front of as many potential customers as possible. It’s not about being part of the community. It’s about being part of their community. On Facebook and Twitter, getting into their community is only loosely associated with them liking or following you. Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+ are heading in the same direction.

If you truly want to know if social media is working, you have to be willing to ask. There are definitely key performance indicators that can tell you if you’re effectively getting in front of your audience. There are ways to track and measure ROI that can determine if it’s generating real business. However, you should not let tracking get in the way of results.

Verify that it’s working. If you can track it, great. If not, the verification (or, as those of us in social media marketing like to call it, “vindication”) of its usefulness is much more important.

Podcast:Improving a Dealership’s Social Media Presence

Podcast

Presence is 50% of the game when it comes to social media. You have to be in front of people, accessible, and able to bring to them the other half of the social media equation: message.

A message without a presence brings to mind the old saying about a tree falling in an empty forest. If a Facebook post goes out and nobody saw it in their news feed, did it really get posted at all? Of course, having a presence is great but if the message isn’t powerful, engaging, and resonating, it won’t do your dealership any good.

In this podcast through AutoSuccess, I talk about the ways that dealerships can improve their presence and focus on what really matters: driving more business and keeping customers as happy as they can be.

Listen Now.