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?
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:
Promote an upcoming event
Demonstrate a lifestyle advantage associated with your product
Connect with the community
Make a statement
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…
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.
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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.
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)
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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.
Great aspect ratio. Hot car. Good message and most importantly there’s a link to the inventory search for the vehicle itself!
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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.
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.
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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.
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Simple and powerful. This is what Nissan missed when they promoted their message. Well done, Mr Potratz and Mr Ziegler.
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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.
“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.
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.
Having tracked data for the last seven years in the automotive marketing arena, I can tell you a few things that I’ve learned that have brought us to where the content marketing world is today. It’s all about process and answering the questions that consumers are asking and it’s something that, as I’ve said time and time again in the past, needs to be viewed holistically.
Rather than go into a long post about how to make it all sing properly (that’s for future posts), it’s important to understand the content marketing trio. No, they have nothing to do with the Three Stooges, but those who don’t understand the consumers’ mentality might ended up looking like stooges in 2014. This is that important.
To get this understanding, you have to put yourself in the consumers’ shoes. You buy things. Take what you know about that and apply it to the mentality and process below.
If they can’t find you, they can’t do business with you. This is a no-brainer. You can advertise on the various networks, get your branding in place through billboards and radio, put ads in third-party sites across the internet, and a dozen other ways to help people find you, but it’s search marketing that truly answers all of the questions that start with “where”.
Since content marketing can help your search engine optimization tremendously, it fits in as the first of the trio. Most people are probably finding your website by the name of your company. While this is fine, you don’t need to be heavily optimized to be found for your name. It’s the other people, the ones that are doing generic searches for you by product or service in your local area, that can have a double impact on your business. By being better optimized, you are moving yourself up in searches which means you are also moving a competitor down.
This is your website. “What” you’re trying to sell should be easy to determine once visitors get there. The challenge is that having a website that’s just like every other website in your market is silly yet so commonly practiced thanks to the mega-vendors and forced OEM adoption.
There is a psychology that goes along with websites that says, “different is usually better”. If your customers visit five websites, four of which look pretty much alike and the fifth, yours, looks different, they’ll wonder why. It will register, even if only on a subconscious level. If the design and content are compelling, you have an advantage.
In industries such as automotive where the differences in price are measured in small percentage points, the “why” factor comes into play. Most have a page that’s a variation of “Why Buy from Us” on their website but it gets very few visitors. It takes more than that to get a consumer to consider you over a competitor.
This is one of the many places where social media comes into play. When are people most likely to click on the social media buttons on your website? When they’re done. In other words, they might visit a handful of websites and put in leads at two or three of them. Once they’re done, there’s a decent chance that they’ll click through to your social media presence to see what you’re up to from the human side of the company. What will they see? Will it be a ton of ads? Will it be a ton of “look at me” posts?
What if they saw your community involvement? What if they saw your happy customers? What if they saw the local community engaging with you and you engaging back with them? They might look at you and two of your competitors during the course of their browsing. Will you be the most compelling? Does you social media presence give them a good reason to want to buy from you rather than the store down the block that’s posting boring or unauthentic content on their social media profiles?
In future posts, we’ll go into how the holistic method of content marketing can make the whole greater than the sum of its parts, but it’s important to understand that reasons that it’s all tied together. Don’t think search, websites, and social. Think where, what, and why.
There was a huge uproar in the search marketing and website design industry last year when Google came out and recommended responsive web design. While Google has been known to make recommendations in the past, they’ve never tackled this particular issue definitively until June, 2012. Since then, many companies have been scrambling to convert to a responsive design.
They reiterated the need for a mobile solution earlier this year when they said that they would soon stop showing web pages that improperly redirected to a different page when called up on mobile devices. The two pieces of news were combined because of a logical series of assumptions:
Google wants pages to render on any device
Responsive website design accomplishes the goal
Google likes responsive website design
Therefore, Google does not like adaptive website design
Everything is fine until you come to the conclusion. From a search perspective, properly coded adaptive websites with identical intents on all devices combined with proper transfer of HTML content are just as easy to rank well on Google as responsive website design.
As I researched this, I found one things that was disturbing and that needs to be addressed. The opinions most commonly expressed by companies weighing in on the debate between between responsive website design versus adaptive website design always ran parallel with the offerings of the company posting the opinion. If they offered responsive design, they said that responsive design was the only way to go. If they offered adaptive websites, they said that adaptive was the best way to go.
The unbiased publications that I read almost all came to the same conclusion – functionality of the site was much more important than the type of design used. In other words, if responsive design made it challenging for a website to function properly on mobile devices, then adaptive websites were recommended. If the flow was fine between devices and the path to turning to responsive design was an easy one, then that was the way to go.
I’m going to start with the “bias” on my end and finish this paragraph with the punchline. The bias is this: my company is developing responsive website design for our clients. The punchline is this: even with this knowledge, I still recommend adaptive for any website (including my clients’ websites) that are picture- and call-to-action-heavy on important pages such as inventory.
I have yet to see a responsive car dealer website that did not sacrifice functionality and speed for the sake of responsive design. I’ve seen both sides of the spectrum – websites that looked great and worked fine on mobile devices but that were bare-bones in their PC functionality and I’ve seen websites that looked great on a PC but that were too slow and rendered improperly on many mobile devices. I haven’t seen any that have done it “right” yet because of the nature of car dealer websites.
Most importantly, I’ve seen dealer websites that switched from adaptive to responsive that watched their website leads drop as a result. I have yet to see a single one that saw leads increase. This will change as responsive technology, internet speeds, third party plugins, and image crunching (especially for dealers that load up 30+ images on their vehicle detail pages) improves, but as of now responsive has been a huge flop.
I should also note that I jumped on the responsive bandwagon back in 2011 and strongly pushed for my company to adopt it way back then. Thankfully, we didn’t.
Final note on top of the other notes: for the majority of websites, responsive is likely the best solution. Car dealers have unique website formats. On any given page, especially the all-important vehicle details pages, there may be three or four plugins, a dozen calls-to-action, and dozens of photos that have to be brought in through 3G or 4G connections. The biggest difference between adaptive website design and responsive website design is when the changes are made to adjust for the device. On adaptive websites, the changes are server side, meaning that the data being sent is determined from the server before being sent to the device. With responsive design, the changes are client side, meaning that the whole web page is sent through and then the device is told how to piece it all together.
Here’s a very slanted infographic, one that actually does have some valid points (thankfully). Whoever built it likes adaptive and while they are being too harsh in my opinion about responsive, they still bring up some real challenges.
Content has been the big play for over a year now in the world of marketing. It’s the glue that holds social media marketing and search engine marketing together and it’s becoming so prevalent that the old ways (the ones everyone started using this year) are already starting to become obsolete.
Don’t get me wrong – the techniques themselves still work. The problem is that everyone is starting to get it. The competition level for content marketing at the small business level has gone from non-existent at the beginning of 2013 to hyper-competitive before the end of the year. It’s too easy, too important, and has too many people talking about it for most companies to miss.
Perhaps as bloggers, we did our jobs right. Now, we’re faced with a dilemma – taking it to the next level. Thankfully, the strategy is pretty much the same with an expansion into a two-style mode. By going with this format, you’ll be able to stay ahead of the competition that is starting to catch up to you.
Style 1: The Local Content
This is the easy part. For localized small businesses, it’s all about talking to to and about those in the local area in order to build buzz. The concept is this: post content that is enjoyable or useful to your potential customers and they will share it on social media as well as generate an occasional link or two.
It’s the style that everyone’s starting to get. Just in the automotive industry alone, we’re seeing multiple dealers in the same city making videos about how to change a Mazda key fob battery, writing articles about their first shipment of Chevy Corvettes, and bringing in local celebrities for interviews and discussions.
Just because so many are starting to do it doesn’t mean that you should stop. It means that you have to step up your game. You have to make your content better, get more people to share it, and post more often than your competitors. It means that you have to work harder than everyone else, but that’s one of the things that are necessary in order to stay ahead of the game.
Style 2: The Broader Content
The goal with all types of content is to become the authority on your topic. We have known for a while that localized content works, but it’s not able to stand alone anymore in most industries because of the competition level. To make it stand out ahead of the competitors, you need to hit the national arena.
This means that you can no longer just be the local authority. You have to get the type of content out there that can resonate with a broader audience. This is only possible if you’ve already mastered the local content style and you have a strong following for it.
Going broad is harder. It requires that the content have a more general appeal. It means that your local following will share it as well and that their friends and family from the rest of the country or world will see it and find value as well.
It could be reactions to national news about your industry. It could be universal help items that are not localized. It could be great videos, images, or infographics that anyone anywhere in the country can like.
It also requires a bit more professionalism than the localized content. An iPhone video might work for a quick walkaround of a new inventory item, but to get the national appeal, it has to be better made than that.
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This is the type of thing that many people fear. Just when you thought you had localized content mastered, hearing that it won’t be good enough to keep the gap large between you and your competitors in 2014 can be disheartening. However, if you really think about it, every new challenge like this is an opportunity to shine above and beyond them.
When something is as hot as an iconic automotive legend hitting dealerships across America, it often doesn’t need very much additional buzz created for it. Some would say that this is the case for the new Corvette C7 Stingray, just now landing at showrooms.
I think they’re making a mistake by not blasting this machine out there to everyone in the world. It’s that cool, but you wouldn’t know it if you’re following them on social media.
There are two possible reasons for this. It could simply be a corporate thing. Social media departments at large companies are often disconnected from the rest of the company. You can usually see this when a Facebook page is dominated by feel-good stories, customer experiences, nostalgia, and the occasional advertising. Most of the time these types of posts were pre-approved by the legal and marketing departments well before the posts went out and the results are good, not great, but at least they’re safe.
The other possible reason is that they simply do not believe that the car has enough mass appeal to hit their social media presence prominently. This is a huge mistake, an amateur one, really, if that is the case. Social media is not about general appeal. It’s about what’s hot. It’s about what’s amazing. There’s a reason that Ferrari has a more prominent social media footprint that Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, or any of the other major brands. It’s not that more people drive Ferraris. These people that are liking the pages aren’t going to Ferrari club meetings, nor do they have one sitting in their garage. This is social media and in many ways it’s a reflection of our desired lifestyle rather than our real one.
If Chevrolet wants to really get people’s attention and make a splash on social media, they need to take advantage of this monster of a car. It truly is an amazing piece of machinery, different and better than previous Corvettes. They need to drive this beast into the ground and ride it for as long as they can in order to take full advantage of the algorithmic benefits it would create.
The Corvette can go viral. The Cruze cannot.
Some Chevy dealers are getting it. Here’s one video from Holiday Automotive that gives the right amount of attention to this machine. They aren’t trying to sell it. They don’t need to. Everything they have allocated is already sold. That’s not the point. The point is that it’s hot and they understand that.
The worlds of automotive social media and automotive search marketing are converging. We’ve known this for a while and I’ve been preparing for the collision in order to help our clients make the most out of the changes. The only thing I wasn’t expecting was how tremendously complex it all was going to be.
There’s an exciting thing that can happen when you first start advertising on social media. The organic measures of exposure are quickly fading away, so when you get that first boost of exposure as a result of spending very little money, it can become addicting.