Social media is powerful – it can and will drive public opinion and buying choices; it can even help shift an entire demographic toward social change. With something so mighty at your fingertips, you can’t afford to miss the mark.
Proper attention to social media will help you avoid pitfalls and create a highly successful campaign that can set your shop apart from your competitors.
Start with a plan
As with any successful journey, starting with a plan puts you in a position for success. Realize that a quality social media program is a marathon and not a sprint, so expecting immediate results from your posts sets you up to be disappointed and discouraged. Expecting too much too soon can cause frustration, and you may be tempted to discontinue your posts. When you launch your program, be committed for the long haul and you’ll find the results are worth the wait.
I spent some time with social media experts Mike DelaCruz of Broadly and Kim Walker of Shop Marketing Pros to glean their expertise to share with you.
Is an effective social media strategy important, no matter the size of the shop?
“My belief in social media strategy is this… why do anything without a plan?” says Kim Walker of Shop Marketing Pros. “If you’re going to do something, DO IT. Go all in. And do it to the best of your ability. A haphazard posting on social media is a waste of time, energy and effort and usually results in the ‘I tried social media and it didn’t work,’ complaint. Just like any marketing tactic, to truly see results and feel like it has been worth it requires forethought, planning and execution. Why do anything partially or halfway? That makes no sense – no matter how big or small your company is.”
Provide Relevant and Engaging Content
Content is king, but not just any content. You’ll want relevant content designed to capture the attention of your target customer. Here’s a tip about what makes content relevant: don’t overthink it. A lot of shop owners are so close to their shops that they don’t see the little things that make their shop stand out from the rest.
Focus on the aspect of your business to which your customers can relate. In almost every circumstance, customers will engage with personal elements of the people in your shop.
Mike DelaCruz from Broadly explains, “Content needs to be built to capture your attention. Most people relate to personal things, like a technician who just had a newborn baby, the fact it’s your service advisor’s birthday or your service manager’s work anniversary, or that you’re teaming up with the local high school or Boys and Girls Club.”
It’s about relatability, DelaCruz says. “Whatever it is, show your community involvement! All of these things are relatable and capture interest and attention. Every auto repair shop wants the relationship, so there has to be a personal connection attached to your posts.”
You’ve heard of the 80/20 rule. DelaCruz explains, “You’re still in business looking to keep your car count steady, so make sure you post things that are also business-related as well, like upcoming specials. For example, if you are a member of a program group like a NAPA Auto Care or Parts Plus Car Care Center, you have sales drivers. These should be posted every time a new promo is launched (every two months, for example). The 80/20 rule is 80% personal connection, and 20% business and specials.”
Positives and Negatives
The importance of quickly getting a message out to your customer base was underscored by the unfolding of COVID on our industry at the beginning of 2020. In the midst of the outbreak, there were media reports that businesses were closed and, depending on your area of the country, this might have been accurate. But, in less-affected areas where dire reports were not always on point, shops used social media to deliver a message that was quick and cost-effective.
Additionally, once the government declared the auto repair industry to be an essential business, shops began using the power of social media to communicate with their communities and customers. Many shops used social platforms to share information about the protocols they had adopted to put the customers at ease and this added comfort level enabled many shops to continue in the first few months of the pandemic with limited disruptions to their day-to-day operation.
Speed, access to your audience and brand building that allows the customer to “meet” you and your team can present your shop as the local expert.
Mike and Kim explain that the cost of a self-directed social media campaign is extremely low, but that’s not the only positive.
- Speed to market;
- Ease of access to your customers and potential customers;
- Opportunity to present your shop as the “Expert;” and
- Brand awareness.
Unfortunately, low cost can also be negative. Unless you have a social media manager in your shop to consistently push the content out, the likelihood of your program’s success will be tempered. It’s easy to spend money on postcard mailers or other printed content because the need for content is only on the front-end of the project. However, social media requires a significant time commitment that is ongoing each and every week.
In preparation for this article, I reviewed a significant number of repair shops’ Facebook profiles. My research revealed that, on average, 80% of the typical shop’s posts were out of date and there had been fewer than 10 posts over the last 12 months.
In the foundational business book, The E-Myth, Michael Gerber cited the importance of consistency, explaining the emotions that delivering anything inconsistently can bring. Inconsistency will bring a loss of trust, loyalty and eventually a loss of a customer. If you are inconsistent in your social media posts, what message about your business practices do you think is being conveyed to your current and potential customers?
Of the top shops in the industry, many agree how important it is that the social media message be relevant and timely. But, successfully posting content is a lot of work. Many have applied Dan Sullivan’s principle of “Who, Not How,” from the best-selling business book of the same name. These shops have discovered that a more effective use of their time and abilities is to use a social media management service. This allows them to manage their shop’s operations more effectively by outsourcing this aspect of marketing.
There are other negatives as well:
- It takes time to build an audience;
- It’s a time-consuming process;
- Keeping content flowing can be difficult;
- Knowing what to stay away from: politics, recent events, etc.;
- You must stay on top of trends; and
- You must know how to properly respond to negative reviews.
Obviously, doing the job right requires a plan.
- Regular posts – at least two per week;
- Relevant Content
- Keep it personal, engaging and interesting;
- Pictures and videos are a plus;
- Call to action – soft pedal your call to action — don’t be too aggressive in your pitch; and
- Be committed – success isn’t achieved overnight.
Whether you perform the task in-house or outsource your messaging to a social media management firm, make the commitment to use social media to reach your customers. Engagement with your customers and potential customers is one of the best reasons to be involved with social media.
Social media is likely the most heavily trafficked road in your community – can you afford not to put YOUR billboard on it?
If you’re interested in a social media checkup, drop me an email at [email protected] and I’ll review your posts and share my recommendations.