The way social media is used has changed dramatically over the past decade. What used to be a tool to connect with friends, family and former classmates has become an essential component of how small businesses market themselves. In the world of automotive repair where reputation is everything, using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat to effectively engage with customers can mean the difference between being just another repair shop or being the go-to shop on the block.
I spoke with Michael Crosson, an advertising and marketing exec who publishes SocialMediopolis and runs the largest group on LinkedIn for social media marketers (over 1.4 million members), about best practices repair shops can implement to attract customers and keep them coming back for service.
What are the most common mistakes small-business owners make when trying to market their businesses on social media?
They try to overhype themselves by saying things like, “We are the best, the biggest, the yuuuuggest.” Be real, be honest, be humble. Be authentic. Ask questions of your followers and LISTEN!
What is the best advice you have for business owners looking to bring in new customers via social media?
The first assumption is that your audience is looking for local customers. That being the case, use as much localization as possible: customer testimonials, local relevant events, etc. If you are using Facebook advertising, be very selective with keywords and targeting criteria. Don’t waste money on general or generic ads. They don’t work and the ROI is usually negative.
How can social media be used to reach a repair shop’s target demographic?
Again, localization of content and providing extended services are highly important. Can you pick up clients’ cars? Highlight it and show it. Make short videos about your shop and encourage customers to give recommendations. You should also look for PR opportunities that tie into the local community, such as donating services for cops or helping out those in distress. Above all, stay far away from religious or political topics — nothing will create backlash faster.
I would highly recommend using Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat even more than Facebook. They are great sources for new customers and referrals. Be VISUAL! Use lots of photos and short videos to show off your shop.
Do you recommend outsourcing social media content creation? What factors go into this decision?
This is really tricky. If you outsource someone to produce generic content like “How to Change a Tire Safely,” you’ll turn off educated customers in a heartbeat. If you can generate unique content, say, a testimonial like, “How We Got That 1948 Skylark Running like a Skylark Again,” and it has humor and personality, then that works.
Are there any specific metrics owners should be looking at to see how effective their social media marketing is?
Well, everyone will say number of followers is No. 1. I disagree. Number of active engagements is more important because that’s where the rubber hits the road. Those actions, comments, referrals, etc., are active and positive relationship builders. The goal is not to have a large number of people who will never use your shop, the goal is to reach a number of involved people who will use the shop and make referrals.
Are there some types of posts that are more effective than others in bringing in customers (e.g., coupons, referral perks, etc.)?
Absolutely. BOGOs and giveaways always pull well. But going back to PR, the savviest local marketers are the ones who pick up on popular local events or timely news items and give them a positive spin. Just as one example, there have been a lot of stories lately about a kid who has to walk to school because the parent’s car broke down or the bus route changed or whatever. Use something like that to do a public service, and then have a client “alert” the press. Don’t do it yourself, have an advocate bring it to the media’s attention. And by the way, do it because it’s the right thing to do, not just for press. Again, authenticity is critical.
Michael Crosson has a long history in interactive advertising, marketing and now social media. Currently, he runs the largest private group on LinkedIn, Social Media Marketing, with over 1.4 million members, and he publishes SocialMediopolis, which provides resources for professional social media marketers.