Just Go!

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Have you ever agreed to go to a party, but as the day gets closer you begin to not want to go. You’re filled with anxiety when you think about going as you try to think of a way to get out of showing up?

There are many reasons to feel this way. Tiredness, laziness, the type of party, the people at the party, but many times it comes down to the fear we feel when facing new people and what they will think of us.

Photo Credit: TechCrunch

In my experience, I feel this anxiety leading up to a party where I don’t or barely know a large part of the group. I have also discovered, thanks to my more confident better half, that when I am dragged to the gathering I am usually totally fine once I get there. The people aren’t monsters. The people don’t hate me. The people won’t humiliate me. They are just people like me.

Social Media has become the place for digital gatherings. Joining these discussions can be nerve wracking, anxiety inducing, and just downright terrifying sometimes. But unlike an actual physical social gathering, I get to be the confident one and tell you – Just go! Be Brave. Get in there. Join the conversation. Be yourself. And have fun. The benefits far out-way the risks.

Achieving Local Social Success

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Photo Credit: hammer51012

A Reminder for Geographically Dependent Business Owners:  You are a different beast than national brands, so you have to run your Facebook Page accordingly. Feel free to get ideas from what Coca-Cola or other national brands do, but do not expect the same results, or measure your success by the same standards.  And be sure to adjust your efforts to fit your demographic and your budget.

How to Reap the Benefits of Social Promotions

Running a contest or promotion on Facebook can get you well over 10x the number of fans you started with. But, not all of those fans are quality fans that are going to improve your bottom line. Many are looking simply to win your contest.

Your goal once you acquire large numbers of fans should be keeping them. WARNING: Keeping them is more work than getting them. This might mean adjusting your content to fit the interests of the newly acquired fans. This might mean posting less often, or different times of day. Experiment and pay attention to the response you get and whether or not people begin to drop off.

Please keep an eye on your insights right after a promotion and base your retention goals on the number of fans that are geographically relevant.

Nah, nah, nah, nah…nah, nah, nah, nah… hey, hey, hey, goodbye.

Accept the fact, before the promotion starts, that a percent of promotional fans will unfollow no matter what you do or don’t post. It is that simple. They have no interest in you and never will. They wanted to win or help someone else win the prize you were offering, they are not geographically relevant to your business, and/or are loyal to another business that competes with you. Unless you want to PAY them to stay, with a constant flow of giveaways that work only to keep fans that you will never convert to customers…you’re going to have to let them go. Try not to be upset about it. And try not to measure the success of your Facebook page and its content based on the number of people who leave within a few weeks or months following a big promotion.

Don’t Get Discouraged

Instead of looking at the total number of fans, look at your insights to see how many new fans you are gaining while you are at the same time losing those low quality fans. Also keep an eye on the amount of interaction you get with each post. If you are getting feedback and positive attention – don’t sweat the total number. When you do the next promotion you’ll make up for it and then some, starting the cycle over again.

Reminder: Having 100 true and interested fans is better than having 10,000 who have no interest and no chance of converting into a customer.

**Originally written as a guest post for Crowdshifter

What’s the ROI on Being Awesome?

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(Originally published in Fall of 2010 while writing for Xspond.)

Have you ever wondered what the ROI is on being Awesome?

How a car dealership is perceived is everything. Customers have a long standing fear of getting the gold-chain wearing, oil salesman who is going to push them into buying without letting them decide for themselves. Pushing them to buy a car for too much money, that will break down right away. People are shopping online more than ever, avoiding coming to your dealership until the last minute.

So? Do you want them to come to you when they are done with the research process, and are ready to buy? Then you better make sure they know you are awesome. How? By being awesome! Make sure everyone who walks through your door, visits your service department, and comes to your website gets exactly what they need. Not only that, they get it in a way that makes them feel good, comfortable, and willing to return.

Be visible in the social media (and real) communities where your customers hang out, and answer their questions. Give away information! (And please, don’t try to sell them anything.) They want to trust in you BEFORE they walk in your door. How can they do that if they have never communicated with you or had a friend recommend you? They can’t! So, get out there. Be Awesome!

What do you think the monetary value is of Being Awesome?

 

Six Ways To Waste Your Time on Social Media

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(Originally published in Fall of 2010 while writing for Xspond.)

Subscribing to too many Blogs. I highly recommend that you subscribe to relevant blogs for your industry, but be picky, be realistic, and set an egg timer. The point is that you cannot be everywhere, you just can’t. So choose your feeds wisely. Following blogs won’t do you any good if you don’t have time to read, understand, and respond when necessary. You may want to respond by sharing with others, you might join the conversation, you might need to adjust something you are doing based on this new information. So don’t over do it, because if you read ALL the relevant blogs there will be no time to respond accordingly.

Reading every Tweet, Facebook post, or Status Update. This is similar to subscribing to too many blogs. You want to follow them because they have good stuff to say, but once you begin to follow a big crowd you can’t catch every little thing. So don’t feel guilty if you miss some posts. I highly recommend making Favorites Lists (“Groups” in Facebook) so that you can make sure to catch everything that the most relevant people have to say.

**Disclaimer, if you have time to read a ton, read as much as you realistically have time for. I think listening (reading) is one of the most important parts of social media marketing, but don’t kill your productivity by reading all day long.

Getting involved in too many different social media sites. Keep it to the sites that are most relevant to your immediate fan base. We use Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogging, Blogs, & a few select Forums. We post to a few main forums that speak to our industry. We comment on blog articles that are out there that are relevant and we can add some value to. And we write our own blog, on top of maintaining our Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube profiles. There certainly are more options for us, but this is where we find our specific community interacts. Your industry may have a ton of forums but not a lot of bloggers. It is certainly industry specific. Don’t be afraid to ask customers where they “hang-out”.

Checking your social media too often. Block out specific times of day where you spend 30 minutes or an hour, reading and replying on your social media pages. Don’t let the urge to hop over and check it every hour pull you under. Then the day is over and all you have to show for it is your social media posts and by then you are running out of good original work and content to talk about anyway.

Following or Friending people who are not a part of your community. Do you automatically let anyone who asks you to be a friend, be a friend? Do you automatically follow any Twitter follower that follows you? This can be a humongous waste of time. Again, you have to be choosy. Don’t let anyone who is not relevant to your business take any of your time or energy. There are many types of relevant people in this world; mentors, prospects, clients, industry experts, P.R. connections, local connections, you will have to make the call. The important thing here is to not let a bunch of spamming, get rich quick, time wasters get mixed in to your community.

Posting repeat messages or setting up automated messages. I know this sounds ridiculous that these two things actually waste your time, but let me explain. If you set up automated status updates through ping or an rss feed you are wasting your time and everyone else’s. No one wants to read automatic status updates. Everyone knows they are automated, especially if they are following several industry giants and see the same thing posted, verbatim, over and over. Those messages are not personal and will send your followers straight to their Unfollow buttons.

The second point is the repeated status update. I have seen many companies on many occasions who have a slogan or an elevator pitch or a special claim to fame that they use non-stop on their social media feeds. I have even witnessed updates like these containing the exact same typo they had in the previous version of it. I have also seen this status updated posted multiple times in the same day! Talk about exasperating. Can you imagine in your twitter feed, over and over again all day “companyxyz: We’re the home of the Award Winning Acme XYZ Thing-a-ma-jig!” Literally copied & pasted all day long? Not so good. #Unfollow

How do you keep from wasting valuable time while tackling your Social Media Marketing efforts?

 ********This article was later picked up by Social Media Today.

6 Social Media Marketing Goals To Consider

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(Originally published in Fall of 2010 while writing for Xspond.)

During a recent re-evaluation of the social media strategy of our car dealerships I had an a-ha moment. Maybe I already knew it, but it did not come to me in the same scope as it has at this moment.

Business is Business is Social

All businesses have a business goal in mind when using social media. They are putting time (money) into it, and need to get some form of business growth (money) out of it. Social Media Marketing firms encourage these goals – maybe due to pressures by business owners. We encourage goals for sales, lead generation, promotions, branding, buzz, product launches,…the list goes on. I get it. I really do. But isn’t this kind of backwards?

Maybe your goals should be things like:

  • Increase customer feedback
  • Reputation Management (to be fair, this is a common objective that I do agree with)
  • Increase customer awareness of your community involvement (w/out bragging)
  • Increase community involvement in your events & causes
  • Increase your knowledge of the behavior & demographics of your customers
  • Increase customer satisfaction through customer relations

Know Better. Do Better.

To grow (make more money) dealerships need to evolve the way they do business based on these invaluable bits of information. Companies used to pay loads of money for this by conducting focus groups, sending out surveys, and investing in third party market research. This expense encouraged businesses to take action as a result. But now, very few take action when they receive the same information — just because it is affordable does not make it less valuable. This is a prime opportunity to do better!

How To Tackle These Goals

I am a firm believer in the fact that you get what you give. (You will hear me say it many more times if you are an avid reader of this blog) If you consistently use social media to sell your latest sale, you will attract the sale seeking customers (great! if that is what you really want). If you join the community and discuss important topics that affect the groups of people who you want as long term customers – then you will attract those customers (and more importantly, keep them). Especially if you show a propensity towards responding and making change based off your conversations.

Sincerity is Key

You cannot pretend to give something and expect to get the same results as you would if you ACTUALLY give that something. Put yourself out there, genuinely be you and attract the customers that will naturally like what you do. And please, do it with grace, good attitude, and willingness. If you do it half-heartedly or with spite and resistance – then your results will be half-hearted with spite and resistance.

So I say: Choose the results you want! Give what you expect to get! Be patient — it will take people some time to trust that what you are giving is genuine and without a sales pitch. Especially if you previously have only given them sales pitches.

And, by the way, those goals we promote and talk about so often (leads, sales, profit) will come naturally if you focus your efforts on the immediate goals of gaining knowledge, using knowledge to make adjustments, and sharing knowledge.

Twitter For Your Dealership: Why & How

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(Originally published in Fall of 2010 while writing for Xspond.)

At first glance, Twitter might seem a bit silly. I mean, how much can you actually say in 140 characters? I have to admit, after much usage and experimenting, the value I have found in Twitter has been quite a surprise to me. So much so, that I figured I should help you get over that hump and get the most out of Twitter right out of the gates.

Here is a run down on why Twitter can help your dealership and how to get the most out of it Right Now.

Customer Service

The most advantageous way to use Twitter in your dealership is to listen for and encourage customer feedback. If someone is not happy with your service or sales they quite possibly could complain about you on Twitter. By responding to this complaint, you show your willingness to listen and care, not just to the complainer but to all your Twitter followers. It also gives users a quick point of contact if they have questions or concerns.

How: Use Hootsuite to manage your Twitter account. Set up a column of search keywords, use variations of your dealership name to catch any mentions of you on Twitter.

Conversations

Do you like to chat with customers & prospects? Why not do it on Twitter? By following local people on Twitter you can enter the conversation, whatever it might be. Someone posts a complaint about the weather or traffic or other local interest, you can jump in to show you care. This adds humanity to your dealership, which can go a long way.

How: Use the Twitter search bar to find Tweets in Your Area, and follow those people. Or use Twellowhood to find users in your area. Also follow back customers when they begin to follow you.

Share Expert Advice

Giving quick tips through Twitter about car buying, maintenance or service is an easy way to be the expert in your field. You already have the information in house, start sharing it. This will also encourage your followers to ask relevant questions through the medium too. Someone’s check engine light comes on, and they don’t know what they should do, they can and will ask you on Twitter.

How: Post quick tips regularly on Twitter. You can get a list from your service manager, or ask for specifics when inclement weather or news sparks a little buzz around a topic. If the tip is longer, use bit.ly to provide a short link to a full “How To” Article posted on your website or Facebook.

Customer Appreciation

Create a little bit of incentive or bonus for those who follow you on Twitter. While we try to stay away from selling, every once in a while offer them a deal that no one else gets. A super great service deal. A cash back offer on buying a car. Whatever the deal is, it has to be special.

How: Share a coupon that you have online but no one else knows about with a bit.ly short link. Or simply allow them to mention that they read it on Twitter to get the deal.

Growing Your Reach

With Twitter you have the chance to reach a lot of people. Say you are posting a great tip on car maintenance, you have a chance of being re-tweeted exponentially by others in the industry or car owners who think the tip was good and want to share. This is the easiest word of mouth your customers can give you. Good content from you and one click from them is all it takes to spread your brand.

How: #1 – Good content. #2 – Try and leave room for the Retweet, making the post 140 characters minus your @ handle + 3 characters. So if your handle is @handle – keep your post 130 characters or less.

Keep up with Industry News

Staying in tune with industry and OEM news is a job in and of itself. With Twitter you can follow all the relevant people and organizations in the auto dealership industry to keep up to date. If a huge recall is announced or a new car is launched, it will be on Twitter, in almost real time. By following all the right people you will never miss industry news again.

How: Use the Twitter search bar to search for OEM names and dealership keywords. Follow the people who talk about those things. If you find someone who is prominent in the Twitter-verse for dealerships, look at their Following list and follow those who are relevant to you.

There are many other benefits of using Twitter – but this should get you started. Do you have any great tips to add to my list?

 

“I Disagree with You.” vs. “You Are an Idiot!”

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(Originally published in Fall of 2010 while writing for Xspond.)

Use the Comments Field to Encourage Useful Dialogue (not to attack the writer)

Have you ever read the comments on your blog and found that it appears the person was reading something else when they commented? A complete misunderstanding of the point you were trying to make, or they read into it more than what you wrote?

I have! Words have been inserted into my mouth (or in this case keyboard). It appears when a commenter is struggling to make their point they insert anything they need to help their case. This kills the discussion. No one needs to be attacked for what they did not say – isn’t there enough attacking going on based on what they did say?

So here are my tips for playing nice on the playground. You won’t get a time-out if you don’t play nice, but you will quickly become the kid who has no one to play with.

1. Do not put words in the mouth of the writer.

2. Do not group the writer into a category of people who share this singular opinion.

3. Do not attribute opinions to the author that they did not state.

4. Do not attack the writer, attack the idea if you disagree. (I call this bullying)

5. Do not attack the intentions of the writer when they have not been clearly stated by the writer.

6. If you are going to be nasty to the author, have the cajones to NOT be anonymous.

7. If it is unprofessional to say it in person, the same applies here on the web.

8. Keep it above the belt.

9. Do not label a personality characteristic to someone based off one article – you being offended by it does not make their intentions malicious.

10. Don’t just disagree, if you really have a different opinion, give the alternate solution.

11. Don’t be rude. (“I disagree with you” vs. “You are an idiot!”)*

12. Don’t assume anything, it makes an Ass out of U and Me.

Did I miss any? What type of comment have you gotten that has ended a conversation abruptly?

*Didn’t anyone tell you that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar? Same thing applies here. If you are truly trying to make a point and you tell someone they are an idiot, they quit listening to you right then. You’d be better off putting yourself on mute, at least then they might try to read your lips.

 

6 Tips For Using Facebook Inventory Effectively

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(Originally published in Fall of 2010 while writing for Xspond.)

Facebook applications are getting very popular among car dealerships with the ever present Inventory Application leading the way. While this is a very cool application and a fabulous feature to add to your Facebook page, what does your dealership get out of it?

Is it simply mimicking your Web Inventory listing on to your Facebook page? Does your Facebook Inventory make it easier and quicker for them to show their interest in you? Does it inspire them to increase the frequency at which they interact with you? Do your customers even know it’s there?

Is a Facebook Inventory Application nice to have? Yes, of course. But it’s only going to do something for you if you are vigilant about engaging with your customers in a valuable social way – and if you get your customers to leave their Facebook Home Page and visit your Dealership Fan Page.

Here are some simple ideas on how to get the most out of your Facebook Inventory Application:

  • Advise current customers that your inventory is viewable from Facebook. You can do this when they are in your service department, when they are in the showroom, you can include the message in Emails, Direct-Mailers, and even share this information on your Facebook Wall every now and again.
  • Change your settings so that non-fans who come to your Facebook page land right on your Inventory Tab. This may seem a bit “un-social” but everyone knows how to get to your Wall, not everyone pays attention to your other tabs once they are on your Wall.
  • Make sure the Share button on your Inventory is prominent and the share box that pops up has an eye catching thumb-nail and a great headline.
  • Start a very geographically focused Facebook Ad campaign, inviting users to shop inventory on Facebook so that they can share their choices with friends — getting help in the decision making process.
  • Give a special incentive to Facebook shoppers; a small referral fee or cash back can go a long way to drive new people to your dealership, so that they can find out how awesome you are.
  • Keep a good stream of conversational content on your Facebook page so that when you do talk about Inventory in your feed (on occasion) you have an audience. Once someone stops following you, you lose them indefinitely, so try not to scare them off with sales pitches.

With 500 million users on Facebook every day, how are you making the most of your Inventory Application? What other services do you think you could offer right on Facebook to add quality to your Facebook Fans’ experience?

 

6 Hard Truths to Guide Dealership Social Media Content

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(Originally published in Fall of 2010 while writing for Xspond.)

There are no cut and dry rules for using social media as a marketing tool. What works for one, may not work for another. And getting started can be a scary daunting task that is all too easy to abandon if you are not getting the amount of interactions and conversations you want.

I have uncensored my self in an effort to help your dealership approach social media with the right attitude, even if it is hard to for you to hear.

People Don’t Care About You (the dealership)

Your customers do not care how big you are, how busy you are, or how important you are in the dealership world. They just don’t. They care about what you will do for them. So to make it very clear, do NOT post things like:

“We’re the biggest x dealer in blah blah blah U.S.A.”

“Dealer Name is working hard to bring you blah blah blah car stuff.”

And rarely, if ever post “We’re having the biggest sale in x years .” (Fans will skip right over content if you post sales too much. Keep it fresh, so when you do post a sale, they read it.)

People Distrust You

Few people trust car dealerships. It is just a long standing stigma that you have to deal with. The best way to do that is to put faces and personalities out there, humanizing your dealership. If your fans can see that Joe in the finance department just welcomed a baby boy, they can relate. If your customers get to hear the news that Sara in the BDC is part of a winning local roller derby team, they can relate. If they get to see pictures of the dealership owner cheering on his basketball playing nephew at the local High School game, they can relate. People like to connect on a personal level, so don’t be afraid to share.

People Need Incentive to Act

Why should people follow you on Facebook or Twitter? Would you follow you? Give them some incentive. Create content they care about (see Truth #1), and once you establish a stream of good content, draw in your relevant crowd with a giveaway or contest so that they can see your great content and make a decision to stay or go.

People Want You to Care About Them

By replying to people within your social media community for everyone else to see, you show that you care. Let the person running your page have an opinion on some things, making them realistic. For example: If a user posts a recipe for chocolate covered pickles – your social media team can reply that the recipe sounds disgusting. Keep the opinions in the harmless sphere of non judgmental Likes/Dislikes (don’t touch politics or religion or name calling) to create a good discussion. After all, if everyone agrees there is not much to discuss.

If You Don’t Listen, They Won’t Either

Pay attention to who your followers are and what they care about. If you post a comment about country music and no one responds, it is possible you don’t have many country music fans following you. Pay attention to what your followers are saying, and constantly alter your strategy to match their likes and interests. If you continue to post about the stuff you know and like – ignoring your fans interests, they will un-follow and you will have a hard time getting them back.

They Don’t Know What They Don’t Know

Do your customers even know you are on Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube? They aren’t likely sitting at home searching for their local car dealerships on Facebook or Twitter just for fun. Tell them! Put a few signs around the Showroom and Service department. Add the logos to your newspaper ads and mailers. And for goodness sake, tell them in person. Don’t you think that service customer would love to know that they could have saved $5 on their oil change if they were a Facebook fan? Tell them!

Your most Important Audience is Not made up of Men

This might be the hardest point to get across. Dealerships are notoriously filled with male employees. It is just the way the industry is. That being said, your key audience is NOT men. So, what makes you and all your employees read on, laugh, get involved – is not what gets your customers attention. You need to really pay attention, because in a family situation, the woman is making the decision. If you can get her on your side, then you are going to be that much better for it. While you still have male customers, you need to be sure to embrace ALL of your customers.

Help Yourself First. So You Can Help Others Better.

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(Originally published in 6/18/2010 while writing for Xspond.)

Here at Xspond we have spent oodles and oodles of time improving our partners social media, and our partners web sites, and our partners data bases, and our partners… (you get the picture).  We love this work so much and we are so focused that we neglected ourselves severely. If our business identity is our child and we are the parents, we are definitely criminals of neglect.

Practice What You Preach

Many of the ideas we push our customers to address in their businesses have gone long un-addressed in our own. This was a huge problem for our prospects. We show them what we are doing for our current clients, but when they look at our business (previously neglected) they have been a little bit skeptical because were weren’t doing as good of a job for ourselves.

Transparency Requires Vigilance

A recent transition sparked us to gain a sense of urgency in addressing this issue of self-neglect. So, we took a large percentage of the last two weeks and devoted it to Us! This process has not been nearly as easy as we had first hoped. While rewriting web content we had to vigilantly and repeatedly stop ourselves from falling into old patterns of telling instead of showing, of talking to instead of talking with, and of being a business first instead of being people first.

Exposing Yourself Takes Real Guts

Now it was time to tackle who we are as a company. Meaning, who we are as people. To do this we agreed that we had to let it all out there. Our customers need to get a feel for our personalities, our office atmosphere, our silliness, how nerdy we can be, our smart aleck humor, and every other angle of life here at Xspond. So we infused our website with conversational copy. Made fun of our Who We Are section with sarcastic humor, which upon first reading we giggled and loved. Then we hesitated. Then we laughed at it again. Then we hesitated. With a final determined and collective effort we let out a deep sigh of discomfort and just did it.

All Guts, Plenty of Glory

These two weeks have been essential to our branding and our growth; not just from a direct business perspective, but from a relationship perspective. This new found transparency and willingness to just be who we are has quickly lead to multiple opportunities to gain exposure, clients, and most importantly long-lasting connections. We’ve gotten interest from several news outlets on projects we are involved with, we’ve gained invaluable acquaintances that can get help from us and help us in return, and we have grown as a team internally – learning to really trust each others ideas and collectively come up with amazing stuff!

We have a better grip of the reigns and are now leading by example. We revamped our website, kicked off a new round of engagement and have even put some pictures of our ugly mugs on the website! How’s that for transparency? What have you done to push your current comfort level?