AKRON (April 14, 2014) — I recently attended two valuable events where I had the opportunity to listen to and speak with some social media experts, and I wanted to share some of the insight I learned.
During the New England Tire & Service Association's (NETSA) annual meeting on April 5 at the Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Ledyard, Conn., panelists participating in the “Marketing in the Time of No Magic Bullets” discussion gave some great advice for tire dealers on where to focus their marketing dollars—including online.
Mark Rochefort, of Vermont Tire & Service, served as the moderator for the discussion and advised dealers spending marketing dollars on Yellow Pages to focus elsewhere. He said the majority of people are not going to Yellow Pages anymore, so even though you want to make sure your shop's information is correct on the website, you should not be spending additional dollars there. He pointed to a statistic he read recently, noting that even in the bracket of people aged 55 and older, only 40 percent had opened a phone book in the last year.
He said flyer/direct mailings also are on the decline. Mark said he actually had a customer complain to him that he had sent out a flyer because he was wasting paper.
Along with Mark, William Martellaro, of Net Driven; Shawn McKenzie, of Carroll Tire Co.; and Wayne Croswell, of WECnology served on the panel.
Quick hits of building online
The four expert panelists spoke a lot about building your brand online, but there were some points that really stood out:
- People are caring more about visual online. Mark explained the top private YouTube channel, is getting 267 million hits a month now. This shows that people are not only moving online, but they are watching videos on this platform.
- It's all about mobile, mobile, mobile. Wayne explained that there are more people searching the Internet on their mobile phones than on their PCs.
Mark said you need to look at your online persona just as closely as you look at the exterior of your building or your showroom. He looked at Vermont Tire's website statistics and saw that last January, 26 percent of the users were coming in from mobile. This January, it spiked up to 53 percent.
“If you're not online, if you're not on social, you're not even in the game,” he added.
- Wayne said all dealers need to take a look at what Carfax is doing with the myCARFAX app that allows users to keep their entire car service schedule and vehicle service history. He said it is something you can participate in; you just have to sign up with Carfax as a partner.
“It's going to let your customers be able to figure out what they need on their vehicle, track their service and get prices,” he said.
- Master your social media presence. People are on social media more than ever. They are not going on social media to buy tires, so that is why you want to focus on engaging with them and not selling to them. Shawn extended this thought by pointing out that people are connecting with friends on Facebook for business recommendations. If you have an active page, they can link to you. And one of the biggest things you need to remember is the people who have liked your page. Remember to engage them and not only care about how many likes you are getting.
- Online reviews. People are leaving reviews about businesses online. Wayne said that having one or two negative reviews on third-party sites is okay, as long as you respond. Everyone has a bad day. In fact, if there are only really positive reports about your business online, Wayne said that consumers may be skeptical. They respond to you acknowledging there may have been a mistake and this is how it is fixed.
For more of Shawn McKenzie's advice on social media, check out Social media tips from an industry expert.
Biggest missteps for businesses on social
After sitting in that session, I had about two weeks to absorb and process everything I heard before heading over to the YouToo Social Media Conference on April 11 at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. During the event, local professionals shared their wisdom and ideas about social media. I learned so much, and it definitely got my brain turning about everything social.
One of the most informative sessions was another panel discussion featuring three professionals answering questions from the crowd. The part that really stood out to me is when they started speaking about the biggest missteps businesses can make online.
Amanda Kleinhenz, a social media strategist with strategic communications agency AKHIA, said that after making a post, you want to make sure you continue to engage. She said too often she sees all this effort going into a post before it happens and then after it gets posted, everyone goes back to the drawing board for the next one. If people are commenting or sharing on the post, you want to recognize that and respond.
Amy Martin, vice president of brand and innovation for The Centers in Ohio, added that not responding to a person posting on your page is like a person walking up to you and saying hello and you saying nothing back. This is not a good business practice in person at your shop, and it's not good practice online, either.
Amanda said another misstep she sees is that businesses post the same thing across all platforms. The same content may not work across the board, and how the information is received may be different.
Eric Barrett, marketing specialist with the Cleveland Metroparks, added that you want to know where your content is going. He said sometimes businesses will start a social media program and just do too many all at once. He advises businesses to start with a few and learn how to use them properly before going on all of them.
He said, for instance, on Instagram, users will use a lot of hashtags. That is normal for Instagram, but on other sites, one or two hashtags is the norm. You have to learn the differences between the sites.
Eric gave some other really good tips. He said you want to know when to answer a question online and when to take it offline. You do not know what to take everything offline because if it is a simple answer, other people may benefit from it. Two reasons to take it offline would be: 1) If someone higher up in the company needs to give a more detailed answer. 2) The person is completely unreasonable and you are unable to have a conversation online, in which case it might be best to follow up with a personal phone call or email.
Eric also said not having a blog is a big misstep because it is the place where a business can form its voice on its website and get out information.
Amy said as far as strategy, it's a misstep to think it does not need to shift. She said at The Centers, they probably shift about once a month. She added that it is important to have consistency throughout your social media sites so the business has a common voice. This also means that senior management needs to know what is going on, which is another misstep she sees. If you are building the brand's voice, senior management should be a part of that, if it is not, it might look like an intern is running the pages.
Ultimately, Amy said companies should know where their weak spots are. You should know what questions might be asked or what people might want more information on. Be careful who you have responding in those areas. If it is someone untrained, then they may be relying on inaccurate information. Social media is a way for customers and potential customers to reach out to you, and you want to make sure you are giving back the correct answers.
Amanda made a great point when she said that in marketing, there has been a shift from the term “social media marketing” to an integration of social media into overall marketing plans. In other words, social media marketing is not just something that some people are doing—it is something that has become a norm in the business.
This is something I think the tire industry—especially the independent tire dealer—needs to think about. It's no longer something that just the big companies are doing. It's not even something that just the medium size dealers are doing. The guy down the street is probably doing it, and you do not want him to be able to take your customers. You want that engagement.