CHICAGOYou may not like it, or even understand its popularity, but social media is here to stay and should be a vital part of growing a tire and automotive service business.
One of the biggest reasons for a dealership to get involved in using social media is that Google is now using social signalsthe interaction between people and a businessand your content as part of your search engine optimization, according to Danny Sanchez of Autoshop Solutions Inc., who spoke to auto repair shop owners during the recent Automechanika Chicago.
So if you have a popular Twitter postsuch as flushing brake fluid on a BMWGoogle will index that post the way it does for pages on your website. When someone searches, for example, brake fluid flush and BMW, Mr. Sanchez said, There's a chance that in your community your Tweet would show up on the first-page search results....
So when you start talking about actual social media showing up in search results, this is no longer something we can ignore. It has to be part of your growth plans.
Dealers need to jump on the proverbial social media bandwagon sooner rather than later, so that they are not playing catch-up, he said.
Similar to several years ago when experts were urging businesses to have a website, I'm telling you today, as I've been saying for the last three years, social media is not escapable, you have to be participating.
It's just like the website of five or six years agothe people who got on early and started doing websites are still doing really well with it and they've grown along with it. The people who jump on late with social media will be just like the websites, you'll feel like you're running behind and playing catch up, he said.
There are people now who consider your social media presence just as important as your website in making a decision on whether or not you're the right place to do business with, he said. And if you don't believe that, look at the makeup of what's starting to come into your shop nowthe Millennials. What's important to them is very different from what is important to the X-Generation or the Boomers.
Mr. Sanchez listed a number of ways that social media can boost a service shop's business:
c Increases a dealership's brand recognition, especially since a typical dealership draws customers from a 10-mile radius of its store.
So what you're trying to do is you're trying to build a very hyper local branding business on social media and search engines by putting your business in front of people looking for a local business, Mr. Sanchez said.
c Develops more brand loyaltyBetter than 50 percent of the people who are connected to you via social, end up being more loyal customers, he said.
By being active on Facebook and Twitter, people stay connected to you even when they're not in your shops. This is especially important, according to Mr. Sanchez, since the average dealership customer only visits a shop about three times a year.
In between you've got to stay connected to them, he advised, so customers don't start thinking about another service shop when it comes time for vehicle repairs.
c Social media helps with conversions of people into customers. For the phone to ring in the shop, there needs to be what he described as minor closes along the way.
The first click when they choose our website on the search engine page, that's the first minor close. They look at the website and they say, 'This is a nice place to go.' They pick up the phone and call. That's another minor close. They decide to get on the phone and they decide to go in. That's another close all along the way. And part of social media is helping them to do that, he said.
c Increases a dealership's brand authority via its social media posts. Mr. Sanchez admitted this is a challenge for the auto repair industry. I'm not saying it's impossible, I'm saying it is difficult to do because our industry's social media is based on having conversations on a topic that is about as interesting as getting your tooth drilled.
c Increases inbound traffic as a dealership creates more paths to its website. You don't need to depend on people using search keywords that would lead to you....
Your social media account will drive traffic to your website.... It's a chance for them to connect to your brand if you are using a good brand voice on your social media and that has more lasting impact.
It's kind of like using videos. People will watch videos and they'll remember what they watched on videos 10 times longer than if they read something about the same thing.
c Allows for flexibility in advertising, as social media gives businesses the opportunity to start small and increase as they get more comfortable with it.
That is one of the huge benefits of social media is that there's not a huge cost of just getting started.... The cost of getting involved and getting started are pretty small.
However, he noted that most shops should not try to do their own social media. Unless you're going to devote a lot of resources to it, most shops shouldn't be doing it on their own. There are plenty of people to outsource it to so that you can participate in and enrich the content but not be responsive to everything that happens every day. It does take a lot of time to do.
c Creates a richer customer experience. When you interact on social media, it is an indicator of your customer service skill, Mr. Sanchez said. When people reply to you, when they interact with you, and you don't respond back, you might as well not do anything at all because you just blew the biggest opportunity.
Not responding is a problem. That's why I say it's very difficult for most shops to do (on their own). I'm not saying you can't schedule some content in there, use some of the tools like HootSuite or something like that, and schedule your posts out. You can do all that, but the problem is you can't go dark. You can't set it up one month and not participate again....
You have to keep paying attention for people to interact with you and look for ways to interact or engage with them in different ways.
c Provides a looking glass into a company. It allows people to see the culture, brand and interaction with customers. It gives insights into the type of company that you are, Mr. Sanchez said.
He encouraged shops to post photos of their facilities and testimonials, as well as content from other places to show they are willing to share information that's not all about themselves.
People get a positive impression of a company by seeing photos and stories about employees, Mr. San-chez noted. People like to read about people.
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