Social Media Outside of the Mainstream
By Kim McWatt
When you think of the types of organizations using social media technologies, most people would automatically think of fashion retailers, restaurants, or big corporate brands / manufacturers. It’s actually quite exciting to see other industries starting to embrace social media in their marketing tactics. Clearly, any company who needs to connect with their customers should consider social media as part of their communications mix.
An interesting example came to my attention in the April 2010 edition of Bodyshop magazine. The article titled “Social Settings” by J.D. Ney talks about the “newfangled” world of social media and provides a case study for bodyshops and collision repair facilities to model themselves after.
To differentiate themselves in a competitive market, many collision repair turn to traditional media choices like flyers, radio and direct mail to message their customers. For others, the time is ripe to put some effort into non-traditional media. With a changing consumer demographic, focusing only on baby boomers (their current customer base) will not promote future sales growth.
According to Chris Sheehy, president of Autobody Consulting Group in Rhode Island, “That younger age bracket relies heavily on word of mouth, and more importantly, the kind of referrals and testimonials you get with social media. They simply won’t believe something that comes from a company website. They believe and interpret what others are saying about it. So, they’re very dependent on the Internet to get this information. If they can’t find you there, or find out what people are saying about you there, then they’re not going to get to know you.”
A social media usage poll done on bodyshopbiz.com indicated that less than half of respondents had any kind of social media strategy at all. Early adopters, like South Barrie Collision, the case study presented in the article, highlights the opportunities social media can open up for early adopters of this communications strategy.
What the South Barrie Collision story underscores three key points:
- Monitor your audience: Periodically review who is actually following and responding to your Tweets or Facebook updates. It’s not about how many people you reach, but WHO you reach which is more important. Identifying a small group of highly engaged and energized potential customers is more rewarding than hundreds of somewhat interested followers. South Barrie Collision first focused on the end customer, but then recognized their followers were more in the insurance business and changed their communications accordingly to maintain visibility with insurance brokers too.
- Test – learn – adjust: As with any marketing campaign, you need to start with a solid strategy. But you also need to be flexible and adjust your strategy as needed. South Barrie Collision constantly adjusts their message to not only focus on their shop – they provide advice, tips, news, fun “stuff” in order to maintain engagement with their audience
- Social media requires commitment: Do you want to create a short term interaction or are you committed to work towards a long term relationship with your customers? As the Sheehy points out “”I search around and see a lot of bodyshops who have a presence in this space, but I see an awful lot of one-liners…” Social media requires constant attention; otherwise, long-term benefits will never be realized.
Social media is not only for the retailers, restaurants, and big corporate brands in the world. It can work for any company who wants to seriously engage with their customers and build strong relationships. From commercial truck dealers, independent automotive or truck repair facilities, to tow truck operators or vehicle rental shops – develop a social media strategy that works for your business and follow through. It’s time to get the conversation started.
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