Social media: Fact vs. Fiction
Social media has become staggeringly popular in recent years, with 74 percent of adult Americans using one social networking site or another. It’s huge – and it’s here to stay.
Social media has firmly planted the consumer in the driving seat, something tire dealers simply can’t afford to ignore. If you don’t have a presence and you’re not engaging customers on these platforms, then you’re not tapping into the world’s largest, fastest growing, most powerful and most accessible marketplace.
That said, simply having a website and a Twitter account doesn’t mean you’re getting traction. Understanding social media’s potential – and equally, its limitations – can be the difference between simply being online and sustainably growing your bottom line.
What can social media do?
Social media presents a genuine and significant opportunity for businesses to grow their brand and customer loyalty, build stronger client relationships and convert leads into sales.
Build brand loyalty
Social media provides a powerful and effective platform for building customer loyalty and business referrals, important activities for tire retailers. Research shows that consumers who follow a brand on Facebook or Twitter are not only more likely to recommend that business, but are also more likely to buy from those brands than before they followed them. The study also uncovers a growing perception of businesses that aren’t engaging via social media as being “out of touch.”
Create new dialogue with customers
Social media has undoubtedly transformed the way we communicate with our customers. However, it’s important to remember that despite the seemingly self-centric nature of social media – it’s actually not all about you. Too many businesses fall into the trap of using these platforms just for selling and talking about themselves. Instead, tire dealers can be creating new and sustainable dialogue with customers by sharing content that meets the needs, wants, interests and standards of their readers and viewers. Businesses need to get inside the psyche of their followers and keep the dialogue very much about what interests those followers.
What can’t it do?
Magically generate sales
Unfortunately, signing up for Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook won’t guarantee you more tire sales. It’s a high-traffic environment. Every 20 minutes Facebook’s 1.28 billion users share over 1 million links, request 2 million friends, and send over 3 million messages. In order to be effective with activity like this, your messages must be highly relevant to cut through the information overload. You want your activity to be seen, heard, followed and recommended by your customers.
Replace your website
Now that you’re using social media, you no longer need to maintain your website, right? Wrong! Your website is more important than ever. It is the only space where you’re not competing with other brands, voices and products (even if it’s just for the short time customers and prospects are on your website). Instead, you should focus on creating integrated online marketing activities across all of your platforms and frequently linking between them. Cross-reference at any given opportunity.
Social media misconceptions: myth-busters
Social media is totally free
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but as in life – nothing is ever really free. It’s important to remember that all social media platforms are businesses. They need to turn a profit. And although they may be free today, tomorrow they may start charging you for their use.
In his blog, John Battelle (entrepreneur, author and journalist) somewhat controversially advises people not to build their branded content on what he describes as “rented land” (i.e., social media platforms that you do not own). While this paints a pessimistic view on social media, it makes a valid point: don’t put all your eggs in one basket or you risk losing everything if these platforms change their terms.
Only Gen Y uses social media
If you’re picturing pimply teenagers as we talk about social media – think again. New research shows that while 90% of online 18-29 year olds use social networking sites, a whopping 78% of 30-49 year olds; 65% of 50-64 year olds and 46% of all internet users aged 65+ are on social networks, too.
People don’t really want to talk with businesses
Believe it or not, many consumers actually prefer social media for communicating with businesses (over face-to-face and call centers). A recent survey shows a strong trend toward customers seeking service through social media, reporting:
- 50% tried to contact service providers for customer service via social media.
- 64% are willing to share their social identity with service providers in return for better service.
- 48% want to receive relevant, personalized offers via social media.
It has to be all or nothing
Finally, many businesses (especially those new to social media) think that to be effective they must be active across all popular platforms. The truth is you won’t see any benefit if the channel isn’t suited to your business and your target market.
Is social media right for you?
Successful social media strategies strive to be consistent, interesting, innovative, genuine, true to brand, helpful and active in building relationships. Like anything ‘online’ your social media strategy must constantly grow and change to allow you to respond to new trends and opportunities. Planning, measuring, setting and refining your goals are ongoing for any successful social media strategy.
The first step is to deeply understand each platform and its purpose, potential and limitations. Closely examine what type of customers you are trying to reach out to and what sort of relationships you’re trying to build. Doing your due diligence will help you to then answer the fundamental questions: which social media platforms are right for you, and how can you harness their power to meet your specific business goals?