Social Media: The New Word of Mouth?

How do you get most jobs? If you’re like most shop owners your answer is simple: “Word of mouth.”

So why should shops care about social media? The answer is as simple as the last: Because social media is the new word of mouth. More accurately it is word of mouth, but amplified.

It’s fast. In the time it took you to read this far, one of your customers could have reached hundreds of people in a way that will never go away. Sobering thought, huh?

Dave Kerpen in his excellent book, Likable Social Media, writes, “It’s important to think of every customer as an online celebrity with followers, friends, and above all, influence.” Isn’t it amazing to think how much good a 17-year-old kid with 600 Facebook friends can do for your business? Unfortunately the opposite is also true. Bad word of mouth travels just as fast and just as far.

So imagine if that kid posts a picture of their repaired car on their Facebook page with a glowing review like, “Look what ABC Auto Body did for my car! I thought it would never be the same after my accident but they made it look like new again. And they’re super cool guys, too!” Bam! That message goes to 600 friends instantly and forever.

Now imagine that same kid having a bad experience with your shop: “Those guys were jerks! I would never take my car back to ABC Auto Body if you paid me! Steer clear, friends. These guys cannot be trusted.” Whoa! That hurts. Again, far reaching, instant, and stays online forever.

Social media has engulfed us like a tidal wave. Here are some statistics on current users:

Facebook: 1 billion+
YouTube: 800 million
Twitter: 500 million
Google+: 400 million
LinkedIn: 200 million

That is quite an audience. Keep in mind that almost everyone that comes to your shop is very active daily on one or more of those channels. And the absolutely great news is that it costs very little to be active there yourself and engaging those customers. Why would anyone spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on TV ads when there’s a huge, engaged audience accessible for free?

Where should you start? My recommendation is to claim your real estate with every social media channel by setting up an account with your company name. Then really go deep with your engagement on only one at a time. The first one I’d recommend is Facebook.

Here are 10 things shops can do to ramp up their engagement on Facebook:

1. Listen. Don’t just shove ads about your business in people’s faces. Listen to customers. See what your competitors are doing. Find some great examples outside your area that are really engaged and learn from them.

2. Put your shop’s Facebook address in your email signature with a simple request to “like” you.

3. Post relevant content. For example, “It’s snowing, be careful out there! This would be a great time to check your tire pressure since most accidents happen due to lost traction.”

4. Post irrelevant content. One of our most popular posts was asking for people’s favorite songs that reference cars. Dozens of people posted and many linked to a YouTube video of their favorite.

5. Show personality. You don’t want to sound bland, generic and corporate. Use your unique voice and style.

6. Contests. We run several “guess the estimate” contests a year. We post a picture of a wrecked car, ask people to guess how much the repairs would cost and then give the closest guess a gift certificate to a favorite local restaurant.

7. Post free offers. Right before a winter storm, we offered to fill people’s washer fluid for free. That quickly became our most shared post ever.

8. Use a photo of your shop as the large background picture, but the smaller profile picture should be a friendly face. It can be the owner or even an estimator—someone a customer meets when they come to your shop.

9. Set goals. Your initial goal is to try to get to 400 likes so you can promote individual posts to a larger audience for $5.

10. Grow a following. Invite your Facebook friends from your personal account to “like” your business page and ask all of your team to do the same.

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