Jungle Guide medIn Part 1, we talked about the why’s of social media.  In this piece we’ll talk about getting started with the basic tools of social media: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs.  These platforms are all easy to use – that’s why they’ve been so widely adopted.  If you can surf the web and use email you have the computer skills to get started.  But you do need to devote consistent attention to your social media marketing efforts or you will be forgotten – it’s just like neglecting your friends.

The Community
Elementally, social media is about building a community – a group of people who are interested in what you say and how you and your business can make their life better.  Of course that revolves around taking care of their vehicle; making it less stressful, more economical to operate, safer and perform better.  They want to know enough about you to feel comfortable doing business with you and they judge that by who your friends are and what they say about you.

Look, when I had a bunch of kids at home, we wanted to make our house the place the neighborhood kids wanted to play at – mainly so we could keep an eye on what was going on.  So we put in a pool, had a trampoline and lots of snacks.  One daughter had a car-themed teen hangout in the garage.  One son built a space camp in the basement.  If you can make that kind of fun on your Facebook page for example, people will visit frequently and share it with their friends.

The Tools
There are a lot of social media platforms out there and they are making more all the time.  I find that if I focus on a few, I have the time to work them well.  So I stay in the mainstream but keep my eye out for other opportunities and trends.  Here are the social media tools I use regularly:

Facebook  The sheer number of Facebook users who are your customers or prospects makes it a no brainer.  Where else can you tell your story with words, pictures and video that is accessible 24 hours a day – at home, in the office, at the park, in the bathroom?  And whenever and wherever your content is being viewed, people can comment, ask questions and share it with friends.

I try to put something on our Facebook page several times a day (and then share it out through my friend network).  I have several automotive related Google alerts that give me links to content on automotive news, new vehicle reviews and automotive pictures and videos.  It takes just a few minutes a day to review these alerts and select a link to post on Facebook.  I’d classify these as interesting/entertaining pieces.  People enjoy them, which sometimes leads to a conversation, and it keeps AutoNetTV’s name out there.  I also publish information that we think will be helpful to our customers.    For example, I will publish a link to this article on our Facebook page after I post it on our website.

I would think you would want to include local sports and news, community events and charitable causes.  These are things that show the human side of your business.

Twitter  Like Facebook, there are zillions of Twitter users.  You have 140 characters to say what you want to your followers.  Basically anything I post on Facebook is also sent out on Twitter.  It just extends our reach and gives us another shot at connecting with people.

LinkedIn  This is the platform for business men and women.  Since AutoNetTV is a B2B company, my LinkedIn network has developed the most opportunities and business for us.  I would suggest automotive service professionals using LinkedIn to connect with vendors, fleet managers and peers.

You can join LinkedIn groups whose membership is made up of people with similar business interests and concerns.  Discussions and resources shared at the group level are very helpful.  As you contribute to the discussion, you become known for your expertise and perspective.

You can also create a LinkedIn profile for your business with specific product and service information.  Here’s what we’ve done on ours.

Blogs  I really see blogs as the anchor to your social media program.  This is where you tell your stories – Facebook and Twitter, etc. are where you publish your stories.

Blogging may seem daunting a first, but to tell the truth most of my stories come from things that happen at work: problems, questions, success stories etc.  I’m sure you have experiences every week that you can use as the basis of a short article that would be helpful to your customers and prospects.

I suggest that you always keep a positive tone.  If you write about a bonehead customer your readers will be worried that they might be the next one disrespected on your blog.  You don’t have to be a Hemmingway: people enjoy a straight-forward story with a good point.  But go ahead and run the spell-checker and ask someone to read it over before you publish.

A blog is most effective if it’s connected with your website because it gives you some search engine optimization love (content relevant to your business and a growing website) and you can link to it from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn further expanding your web presence.

Wrap Up
I hope that these articles have gotten you comfortable with giving automotive social media a try.  I suggest establishing accounts and just spending a month or so learning how to use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and your blog and seeing what other people are doing.  Then you can start implementing your social media marketing plan.  Once you get started there are tons of resources for how to do it better.

The important thing is to get started.

Lance Boldt is V.P. and Co-Founder of AutoNetTV Media, Inc.  AutoNetTV creates automotive social media content and distribution tools to help automotive service and repair businesses more effectively market themselves, increasing ARO and improving CSI.