How can social media marketing help auto repair businesses?

Auto repair advertising has always relied upon word of mouth to generate business, but word of mouth is more effectively communicated these days online, rather than over the back fence. Auto repair shop managers may not be familiar with social media marketing, but this type of interaction with the public is not something auto repair shops can afford to skip. Essentially, it’s your way of engaging people who have never visited your garage and may otherwise never have heard of it.

What is social media? Websites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, and Google+ offer ways for people to form networks and communicate information with real life friends, business associates, and other people they only interact with online. You do not necessarily have to create and update accounts at all of these sites, but you do need to keep updating the ones that you choose to create. Facebook is, of course, the one most people are familiar with, and it’s a great platform for an auto repair garage because it’s so easy to share posts on Facebook and because the potential for outreach is greater than many of the others. If one person “likes” your post, that post is then visible to all of their friends – these are your potential customers.

What are some good ways to engage people on Facebook? The one that springs to mind – business promotion – is not the only most likely to bring in new customers. Yes, it’s a good idea to periodically post specials, discounts, and other promotions, but this should not be the bulk of your social media marketing.  One garage in Minneapolis recently detailed how they used Facebook and other websites to great success: largely by keeping it light and posting regularly. Victory Auto Service and Glass assigned Stephanie Gutierrez to manage their online presence, and she would post the kinds of things that are easy and fun to respond to: requests for input about local events (where is the best parking for ArtPrize, for example), or quick quizzes about things or people of interest. These did not have to be auto related, although they sometimes were. On a snowy day, asking your audience what their commute was like can generate a quick and passionate response. Posting a little known fact about a public figure on their birthday can also be fun. Stephanie also posted pictures of employees working or fun facts about cars. People are naturally attracted to visual stimuli – especially if the pictures are funny or cute.

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It’s also important to note that the more accessible you make your staff through your social media, the greater trust you will create with the general community. People are naturally skeptical about paying large sums of money to people they don’t know to fix problems they don’t understand. While you may not be able to make auto repair transparent for all your customers, posting pictures of your staff regularly will transform them for your audience from strangers to people they don’t knew very well but have now seen and heard about.

Offering information about how cars work can also help to build trust. This does not have to be complex info. Making a short video about how to change a taillight on a commonly owned car is a good example of useful information that will not hurt your bottom line. Posting tips on new auto-related legislation or updating them on which cars were named most reliable models of the year would also be helpful.

Other social media platforms will appeal to different audiences. Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube are visual media. Pinterest has a largely female audience, so it’s important to determine your strategy if this is a website you intend to use. It takes time, patience, and a trial-and-error methodology to fine tune a social media strategy, so be prepared to commit to the platforms you choose.  The long-term benefits can be significant. This is because social media isn’t just about exposure and engagement to the immediate audience, it’s about future audiences as well – the people who are exposed to your website because Google rewards content such as how to videos and articles on your business’s engagement with your local community with higher page rankings. Higher page rankings mean more exposure of past, present, and future content to a larger audience who may go on to “like” or follow your business on social media and thus introduce you to their followers – creating a virtuous cycle of ever widening rewards.

If social media marketing is one way you intend to market to your customer base in 2014, do some research on the pros and cons of various social media, and then put a social person – a people person – in charge of it. This is as important as making sure your accountant is good with numbers (and honest). Your audience will sense if the person managing your social media enjoys interacting with them, and will build trust and loyalty with that person – the face of your business online, essentially.

 

Social media marketing may not seem to go hand in hand with the pragmatic business of car repair, but this is the marketing you most need to familiarize yourself with as it will only become more and more important over time.

 

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