Category Archives: Social Marketing

Why Google Maps & Waze will Crush GPS

Google’s $1.1 billion acquisition of Waze this past summer continues to be big news.  Waze, by crowd-sourcing mapping and navigation, is changing how we commute and how we shop.  Google wanted Waze since they were both in the Search business.  Google searches the web.  Waze searches the real world.  Unlike Google Maps, Waze’s navigation can be edited by users within its community- adding police alerts, accidents, road hazards or traffic jams.  This social mapping content is shared by other drivers, in real time, and is very valuable: drivers already use it on a constant basis to find the cheapest gas stations on their routes.  By joining forces, Google Maps/Waze combines the power of Google’s individual user data, search history, and Google+ social data  to offer laser targeting recommendations and advertising.

For OEMs and automotive dealers, this has several implications, as the panel will discuss.  First, the OEM or dealer that dominates the search and mapping screens on smartphones and tablets, along with providing targeted ads based on the users’ intentions, will win.  Second, for OEMs and dealers layering customer data onto the new database, the mobile search experience will direct consumers to local dealers for service or sales.  Third, consumers shopping for cars can be alerted when matching inventory is nearby, or offered fixed ops deals or incentives.  Fourth, OEMs will want to rethink current GPS strategies, opting for a Google/Waze GPS that’s tied to the consumer’s social network and search preferences.  This provides a more robust experience to both the OEM and local dealerships, with the opportunity to create targeted advertising to consumers during the moment of decision.  If combined with vehicle telemetrics systems, this software-based solution could determine service needs (oil changes, vehicle recalls, etc) and prompt drivers to local dealerships running special promotions through Google/Waze.

Why both Vine & Instagram are Right

For Social media video, the last few weeks have been very interesting.   Until the June 20 Instagram video launch, Twitter’s Vine app had become the recent darling of Social Media Video.  Vine, with their 6-second video format, is one of the largest app growth stories in recent history.  In the newest Internet Trends Report by Mary Meeker, Vine’s active user base grew from 2% to nearly 8% of iPhone owners in the U.S. between January and April.  I was among those quickly addicted to Vine videos, creating content, checking my feed almost as much as my other social sites.  When Instagram launched their 15-second version of a Vine-like app, the buzz around short social media video clips grew enormously, and both Instagram and Vine have since benefited.

Social media-influenced video continues to soar in popularity.  Online video audiences are projected to double in 2016, reaching 1.5 billion people globally, according to Cisco.  A study by comScore found that in April 2013, 63 million people in the U.S. watched a video on Facebook, and that among major websites, Facebook had the fastest-growing online video audience over the previous 10 months, and is only second to Google in video audience size.

There is also an evolution occurring on this content medium…video length is shrinking.  Face it, many of us have short attention spans, and we’re not willing to commit to watching a lengthy YouTube video.  Increasingly in our busy lives, we prefer to snack on video during short spans of times (waiting for our Starbucks, in between baseball innings).  I would argue that the 6-second constraint of Vine, or the 15 seconds for Instagram, forces content creators to focus on quick messaging, and quality, within those precious few seconds.  If the user likes that they see, they may be willing to watch more quick videos from this source, or potentially follow them.

 

For businesses who want succeed in social media-influence video, whether that is YouTube, Vine or Instagram, the message is to “keep it brief”.  Studies show that shorter the videos get higher user engagement throughout the entire video segment.  If you focus on producing short videos with great content, your audience will view them more…and share them more.  Businesses can be successful with gaining engagement on shorter social media videos by capturing catchy, compelling and high quality content, while cutting out the fluff and instead getting straight to the message.

So who is right and who will win, Vine or Instagram?  I believe they both will, since they are embracing the trend for quick snippets of video content, that delivers both delivers their message and encourages sharing and engagement.

How Local Dealers are Performing on Facebook Search

I recently audited how nearby car dealerships are performing on Facebook Graph Search.  Since my first article on best practices, I’ve talked to many local dealers who have tuned their pages for better performance.  Let’s dig in.

In Graph Search, I entered the string: “Car dealerships nearby”.  As a reminder, Car Dealerships is a fixed automotive category in GS, along with Automotive Repair, Oil Lube & Filter Service, Car Parts & Accessories, and Auto Body Shop.

Not surprisingly, the Jeff Wyler family of dealerships did well.  They have talented digital marketing folks, and have optimized their Facebook pages and built local engagement very well.  I was happy to see they are maximizing the number of allowable categories (up to three).  They’re also focusing on quality social engagement, not just number of Likes.

I charted some key statistics for the GS Page 1 dealers, and looked for clues on Facebook’s search algorithm.  As expected, the number of Likes is not the determiner of ranking.  It seems to be a combination of factors, with heavy weighting on “People Talking About This” and the number of Friends in your network that have Liked these pages.

Dealer

Likes

PTAT

Were Here

Friends liked

Categories

Jeff Wyler Honda of Colerain

524

47

1,670

1

3

Beechmont Ford

1,295

25

861

12

2

Superior Honda

4,062

19

320

13

1

Porsche of Kings Automall

78

2

157

0

1

Jeff Wyler Automotive Family

1,656

16

164

7

3

Superior Kia

2,062

13

198

6

1

Northgate Ford Lincoln

1,208

227

309

1

1

Jake Sweeney Chevrolet

678

12

195

2

1

Jake Sweeney Mazda West

69

1

78

0

3

Lexus RiverCenter

2,327

13

739

1

1

Superior Hyundai South

1,034

4

110

6

3

Please share your comments after looking at these results, and your local search results.  What best practices are you seeing that impact Facebook Search rankings?

Social Media for Tragedies

As the recent tragic events at the Boston Marathon were discovered on Twitter by a colleague, and then unfolded before me, it was a sharp reminder of the need for compassion, tact and etiquette when it comes to Social Media.  During tragic times, people are looking for information, contact from loved ones, where to get help, or how other people can help.  What people don’t want to see are insensitive Facebook posts or Tweets, either scheduled or manually posted, according to other agendas.

Like other similar events of the past, brand marketers and individuals were guilty of either conscious or unconscious acts of insensitivity.  The unconscious posts are typically either scheduled earlier in day, triggered to be spread out over time.  The conscious ones are posted by marketers attempting to take advantage of the event, sometimes complete with event hashtags, to increase visibility of their brand.  The conscious variety create Social hating for that brand, the most famous for the Boston event was Epicurious, the publisher of food and recipe content.

The Epicurious tweets were later apologized for, but after the damage was already inflicted.  Individuals will have already formed an opinion for that brand or person, and it will be a long road to rebuild that trust.  Epicurious should have learned from the past mistakes of others, take for instance the Gap’s tweets during Hurricane Sandy.

The Gap, knowing that folks were monitoring the hashtag #Sandy, took advantage of this and tried increase their business because of it.  Nasty stuff, and clearly the wrong way to engage during tragic times.

So what is the best approach to take?  That is a tough question, and one there may be no one answer.  I think you must put yourself in the position of someone directly affected by the tragedy, and gauge how they might respond if you were standing next to them and spoke your tweet.  At the very least, or if in doubt, brands should simply be silent rather than inserting foot-in-mouth.  Perhaps you could offer your condolences, but why clog Facebook or Twitter feeds posts from car dealerships who have no connection to the tragedy, simultaneously apologizing?

For the scheduled tweets or posts, that is a much simpler, but often overlooked fix.  You simply turn the, off as quickly as you can.  Or perhaps as Gary Vaynerchuk advises, don’t use them ever!

I don’t know if I would go as far as Gary advises, and never use scheduled posts, but I think you get his message.  Effective Social Media needs to feel as personal as possible, and scheduled posts rarely hit that mark.  If you are late in discovering a national or local tragedy, and scheduled posts have already gone out, simply stop the posts and issue a quick and sincere apology.  People are human, and they will understand that not everyone gets news at the same time, and something can always slip out.

So when can you resume your posting and tweets as normal?  Again, I’m not sure there is any single answer.  Once more I would advise to put yourself in the position of someone who has been affected, and get a feel for how long to wait.  Perhaps you slowly ramp back to your business-as-usual activity.  If you or your business is located near the tragedy, that may mean waiting a bit longer.

Of all the scientific and metric-driven activities we do, Social Media during and after a tragedy takes patience, tact, and compassion.  Your opportunities can wait, your audience will still be out there, have empathy, relax, and count your blessings.

Facebook Testing Ads, Reviews, Drilling Down Search

The folks at Facebook have been very busy both figuring out how to monetize Graph Search, as well as making some interesting functionality improvements,

Beginning the process of monetizing Graph Search likely comes as a welcome addition for Facebook investors.  Facebook is starting off in a very limited way with their first search ads, in that they are not targeted to what the user is searching for.  Instead they are simply using the standard targeting and retargeting methods used in other Facebook advertising.  The ads appear at the bottom of the page and only if there are multiple pages of search results.  These ads are targeted like other Facebook ads, based on the user’s age, gender, location, employer, Likes, as well as retargeting based on other sites the user has visited.

A much more powerful option for advertisers would be allowing them to target specific keywords that users might search on.  These specific lower funnel keywords would be much more valuable to advertisers and could allow Facebook to command a much higher rate.  Users who are searching and trying to make a buying decision would be served up relevant ads from businesses who have purchased those specific keywords in a geographic region.  Perhaps Facebook will move in this direction in the future with Graph Search.

The new option to drill down and refine your search was unannounced, as the new right-side menu suddenly began appearing.   I really like the new feature, as it not only makes life easier on the user, it also prompts them to find additional people or businesses that might be relevant to them.  Clearly Facebook is exposing more of their search graph to the user, so they can visualize the drill down opportunities.  In addition to drilling down, the user is also prompted to Extend This Search, by finding photos or videos from these places, or determining what friends visited them.

How can dealers maximize their opportunities with this new search drill down?  Make sure they are categorized correctly, have a large number of Likes on their business page, and have their location properly coded (see my prior articles on preparing for Graph Search).

The bad news for the automotive industry is that if the user simply searches for Places with no category chosen, there are no relevant categories in the drop down menu.  They would need to enter something like “car dealerships” or “oil lube & filter services” in the top Graph Search box.  Perhaps that too will change in the future, let’s hope so!

It is unclear exactly how the star ratings that appear next to some of these very popular venues are calculated.  I ran a few comparisons of venues on Yelp and Foursquare, and based on the large number of non-matches, they’re not republishing them.  It looks like they may be based on Likes, check-ins, mentions, and general PTAT (“People Talking About This” Facebook’s algorithm on unique users who have created a “story” about a page), since only very popular places show star ratings.  This would be similar to Foursquare’s algorithm, based on Likes, Check-ins, popularity, loyalty, and local expertise.

If in fact the Facebook reviews are an internal algorithm, dealers truly need to ramp up their social efforts.  Dealers will need to find new ways to increase Likes to their business pages, as well as increase engagement such as check-ins and other PTAT activities.

The Facebook Graph Search team will continue to refine this very important new tool, both adding to the functionality, as well as creating new options to monetize with advertisers.  I’ll continue to monitor it closely, and share my findings.

Hiring for Your Digital Dealership

I always enjoy visiting dealers and sharing best practices for social, mobile and digital marketing.  Often on return visits I’m proud to see the store has made significant progress, using some of the information and advice I shared.  However, there are other times I’ll return to visit dealers who haven’t taken any of the advice, and simply returned to their normal routines.  If I were to point to one single factor that separates the dealerships that make progress, vs. the ones that do not…are of course their people.

Jim Collins got it right in his book Good To Great; it all starts with getting the right people in the right seats on the bus.  Getting the right people on the bus starts with effective recruiting and hiring, and success in the digital world means changing your requirements to attract people who embrace technology.  No matter how many workshops or seminars you send your team to attend, they will never truly “get it” until they embrace, immerse and fall in love with technology.  If you want to have a successful digital dealership, then your team must be made up of digital-loving employees.

My approach on effective hiring is best framed out with three (3) questions:  1) Can they do the job?  2) Are they willing to do the job?  3) Are they coachable?  I look at every potential candidate on these three scales, in that exact order.  Let’s take a look at each one, and techniques you’ll need to be successful with digital candidates.

1) Can they do the job?  This is where we focus not on personality or coachability, but almost purely on skills.  You should start by creating a quick worksheet that spells out what skills are required for all candidates, vs. which ones you are willing to teach.  Once you know your must-have skills, you then start reviewing resumes (or even better, LinkedIn profiles since you get a feel for their digital engagement).  On the resumes you are looking for past experience where they might have gained your required skills.  Next, you will move on to the phone interview, asking them specific questions that will gauge whether they have these skills or not.  Don’t have time for phone interviews?  The truth is, you don’t have time NOT to do them.  How many times have you sat in front of a fresh in-person interview candidate, and realized in 5 minutes they are not a good fit?  Often we want to be courteous and spend 30-45 minutes with the candidate, before dismissing.  Your time would have been much better spent in a phone interview, lasting only 10-15 minutes finding out if they have the skills to move to the next step in the process.  In the phone interview, you want to determine how much knowledge and experience they have in digital marketing.  How computer savvy are they?  Can they effectively use a digital camera?  What do they know about social media? Can they effectively communicate with prospects and customers in the digital world?

2) Are they willing to do the job?  This can take place on either phone or personal interview, and I like to focus on past jobs they’ve had.  Will this be a step forward, or backward?  Why are they making a career change?  Since I know I will invest significantly on training them, how long do I expect them to stay with my store?  Have they shown a successful track record of hard work, strong results, and career growth?  Do they like to read and stay up on current technology?  How fast do they learn, and what recent technology development have they learned that they can share with me?  How do they handle conflict, confrontations, and angry customers?  Are they people and customer oriented?  I want to determine not only are they the right fit for my store, but also is my store the right fit for them?  My goal is to find long-term employees who can start at the entry level, and then grow into higher positions of authority in a flowing career path.  In this stage I truly need to look for organizational fit.

3) Are they coachable?  For this step, the candidate will need to present herself or himself in person, since you need to truly get to know them and their personality.  You should consider getting them out of the dealership and go to lunch or dinner.  You need to see them in both a formal and informal setting.  For coachability, I also like to focus on past relationships with managers.  I need to know why they left a certain position, and to find out if there was a conflict with their manager.  Sometimes this can be hard to pull out of a candidate, since they may instead want to blame it on something else…like the company was downsizing.  My approach is the same as we’re taught in sales training, to remove the objection.  Sometime like, “So if you wouldn’t have been downsized at company ABC, do you still think you would be working there?”  If you get an answer that says, “No, I didn’t always see eye to eye with my boss”, you now have some work to do.  Your goal then becomes to determine was the boss unreasonable, or was your candidate unreasonable?  The last thing you need is an employee who is difficult to coach or manage, since all of the skill in the world won’t outweigh lack of coachability.  You will be spending a lot of time with this person, training them and coaching them, you must have the proper fit and the person should be very likeable.

The lessons for effective recruiting and hiring are difficult to summarize in a few short pages, more properly would fill a large book.  In summary, when bringing on new team members be committed to changing the profile of your dealership adding people who are skilled and knowledgeable in digital technology.  Create your list of must have skills that you are unwilling to train for, and build a solid process for finding capable employees who can help you continue to be successful in today’s digital age.  Happy Hunting!

Dealers, Managers…You Must Immerse

One of the biggest challenges dealerships and other business people face is the rapid pace of technology innovation.  Just when a dealer or manager feels they have a grasp on where Digital Marketing technology is, new developments come to market that confuse the audience.  For many, this results in the dealers either making no decision, or very uninformed decisions.  Progressive dealers will attend training at conferences, read articles, and try their best to ensure that when that next vendor begins explaining “the next big thing”, that they have some idea of what’s being discussed.

In my new book, Unfair Advantage, co-authored with some of the most respected names in automotive retail, in his gripping introduction titled “The Fear Stops Here”, Brian Pasch outlines these challenges and assures the reader that the book will help them be more educated and informed.  He advises dealers to “…take one step at a time,” and embrace the change.  Brian is right.  The old adage that you must approach eating an elephant one-bite-at-a-time definitely comes into play with gaining an understanding of technology.

I also feel that is goes far beyond reading, attending conferences, and listening to informed consultants.  I would argue that you could attend a dozen seminars on how Twitter can help your dealership, but you still won’t truly “get it”.  In order to truly understand, you must immerse.  What does this mean?  Immersing means saying goodbye to your fears of the unknown, and instead diving right in headfirst.  In order to understand technology, you must begin to truly experience it.  You must sign up for, and use: Twitter, Foursquare, Tumblr, and Facebook, recognizing that early sledding may not be easy.  There will be periods of confusion, misunderstanding and general frustration!  But over time immersion will lead to osmosis.  Without even realizing the moment, you will begin to understand, you will begin to “get it”.

Dealers and dealership managers should resist the urge to outsource this to their IT folks, or people that already understand technology.  If you outsource it, you will miss out on both the true confidence to make informed decision, and the experience of trying and learning something new.  In addition, if the person you outsourced it to leaves the dealership, your knowledge goes with them.  New technology is not that tough, but you have to make a commitment to embracing and immersing.

So what exactly do I mean my immersing?  First it means stop saying, “I don’t Tweet”, “Foursquare is a time-waster”, and “I’ve got better things to do than be on Facebook”.  Go online, sign up for these services, and begin experiencing them.  Don’t be worried that at first everything seems confusing and overwhelming.  On Twitter for instance, you can start out by simply setting up an account, picking 20 of your favorite automotive industry folks (or others) and commit yourself to following them daily.  I guarantee that will only take about 10-15 minutes per day.  At the same time you’re learning about Twitter, you will also be learning about what is going on in the industry, what trends they see, and what they’re thinking.  Over time the # hash tags and @ symbols will begin to make sense, and you will start to “get it”.  It is only by this commitment to immerse that you can become one with the new technology that your shoppers and customers are using, and trying to communicate with your dealership with.  Another great benefit of immersing is setting a great example for the rest of the dealership personnel.  If you want them to embrace technology, then their boss needs to do the same.  Lead by example by diving in, asking them to dive in, and then learning from each other along the way.

Brian was right, the fear needs to stop here, and it needs to start with you embracing and immersing yourself in technology, before you’re left behind.