Social media and your online reputation management

First article in a two-part series


By Brad Smith


“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”– Warren Buffet


With more than 72 percent of adults on social media sites, whether or not you’re actively marketing socially, your customers are already talking about you. If you’re not active, you’re missing a huge marketing opportunity. The time to develop and manage your online reputation is now.


Social marketing, with an emphasis on fresh, relevant content, is a large factor in successful social networking. You can drive traffic to your website with the help of your social networks and blog. Stop hoping your customers will go back to watching commercials and thumbing through the Yellow Pages and go where your customers are — online.


Here are some helpful tips to make sure you get off to a good start in creating and maintaining your social presence.


Step #1: Creating your social presence


If you’re not sure how to tell the difference between being social and selling (a.k.a. spamming), a good rule of thumb is the 70-20-10 rule for posting content. Here’s what it looks like:


* 70 percent of your content should add value and brand building. Content in this category includes product or service information such as winterization tips, service awards, new product lines and more. You may also want to include community events.


* 20 percent of your content should be sharing posts and ideas. You don’t need to be the original author of everything on your social sites. By including relevant content from other sources, you’ll add value to your channel.


* 10 percent of your content should promote your dealership. Social media offers a small window for promotions of new products, in-store events and service specials, including end-of-season and pre-season maintenance.


Here’s a beginner’s guide on the dos and don’ts of posting:


* Do post content regularly. The key here is quality. Don’t just post anything that pops into your head. Really think about who your customers are and what they want to see from you — not what you want them to see. Know your audience and who you are speaking to.


* Do reveal behind-the-scenes. Don’t you frequent places you feel more at home and comfortable with? Customers want to do business with companies they trust, can relate to, and have a connection with. People want to be part of something bigger. They want to be in the in-crowd. By sharing what’s going on behind-the-scenes at your dealership, you provide your customers with the chance to get to know you and your team.


* Do share the good. There’s nothing more uplifting than receiving a favorable review about your dealership. Share the good word and post your customer reviews and pictures when they’re submitted. Don’t forget to add a story behind the image and to thank your customer for sharing.


* Do post event and dealership pictures. By using a simple social media app (like Hootsuite), your employees can easily post pictures and event updates directly to your social sites.


* Do promote your blog on your social channels. Along with your link to the blog post, be sure to post an engaging lead. Don’t just repeat the title of the article — tell them something they won’t find in the article.


* Don’t spam. There is a fine line between promoting your dealership and social network spamming. It’s OK to post a special event or to mention an in-house service special occasionally, but people on social networking channels don’t want to be bombarded with sales pitches. They get enough of that in their inboxes.


* Don’t TYPE LIKE THIS! oR tHiS. or this. Stop yelling at your fans by typing in all caps. (You know who you are.) Unless your target market is tweens, stick to proper typing, and keep your writing style in a casual tone. Most importantly, be human.


* Don’t go off-topic. Staying on-topic is crucial for encouraging engagement and growing your follower base. People subscribe to your channel for a reason, and every time you go off-topic, it makes your channel less valuable.


* Don’t smack-talk your competition. Never let your competitive feelings make it to your social channels. Even if your competition is embroiled in a public relations disaster, rise above it and leave it alone.


* Don’t use surprise pictures and tagging. Just because your dealership is a superstar on social media, doesn’t mean everyone is comfortable being in the public eye. Don’t publish photos, use location-based tagging, or tag the names of people who haven’t given you permission.


* Don’t divulge proprietary company information. Leaking confidential information may not upset your network, but it will upset the boss. Keep your job safe, and remember that what is common knowledge to you, could be big news to a lot of other people — including your competitors. If you have any doubt, it’s a good indication that you should check with the boss first.


Step #2: Protecting your hard-earned online reputation


Negative reviews are bound to happen, but don’t let a social media blunder spiral into a public relations catastrophe. The absence of a response is a sign of guilt. Worse yet, the wrong type of response could become a public relations nightmare. Here are six things you can do to minimize negative reviews:


1. It’s not you, it’s them. Receiving a negative review is really frustrating and oftentimes very personal. Your first instinct may be to give the reviewer a piece of your mind. Don’t do it! Step away from the keyboard, get a cup of coffee, and calm down. No one likes to be on the receiving end of a negative review. However, even if the reviewer is wrong, you can’t bad mouth, yell, or curse at them. If you’re solution-oriented, things will calm down soon enough. And sometimes, your community will come to your defense.


2. Do not delete the post. Show the quality and professionalism of your dealership by addressing the problem. Admit your faults, fix them, and carry on.


3. Man up. Respond to the reviewer just as you would if they were standing right in front of you. When you respond to negative reviews, try to find a solution to better serve that customer. Reach out to them by providing your direct line or email address. Ask for more details and invite them to have a conversation offline about their experience. Take the time to understand their point of view, so you can get to the bottom of the issue.


4. Say something. Whether you receive a negative or positive review, post a public response. The lack of a response to a negative review conveys to readers you’re not engaged online, and, as a result, the review will hold more merit in the user’s mind. Always respond to a negative review with a positive statement such as “We pride ourselves in 100-percent customer satisfaction; we have contacted this reviewer to address their experience at our dealership.”


5. Some people are just unhappy. Know that no matter what you’ve done to try to rectify a situation, a negative review may be the unfortunate result if you just cannot make that customer happy. It will happen. Apologize, express regret, learn something from it, and move on.


6. Ask your best customers for reviews. Diminish the impact of negative reviews by adding legitimate positive reviews. In our busy world, happy customers forget to take the time to share their experience, yet most of them will happily do so if you simply ask. Some dealers offer customers an incentive to post a review, which is another proactive strategy to consider.


Following these strategies will help you maintain a healthy reputation, and you’ll rest easy knowing your newly managed social media reputation is intact. If, however, what you just read makes you want to go hide in the closet, there are many online media agencies, which specialize in social media strategy and management that can help you develop your branding.


 Brad Smith is ARI’s Director of Product. ARI creates award-winning software solutions that help equipment manufacturers, distributors and dealers “Sell More Stuff!” online and in-store. ARI removes the complexity of selling and servicing new and used inventory, parts, garments and accessories for customers in the outdoor power equipment, powersports, marine, RV, automotive tire and wheel, and white goods industries. More than 22,000 equipment dealers, 195 distributors and 140 manufacturers worldwide leverage ARI’s website (www.arinet.com) and eCatalog platforms to “Sell More Stuff!” Smith holds an MBA from the University of Wisconsin and is an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran.

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