How to maximize your social media presence

By Colleen Malloy

By building a social voice that’s engaging and authentic, you can position yourself as a resource that your customers are interested in following and engaging with over time. And here’s the really important part: Your dealership’s social media efforts can help you convert casual followers into paying customers.

While it’s been nearly a year since I’ve dedicated this space exclusively to social media, if you’re a regular reader of my articles in Outdoor Power Equipment, you know that I touch on social media and its partner in crime, your dealership blog, pretty regularly. Why? Creating engaging content and sharing it via your social channels continues to become a more and more critical component of your dealership’s online presence. However, it is important to be aware that social media isn’t simply about coming up with three to five posts for the week and calling it a day.

Creating a successful social media presence is a bit of an art form, but is it really worth the effort? The numbers say it is. According to Business Insider, social media increased its shares of e-commerce referrals nearly 200 percent between the first quarters of 2014 and 2015. 1 This means that social media is driving huge increases in retail traffic, and you can cash in by building up your social presence.

From driving in-bound leads, building your website’s search engine ranking, and serving as a platform for customer testimonials, if properly leveraged, your social media efforts can flex some serious marketing muscle for your dealership.

Ready to get the most out of your social channels? Review these key aspects of your social media strategy to ensure you’re getting the most out of every single post, tweet and like!

What to post

Your content is the meat and potatoes of your social media presence. Your fans follow you because they want all of the latest and greatest updates about not only your dealership, but related topics that will help them get the most out of their investments in your products.

Having a social listening plan is a good way to drum up ideas for social content, and it’s easy to do. All you have to do is pay attention to what other people are posting.

To get started, follow a few of the social media pages for your commercial customers and the brands you carry in your store. Then, take a look at three of these pages every time you log on to your social media. Chances are your audience would appreciate some of their posts. If that’s the case, share them!

A well-rounded social media presence has a good amount of shared content in addition to the posts you’ll create on your own, and it focuses more on building relationships with your customers than it does on selling.

Try to make most of your posts be about things that your audience will find valuable — lawn care tips from one of your commercial customers, the newest innovations from a brand you carry, or even links to your dealership blog posts. Use a smaller portion of your posts to build your brand by promoting your website or in-store events, and reserve just a few posts here and there for direct selling.

I picked the brains of a few social media managers from ARI to help craft a picture of how a professional who works with social strategy, day in and day out, does it. How they create posts or manage social platforms fell into four buckets.

* Audience: Keeping the people who are reading your posts in mind is key. Who do you want to engage with? What has worked in the past?

* Recent posts: Take a look at the last few things that you’ve posted on your social media. Did you talk about a specific sale or event already this week? What verbiage did you use? Try to switch your posts up by not repeating messaging that you shared only a few days earlier.

* Purpose: Know what you want to accomplish with your post. What’s the goal? Are you trying to make customers laugh and share the post? Do you want to direct traffic to a website or an event page?

* Custom spin: Try to find a way to tailor your content to your followers. Is there a community or local spin you can give this post? Is there a way you can make the content feel custom to your audience as opposed to canned and generic?

Keeping these four elements in mind when you’re posting can help diversify your content and make it more relevant to your audience.

Incorporate link building

By posting links to helpful content on your website, you can engage your social media followers and help build your website search engine optimization (SEO). This is called “link building.” When search engine bots crawl your site, one of the things they look at is whether external pages are linking to pages on your website.

Social media sites are seen as highly trusted link sources, and you can take advantage of this by sharing links to your site when you’re promoting your dealership. If you’ve got a big upcoming sale or in-store event or a new blog post, build posts to promote them and link back to the relevant pages on your website. If you’ve got an annual spring sale, promote it on your Facebook or Twitter page with links to your sale inventory, and encourage people to buy online or in-store.

Measure success

So, how do you know if your social media efforts are working? Many social platforms have their own analytics features that will tell you how many people are reading and interacting with your posts, and you’ll be able to track the data over time to see how you’re doing.

Facebook has a particularly robust analytics platform called “Insights,” and there are three key areas you’ll want to check out there. The first is the “Overview.” This is the page you’ll land on when you click on the Insights button. From there, you’ll be able to see an at-a-glance summary of your Facebook page’s analytic data. At the bottom of this section is a “Pages to Watch” feature that allows you to track your page against those of your competitors. It’s a great feature for staying on top of what your competition is posting on Facebook.

From the Insights dashboard, you can discover the times of day your fans are online and types of posts they like to see by clicking the “Posts” tab. There, you’ll find information about the best days and times for sharing content, as well as the types (status update, photos, videos, etc.) your followers like to see.

You can also learn the gender, ages and general location of your followers by clicking the “People” tab in Insights. A 40-year-old woman and a 24-year-old man aren’t necessarily going to be interested in the same types of content, so by getting to know who your fans are, it’ll be easier for you to craft posts specifically for them. You may be surprised to find that your online demographics vary from your traditional in-store customers. Think about what you can do to bring those non-traditional customers through your doors!

In today’s world, a solid social media presence is a must for any dealership. Keeping these topics in mind in 2016 will help you boost your social engagement and see a great return.

1 Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/social-commerce-2015-report-2015-6

1504_OPE_FS_Social Strategy2_author-Colleen Malloy-webColleen Malloy is the director of marketing at ARI Network Services. Prior to joining ARI in November 2013, Malloy served as the editor of Motorcycle and Powersports News. She is dedicated to the mission of helping dealers improve their operations through the implementation of ever-evolving best practices paired with ARI’s suite of award-winning data-driven software tools and marketing services that help 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!”

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