Social media marketing is one of the keys to building brand awareness, consumer interest, and customer loyalty. Whether your parts business is brand new or 60 years old, social media marketing is a great way to grow sales.
But sales growth isn’t the only benefit to social media marketing. Participating in forums, growing a Facebook page or Instagram profile, and interacting with fans on Twitter are all great ways to gain valuable customer insights. You can learn:
- What kind of content your customers enjoy – their humor, their hobbies and interests, etc.
- The specific problems your products help consumers solve
- Who is most interested in the products you sell, and how they talk about those parts or accessories
- What makes your potential customers angry, and what makes them happy
So, with the understanding that social media is about sales and consumer insights, here are six steps to help guide you in to social media for business.
NOTE: Recognizing The Limitations Of Social Media Marketing
Many people believe that social media can drive rapid growth. While this is sometimes possible, most of the time social media is not a customer acquisition tool.
Meaning: If someone wants to buy a part or accessory, they don’t typically go to Facebook or Instagram (or wherever) to find it. Instead, they usually go to Google or Bing.
If your company isn’t already working towards improving your Google and Bing rankings, and/or isn’t buying pay-per-click ads on Google and Bing, you’re missing the boat. Focus on Google and Bing first – just about everything else is secondary.
Step 1: Find Your Forums
Even in 2020, forums are still a terrific place to find enthusiasts who want to discuss modifications, repairs, and enhancements to their favorite vehicle. Usually, forums are make and model specific.
It’s true – forums as old as modems and slow internet. But they’re still quite popular with auto enthusiasts.
and many, many more (this is NOT a comprehensive list). If your company sells parts for a specific type of vehicle, your best bet is to search for that make and model plus the word “forums” on Google, e.g., “Ford F150 forums.”
Once you’ve found a forum (or two) that’s great for your particular product or niche, go ahead and create a profile. Plan on spending a few weeks or months participating to see where it goes. Some best practices:
- Be authentic. Create a legitimate forum profile by filling in as many fields as possible. Don’t forget to upload a real picture of yourself.
- Be honest. Don’t try and hide the fact that you’re working for a ecommerce site or auto parts manufacturer.
- Don’t sell 24/7. The easiest way to get kicked off a forum is to constantly promote your company or your products. Occasional mentions are usually OK, but that’s it.
- Be easygoing. Don’t say or do anything that might negatively affect your brand. If a forum user is critical of your company, kill them with kindness. Thank them for their feedback, apologize for their bad experience, and offer to help them personally. If that doesn’t win them over, move on.
- Put in the time. Carve out 15-30 minutes per day to participating in each forum you join.
- Most importantly, be helpful. Offer helpful advice and tips. Answer questions. Go the extra mile and make a phone call for someone. This is how forum relationships are made and reputations are built.
In addition to learning firsthand about what’s important to your fellow forum members, you may find a great testing ground for your site’s blog content. Once you’ve established a reputation on the forum and some basic relationships, you can invite people to review and comment on the content you’re producing. If it’s good, they’ll help you promote your content (and your site) by sharing it on social networks.
NOTE: Commercial participation on forums usually comes with a cost. Many forums are owned by a media company that requires commercial users to buy a membership, and this same company strongly encourages members to pay for advertising…we do not recommend advertising, but we think paying as little as possible for commercial membership has a good ROI.
Step 2: Follow The Leaders
It’s time to monitor your competitors on social media. Find other companies with a large number of social media fans that are similar to yours. Like and follow their Facebook pages, Twitter and Instagram profiles, and pay attention to what they’re doing and what’s working.
Not only will monitoring your competitors help you improve your own processes, but it will also help you learn why your competition might be winning over your customers.
What to look for on your competitor’s social media profiles:
- How often do they post? The pages with the most followers usually post at least once a day.
- Which content is receiving the most likes, retweets, and comments? Why do these posts get attention? What does it have in terms of content?
- How much content is original? How many posts or tweets direct the reader back to the company’s website, and how much to 3rd parties?
- If a post didn’t receive much attention, can you guess as to why?
Step 3: Decide On A Strategy
Your strategy for social media should answer the following questions:
- What type of content are you going to post and share on social media?
- What are the 3-5 main subjects or topic areas that you’re going to focus on?
- How often are you going to post?
- How often are you going to share your own “stuff”, vs sharing 3rd party “stuff”?
At Spork, we typically implement the following strategy: First, we post content that appeals to a specific type of auto enthusiast on a weekly or bi-weekly basis; Second, about 80% of our posts are 3rd party content, with only 20% of the posts being client specific or “self promotional;” Third, we post a lot of cool vehicle images, but we also share links to great blog posts and videos.
Also, while most of the content we post is automotive specific, some of it is more general. Patriotic imagery works great, as do money-saving tips, event notices, and posts about random holidays like “national donut day” are fun too. We stay away from politics, news, and any content that might be offensive.
Step 4: Implementation
With a strategy set, it’s time to start posting. Consistency is obviously important, but it can be hard to pull off if you don’t dedicate time to social media on a daily basis. So, implementation trick #1 is to allocate time for posting on a daily basis.
Implementation trick #2 is to use tools to help you save time. Hootsuite is a popular tool that you can use to schedule posts on Twitter and Facebook, which makes it easy for you to schedule a few days’ worth of posts in just a few minutes.
If This Then That (IFTTT.com) is another great tool for social media, as it allows you to “syndicate” your social media posts. You can setup a “recipe” in IFTTT to automatically take your Instagram posts and push them to Facebook and Twitter. You can also use IFTTT to automatically take blog posts and publish them on Facebook, assuming your blog has an RSS feed.
Our last implementation trick is to hire a dedicated social media management company. Spork Marketing provides this service, but there are a lot of people that offer affordable social media management services. Hiring a 3rd party ensures the posts are consistent, which is one of the big keys to success.
Step 5: Grow Your Audience
Image © John5199 (Sulcata Tortoise (5))
Once your company has a strategy and a system in place for posting to social media, it’s time to start growing your social media audience. Things you can do to increase your social media following:
- Post regularly
- Put links to your company’s social media profiles on your website and in every email
- Invite all your customers to follow you on social media in a dedicated email
- “Boost” posts on Facebook
- Coordinate a giveaway on Facebook (read more here about Facebook giveaways)
- Monitor your pages and profiles, so you can respond to questions and comments quickly.
The most important thing to understand about growing your social media audience? Patience is required. While you can gain lots of followers quickly by spending money on ads or running a giveaway, the best approach is slow and steady.
Step 6: Measure and Refine
No marketing effort is complete without measurement. While measuring social media impact is notoriously difficult (it’s hard to track social media for a variety of reasons), there are a handful of things you can do to measure performance.
- Track visits to your website from social media sites, and sales from those visits. Google Analytics is fully capable of measuring traffic from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.
- Track your volume of branded search. People who search for your company by brand name are already fans of your company and what you do. If you start a big social media marketing effort, and you notice a big increase in branded search volume, odds are good these things are related.
- Offer coupons and discounts exclusively for social media, and track the results.
- Ask people that follow you on social media to review your products and/or your company, and track the results.
Of course, you can also measure fan and follower counts, shares, likes, retweets, etc. But these metrics are hard to track back to sales.
Participation, posting, and patience are the keys to building a following on social media. Doing some research, adhering to a posting schedule, and responding quickly to online comments and questions will take your business to the next level and help grow your company’s fans.
Offering valuable content to your target audience keeps them engaged and your brand in the forefront of their minds. Your postings increase consumer trust and loyalty and lead shoppers to your site, so remember to measure traffic and refine your strategy if necessary.
Finally, if you haven’t already received a copy, be sure to download our guide How To Market Your New Auto Parts Website Online. There are lots of great tips in there, even for sites that aren’t brand new.