Ah, social media.
Even if you’re not on it, you’ve no doubt heard all about it over the last few months and years. And while the luster may have worn off on certain platforms, there’s absolutely no doubt that millions and millions of people – customers and potential customers – are on them, and that your shop needs to be on them if you want to reach those customers.
In other words, a social media presence is a must-have for just about any twenty-first century marketing plan.
But because social media is so dynamic (and sometimes volatile), you have to set up firm guidelines around your shop’s social media presence. How do you want customers to view you? What kind of things will you post, and what should you avoid?
Sounds like extra work, right? Trust us, it’s worth it.
We talked with Stacy Conner, Vice President and co-owner of Equipment Experts Inc., who has previously provided us with wonderful advice about online reviews and how a repair shop can build a sales team. We spent some time picking her brain about what sort of guidelines make sense and why social media – despite its shortcomings – is an awesome way to drum up business.
Social media starts, or in some cases lets you continue, a conversation.
This auto repair shop experimented with different types of social media posts and logged what sort of interactions they prompted. Over time, they settled on what worked; now their social media person works 3-5 hours a week, posting updates and interacting with comments.
But Fullbay, you might be saying, auto repair is mostly B2C stuff. I’m trying to go the B2B route. We get it. And guess what? Interaction that can win you new business. It doesn’t matter if it’s an owner-operator liking your Facebook posts or a fleet manager checking out your Instagram feed. “Every business is made up of individuals,” Stacy says. “You’re connecting with that group to help them solve their problems.”
If you’re trying to appeal to other businesses, remember that there are still people behind social media accounts. Build trust and connections with people over social media by being available and responsive to those getting in touch with you. It can lead to additional business, Stacy says, even though you aren’t directly talking to an entire company. “You’re talking to individuals who may influence whoever is making decisions or contacts,” she adds.
Overall, there’s two crucial groups of people you’re courting on social media:
Existing customers. They’ve already gone to your shop. They liked and followed you on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, or TikTok, so they probably liked the work that you did. This is a chance to keep your shop top of mind. They might not need a repair or maintenance right now, but they will in the future. If they see you posting on Facebook every few days, and are liking your posts, they’re going to think of you when they need some work done.
Potential customers. Without getting into algorithms, basically, the way social media works is the more people like, interact with, or share something of yours, the more other people will see it. How this works depends on what platform you’re on, but for simplicity’s sake we’ll point out that if you and Trucker Bob are friends, then you’re going to see Trucker Bob has liked Skywalker Truck Repair and often comments on their posts. Now you’re thinking about Skywalker Truck Repair.
Your business is all about building and maintaining relationships – with customers, with vendors, with staff. Social media just takes that conversation online, and lets it keep going even long after a customer has left the shop.
It’s Not a Free-For-All
We’ve all seen or heard stories about someone getting into trouble over their social media presence. They might be posting offensive content, or liking offensive content, or getting involved with groups their surrounding community doesn’t approve of.
This can come back to bite you if a large group of people start calling for, say, a boycott of your shop.
The way to combat this is through careful social media guidelines for anyone who posts as your shop. Are we going to suggest you extend these guidelines to your staff to use when they’re posting as themselves while off the clock? No, we won’t go that far. But it’s worth keeping in mind that in the wild and weird world of social media, your staff represents you at all times. If someone sees that Tech Ryan likes and posts to a group that wants to use penguins to colonize the moon, they may be sufficiently motivated to trace Tech Ryan back to your shop and start lobbying you to do something about his penguin interest.
Yes, that is a ridiculous example, but the point is you need to weigh whether you want to extend guidelines to your staff’s personal accounts.
In the meantime, here are some tips to manage your shop’s social accounts.
1. Figure out who can post.
Above all, Stacy warns, the people that you allow to post on behalf of your shop must be people you can trust. You trust them to represent your shop, to post the right kind of things, to avoid getting dragged into, say, an online brawl.
Beyond that, you may have additional qualifications. Do you have a particularly social media-savvy employee? You may want to put them in charge of posting or at least curating posts. Is someone a gifted hobbyist photographer? Let them take some interesting shots for your Instagram.
2. Create a list of topics.
What is OK to post about? Well, think about the following question: What do customers and potential customers want to see from you? A list like the following might be helpful:
- Shop walkthroughs
- Staff introductions
- Before/after pictures
- Holiday celebrations
- Humor (“Why did the semi speed up?” “To pass the DOT inspection!”) (Fullbay disavows this joke.)
You can check out the Facebook page of Equipment Experts Inc. and see how they apply many of these practices!
Stacy added an additional thought: “Always promote the good things you’re doing in the community,” she says. You are part of your community. Are you donating to causes that mean a great deal to you? Did your staff spend a Saturday cleaning up a park or beach? Maybe you helped a trucker who was behind schedule get his vehicle back on the road in the middle of the night.
Show people what you’re about. The more they get to know you, even digitally, the more you become other people and not just some presence on the web.
3. Figure out what not to post about.
Let’s stick with moon penguins. If they’re a controversial topic, you may want to avoid posting about them or liking posts and pages based around penguin lunar landings.
You know…basically all the stuff you used to not bring up at dinner. We could explain why, but honestly, if you watched a little television last year, you probably know why.
Obviously your own restrictions and guidelines will vary by shop and by region. Sort out your own beliefs to determine what will work best for you.
Keep Trying New Things
Ultimately there are no one-size-fits-all shop regulations for social media. Even if you follow these basic guidelines to a “T,” you’ll need to do some trial and error. There may be hiccups along the way.
That’s okay! We learn by doing.
Social media is too powerful of a tool to be left sitting in its box. You can absolutely use it to broaden your ties to your community and bring in new customers – you just need to be mindful of what you post. So get out there, make a page for your shop, and keep your conversations going.