April 2011

Social Media in Dealership Environment

Social Media and Your Business, a Necessary Combination

By: Tim Votapka, Prosperity Plus Management Consulting, Inc.

Social media is intriguing. On one hand, it is a fascinating accumulation of technology with an uncanny ability to handle a limitless volume of data, 24/7. On the other hand, it is so simple to use anyone at any age or education level can navigate it with total dexterity. Sure, the same is true for the Internet itself, but social media has taken the game up several notches as a two-way communication tool, giving us the means with which to blog, post, link or share everything about anything without having to be specialists in coding, scripting or even basic keyboarding for that matter.

This point may be old news to the younger generation as any parent can attest. However, I’m not here to debate the communication trends of today’s tweens. That’s covered more thoroughly in other circles or chat rooms. I’m more interested in taking up the subject as it pertains to many of us at the dealer level, a good percentage of whom have not yet fully appreciated the magnitude and potential value to be gained from a simple social media program.

First off, what is social media? Well, your middle-school-aged youngster will tell you it’s Facebook and it’s better than email or Instant Messaging because everyone’s doing it. Probe a little more and you’ll learn enough to know that Facebook is indeed one of the largest social media communication channels around, with the capacity to connect people with friends, contacts, forgotten alumni, etc. with other landing areas of choice, based on their interests and preferences. It’s the ultimate matchmaker whether you’re producing a consumer product, or something for a business concern.

According to survey-based research from the Online Media Gazzett, Facebook has more than 500 million users worldwide, enough to populate the world’s third largest country. More than 30 billion pieces of content are shared every month along that line. That covers web links, news stories, blog posts, photo albums and those annoying notes from people who feel compelled to tell the world what they had for breakfast. Of the 500 million users mentioned, 100 million followers access Facebook through their mobile devices.

Impressive. Read on. LinkedIn, another popular social media site has more than 60 million users, half of whom are in the U.S.A., and all Fortune 500 companies are represented within that community. Nearly 12 million unique visitors hit LinkedIn every day and 80%of today’s companies use LinkedIn as a recruitment tool.

The figures are staggering and only go on endlessly from there. YouTube, the largest single repository for online videos receives 2 billion viewers per day and 24 hours of video uploads every minute. There’s so much content there to see that if you really wanted to watch it all, you’d have to live approximately 1,000 years. And by the way, more than half of the YouTube users are younger than 20 years of age so there’s your up-and coming employee pool, well-entrenched and well indoctrinated in the art.

Okay, so clearly the whole social media thing is no passing fancy. No, social media has made its mark as a reference point for communication, far more than many may be ready to acknowledge. Maybe it is hard to take the word “Tweet” seriously if you’re the president of your business. Blogging may not sound like a very sophisticated way to get good P.R. going for your organization. Be that as it may, these are the tools of the trade and they are in widespread use whether you’re with the program or not. Networking no longer means dropping cards around a table a local chamber of commerce. It’s taken on a whole new context in a matter of months, and the good news is it is completely within your sphere of influence and control.

For example, look at the public relations opportunity. Traditionally, PR, if done at all, was handled on a reactionary basis. One would issue a news release, disseminate it to a group of media contacts and hope it would be picked up if enough persistence or favors were on the line. Today you can use any one of the available social media sites to disseminate your news, or embed links within your emails that literally patch your information, your presentations or webinars to countless users worldwide at very little cost. The value of that reach can’t be denied, not when you back your PR/social media campaign up with a stable website, and then watch the metrics on a regular basis. It’s perhaps the most effective way to “bring” your company, your capabilities and products out to your public than any other line thus far.

Not too long ago, we ran an experiment ourselves. Using LinkedIn’s platform, we set up a discussion group for office products dealers. Creating the group cost nothing except the time it took to write up the purpose of the group and send invitations to contacts already within our database. Inside of a week from “go live” we had over 250 members and twice that in the first six months. Many of these group members are clients or friendly industry contacts, but the vast majority of them are NEW decision makers who now see our information and content on a regular basis. And many of these came into the group by way of referral from another contact who recommended or “shared” the group via email. The cost? Zero. The gain – tremendous in terms of visibility.

So it’s easy to see social media has the power to make things happen. Being able to set it all down in a simple, manageable program can appear to be a task with no end in sight. Much of this will be outlined in a free webinar presented by Prosperity Plus on Thursday, April 28 at Noon (Eastern). Anyone who wants to attend that event can simply register by pasting this link to their browser: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/414879955, or you can follow us on LinkedIn, FaceBook, or Twitter. We’re there. We may not want to call it “Tweeting,” but we’re there.

Tim Votapka is the Vice President of Prosperity Plus Management Consulting, Inc. He is a veteran PR and marketing communications professional who’s handled promotional programs for clients in a wide variety of industries. He may be reached at 631-382-7762 or by email at tvotapka@prosperityplus.com