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Social Media for Humans: Keep the Social in the Media

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Social media has been a frustrating experience recently. At the time of this writing, our country has been through major tragedies with shootings in Orlando, Fla., the police-involved deaths of two black men and a rally that turned deadly in Dallas, where law enforcement officers were killed.

It seems like everyone on my Facebook feed has become an expert overnight in civil rights, law enforcement, and race relations. And they are not afraid to share their polarizing and provocative opinions.

I have seen online fights break out between friends who hold very different opinions and choose to air those differences in a way that belittles the perspective of their friend. Social media can be a great way to get a message out, test your assumptions and even engage in some healthy dialog. Unfortunately, more often than not this past week it has turned ugly as people seem hellbent on pushing an agenda and, in the process, pushing others’ opinions aside.

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What does this have to do with leading a body shop? Social media is a tool—not a weapon—that can be used to rapidly grow your shop’s visibility and brand reputation. And the approach best suited to gain a following is a very human one.

Here are some thoughts on how to humanize your approach to social media and, in the process, raise the visibility and extend the reach of your shop’s unique brand.

1. Listen first. As Stephen Covey said in his now classic book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” The order here is extremely important.

Occasionally even the best shops will have a customer that is irrational and will take to social media to air their beefs with a shop. If we approach customer complaints by first trying to understand where they are coming from, acknowledging they are frustrated by some aspect of their experience and then clearly and politely explaining what we are willing to do to resolve the issue or offer an explanation from the shop’s perspective it will go a long way. We may not win that customer back but the hundreds, maybe thousands, of people who will eventually read that interaction know that your shop took the high ground and listened first for understanding and then responded in a respectful way.

2. Let your personality come through. Often this means that you will use your unique sense of humor and your voice when writing posts or responding to reviews. In other words, avoid sounding like an unthinking, unfeeling robot when you write. Write in a conversational tone.

A simple tactic to test this out is to read your posts out loud. Does it sound like a thinking, feeling human wrote it? If not, try again! Personality creates passionate advocates out of your customers. As marketing expert and author Rohit Bhargava reminds us in his book, Personality Not Included, “Personality is the reason consumers love one product more than another. It is what sets great companies apart and it is about more than having a game-changing product. Personality can help you go from good to great. Personality is the missing ingredient keeping most organizations from becoming great.”

“No matter what, make sure you share stories with passion. It’s OK to let your excitement come through.”
—Kevin Rains, owner,Center City Collision

3. Allow other voices to amplify your message. People trust messages that come from people they know and like. And let’s be honest, while you may be gaining quite a following on social media (or not) you will likely not get the attention of the friends of your fans and followers. So, have them do it for you. I’ve written elsewhere about the power of having brand ambassadors. If you can get others to talk about your business online, your reach expands exponentially.

4. Write with passion. I am keenly aware that auto body repair is not always the sexiest of topics. And for those of us who have been doing it for awhile, it can feel even more mundane. But there’s a reason you got into this industry. Tell that story often! It is called your “founding myth” and it is compelling, even if you don’t think it is. It is all in the telling.

Did you have shop teacher in high school that inspired you to work with your hands? Is auto body a family business that you grew up around and slowly learned to love? Were you in a completely different field and then drawn into this industry? Those are wildly different starting points but all of them contain an interesting story. What about a big challenge that was overcome or the personal interests or hobbies of your team members? Those can be engaging stories as well. But no matter what, make sure you share stories with passion. It’s OK to let your excitement come through. And you can be confident that if you’re not passionate about your brand, nobody else will be either.

5. Write about a larger purpose that your shop stands for. Simon Sinek in his book Start with Why writes that what most businesses do in an industry is very similar. How they do it varies a bit as best practices are discovered, but why they do what they do is always completely unique. Most shops that I know of are generous in some way to their team or the community around them. Often this can take the form of a non-profit. Sometimes it’s simply providing a good livelihood for the owners and team.

No matter what your why is, it is important t-o showcase that in your online communication, whether that be on your website or among the many posts you feature on Facebook or other platforms.

Humanizing our interactions online builds both trust and visibility for your shop’s brand. Don’t be afraid to let your unique perspective, voice and personality shine through. Your customers will be glad you did and reward you with greater loyalty, reviews and referrals.

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