Everybody knows that social media platforms have become popular marketing avenues for just about any business—including collision repair shops. Repairers across the country are jumping onboard to improve community awareness and customer loyalty. And marketing consultants say Facebook in particular is among the most affordable—it’s free aside from the time you put into it—alternatives to traditional advertising methods.
But it’s easier said than done. You can’t just create a Facebook page and expect customers to come knocking.
“Many shops get a Facebook page, but leave it inactive for a long time,” says Jordan Hendler, president of social media consulting firm Admin Concepts Inc., based in Mechanicsville, Va. “An inactive page is the same as having a ‘closed’ sign on your door. Customers like to see that the lights are on.”
It’s not just customers; Facebook developers also expect businesses to remain active on the site, or you could get penalized in a way that reduces your prominence among connections. But avoiding those penalties is easy with a little knowledge of how Facebook functions and regular attention to your page. Here’s a primer on how to make this marketing tool work for you through some simple tactics that shops of all sizes can easily implement.
“Most shops get tied up with how many people ‘like’ them, but lose sight of how much traffic they actually get,” Hendler says.
Hendler says Facebook uses a complicated formula called EdgeRank to decide which content you post will be displayed on Facebook users’ news feeds. The formula is heavily based on user interaction and engagement with your page content. It’s called an “Edge” when one of your connections interacts with content you publish, such as status updates, videos or photos, Hendler says.
For example, your EdgeRank increases with the more “likes,” shares, tags and comments your posts receive. The lower your EdgeRank is, the fewer people who will see your posts. You want your EdgeRank to be as high as possible to maximize your chances of appearing in news feeds, Hendler says.
(Visit edgerankchecker.com to find out what your shop’s EdgeRank is.)
Generating Facebook interaction isn’t only critical for your EdgeRank, but also in developing relationships with your audience.
Sam Clark, marketing and social media manager for International Collision Repair Center in Columbus, Ohio, has a few basic tips that could help you out.
Clark, who worked as a social media consultant prior to joining the shop in January, found the company’s Facebook situation in tough shape when he first came onboard. Due to inconsistent activity, the shop only had 53 “likes,” and was only reaching 10 percent of those connections because of a poor EdgeRank. He says participation on the shop’s page had to increase to become more prominent among its connections—and to be able to acquire more.
So Clark developed an organized Facebook strategy. It’s a full, thought-out game plan focused on achieving two main goals: increase the shop’s EdgeRank and local brand recognition.
He started by developing a month-long editorial calendar for the shop’s daily Facebook activity. He spends time at the beginning of each month carefully planning out updates, images and Web links that will be posted each day. Clark says that allows him to pre-schedule automatic posts through a program called HootSuite all at once. He doesn’t have to scramble to find relevant content at the last minute, and helps him maintain a consistent presence.
“It saves a lot of time to have everything planned out in advance,” Clark says. “When you’re busy running a body shop, the last thing you want to be worried about is managing a Facebook page. This adds efficiency to your social media efforts.”
Clark’s editorial calendar isn’t just comprised of basic promotional items, either. It’s a daily mix of status updates, photos and various Web links that provide Facebook users with value—both informative and that make them smile.
Here are a few examples that your shop can quickly put into action:
Contests. International Collision has a roadside sign on which the shop posts funny sayings and quotes. Clark says people routinely make comments about it, so he turned it into an opportunity for Facebook interaction. People submit suggestions for the next sign quote via Facebook, and the funniest one gets featured with their name.
“That gets people to smile and engage with our page in a happy and fun way that keeps them checking back,” Clark says. “People begin to feel like our family and that they have some stock in our brand, which is what we want them to feel. That’s what I’m trying to achieve; that’s what builds trust.”
Website links. Clark says he posts at least one link each day to something that consumers would likely find interesting or valuable, such as vehicle maintenance tips, or articles on how to improve gas mileage. He says that helps Facebook users know you’re not just out to make a sale, making them more likely to continue engaging.
It is important to periodically drive people back to your own website, though. You just can’t make it too obvious because self-promotional posts tend to turn people off, Clark says. They may hide your posts on their news feed, or simply “unlike” you. He suggests finding a helpful piece of information on your website, such as insurance processes, to direct people to.
If you do that, Clark says, make sure to post a direct link to the content you’re referring to so it’s easy to find. Don’t dump people onto your home page and make them dig around for information.
Deals. In attempts to gain business for non-collision work, Clark does periodically make posts about Facebook-only discounts on detailing services, and provides a Web link to the various packages the shop offers. He says that serves as a way to thank the shop’s connections for engaging with them.
One woman who recently took advantage of the deal, posted an “after” photo to her page, along with a raving review, and tagged International Collision in the message. That post gets seen by each of that woman’s friends, which furthers the shop’s Facebook reach and branding efforts, Clark says.
You can get a feel for your shop’s daily Facebook reach by analyzing the “insights” metrics on your company’s page.
Photos. People love to see photos on Facebook, Clark says. People don’t usually get to see behind the scenes, and often like to see the process their car goes through in the facility.
Clark posts before and after photos of repairs, images of paint jobs in progress, and images of previous unsafe repairs that technicians often find during teardowns of vehicles. Clark even regularly posts staff photos so people can get to know employees.
Fun things and jokes. Clark says it’s important to periodically post things that are fun and make people laugh. For example, he recently posted an image of an El Camino that had been restored as a hot tub.
“We want people to come to our page and smile,” Clark says, noting that really helps drive “likes” on posts. “That’s what makes people want to come back.”
In addition to what content you post, the way you manage your page also impacts your overall success. Here’s what Clark has done to make sure International Collision’s Facebook page gets noticed by as many people as possible, which your shop can easily do, too:
Analyze your posts. Clark says he’s been analyzing when his high volume of interactions occur—how many “likes” or comments he receives, and when he receives them. He says it’s important to know when your busy and slow times of day tend to be because your EdgeRank is also affected by the amount of time that passes between when a post is made and when someone interacts with it. The longer it takes to generate engagement, the lower your rank is.
Clark says International Collision’s busiest time is from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., and from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. each day. “Posting at other times of day is not beneficial because it gets lost in news feeds and hurts our EdgeRank.”
Respond to user comments. Clark says this is important for two reasons.
First, that’s another factor that impacts your EdgeRank. Second, it shows users that you care.
“Customers took the time to ‘like’ your page and leave a comment, so it’s your responsibility to give them something back,” Clark says.
Make a cover photo. Clark says the new timeline format on Facebook now allows for much more creativity with your page design—especially with cover images. He suggests making several cover images to change out periodically.
For example, Clark created a “thank you fans” cover image, which includes the profile photos of each of International Collision’s connections. “That lets people know they have a little stock in our page,” he says.
Maintain consistent activity. Clark says the worst thing businesses can do on Facebook is to let the page sit idle. He says it shows you don’t care about your followers or your brand image.
“Nobody will keep looking at your page if you let it sit dead,” Clark says. “Consistent, fun and informative posts will help you show up in news feeds, and make people want to check you out more regularly.”
Clark’s strategy has paid off so far. Although International Collision has received many customers from the Facebook detail specials, Clark has not yet tracked the financial impact. But he does know that he’s making solid progress on his initial Facebook goals: improvement of EdgeRank and local brand awareness.
Within only five months, International Collision’s EdgeRank increased 15 percentage points to 25 percent. That means the shop’s posts are now showing up in 15 percent more of its connections’ news feeds, equal to 125 Facebook users, than before due to more interaction.
In addition, the shop now has more than 830 “likes,” up from 54 when Clark initiated the new Facebook approach. Of those, Clark says 815 live within a 30-mile radius of the shop. That’s a strong indicator that he’s boosted brand recognition locally, and improved the potential to drive more business to
“We’re now engaging far more people with the business,” Clark says. “We have Facebook connections who interact with us daily, who help increase our prominence in the market.”