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Social Media & Your Business
Why social media matters: Connecting with your ideal customers to grow your business.
I had the pleasure of attending and presenting for the first time at the 72nd ARA Convention & Expo last year in Charlotte, North Carolina. I have social media to thank for helping me to be “found” due to a serendipitous online exchange. Who knew when I answered a question on twitter from Becky Berube of United Catalyst Corporation that it would be the beginning of my journey to speak at the ARA convention.

After our twitter exchange and further online discussions, Becky approached me about giving a social media talk to the ARA at the convention and I was delighted to accept.

This is just one of many of my “online connection” moments that have led to building relationships, connecting on common causes and fostering business development opportunities. Talking “online” can lead to real life “offline” connections.

To prepare for my presentation, I did some research to learn more about ARA’s history. I came upon a wonderful article on the beginning of auto recycling from a 2013 Automotive Recycling magazine interview with John C. Vander Haag, Jr. The follow section caught my attention on how a community comes together to share interests, needs and messages:

EXCERPT from A BIT OF HISTORY – THE BEGINNINGS OF AUTO RECYCLING: A LOOK BACK WITH JOHN C. VANDER HAAG, JR.

“... In 1943, a group of auto wreckers formed the National Auto Truck Wreckers Association (NATWA; now known as ARA) to tackle some of the legislative issues that were facing the new industry. The group visited Washington, D.C., and negotiated a deal with the government to scrap the same amount of steel as they purchased and to hold an equal tonnage for parts.

Another thing that NATWA did during that time was to provide members with a glossy magazine with ads for hard-to-find parts. This began our networking with other recyclers to provide parts that our customers needed. It greatly enhanced our customer service ...”


As noted in the excerpt, in a sense, back in time “social media” was the introduction of a magazine as a way for members to network with each other to find parts that customers needed. Though it may not have been labeled social media at the time, it was in fact doing that: collecting and sharing information with a group of interested individuals.

The world of print has evolved to online websites sharing information with consumers and industry professionals. Social media is the latest “magazine to begin networking with others ...” evolution and, because its social, it wants you to come along, too.

What Is Social Media?

As defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary: “Social media is a form of electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (as in videos).”

So with the rise of social media, anyone can talk to a worldwide audience with a Facebook post, a tweet on Twitter, an Instagram photo and hashtag along with ever-emerging social media applications.

Look at the graphic on the left to remember the vintage social networking as a fun way of translating “what used to be” to “what is now” moving from traditional tools to online information sharing ones.

Social media is any kind of media that shares a message. It is everywhere and has surpassed traditional media (TV, print, film) in reaching customers.

My ARA session walked through how to ensure you are using social media effectively to reach your customers where and how they want to be reached.

One of the questions, I am often asked is: What social media platform (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn etc) is best?

Before I answer, understand that there is a sweet spot where the interests, needs, and messages come together to find those most interested in what it has to offer – your customers and future connections who are searching for you on social media.

So, how do you find this sweet spot where your organization, company and services can find the right platforms to connect? Is there a best social media platform? That can be found by following what I call the “Five Questions.”

I use these questions to guide clients I work with on how to get started in social media to find their ideal audience.

Five Questions:

Here’s the inside view on how to answer the FIVE QUESTIONS:

1) Brand: WHO ARE YOU?
Knowing “who you are” in the context of “which social media tool should I use” question is key. Your answer to “Who are you?” may be: Auto Recycling yard owner looking to learn how to use social media. Perhaps you are a service provider to the industry. Being clear on who you are is first to determining where you go next.

2) Message: WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY?
“OK, so what is it you are trying to say?” It could be that you want to share info about product sales, discounts, specials, warranties, and services. Or, it could be that you have an innovative way to share the most recent inventory. You may be looking to increase your community leadership so people know who they are doing business with. Or, you may be looking to network or to get an answer to a particular need or question in your industry. Know your message and be clear on what it is you want to say.

3) Audience: WHO ARE YOU TRYING TO REACH?
Who are you trying to reach with your message? Are you looking to reach new customers with your specialized product or service? Are you looking for like-minded business owners who are working on the next step in their business cycle?

Are you looking to network, attract collision repairers to your business or to meet other auto recycling owners?

4) Tool: How do THEY want to be reached (Or, not!)

Now that you’ve got 1, 2 and 3 covered, you can focus on how you are likely to find your audience by investigating different types of social media tools. You can do this by using hashtags (I’ll cover hashtags shortly) to find topics that are being talked about across different platforms. It’s just as important to know where your customers do not want to be reached so you can spend your time and energy where they are. There is a conversation going on with a group you’re interested in connecting with. Focusing in on where your audience is helps to avoid the equivalent of “the phone is ringing and no one is picking up.” You want to be where the conversation is happening.

5) Journey: ONCE YOU CONNECT, WHAT’S YOUR PLAN?
You’re clear on these key questions and you’ve now made a genuine online connection. Congratulations! How do you put together a plan that works for you to begin to use social media to engage and further development these connections. Here are a few tips on how to go about this:

Seven Tips for Getting Your Social Media Going

1. Find hashtags most aligned with your organization, product, service. Hashtags are key words that are associated with your online areas of interest. Hashtags are generic terms that anyone can make up. There are some hashtags that have become more well known and used and this is where you want to begin your search.

The anatomy of a hashtag: The # sign precedes a word or series of words (two or more words do not have a space between them) that may be used online to connect with other interested parties. Each hashtag is a unique search engine tool for finding specialized content and its creators.

Some examples of auto recycling hashtags may include: #autorecycling #carrecycling #autoparts #catalyticconverter #usedcarparts. These tags can be combined with specific auto type hashtags e.g. #fordsedan #chevytruck #BMW etc for a variety of car models and makes to further refine the search.

Hashtags work in Google search and can be an excellent way to find where the conversation is happening online.

2. Listen to learn. Start listening to the conversation that is happening online with the key words (or hashtags) that are of most interest to you. There is so much to be learned by listening to where the conversations are happening.

EXAMPLE: Let’s see what we can find by using the Hashtag for #AutoRecycling across three popular social media platforms:

#AutoRecycling on twitter: twitter.com/search/autorecycling

#AutoRecycling on Instagram: www.instagram.com/explore/tags/autorecycling/

#AutoRecycling on Facebook: www.facebook.com/search/str/autorecycling/keywords_search

3. Keep a notebook. Write down when and where social media conversation is happening around the topics you are following to begin to know where your audience is connecting.

4. Schedule social media appointment. Just as you schedule time for an event, make a regular appointment with yourself for social media listening and learning.

I recommend three times a week for 30-45 minutes each. This “prework” is essential to get you comfortable so you can be ready as you prepare your first public post. You’ll get your learning going in bite-size time segments, every other day, incorporated into your workweek.

5. Test the waters. Now that you’ve searched hashtags, kept a notebook, and listened to online conversations, you’re ready to start sharing.

What should you share? Go back to the Five Questions and remember to be genuine in what you share. Begin by writing down messages you want to share. Pick a time to share them. You may want to engage an assistant for posting these. However, the true value comes from the authenticity of the messages that have your voice. Only you are you, so let your voice be heard through the content you share. The world needs and wants to hear what you have to say!

6. Learn and adapt. With practice and dipping your toe into the social media waters, you’ll begin to be part of the conversation. Let this online community learn about you and what you do best. Listen and adapt as you learn more about what works for you and your audience. You have already done the first step of “Reaching people the way they want to be reached.”

7. Have fun. People want to connect with people who are genuine and let their personalities shine through. A few things to keep in mind: Keep your content clean and avoid touchy subjects while keeping the focus on common topics of interest to your online community. Let your audience find you being genuine and fun and helpful.

I hope this quick overview has been helpful and you begin or continue your journey using social media.

To view the full ARA Convention presentation, visit http://bit.ly/JoyceSullivanARAexpo2015.

Joyce Sullivan is the Founder and CEO of SocMediaFin, Inc., a social media consultancy that provides social media strategy and leadership training for specialty firms, unique businesses, not for profit organizations and regulated industries. Joyce is an Adjunct Professor of Social Media and Communications at City University of New York, Baruch College in the School of Public Affairs. She is an early adopter of emerging technologies and actively participates in New York City's "Silicon Alley" start-up and digital communities. She speaks at numerous industry conferences about the emerging world of social media, crowd-sourcing, career reinvention and creative disruption.

Learn more about Joyce by following and connecting with her on her social media and website sites – Website: www.socmediafin.com/; Twitter: twitter.com/joycemsullivan; LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/joycemsullivan; Instagram: www.instagram.com/joycemsullivan/.

Click to download the full January-February 2016 issue in PDF format





 
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