Jim Radogna: Avoiding the Eye of Mordor in Social Media

eye-of-sauron-lord-of-the-rings-return-of-the-kingJust like in the blockbuster series “The Lord of the Rings”, the Eye of Mordor is always open. Until now, its focus has been on larger battles and more interesting things. Then a Hobbit found a golden ring and slipped it on his finger. And the Eye started paying attention to this little being that had avoided the Eye’s gaze… until now.

The intersection of advertising, marketing, and compliance is not easy to navigate. It seems as if each week, rulings are being rendered from one of the myriad of regulatory bodies making it more difficult for dealers to know what they should – and should not – be doing in regards to social media in order to stay compliant. In an effort to bring clarity to an increasingly confusing and misunderstood topic, I sat down with Jim Radogna, the president of Dealer Compliance Consultants, to get some answers.


Arnold Tijerina: I believe dealers aren’t vigilant enough ensuring that social media performed on behalf of the dealership meets the same compliance rules and standards that all of their other advertising requires. It’s sort of like an afterthought to them. What are your thoughts?

Jim Radogna: Very true. First, many dealers aren’t aware that advertising regulations apply to social media every bit as much as traditional media. Advertising regulations don’t go away despite the fact that social media tends to be a low-key, casual type of communication. In fact, The FTC recently updated its document Dot Com Disclosures: Information About Online Advertising. The primary focus of the publication, which was first issued in 2000, is to inform advertisers that consumer protection laws and the requirement to provide clear and conspicuous disclosures applies to the online world in addition to the offline world.

So in a nutshell, if inventory is posted or prices/payments are quoted on social media it’s likely that the posts will be deemed to be advertisements and will be subject to state and federal disclosure and truth in advertising regulations. Lack of space is no excuse either. Even if you’re advertising on Twitter and are limited to 140 characters, you must include a clear link to any necessary disclosures.

Next, even if the dealer is aware of these facts, it’s likely that dealership employees and/or vendors posting to social media do not have the same level of awareness.

AT: I’ve interacted with some dealers who operate under strict compliance conformity across all advertising – including social media – and others that don’t feel the need to adhere to the same rules when it comes to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. It certainly wouldn’t seem to be unreasonable to assume that most dealers know compliance rules for their advertising. Why do you think they view social media differently?

JR: Until recently, virtually all enforcement actions for non-compliant advertising have been focused on traditional media, so this is a brand new area. In my experience, most dealers have a limited understanding of what constitutes “advertising” in the eyes of the powers that be. When dealers place an ad in the local newspaper, on the radio or TV, it’s pretty evident to them that they’re advertising and that they need to be diligent in following state and local compliance guidelines. But they don’t tend to think of social media as formal “advertising” because their intention isn’t to advertise their products and services on the social networks as much as to engage with customers, brand themselves and showcase their inventory. It really is an innocent mistake in many instances. The problem is that any time they mention prices, payments, interest rates, or the availability of financing etc. – anywhere – certain disclosure requirements are triggered.

So, a dealer or ad agency that is diligent about being compliant in their advertising may have their attorneys or a compliance consultant, like myself, review every one of their ads, mailers, TV commercials, and radio spots before publication, but not even think about having their social media posts reviewed because they simply don’t realize that these are considered “advertising”.

Another area where dealers are vulnerable on social media is transfer from traditional media. Here are a few examples: The dealer may have a full page print ad in their local paper that is fully compliant, but when they post a reduced-size pdf of the ad on Facebook, all of a sudden the fully-legible and compliant disclosure on the bottom of the newspaper ad is now unreadable. Instead of being 10-point type, it’s now 4-point type because of the size reduction. Another example is the TV commercial that’s posted on YouTube and shared on the social networks. Again, the disclosure on the bottom of the screen may be easily readable on TV but becomes indecipherable on a computer or mobile device.

AT: A recent FTC ruling regarding personal bias disclosure across all social media platforms seems to have lead some dealers into believing that simply adding a notation that the content is an “Ad” or “Sponsored” – whether in the ad or with the use of hashtags such as #ad and/or #sponsored – is enough to be compliant. To my knowledge, while the FTC ruling is certainly applicable when it comes to employees sharing dealership offers and specials on their personal social networks, it doesn’t negate obligation by the dealer to add necessary disclaimers. Do you agree? 

JR: Absolutely. Dealers may face liability if employees use social media to promote their employer’s services or products without disclosing the employment relationship. The FTC requires the disclosure of all “material connections.” These connections can be any relationship that could affect the credibility a consumer gives to statements, such as an employment or business relationship. So if employees, friends, family or vendors post on a dealer’s behalf, they should clearly disclose any relationship they have with the company. It’s all about transparency and full disclosure.

AT: As social media use by dealers grow, what are the most important things that dealers should be aware of in regards to how they use social media? 

JR: There are a number of legal considerations that every company should be aware of when establishing their social media policies and procedures, such as social media use in employment decisions; posting of online reviews, testimonials and endorsements; ‘fake’ and paid-for reviews; advertising on social media; potential overtime claims; harassment, discrimination and defamation claims; copyright and privacy issues.

AT: Should dealers be concerned by how their employee’s use social media and, if so, how do you recommend that dealerships protect themselves and/or decrease liability in this regard?

JR: It’s important for dealers to craft a social media policy that’s both practical and legally defensible. They can protect themselves by insisting that participants in their social media programs comply with the law and training them how to do it. The FTC specifically says these steps may limit potential liability and will be considered in any prosecution. According to FTC guidelines, “The Commission agrees that the establishment of appropriate procedures would warrant consideration in its decision as to whether law enforcement action would be an appropriate use of agency resources. The Commission is not aware of any instance in which an enforcement action was brought against a company for the actions of a single ‘rogue’ employee who violated established company policy that adequately covered the conduct in question.”

AT: The FTC has been increasing the attention it is paying to business and social media and has recently been vocal about their intentions to enforce compliance regardless of where the advertisement resides specifically mentioning social media. How do you believe this increased action and attention by the FTC will affect dealers in the future in regards to social media? 

JR: What’s become abundantly clear through recent federal and state advertising enforcement actions against dealers is that regulators are trolling through the digital world to find dealer violations. For instance, the FTC has cited many ads recently from websites and YouTube. It stands to reason that social networks are their next logical target. Let’s face it, it’s far easier for regulators to perform digital searches for violations than to read countless newspaper ads or listen to radio commercials.

My suggestion is to train every employee and every vendor that posts to the dealer’s social networks or may post on the dealer’s behalf on their own networks. Next, constantly audit all posts, either internally or by utilizing a qualified professional, to ensure compliance. Dealers are ultimately responsible the actions of their employees and any vendors they hire.

AT: Thank you, Jim. I appreciate your taking the time to help bring more clarity about this topic to dealers.



About Jim Radogna

Before founding Dealer Compliance Consultants, Jim Radogna developed a strong background in dealership operations, having spent over 15 years in dealership management. His experience includes working in diversified roles including sales manager, F&I director, general manager, and training director. In addition, he served as compliance officer for a large auto group, where he developed and integrated a comprehensive compliance program. Being well-versed in all aspects of dealership operations, Jim and his team have used their knowledge and industry experience to develop unique, no-nonsense compliance and reputation management solutions for automobile dealerships of all sizes. These programs are designed to not only protect dealerships from liability but also greatly enhance the company’s reputation, increase profitability through consistent processes, and increase customer satisfaction and retention.

Jim is a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to several automotive industry publications including Dealer Magazine, WardsAuto, Auto Dealer Monthly, DrivingSales Dealership Innovation Guide, AutoSuccess, and F&I Magazine.

Educators Need To Stop Acting Like They’re In High School

Focus on Teen ProblemsIf you know me, you know that I know a little about conferences. If you don’t know me, just check out my LinkedIn profile and you’ll see that I’ve been involved in some capacity with 16 automotive conferences/events in the past 5 years. Some of them I was super involved in organizing curriculum and marketing the event for the conference itself and some of them I was working for vendors in one capacity or another – sometimes even multiple vendors at a single event. I believe that it is in the best interest of dealers to get the education they desire to take their sales and dealerships to the next level.

Favorites don’t matter to me. Sure, I have the events that I like to go to, as does everyone who has attended conferences. I personally don’t care which conference a dealer wishes to attend. The whole point is for the dealer to attend a conference that offers content that they feel will help them be more successful in our business. That’s why I created a list of every physical automotive event I am aware of and even included a form for people to submit events that I’m not aware of. This is an unbiased list that I hoped dealers would use to identify events that may be convenient for them to attend. Let’s face it. Only 5% of dealers actually attend events. Sometimes that’s due to budget. Sometimes it’s due to a lack of motivation. I thought it would be a valuable resource and have had a lot of positive feedback about it. In fact, I’ve heard feedback from vendors that they also use my list because there are so many events that it’s difficult to keep track of them and make decisions on where to allocate their budgets.

I’ve seen a lot of bickering and in fighting over the years between cliques (for lack of a better word) of people concerning events. I am certainly NOT innocent in this. In the past, I was definitely pretty blunt and not afraid to promote an event I was involved in even if it meant ruffling feathers. I’ve learned my lesson and I do my best to no longer get involved with these politics and stay as under the radar as possible. Hell, I’m not good at being PC anyways so why bother.

The genesis of this blog post is that I just attended an excellent educational event for auto dealers. At this event, I met a person who has only been in the automotive industry for TWO MONTHS. At one point, this person candidly asked me which event(s) they should attend. This person shared that as they connected and interacted with people on social media, they would get messages from people saying they shouldn’t interact with certain people; that they were not good influences; that they were bad people. This person has seen the insane hostile conversations in public between vendors. They have only been in our business for two months and it’s already apparent to this person that there are cliques of people; that they don’t like each other; that they bad talk each other… and it’s really turning this person off.

Everyone wants to talk a good game of education for dealers as a primary goal. If that is true, let’s all focus on providing those opportunities for dealers. I’m not saying that everyone has to like everyone else or that we all need to hold hands and sing “Kumbaya.” All I’m saying is that dealers that are just entering our business are noticing all of this fighting. If newbies know about it, is it not very probable that veterans also do?

When this person finished telling me this, I felt ashamed. I am ashamed that dealers are being put in a position in which they are being pressured to “choose sides” and are being told that if they like X person, then they cannot be “friends” with them. This is unacceptable behavior from an industry full of professional experts who claim to have a goal of educating dealers. It is also detrimental to revenue and attendance at not only their events but all educational events.

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. Just realize that the opinions expressed in public forums are being noticed and absorbed by dealers and some of them are choosing not to get an education because of unprofessional behavior that they are being exposed to

To anyone holding educational events: Please don’t deprive dealers of an education. If you truly care about helping dealers improve and succeed, please let this be a wake up call.

In the end, the ones who are really losing are the dealers.

[P.S. I am NOT directing this towards anyone specifically. The dealership employee that expressed these sentiments inspired this blog. I don’t harbor any ill will towards any people or their educational events. Sure, I have my personal opinions and I’m not perfect and in no way am I trying to judge anyone. The purpose of this blog was to share this story. I sincerely hope that nobody takes this personally. I can only hope that the people that need to hear this message do so and take a moment to reflect on behavior that may be unbecoming of them as professionals and reflect poorly on them as educators.]

[P.S.S. Not only is it turning dealers off, it’s also causing vendors to second guess whether they want to be associated with an event.]

You Can Now Be Hidden On Twitter Without Being Unfollowed

dead-twitter-bird2We have all known for a long time that dealerships must be careful about the quantity of posts they publish on their Facebook pages. Inundating a Facebook user’s News Feed with content – even quality content – can easily get you hidden. Facebook users primarily want to use the social network to find out what’s going on with their networks, not your dealership (or business). Getting “hidden” on Facebook is like the kiss of death for any Facebook page. The problem with being hidden is that the Facebook user technically still “likes” your page but they will never see any of your content without directly navigating to your page after hiding you. In addition, as the admin for a Facebook page, you’ll never know who has hidden you or who has not. With Facebook reach continuing to decrease, it’s imperative that you try to avoid being hidden. This has always been true but is getting increasingly important.

According to a report by TechCrunch, Twitter is introducing a “mute” feature which they are going to start rolling out immediately to all users. This feature will allow a Twitter user to basically “hide” any users tweets without having to unfollow them. In the past, unfollowing someone “could” put a user in a precarious position when choosing how to deal with that co-worker or peer who incessantly tweets and/or clogs up your Twitter stream.

A Twitter user essentially had only a few choices when deciding how to deal with this:

  1. They could unfollow that person/company.
  2. They could create “lists” of people they really want to listen to and exclude those Twitter-hogs.
  3. They could put up with it.

Depending on who the Twitter account spamming your news feed is, unfollowing them may bring up uncomfortable and/or awkward conversations in the future. Going with the second option took a little more Twitter knowledge and/or effort than many users have. So, until now, many people just put up with it.

Not any longer.

In  the past, users have employed many methods of populating their Twitter feeds through automation – RSS feeds, Facebook posts being sent straight to Twitter, and other software and apps that throw content onto your Twitter account. While many people use Twitter for different purposes than they would Facebook, the one commonality that they share is that NOBODY wants to look at their Facebook News Feed or Twitter stream and see one account monopolizing it. This is especially true if it’s obviously automated content.

Twitter users and marketers would be wise to examine their Twitter content posting strategy for both quality and quantity to ensure that they are providing useful information and interaction with their followers. If you’re simply pushing content via automated streams, posting links to your inventory pages and/or “for sale” messages, continuously soliciting your product or service or posting large quantities of syndicated content, you are in danger of being “muted”. I believe that once this feature is completely rolled out and the Twitter-verse learns how to use this feature (which is not difficult) that they will eagerly (and with great satisfaction) quickly “mute” those accounts that have been annoying them. And, just like Facebook, you’ll never know who has muted you.

My advice: Make sure that you append every content share with some sort of comment or indicator that shows other users that it was NOT an automated tweet. Make sure to use tools like Buffer or third-party software in which you can schedule content like Hootsuite to ensure that your content is spread out and not all clumped together and/or posted all at once. Make sure to also include original and relevant content as well. People followed you for a reason, make sure you know what your audience wants to hear and deliver.

Twitter now has a kiss of death. Do your best to make sure that your customers don’t choose to use it.

How the Mormon Church Turned the “Book of Mormon” Into Roses: A Lesson In Marketing

mormon_rose“…there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” – Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

In 1890, Oscar Wilde wrote this quote in his classic book “The Picture of Dorian Gray”. The character, Lord Henry, says this to a painter when the painter expresses his desire not to show a painting. While this certainly wasn’t the beginning, one could say that this quote perfectly expresses the desire of most businesses and is just as true today as it was 124 years ago.

The goal of any business is simple: to be talked about. This includes all areas of public interaction including advertising, promotion, publicity, public relations, social media and reputation management. A story that illustrates a few of these involves the circus and an elephant.

“If the circus is coming to town and you paint a sign saying “Circus Coming to the Fairground this Saturday,” that’s advertising. If you put a sign on the back of an elephant and walk it into town, that’s promotion. If the elephant walks through the mayor’s flower bed, that’s publicity… and if you get the mayor to laugh about it, that’s public relations.”

To bring that story current, you could add:

As people start talking about the elephant trampling the rose garden, that’s social media. And, by apologizing and repairing the flowerbed of the mayor, that’s reputation management.

No matter which area illustrated above you are discussing, the goal is to get people talking about you. Sometimes, what they are saying is unflattering. In these cases, you have two choices, to address the issue or to embrace it. Most experts in publicity, public relations, social media and reputation management would advise that you address the problem in one way or another. Sometimes that involves telling your side of the story publicly. Sometimes it involves making the issue right for your customer. And sometimes it involves embracing it and finding opportunities.

When the creators of South Park released their uber-popular musical, “The Book of Mormon”, the Mormon Church had several options. They could raise a big fuss about it that probably would have assisted the musical itself in achieving more buzz and publicity. Instead, initially, they chose to essentially ignore it. In a great article by an Episcopal priest, she described how the Mormon Church, when confronted with the popularity the show had achieved, made the decision to use the show as a means of proselytizing. Missionaries began handing out books and pamphlets in front of the theaters. The Church itself began advertising in the actual playbills. And what they found was that theatre-goers were interested in learning more. Certainly the musical itself mocks their religion but they believe that it doesn’t matter which path a person takes to embrace their beliefs.

The Mormon Church realized that this musical attracted people that were more than likely not Mormon and didn’t understand their religion. Rather than sitting by idly and being the butt of this musical “joke”, they saw this as an opportunity to educate theater-goers and spread their message. And it worked. According to the article “street contacting” is one of the “traditional ways for missionaries to reach potential converts.” This practice is challenging and they might only give out a few copies of their Scriptures each day. When a couple of missionaries chose to hand out Scriptures in front of a theatre showing the musical, however, they gave out an entire box of books in under an hour.

Just as in Oscar Wilde’s famous quote, the Church discovered that having people talking about you is better than not having them talk about you.

In their story, after the elephant tramples the mayor’s rose garden, rather than trying to explain to everyone why the elephant was bad, they shared the beauty of rose gardens.

And more people stopped to smell the roses.

Don’t Schedule Social Media Posts for Business Pages!

whatever-clockYes, scheduling tools like Hootsuite, Buffer etc. make it convenient for you to make sure your social media presence has regular content.

I know… you’re busy and sometimes forget or don’t have time to post.

I don’t care.

It’s way too easy for businesses – especially car dealers – who find little time to pay attention to their social media networks to pre-schedule a bunch of posts and forget about it until the next month approaches and they need to fill up that content bucket with another month’s worth of posts.

I manage quite a few social media accounts for both clients and myself and very rarely do I schedule posts. Typically the only time I will is if I know I’ll be travelling on a certain day or otherwise unable to post. This never exceeds more than a day, however.

Here are a few reasons why I don’t believe you should preschedule posts…

  1. Social media is a dynamic conversation between you and your consumers (who are hopefully not in India).  Scheduling content does something that harms your business and social media marketing worse than anything else possible…. It disconnects you. If you do not pay attention to your social media accounts on a daily basis, you WILL miss opportunities to connect. You don’t script out and preschedule text messages to your friends, do you? The most important idea here is that prescheduling posts allows you to feel as if you’ve done your “social media” for the month and actually provides you with justification that it’s OK not to check your accounts.
  2. Chances are that your content will be old by the time it’s posted. Duplicate content – no matter how good it is – is destined to become part of the “..and others” section of a Facebook news feed (as in “Arnold and 10 others shared a link”). Not scheduling posts allows you to find recent content which makes it more interesting to an audience. If your content is 2 weeks old by the time it is posted, the chances that other people will already have shared it makes it less likely to be engaged with. This follows the “first to market” mentality. Always strive to be the first page to share content when possible.
  3. Edgerank is no more. Now Facebook’s algorithm takes into account 100,000+ factors when deciding whether to show your content to your audience. It rewards high-quality content that is unique and engaging. If you feel the need to share content that has already been shared, share it as a picture with the link in the picture’s caption. This will avoid you getting clumped together with everyone else that shared that content. Better yet, find the same content but via a different source (ie. link to the same story hosted somewhere other than the source that everyone else is sharing).
  4. Make it your goal to interact with people even if that means you go fishing… Do a Twitter search for your brand and find a tweet from a recent buyer of your dealership’s franchise… welcome them as a new brand owner, congratulate them on their new vehicle, tell them to have fun car shopping, retweet their cool picture of a car, etc. You can limit your search to a radius of your dealership so you will be interacting with people that matter… potential customers. They’ll thank you, retweet you and favorite your tweet. Take the time to thank your new followers. This is only possible if you’re paying attention and you can’t pay attention if scheduling content lulls you into complacency.
  5. Not pre-scheduling content also allows you to make sure that the content is posted correctly and timely in a manner native to the platform on which it is being posted. What if Twitter is down when your scheduled post is supposed to be sent? If you aren’t paying attention, it may never get sent. It also forces you to read it again which assists in identifying spelling errors. You get to see it go live and have a chance to correct it before anyone sees it. Your online image is just as important as your off-line. Make sure your posts actually post, are tailored for the network they are being posted on and look professional.

Even though I’m hyperactive on social media, I’ve found that not scheduling posts allows me to stay more connected and responsive with my audience whether I’m posting to my profile or posting to a client’s accounts. I can be reactive when needed and interact when people make comments – even if it’s simply “liking” their comment. That shows the person commenting that you’re listening and present which makes them more likely to comment in the future.

Don’t fall into the trap of convenience. You will sacrifice quality, lessen engagement and reduce the chances you have of showing up in your audiences’ news feeds. There’s nothing “social” about simply pushing content.

If you can’t be engaged in your own social media presence, how can you expect other people to be engaged with you?

Note: I have a few less reservations about scheduling content for your personal profile. It does allow you to share more relevant content without spamming your friends. My advice in this article mainly applies to business social media accounts. I rarely schedule personal updates and shares for the same reasons contained in the article but that’s just my personal preference.

Humbled at NADA 2014

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 11.06.23 AMI’m not a social media guru, expert or anything resembling that. I would hate to have those adjectives attached to my name. Social media is all about engaging your audience and the reason that I believe I am successful at it is that, regardless of whether I am “doing” social media for myself or a client, I always… always… recognize and respond with any interaction. Whether it’s something as small as favoriting a tweet, or as big as writing an article… social media boiled down to it’s very basic is about interaction. If people are interacting with you, or your company, interact back. It’s that simple.

In my career, I’ve had the privilege of working with many prestigious companies with high visibility in our industry. I’ve just returned from New Orleans and the National Automobile Dealer’s Association Convention in which I handled pre-show and live social media for 12 companies. NADA marks the 15th automotive industry event I’ve conducted social media marketing for whether it was for the conference itself or for exhibiting or sponsoring companies.

Other than the fact that I get money for doing it (which is a great thing), the most rewarding aspect of any position is to get recognized by peers and industry influencers for a job well done. I don’t normally write self-promoting type stuff but I’ve simply been overwhelmed by the feedback I received from my work at the NADA Convention.

The funny part is that I don’t really consider myself a “vendor” per-say. I mean, I get paid for my services but when dealers (or vendors) ask me the inevitable “Who are you with?”, I simply reply “I’m with Arnold.” I love my job and get to meet and interact with tons of intelligent, smart and successful people in our industry from the entire spectrum – dealership personnel, dealers, vendors, members of the media, etc. – and because I’m not soliciting anyone, it’s always genuine face-to-face interaction.

My good friend, Kevin Frye, included me in his NADA video.

In their NADA recap article, AutoMotion featured some of my tweets intended to break up the monotonous “come to our booth” messages and introduce some entertainment into the Twitter feed. If we want dealers (or vendors for that matter) to recognize the value of Twitter, it’s got to be interesting when they look at it, wouldn’t you agree? (Check out hashtag #NADATips if you want to see some.)

DealerTrack‘s social media person (whoever you are) did a fantastic job interacting with people – including myself – at NADA with the @DealertrackDMS account.

Many local New Orleans companies also showed their social media savvy including what became one of my favorite spots – The Cat’s Meow – which I visited four nights including assisting in organizing an event for VinSolutions in 4 hours that saw over 200 guests attend. The Cat’s Meow was super accommodating on all of those nights as well as super interactive and responsive with their @catskaraoke Twitter account. It’s not often that you  get to meet the person who is actually interacting with you from a local establishment like this but I was able to on my final night out in New Orleans. Kudos to her!

I also got the opportunity to hang out with the AutoTrader.com and Haystak Digital Marketing team there one night and, of course, had to throw some shout-outs to them to the tune of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Queen on stage. [Here’s a LINK to the video if you really want to hear me sing.]

The fact that many of us got stranded in New Orleans due to inclement weather presented PCG Consulting and Brian Pasch with the opportunity to provide a bonus educational opportunity to stranded NADA attendees that was given the name the “PCG Freeze Out” which I was fortunate enough to participate in.

I know I’m forgetting some people as I was fortunate to interact with a ton of people. Over the course of NADA, I was astounded by the response and stats from only my personal Twitter account @arnoldtijerina

Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 11.02.00 AM

but the most humbling feedback, BY FAR, came from long-time industry expert and insider, Cliff Banks, owner of The Banks Report (which you should subscribe to), when he tweeted this:

Thanks to everyone for all of their support. I truly enjoyed all of the interactions I had at the show whether they were as myself or on behalf of a client and I look forward to seeing everyone again at the next event.

P.S. And many thanks to Helion Automotive Technologies for the rocking caricature and to the NADA Convention for the $150 gift card to Mr. B’s Restaurant. My wife and her friend LOVED the dinner. I was too busy.. well.. tweeting… but appreciate it just as much.

Why No Social Media Vendors Exist In Automotive

Before you get all huffy (especially the social media vendors that may read this), I want to narrow my definition of “social media” for the purposes of this article down. Social media encompasses a lot of things but I’m specifically talking about Facebook and Twitter management.

There are not many people who would argue that, given the choice and means, any company has the ability to do their own social media better than any vendor. You know your company better than anyone. You have the access and availability to create instant, company-specific content on-site and all the content you need to do it.

That being said, if you find yourself either in a position where you don’t have anyone to do it in house, or you don’t have the time to do it yourself and you are considering outsourcing your social media, consider a few things.

Being familiar with many of the social media services directed specifically at the automotive industry, whether those services are from a company that only does social media or as a service offered by a vendor that has multiple services, in my opinion, there aren’t any social media companies and/or any true social media services offered by companies.

What, exactly, do I mean by that?

In my opinion, every company that exists and works within the automotive space that offers social media services are, in reality, offering content marketing services. The basic idea is that they will set-up and/or manage your social media properties and provide content for those properties on a daily (or less) basis. Yes, chances are that they will respond to comments left (hopefully) and engage with fans when fans engage with you. They may offer to help you grow your fan base and followers – some via methods with which I agree and some using methods which I think are idiotic. Keeping in mind that I’m only talking about Facebook and Twitter management (not reputation, location-based services, etc.) that typically encompass the scope of work.

Content marketing is NOT social media.

I’m certainly not trying to imply that there is no value in content marketing. There are lots of benefits to it especially with well run blogs with great, relevant content… but it’s not social media (at least as defined for the purposes of this article).

So, what is social media?

In my opinion, if someone says they will manage your social media properties, these are the types of things they should be doing:

  1. They should be optimizing your pages/profiles to achieve maximum exposure via search engines.
  2. They should be teaching you how and helping you grow your fan base organically through in store signage, marketing integration and other means in which to capture your existing customers.
  3. They should be providing fresh, relevant and timely content and posting this content to your properties on a daily basis.
  4. They should be creating, finding and seeking this content daily. Yes, every day. Not creating some monthly calendar of content 30 days in advance, re-using content amongst clients (whether they are geographically close or are competitors doesn’t matter)… and they certainly should not be using a “content library” of canned posts.
  5. They should be analyzing the performance of different content types on a daily basis and tailoring the content they are posting to what the page audience wants to hear, not what they want to tell them… on a daily basis.
  6. They should be available and ready to react almost instantaneously to any issue, event, request, problem, comment.. anything and everything… on a moment’s notice. If a customer tweets or posts a complaint, there better be someone to respond.. and fast. Not just between the hours of 9am and 5pm.
  7. Most social media companies are reactive in their engagement. Their engagement is in response to an action taken by a fan or follower. Social media companies should be proactive in their engagement. They should be seeking out relevant conversations happening in your market area (whether that’s by region, state or national) and trying to insert themselves into relevant conversations in a non-threatening and engaging way.
  8. Anyone that tells you that social media is all about branding and that “selling” shouldn’t and/or can’t happen is an idiot and you should run away from them. Bottom line is that everything you do – whether its traditional or digital advertising – is about selling your product or service. Sales can be, and are, made on social media all the time. Revenue is there. There is an ROI (albeit it’s hard to track). Anyone trying to convince you otherwise is setting you up for that future conversation where you say you’re not selling anything from it and they say social media isn’t about selling. I’m pretty certain you’re not in business to not make money.
  9. When people follow you on Twitter, they should be thanking those people and, if appropriate, following them back. In addition, they should be finding new and relevant people to follow on your behalf. On top of those two things, they should be identifying your influencers as best as they can (and that doesn’t necessarily mean the ones with the highest Klout scores) and seeking to engage with them.
  10. They should be using methods and techniques designed to maximize your reach on both Facebook and Twitter. There are many things you can do that are free. Some that cost money. There are some things that I believe are worth the money they cost and some that I believe you might as well be lighting your money on fire if you use them. Whatever the case may be, they should be including these in their offerings to you. They should be doing this in real-time as the situation warrants.
  11. They should be providing you with detailed analytics monthly including detailed Facebook reports, Twitter reports, overall performance reports, response times, interactions, and even be able to show you how your social media may have influenced website traffic (which it can, and is possible, if you provide your Google Analytics code to them). These reports should NOT be simply how many new fans/followers you got, how many pieces of content they posted and the engagement metrics associated with that content (likes, comments, shares, etc.)

How do I know that there are NO social media companies that do this? Well, I’ve talked to many of them. Heck, it was my JOB to research competitors. I also attend trade shows and pay attention.

The reason they don’t do it is that it is not a scalable business model. Bottom line. I get that and agree that it probably isn’t but that doesn’t mean they’re providing social media services.. they’re providing content marketing. That’s all well and good but let’s keep it real.

Just because doing it right isn’t “scalable”, that doesn’t justify calling your service something that it isn’t. Many dealers don’t “get” social media. Some “kind of” get it. The ones that actually “get it” will agree with everything I’ve just written (or at least I hope they will).

So, remember two things about your social media: First, that you can do it better than any vendor whether you believe that’s true or not and second, that, IF you’re going to outsource this to a company, at the very least know the difference between a company offering you social media and one offering you content marketing.

[Note: If you know of a vendor that does all of the things I described above and/or even more, I’d love to hear who they are.]

Are You Being Cheated By Facebook Promoted Posts?


Let me start by saying that I’m a fan of Facebook’s Promoted Post feature in general. If your goal is to increase your Page exposure and reach not only more of your fans but penetrate their networks as well, I’ve found that they accomplish that goal. They are especially useful for smaller pages with a fan count under 1500 where the typical cost to promote a post will be in the $5-$10 range.

In the past, on a particular Page which has 164 fans, the options available for promoting a post were $5 and $10 with an “estimated” reach of usually in the 2,000 range for the $10 option. Considering that a typical Page post will reach an estimated 16% of the Page’s fans (in this case approximately 27 people), this is a considerable difference. This Page typically gets good engagement and has a slightly large reach per post – typically between 40-100 with some posts even reaching into the 700 range without promotion (although this is rare).

Recently, Facebook decided to increase the available options to Pages with a smaller number of fans. I noticed this and decided to try testing it out to see what the results were.

Here were my options:

Facebook Promoted Post OptionsAs you can see, the potential reach increased from a maximum of 2,000 I was offered previously to 17,000. I decided to take the plunge and test out the $50 option and let the ad run its course over the 3 days (which, in case you didn’t know, is how long a single post will run in a promotion) so that I could see what the results were.

Here were the results:

Facebook Promoted Post ResultsAs you can see, this is considerably less than the estimated exposure Facebook promised me in their “estimate” of between 9,100-17,000 for $50. In fact, this should have been the results if I had chosen the $20 option.

I find it completely unacceptable (and false advertising) that Facebook would deliver the post to about 33%-50% of the estimate I was promised for my $50. I have noticed this disparity in the past but since I’m working with some Pages that have a smaller audience and the reach promised was much less, the disparity between the “estimated” reach and the final number has never been that large.

Bottom line is that, while I still think Facebook’s Promoted Post (or Boost Post as they’re now calling it) option is a good value for exposure, I will no longer have any confidence in the “estimated reach” promised.

Yo, Facebook. You owe me $30.

Facebook Threaded Comments – Replies – Not Necessarily Limited to Pages with 10k Fans

Facebook is rolling out a new feature in which people are able to “reply” to comments on your Page’s posts creating a threaded comment so that replies to other comments aren’t mixed in with this big long (hopefully) chain of comments. This is great for Facebook pages with a ton of fans and is designed to help those Page administrators manage the conversations better.

To qualify, you are supposed to have a Page with over 10,000+ fans BUT, I was able to turn it on for my blog’s Facebook page and it only has (at this point) 624 fans.

If you’re a Page administrator, you may want to go into your Admin settings and see if you can turn this feature on or not. It’s super helpful in encouraging comments and keeping track of who is responding to whom and managing, responding and engaging in these conversations.

This is how you do it:

  1. Go to your Facebook Page.
  2. Click “Admin Panel”
  3. Click “Edit Page”
  4. Click “Manage Permissions”
  5. Scroll down and you will see a checkbox that says “Replies”, check that box and click “Save”.
If the feature is turned on, you should have “Replies” enabled. Find one of your posts and comment on your own post. If replies are enabled, an additional option to the comment will be “Reply”.. Ouila! Let me know if this is working for you or if I just won some sort of Facebook lottery or they consider me a superstar and are just getting me ready for this huge influx of fans in advance. (crossing fingers).

This is what your post comments will look like if you’re able to activate this feature on your Facebook page:

Or you can watch this video (or read this article) by Christian Karasiewicz that will walk you through it.

How Your Social Media Use Could Begin To Affect You (and Your Business) Financially

Recently, there have been several cases in which employers were requiring job applicants to give them access to their social media profiles to be considered for employment. This practice has been shut down by a few states already but not all of them and, in some states, the FTC has even backed the employers. While this is certainly one way social media could affect you financially, it is not in this way that this article is about.

What if banks started looking at your social media profiles to assess your credit-worthiness?

What if lenders started using your social media accounts to assist in deciding whether to approve your car loan?

What if credit card companies started changing your interest rates based on your social media use?

Well, these aren’t “what-ifs” anymore. According to a recent article by The Economist, these practices are already happening. “There is a start-up that assesses the credit worthiness of car-loan applicants” through social media presences including LinkedIn contacts under the theory that the character of the people you are connected with are an indicator of your character and can help predict how quickly you can get another job should you become unemployed.

Lenders are recording your Facebook data which is being used to secure loans overseas. They’re analyzing usage patterns of personal mobile phones. A Hong Kong start-up is even requiring “loan-seekers to ask their Facebook friends to vouch for them.”

An online bank in the U.S. “will use Facebook data to adjust account holders credit card interest rates” and, while most banks tend to avoid social media in analyzing a loan applicant, there are many “employees of small banks [who] often search social media or the web for the names of loan applicants.”

Lenders are using the social media data to find correlations between that data and an individual’s credit worthiness. For example, ZestFinance, an American lender, says that “Applicants who type only in lower-case letters, or entirely in upper case, are less likely to repay loans, other factors being equal.” and they are continuously using increasingly advanced algorithms to find more correlations. They claim that their default percentage is 40% lower than similar lenders.

An overseas lender of small loans has found that “An applicant whose friends appear to have well-paid jobs and live in nice neighborhoods is more likely to secure a loan. An applicant with a friend who has defaulted on a Kreditech loan is more likely to be rejected.”

I expect that banks in the U.S. are paying close attention to these activities. All of the actions above (save for the web and social media searches) are done with the permission of the applicant. It’s hard to believe that a US court would prohibit an opt-in component used to extend loans to individuals but that’s up in the air since my guess is that if you opt-out, you’d have no chance at getting approved. I would think that courts would find that it’s certainly up to the bank who they decide to loan money to (excluding certain exceptions for people in protected statuses).

This is another example of how social media is increasingly affecting not only our personal lives but those of businesses that rely on banks extending loans to consumers to make sales.. like car dealerships.