Coastal Media Brand

As business owners we must be cautious of hype. Sometimes a great deal of hype works its way into our lives and we become emotionally involved in doing what seems to be right. Only after the hype dies down are we able to get a level head and really analyze if our decision was right or wrong. Recently, there's a mountain of hype and energy surrounding Social Media.

In this article, we'll explore whether it's empty hype or if there is indeed substance behind it all.

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past couple years – especially the past six months – you've certainly heard of Social Media.

You know, websites like:

– Twitter
– Digg
– LinkedIn
– And about two-dozen others that are less popular

It all started with a way for people to connect with each other and share their thoughts on just about anything via personal blogs, videos or text updates.

MySpace was notorious among the youngger generation as an outlet for emotional rants and ways to show who they liked and did not like by adding or removing them as a "Friend".

From a business building perspective, MySpace gained huge credibility when comedian Dane Cook gained a cult-like following and was able to sell out concerts and products almost immediately through his network of "Friends" on MySpace.

Along comes YouTube. A free online video portal for users to upload videos of whatever they want. As with MySpace, users were mostly young, artsy types that had creative energy and time to expend.

The self-proclaimed geeks that founded YouTube had no idea what they had started. The first video was uploaded in April of 2005. By October of 2006 the founders sold to Google for an astonishing $ 1.65 Billion.

This transaction proved to the business world – if it was not evident already – that this Social Media thing might actually be something more than a way for emotional teens to tell the world how they feel.

As of the writing of this, Facebook and Twitter share all the rage. Facebook is MySpace with a cleaner, more wholesome image. Twitter is a way for people like you and I to tell followers what we're doing or where we're at by "Tweeting" short, text message style messages to our followers.

If you're not familiar with all of this, you're head may be spinning. Hang on:

As with everything else, I like to look at the principles behind what's really happening. Certainly, there is substance to this, and wherever you find substance you'll usually find an age-old principle driving it.

When Google bought YouTube for $ 1.65 Billion, they were buying access to prospective customers. They followed the model that makes Google who they are today and realized that traffic is king.

If you can find a captive audience (person sitting on a computer watching a video of whatever all day) you can sell them something and / or try to anyway.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc all have a captive audience for businesses to target their marketing to.

They make their money by selling advertising to business owners like you and me.

But the real question is this: can you make money as an auto body shop by participating in this madness?

There are three basic opportunities for you to participate in the Social Media world:

Buy advertising on their platform.

Create a following of "friends" and hope they buy from you and / or refer friends.

Network with customers, prospects and other local businesses.

The direct answer is yet to be seen. There are plenty of owners jumping on the bandwagon and the feedback is mixed. Time will tell for certain.

Here's a fundamental consideration for you to consider. Nobody logs on to any social media website actively looking for auto body repair.

So, any business that does result from participating will be a side effect. For example, John Smith might not login to his Facebook account looking for a place to repair his car. But, while he's checking in on his friends, one of them might have left an update on their profile saying: "uggghh I got hit by some clown today that blew a light & hellip; car's trashed, but at least the auto body shop guy was cool "He said.

Or, while John's viewing pictures of his friend's wedding on his profile, he might see a targeted pay-per-click ad for an auto body shop in his geographic area and click on it because he's been wanting to get his car repainted.

In both instances, finding an auto body shop was not the intent of the user, but it happened.

This is neither good nor bad. It is what it is. You just need to consider your cost per lead and cost per tenant acquisition like you do with everything else you do in your marketing department.

I caution you strongly to pay close attention to the time it takes to manage all this. It's easy to let your employees participate because it's "free". In reality, building networks and friends is indeed free from a monetary standpoint, but, very much from a time perspective.

If you want my candid advice about the matter, here it is: do not waste your time and energy on keeping up with Social Media at this point. It is a very valid media for many businesses, but still questionable for the vast majority of the auto body industry. This could, and probably will, change in the near future. But for now, I recommend watching this unfold from the sidelines.

I'm not saying social media is empty hype. I'm simply saying, the practical application and return on investment for body shop owners is a large questionable.

That besides, there are really only two things proven to work in this industry that I recommend you do:

Put a commercial and / or videos on YouTube.

Test the Facebook pay-per-click system.

Launching a video on YouTube will help you in many ways. Not only can you put the video on your website for those who like video, but if you link it properly, it will help your site from a search engine optimization standpoint.

For the second point, when users create their profile on Facebook, they enter all sorts of information about where they live, went to school, etc. This allows us to target users based on where they live, etc. Users can also join local groups, which you can also target with a Google-like, pay-per-click campaign.

My advice will probably be unpopular because the rage is almost out of logical control.

There are too many other methods of acquiring customers that are proven, easy and inexpensive to dive into this game headfirst, full-steam ahead.

Also keep in mind, the same power that creates instant positive buzz among friends can also create instant negative buzz for your company. Nothing separates an upset customer and their social network. There have already been a handful of known incidents causing the shop owner involved a ton of heartache and an untold amount of negativity in their market.

I've never advocated treating people poorly. Social Media just makes it so much easier for people to tell the world how bad or good they think you are.

I hope this clears the air for you on Social Media. I, for one, will continue keeping my eyes firmly on this subject. I have no doubt that opportunity for auto body shop owners will emerge from the chaos. You'll be the first to hear about it when I do.

Remember, just because you can do something, does not mean you should.

Coastal Media Brand

a Lyfeloop, Inc company.