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Social Media

Food for thought for the social networking beginner

Neil Pascale, Columnist
April 30, 2012
Filed under Columns

I always think of it as the picnic ant test. You know when you drop that chunk of watermelon on the ground, leave it there on a sun-drenched day and come back later and find it’s suddenly host to a swarm of insects?

The media operates in the same frenzied manner, and thus technology now allows us to gauge the pulse of the constantly changing American psyche simply by using a “picnic ant test” — identifying interest by figuring out what piece of sweet morsel, i.e. piece of news, the media has descended upon. Media involvement, after all, mirrors our interest. One doesn’t live without the other.

Ever try the 21st century picnic ant test at home?

Just go to news.google.com and type in a topic to see how much attention it’s receiving. I did this right after the recent Arctic Cat snowmobile dealer meeting. I had presented a seminar on Facebook tactics for small dealerships to a terrific group of operators, many of whom are making real progress in this vital area. But the seminars also confirmed to me that there are industry members still hedging their bets on consumer interest in social media.

Thus a perfect excuse for a Google picnic ant test.

I typed in a couple of hot topics I had read about in a Florida newspaper, and started counting ants, Google-style. First, I typed in “Obama raising campaign cash,” and found 240 news articles on that subject. Later, I typed in “Facebook CEO visiting Japanese prime minister — and even friends him on Facebook!” and found 329 news articles. Seems the whereabouts and social media interactions of the Facebook leader trumped the interest in the President.

For good measure, I wanted one more comparison. Highlights of a Republican budget passed by the House drew 94 news articles on the Google search. In contrast, Tim Tebow’s decision to break his silence on Twitter … 1,551 news articles!

Social media, whether we like it or not, is no longer just an interesting topic, much less a passing fad. It is a world all by itself. It’s that big. Dealer seminars and other industry events have shown me that there are probably one-third of us who are just now realizing this fact, and hence are stepping into this new realm. To help guide you through that initial stage and to drive others further along in their social networking pursuits, Dominion Powersports recently hosted a seminar. While the full content of the free seminar can be accessed at http://bit.ly/HHpLNV, I did want to share some of the more general questions and answers from that seminar here in Powersports Business.

The questions came from dealers who attended the online event and the answers were supplied by three industry social networking experts: Fred Rose, social media specialist for CycleTrader; Laura Reinders, marketing manager for PowerSports Network and Traffic Log Pro; and Patricia Dao, social media product director for Dominion Powersports Solutions.

Q: What is a good number of Facebook posts that a dealership should do per week?

Rose: A good number of posts really varies per dealership. For Cycle Trader, we’ve built it up so we post two to three times each day. However for a dealership that is just getting started with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, it’s probably best to do a couple each week. The key is you don’t want to bombard your fans or your followers right out of the gate.

Reinders: It’s really all about the quality of the post. If you’re going to post just to get a quota in, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Make sure your posts are well thought out and there’s something that’s going to encourage a comment or a Like, because the whole idea with your posts is to start conversations, start engaging and start building relationships with your customers.

Q: Should dealership employees be encouraged to post on Facebook or on Twitter?

Reinders: Yes they should, but I think it should be controlled. What the dealership has to do is first identify which employees they would like representing the dealership. Then guidelines need to be set up to identify what type of comment or content should be shared and what types of replies and interaction should take place.

Q: I don’t have a huge budget for rewarding my enthusiasts for interacting with my Facebook or Twitter posts. Do I always need to give something away, like a T-shirt or gift certificate?

Dao: At the end of the day, yes, you do want to have incentives to drive people to do things on behalf of your business, like sharing about your business with their friends. So it is important to incentivize them. But a good alternative to giving a discount to every single person that shares your posts could be doing a contest raffle. So every time somebody does something on behalf of your business, like sharing or liking your brand on Facebook, they could be entered to win a contest. So you would only be giving a prize away once a month, but still be able to leverage that as an incentive to get people to do social media actions on behalf of your business.

For more on the Q&A, go to the webinar link online. But whatever you do, don’t dismiss the results of the picnic ant test. It’s food for thought.

Neil Pascale is the Business Development Manager for Dominion Powersports, the parent company of PowerSports Network, CycleTrader, Traffic Log Pro, Ziios and Dominion Insights. He can be reached at neil.pascale@dominionpowersports.com.

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