Perception is reality.
Arguably, the best piece of ‘big picture’ advice that I’ve ever been given. One would be hard-pressed to debate the fact that we form decisive conclusions based on our individual perception. From the worthiness of interpersonal relationships and evaluation of professional competence to the businesses we support and political candidates that we elect, our lives are driven largely by subjective opinion. And if you think this shouldn’t factor into your Automotive Social Media Marketing strategy, you’re in for a rude awakening.
A full twelve months have come and gone since Facebook enacted a policy designed to combat “bad shopping experiences”. Quite possibly the strongest pro-consumer move, this frightening act of control aimed to limit the advertising options of businesses that don’t meet consumer expectations. And while it was never designed to be a light switch (incorporating one-on-one follow-ups from Facebook to at-risk advertisers) one couldn’t help but wonder where things would go from there.
Also in 2018, Facebook’s review strategy was modified to elicit a binary Yes/No response on whether or not consumers would recommend a particular business they’ve patronized. The could then be followed up with a ‘Rich Endorsement’ allowing the reviewer to elaborate, include photos etc. That said, the greater likelihood of a negative experience to elicit a response created concerns. After all, criticisms of a damning nature (even unsubstantiated) could minimize that business’ opportunities to market themselves on Facebook. So how can a dealership protect itself against the threat of perception?
Make it NOT About You
We talk about a lot of ideas and areas of focus for 2019, but one of the most important pieces of advise that we can offer is to create a truly customer-centric experience. Doing so by today’s standards calls for a tandem approach, crafting such an experience online as well as IRL. One must then acknowledged a cyclical cause and effect relationship between the two points: online engagement fuels customer conversion, which influences further online engagement.
Granted, consumer trust of Facebook hit an all-time low in 2018, enabling some to argue that any restrictions placed upon advertisers can be downplayed. But, as marketers, how many of us would actually agree? Even more importantly, how many of us would take that chance? (Anyone? Anyone?)
The bottom line is that Social Media endures as a cornerstone of any digital marketing strategy worth its salt. With traditional marketing awaiting the last of the nails to be hammered into its coffin, online visibility has asserted itself as the lifeblood of any thriving business. And with that visibility comes the realization that engagement is king.
Reviews are only part (albeit an important part) of the puzzle. Best practice comes in diligent management of one’s online engagement, ensuring that every single one serves as a continuation of a customer-centric experience. Whether positive, negative, casual or indifferent each and every comment provides an invitation for response. And with that invitation comes the responsibility of making sure that the public-facing side of that interaction makes the best possible impression. Failure to do so could have a dire impact on your valuation in the ‘all-seeing Eye of Google’.
Battling the Haters
We’re not here to talk about the positive reviews, are we? If we were, we probably wouldn’t have started with the phrase ‘Perception is reality’. We’re here to talk about the negative reviewers, the naysayers and the haters, insatiable in their inability or unwillingness to be satisfied by your best efforts to please them. In this sense, perception is everything.
Because Facebook provides everyone with a public forum, a megaphone, billboard and does so free of charge it became an incredibly useful and visual tool. With the click of a mouse, or the swipe of a finger, a hater can present their experience to the court of public opinion…and (as you probably know all-too-well) misery loves company. And yes, we’ve talked about the potential damage this could do to your online marketing strategy, but let’s not diminish the damage of a more personal nature. So what strategies should you employ when dealing with the un-pleasable. What steps can you take to minimize the risk of a negativity maelstrom?
- Time is of the essence. The downside to technology is that the expectation of immediacy has never been greater (and sometimes unreasonable). The same old tactics and timetable are no longer effective, and we’ve been challenged to be faster, better and more responsive to meet the expectations of today’s consumers. In execution, that means that a response should always be prompt, even if only as a courtesy acknowledgment intended to redirect the conversation to a more private setting.
- Recognize that there are no universals. This means that, acknowledging that each scenario is different and recognizing that each response should be proportionally unique. Some will call for a light touch, while others will call for a firm hand. Some will value the warmth of a human (and humane) discourse, while others want to get down to business.
- Adaptability is key. And in most cases, social media professionals find that a prompt response that is sensitive to the uniqueness of the situation will allows for some degree of positive resolution. Why? People appreciate effort, even if they may not be fully satisfied with the outcome. But what about those who don’t?
- Hide / Ban / Block. Yes, these decisive mono-syllabic words seem harsh. But the truth is that some people will never be pacified, despite your best efforts. Even worse is their willingness to vandalize your social media pages with relentless commentary that could deter prospective customers from doing business with you. As such, more drastic efforts are needed and Facebook provides a wealth of tools to minimize the visibility of such comments, or silence the user altogether.
Speaking of Facebook tools, there are also a number of tools intended to proactively manage and moderate one’s social media activity. For example, you can ban specific keywords from public comments, making any post that contains those words hidden pending review. While it’s certainly worst-case scenario, this can be helpful with words like ‘lawsuit’, ‘court case’ etc.
You can also configure your page in a manner that regulates posting, or requires approval of any comment before they go public.
Okay. So it’s a Little About YOU
Ultimately, your online presence should be (and usually is) an extension of your physical presence. If your dealership offers a customer-centric experience with countless pleased customers, it’s likely that your social media will reflect the same. But be honest with yourself, prior to waging war against anyone you perceive as a hater.
Sure perception is reality but remember, you’re only looking at it from your own point of view.