Business Tools

Increase Business Opportunities Through Social Networking

SEMA Show attendees learn how to develop brand identity via social media.

Social media represents a fundamental shift in the way people communicate. It’s a way of life for today’s young generation, but it also has a place in business. Social media can help build brand recognition, drive traffic to your brands and build lasting relationships, according to Mark Sprague, marketing manager for NGK sparkplugs and moderator of the Social Networking and Viral Marketing seminar at the 2009 SEMA Show.

Online Social Networking 24/7

Online social networking is comparable to a club meeting for people who share the same interests, according to Natasha Swanson, web sales manager for Monarch Products. For instance, pertaining to the automotive industry, a club for enthusiasts of a particular vehicle model may consist of members who have a glitch in a car they’re trying to fix or they may be interested in a high-performance upgrade and seeking recommendations.

As social networking relates to the SEMA Show, attendees go to seminars to find solutions to their problems and learn about new products and how to expand their business. They walk through Show aisles to meet vendors and receive recommendations. They attend cocktail parties to meet new people, network and exchange ideas.

Likewise, people use social networking sites to meet people with similar interests, exchange ideas, find solutions to problems and get recommendations. The SEMA Show is five days long and a cocktail party is just a few hours long. Online social networking has no time constraints.

“Bloggers can post today, and several years down the road people may still be discussing that topic on the same thread,” Swanson said. “There are no boundaries and no limits to the amount of topics that can be discussed, recommendations to be given or the amount of people the conversation reaches.”

The effectiveness of traditional advertising is rapidly declining along with magazine and newspaper distribution. The specialty parts and accessories target market has changed. It’s now generation-wide and today’s generation is different from the ones advertised to in the past. They are web-focused and have 24/7 access to Twitter and Facebook. According to a recent SEMA study, 44% of today’s generation reads blogs and 69% have a Facebook account but only 20% read automotive magazines.

“We can no longer reach this target market through traditional advertising,” Swanson said. “We can’t use general Internet advertising either because this generation is constantly spammed with advertising, which is no longer effective because they ignore our ads.”

Develop Brand Identity

The first thing entrepreneurs must do is to develop a brand identity in which buyers can connect. This is formed by the brand’s reputation among enthusiasts. To boost that reputation, become involved in the market, offer great customer service, sell quality products and have proper technical support. In addition to price, today’s generation places a high value on relationships and good customer service. They also care about what their peers think and often obtain recommendations from them.

“As an entrepreneur, you want people to talk about your company on social networking sites, user forums and blogs to get your name out there,” Swanson said. “For people to talk about you, they have to know who you are and you must develop a relationship with them. Salespeople have a bad reputation for a reason. Nobody likes a sales pitch. People want to buy from someone they trust who cares about them as a person and is familiar with their vehicle.”

Become a value to potential customers by posting online how-to articles, content that relates to the product being sold, technical reviews, technical installations and user reviews. Make an effort to understand potential customers and what they’re trying to accomplish. When they go to purchase, they’re going to buy from the person with whom they have built a relationship and helped guide them through the process instead of shopping around for the lowest price.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Social Media

According to Mike Schwab, vice president of NGK’s aftermarket division, there are seven deadly sins that go along with social media. They are as follows:

Lust: Loving your customer is great but take it slow. Get to know what they’re talking about before you start pushing your message, which should be in unison with theirs.

Gluttony: Don’t bite off more than you can chew. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Greed: It’s hard to shake hands with someone when you’re reaching in their back pocket for their wallet. Don’t think of it as a sale; think of it as a relationship.

Sloth: Avoid temptation to set it and forget it. When companies first started to build their websites 10–15 years ago, they populated them with everything about their brands and then left them alone and they became stale. Think of potential clients as friends who you talk to everyday.

Wrath: If there are people out there bad-mouthing your brand, don’t try to correct what they’re saying. Instead, listen to them and change the way you do business so you can make that person’s downfall your next positive step. Internet users are the ones who are talking about your product and telling you how to make it better.

Envy: Don’t be dissuaded by other people who are doing business better than you. Everybody jumps into social media at various stages. You don’t need to be the first one out there leading it; you just need to be out there working your plan and making it better.

Pride: Stay humble.

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