Legitimacy of Facebook’s “Graph Search”

A recent ReadWrite post questions the legitimacy of Facebook’s “Graph Search” feature http://readwrite.com/2013/01/22/facebooks-10-biggest-flops, likening it to previously launched features which didn’t fare as well.

Makes me think of a well-known Albert Einstein quote “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

Hire The Best For Your Dealership!

Dealers have embraced social media to sell more cars and generate more business in the service drive but most lag in using social media to hire the best employees. The very same things that drive customers to your site and “close” the deal can be used to bring in higher quality applicants for your open positions.

1) The average career page on dealer website is buried and if an applicant does manage to find it the content is less than compelling. Update that page with a video of real employees explaining why they love working at your dealership. List the benefits of working for your company. Have a unique page for each new job opening (and remember not to repost the same job over and over but instead update and improve content each time you repost). Don’t forget to use your company name and location in the page title. If you just use “Senior Service Tech” as the page title you are competing with and losing to with the job boards. Don’t forget a Meta tag. Nothing new here but usually forgotten when it comes to the “career page”.

2) Employee referrals are a great source of quality applicants and good employees- so do you encourage your employees to post job opening at your dealership on their Facebook page? If you don’t (and offer a referral bonus) then you are missing out. Encourage employees to tweet job opening too. If you don’t have a separate career Facebook page, get one.

3) Create a social media policy and have all employees sign it. Employees can be your best brand ambassadors and recruiting sources- but they need guidelines on what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. Given that 90% of hiring managers and recruiters say they use social media and 68% say they have not hired a person due to information they found on the internet it’s critical you have a policy. Most employees:

  • Don’t know that they owe you duty of loyalty when they’re off the clock.
  • Understand the nature of social media.
  • Realize that the Federal Trade Commission has a requirement regarding disclosure.

Social media is not just a tool for selling cars. It’s just as powerful in workforce management.

 

4 Social Media Legal Issues Dealers Can’t Afford to Ignore

This is an article originally writen by Jim Radogna. We thought it was an interesting read!

It was bound to happen. The tremendous growth of digital marketing and social media was an invitation for government regulation. For instance, the Federal Trade Commission recently updated its truth-in-advertising guidelines, which were last revised in 1980, to address the commercialism of the Web. Federal and state regulators are taking the position that social media is not a loophole for deceptive marketing practices and are actively enforcing and cracking down on social media deception. Proper social media ethics are now a matter of law, not just personal preference.

 

Faking Reviews

 

The FTC’s updated Endorsement and Advertising Guidelines require companies to ensure that their posts are completely accurate and not misleading, and planting or allowing fake reviews is a violation. The Guidelines are extremely broad and can apply to anyone writing reviews on rating sites, web sites or promoting products through social media sites, including blogs.

 

There are several companies out there that offer seemingly quick and easy ways to improve your ratings on review sites. Be careful! A Dealership in Texas suffered devastating reputation damage because of the review-posting practices of a company they hired. A customer discovered that suspicious “reviewers” were writing 5-star reviews about all kinds of businesses and dealerships across the nation on the same day. This debacle was uncovered in October of 2010, yet news stories continue to show up on the dealer’s page one search results.

 

While the above case may be an example of a dealer who unfortunately hired the wrong vendor, an area of real concern is the activity of a company’s own employees. The FTC recently charged a California marketing company with deceptive advertising after it found that the company’s employees were posing as ordinary consumers posting positive reviews online.

 

Dealers may face liability if employees use social media to comment on their employer’s services or products without disclosing the employment relationship. The FTC requires the disclosure of all “material connections” between a reviewer and the company that is being reviewed. These connections can be any relationship between a reviewer and the company that could affect the credibility a consumer gives to that reviewer’s statements, such as an employment or business relationship. So if employees, friends, family or vendors post reviews to prop up a dealership’s online reputation, they must clearly disclose any relationship they have with the company. In addition, all reviews must be an honest opinion based on a real experience. Reviewers must never endorse a product or service that they have not used personally or create any other form of false endorsement. It’s all about transparency and full disclosure.

 

Besides the obvious potential damage to a dealer’s reputation, failure to follow these regulations can result in substantial penalties. In recent actions, the New York Attorney General fined a cosmetic surgery company $300,000 for ordering its employees to write fake reviews of its face-lift procedure and the FTC ordered a company marketing instructional DVDs to pay $250,000 for fake reviews posted by the company’s affiliate marketers. The FTC has indicated that companies are fully responsible and liable for all inappropriate actions of their employees, their vendors, and any advocates they recruit. Reviewers may also be held personally liable for statements made in the course of their endorsements.

 

Paying For Reviews

 

The practice of offering a free oil change or gas card to a customer in exchange for a good survey has long been frowned upon by manufacturers. Because there are no factory gatekeepers when it comes to online ratings, it may seem tempting to offer customers an incentive to post a positive review.  The good news is that you can if you want to; the not-so-good news is that the regulations require that any reviewer provided with any form of compensation such as free services, rewards, incentives, promotional items, gifts, samples, or review items, must fully disclose the source and nature of any compensation received.

 

So, if you pay for reviews and the reviewers fail to disclose their compensation, you may face liability. This is an area where it’s easy to get caught and besides the legal danger, your reputation will likely take a big hit.

 

Advertising on Social Media Sites

 

The wisdom of trying to “sell” on social media sites by posting inventory, prices, or payments is an ongoing debate, but the fact remains that many dealers are engaged in this activity in some form. While I have no opinion on the relative merits of whether to “sell or not to sell” on social media, it’s important to note the potential implications of these types of activities.

 

Despite the fact that social media tends to be a low-keyed, casual type of communication, advertising regulations don’t go away. In fact, The Federal Trade Commission recently announced that it was updating its document Dot Com Disclosures: Information About Online Advertising. The primary focus of the document, 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 limited to 140 characters, you must include a clear link to any necessary disclosures. A good rule of thumb is to have any information that could possibly be construed as advertising reviewed by upper management or a qualified professional before it is posted.

 

Social Media Policy

 

Social media applications such as blogs, social networking, and video sharing have soared in popularity so it’s important that dealers control the information that’s coming out of their business. Policies and procedures should be put in place to spell out how employees are expected to conduct themselves within social media.  A social media policy can help take the guesswork out of what is appropriate for employees to post about a company to their social networks.

 

There are a number of potential legal issues with employees’ use of social media that should be addressed such as the danger of possible privacy, harassment, discrimination or defamation claims. Beyond legal risks, employees can harm a company’s reputation by disseminating controversial or inappropriate comments regarding the employer. However, employer restrictions on the use of social media can be tricky. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently issued a complaint against an Illinois dealership, alleging that the dealership unlawfully terminated an employee for making critical comments about the dealership on Facebook. While some unprofessional and inappropriate conduct may not be protected, the intersection of social media and the NLRA is an evolving area of the law.

 

The best way to protect your dealership from legal trouble is by establishing formal social media policies for your staff. Companies often get in the most trouble when they fail to train their employees about appropriate social media use and disclosure. To prevent this from happening, it’s a good idea to create a written social media policy and training program for your company and carefully monitor social media use.

Reputation Management Is Not Rocket Science

There are a number of good reasons for operating an ethical and legally compliant dealership, not the least of which is staying out of a courtroom.  Perhaps the most important – and most often overlooked – reason is increased customer satisfaction.  There are times when an employee may feel that he or she came out the winner by bending the rules a little, but what about the dealership’s reputation?  What about the customers who were mislead?  It seems like there might be some losers in the game.

Customers often make decisions during a vehicle sale transaction that they come to regret after the “ether has worn off”.  Perhaps they read the contract more carefully after they got home or showed it to a relative, friend, neighbor, etc.  The customer may notice some imperfections on the vehicle in the light of day and have it inspected by a mechanic or body shop or run a vehicle history report.  If there is a concern, some customers will let the dealer know while others will just chalk it up to (bad) experience.

Now, if the dealer is lucky enough to get a chance to rectify the customer’s concern, how will the complaint be handled?  Will it be “Sorry, all sales are final” or “You signed the contract”?

What about the customer that doesn’t bother to report the concern?  You can be sure they’re telling somebody about the transaction.  Or perhaps they’re telling thousands of people via social media?

Here are some examples of after-sale situations that can cause potential customer satisfaction nightmares:

  • The customer sees your advertisement for a price lower than was charged for the vehicle.
  • The customer discovers additional charges on the contract for items that he or she thought were included in the price of the vehicle.
  • The customer discovers that F&I products were sold at much-higher-than-market prices.
  • The customer discovers additional charges on the contract for items that he or she never agreed to purchase.
  • The customer gets a call from the lender who asks for verification that the vehicle has a sunroof – and it doesn’t.
  • The customer discovers that the price of the vehicle was raised to cover negative equity on the trade-in when after being told that the dealer agreed to purchase the trade-in for the full loan balance.
  • The customer gets a call from the lender asking for verification of an income amount which is much higher than what was written on the credit application.
  • The customer discovers that the vehicle purchased had undisclosed prior damage.
  • The customer runs a vehicle history report and discovers that the vehicle purchased was an undisclosed previous rental, a prior demo, flood damaged, etc.
  • The customer brings the vehicle in for repairs and discovers that the warranty or service contract coverage or term was misrepresented.

Sure, you made the deal. But is it really worth putting the reputation that you have worked years to build at risk? Take compliance and ethical behavior seriously.  A commitment to honesty and fair dealing will protect your company, your employees, your customers and, most importantly, your good name.

Virality: The Value of Pinterest for Car Dealers

 

As Pinterest continues to rise in exposure and prominence in social media, many dealers have been asking me how to make it work for them. There are certain techniques that we, fortunately or unfortunately, save for clients, but here’s one that you can use today to help improve the virality and SEO of your website.

It starts with being interesting. Nobody on Pinterest (and social media in general) wants to see the special you have on your 2011 program cars. They want to see something “cool” on social media. Pinterest can make the fun part of managing your dealer website actually have value for your online marketing efforts.

Here’s the technique:

  1. Using your website content management system, create a page that looks something like this: 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge.
  2. Be sure to include unique content – a paragraph or two is fine.
  3. Don’t forget your image credits! It’s important that you link to the sources of the images. It’s the right thing to do.
  4. Include links at the bottom that go to your website or other websites that you’re trying to optimize.
  5. “Pin It” on Pinterest. Assuming you have a following (or want to build up a following) you’ll want to have something awesome to show them such as the GTO.
  6. Share the Pin on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, etc.

The goal here is to help your website be part of a viral spread. It isn’t the direct traffic that you receive from the Pin or the social media sites you place it on. It’s the authority you receive in the eyes of the search engines from all of the links that are generated.

Pinterest links are no-followed. Don’t let that hamper you. Social signals are a part of rankings, but more importantly your goal isn’t to rank for that vehicle necessarily. Your goal is to build that page as an authoritative source. By doing so, the links at the bottom of the page will help you rank for the important keywords you want to improve.

It may be complicated, but give it a shot. Depending on which CMS you’re using, this could be a weekly process that takes about 15 minutes.

How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Day Spa

Promoting your day spa online now involves more than just setting up a website and updating your blog regularly. Social networking tools including Twitter and Facebook can help you achieve a stronger online presence and communicate directly with spa guests and prospective clients. You can generate immediate interest in spa specials, build a community of loyal customers, and announce special events and offers within a few clicks.

There are several ways day spa owners can leverage social media tools to market their spa online. Here are some tips for using social media to promote your day spa:

1. Join Twitter. Twitter is becoming one of the most efficient online marketing tools for small businesses, and is a great way to develop a following for your day spa. Twitter gives you a chance to promote links and make announcements without sounding ‘spammy’ – as long as you use it correctly. Set up a Twitter profile and start finding current and prospective clients to follow so that your day spa can become easily accessible online.

2. Set up and maintain an active Facebook profile. Facebook has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception, but it’s more than just a platform for showcasing your online profile. The highly interactive element of Facebook allows you to interact directly with your current and prospective clients in much the same way as Twitter. You can even link your Twitter profile to your Facebook account to keep them both up to date in one step.

3. Leave comments on blogs. Interacting with your target market via blog comments is a great way to reach out to the local community and keep up with what your clients are interested in. Use the Google Blog search tool to find out who is blogging about spa treatments in your area, beauty tips and other spa-related information. This is your chance to join the online chatter and establish your presence. If your day spa has its own blog, great! If not, make sure you use your website URL as the link when you post a comment.

4. Promote your own blog posts. Use tools such as StumbleUpon and Digg.com to promote your latest blog posts. These social tools will help to send your links out into the blogosphere, making it easier for people to pick up the links and link to your content. This strategy is just another way to increase your online exposure and bring more traffic to your website.

5. Write guest blog posts for other industry professionals. Write articles or provide tips on spa treatments and trends to local bloggers as a guest contributor for an online spa directory. This is a simple way to build your brand and generate some interest in your day spa.

When you’re marketing your day spa online, you need to focus on creating a strong, professional online presence. Social media tools really are all about people, so it’s important to use tools such as Twitter and Facebook without spamming your followers and fans. Provide value for your fans and followers so that they continue to frequent your spa and become genuinely interested in the items you post.

Patients turn to social media for information on plastic surgery

A new study reveals that more and more people are going online for advice and information before deciding whether or not to go under the knife. The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) reports that, in 2011, 42 percent of patients received most of their information about plastic surgery from social media. That’s an increase from 29 percent in 2010.

In addition, the percentage of patients who obtained information on plastic surgery from friends dipped to 48 percent, down from 63 percent in 2010.
“We are encouraged by the possibilities that Facebook, Twitter and other social channels offer for prospective patients, but urge all patients to exercise caution in researching facial plastic procedures to ensure information is from a reliable source,” said the President of the AAFPRS.
The AAFPRS survey also found that the majority of surgeons surveyed reported 70 percent of their patients request procedures by describing the area of concern rather than requesting a specific product or procedure by name.

In addition, the popularity of “celebrity procedures,” in which a patient requests a surgery to help them look more similar to a celebrity, has decreased.
Patients are encouraged to do their homework when it comes to choosing a qualified doctor and not depend solely on the professional’s online presence. It is recommended that patients choose a surgeon that is properly trained, licensed and board-certified in order to ensure the best results possible in a safe manner.

Start-up Social Media For Medical Practices

Whether you have a communications/marketing department at the helm of your practice’s publicity or you’re doing it solo, it’s still smart for you, the practice administrator, to understand the reasons and motivation behind using social media. Having a clear-cut strategy will get everyone in the practice on the same page and promote consistency and professionalism online – even in a network like Facebook.

Follow these tips to develop a strategic social media plan that’s right for your healthcare organization.

 

As the practice administrator you should understand the reasons and motivation behind using social media.

Ask yourself: What’s your goal for using a social network?

  • Do you simply want to increase visibility and awareness of your practice in the community?
  • Are you looking for an easy way to bring staff and patient experiences together online?
  • Will you use these channels to advertise new services, physicians or changes to your organization, possibly replacing some of the costs of mailings?

Knowing why you want to engage potential customers online will help determine which platform you should choose. For example, Facebook is great for creating a community where you can post events, pictures and video, while Twitter is ideal for reaching news outlets and increasing the visibility of your practice’s services. Don’t forget recruitment: LinkedIn offers a credible way to browse job candidates and post openings.

Take an inventory of your organization’s Web site

How often is it updated and what type of information do you post? What do patients and staff use it for? Often, they would be just as likely to look for the same information on your social network.

If you already house most of your organization’s information on your Web site, consider using social media as a tease to drive traffic back to your site. Over time, you’ll notice your social networks will begin to show up as referrals in your Web site’s analytics.

Know your audience

Which social network do most of your patients use? Consider polling them, either on your Web site or in your office during an appointment. Remember that younger members are often more familiar and more likely to be on social networks. Enlist them as your champions by encouraging them to join.

Educate your patients about engaging with you in the social network

So you have 500 fans on your Facebook page, but nobody’s talking. Or maybe your patients don’t understand the value of connecting with you on Twitter. Communicate what they can expect to see when they join your networks – whether it’s office closures, notices about vaccines or party pics from your last community event. Great ways to promote the social media that you already use include: your Web site, e-mail communications and signs in your office (especially patient rooms!).

Think beyond text

Pictures, audio, video and presentations are compelling ways to communicate with members – especially on social networks. If your Web site doesn’t currently have that capability, all the better! Facebook has free video creation built-in, while both Facebook and LinkedIn have the SlideShare app, perfect for uploading and easily sharing health-focused PowerPoints online.

Urology San Antonio began creating YouTube videos about a year ago, and now its “Vasectomy. Get the Facts.” video with 10,500 views appears first whenever someone searches for “vasectomy” on YouTube. The video was spontaneously produced in an hour while the crew waited to record videos on robotic surgery in the operating room. Communications Director Abbey Forney says urology lends itself to social media.“We deal with so many awkward topics – bladder issues and sexual issues,” that patients are comfortable learning about in the privacy of their own homes, she says. “It’s been great for our practice, especially for the things where people have the time to research online.”

Post regularly and quickly

Smaller blurbs are more effective because users of social networks usually have short attention spans. For example, tweets have a shelf life of 24 hours. Content shouldn’t go through a long review process, but it also shouldn’t be posted without hitting spell check. Several medical practices have embraced Twitter because it takes only a few seconds to update throughout an employee’s otherwise packed schedule.

Urology San Antonio has also used Twitter to make quick connections in the community. On Twitter, Forney spotted a family practice doctor who had just opened his business in the area, so she assembled some of the practice’s physicians to visit and let him know they’d be happy to accept referrals.

The key to encouraging engagement in any of these social networks is to be informal and approachable. Think about a patient entering your office for the first time. What do you want your first impression to be? Your strategy will follow.

7 Reasons Social Media Is A No-Brainer For Passionate B2C Brands

 

Social media is fast becoming a standard element in the marketing mix of major consumer brands.  And with good reason: never before has such a creative landscape existed for people and the brands they love to interact, share stories and build relationships – in all directions.

With social media marketing spends predicted to grow at an annual rate of 34% according to a report from Forrester Research, analyst trends support these thoughts.  Yet, not all companies are sold, with many taking a “wait and see” approach as they believe the landscape to be risky and unproven.

Just the opposite is true – waiting may prove the riskiest move of all as brands who wait too long only succeed in yielding ground to agile competitors.  This may prove especially damaging in the B2C space.  When consumers pledge allegiance to favorite brands, they may stick with those brands indefinitely and outright ignore competitors.

At this point, the rewards far outweigh the risks, especially for brands following a social media roadmap, something which sets themselves up for success.

Still questioning the value?  The following are 7 reasons engaging in social media marketing is a no-brainer for any passionate B2C brand:

1.  Take your communications directly to consumer

While traditional media is shrinking and digital media continues to experience growth, huge opportunities are afforded to companies embracing the direct to consumer model for their communications.  For a stunning example of this at scale, consider that if the Official Google blog was a newspaper, its subscriber numbers would put it in the top 10 for daily circulation right between the Houston Chronicle and the Chicago Tribune (hat tip to Noah Brier for the observation).  Google not only delivers content directly to consumer, but as a by-product of that their messages resonate beyond other blogs and frequently into tech, trade and mainstream media.

2.  Avoid a negative groundswell

By being active in social media and having your finger on the pulse of what the world is saying about your brand, you may be able to hedge negativity before it spirals out of control.  We’ve all heard the stories about negative brand experiences from consumers which resonated in the social web, but we didn’t hear about a backlash against Priceline.  That’s because Priceline was paying attention and able to respond to a potential groundswell by alleviating the situation before it could spread.  David Armano noted the details but the consumer’s reaction in her own words speaks volumes:

“I opened Aaron’s email around 12:00PM PST I posted a Blog on Google describing the events and then sent a Tweet Blast around 2 if my tweets are logging PST, which is possible as I have no sense of time.  Then I specifically re-tweeted to people with larger follows to help make sure I was heard. Aaron called me at 4 PM PST which is 7 in North Carolina and said that,  “Priceline had called about an hour ago and offered to refund the money!”

The old saying of satisfied customers tell three friends, angry customers tell everyone becomes exponentially more potent in social media.  Shouldn’t you be there to concurrently help your customers and practice digital reputation management?

3.  Own your presence in popular platforms

Your brand may not be active in platform-specific networks such as Facebook or Twitter at the corporate level, but make no mistake that your biggest fans are already doing this on your behalf.  International Dairy Queen had an interest in getting involved in Facebook (and social media as a whole) and upon digging into the situation they discovered hundreds of others had already created Facebook fan pages on behalf of the brand to share their love of an American classic.

DQ was able to analyze what fans were doing and strategically establish their DQ corporate Facebook presence right alongside fan pages, where it has quickly grown to six-figures organically and become the major hub for the brand in that network.  With hundreds of comments and likes on each post engaging with DQ’s blog content and promotions, it is an active, vibrant digital asset (full disclosure:  DQ was previously a client I worked on at my former employer).

4.  Truly understand your demographic

Social media presents the ultimate focus group because you can naturally observe how people behave and interact – specifically the demographic you’re interested in reaching.  But it goes beyond merely watching.  By engaging with your demographic directly through social communications tools, you will learn details about them you may have not previously considered.

It is risky to miss the mark in a connected world, as witnessed by the Motrin Moms fiasco last year.  Had they been actively involved in a dialog with their target demographic, they may have created a promotion which resonated positively, instead of something still getting referenced for rubbing their consumers the wrong way.  The web as a medium isextremely referential, so you will live with the good and bad.  By having an understanding your chances of being known for something positive increase exponentially.

5.  Social media / SEO intersection

As Online Marketing Blog readers are well aware, there is a clear intersection of search and social media.  As we discuss this intersection quite frequently, I’ll sum this point up quickly with a quote from one of Lee’s posts on Mashable:

By involving SEO insight in a social media marketing effort and vice versa, marketers, public relations professionals and advertisers can extend the value of their investment. Well optimized social media content marketing efforts can attract new network participants via search. News content that experiences distribution via social news and bookmarking channels can facilitate links to company website content directly and indirectly. Advertisers that fund social media campaigns can continue to realize the traffic benefit from keyword-optimized interactive content long after the campaign has ended.

6.  Real-time market research

Once you’re active in social media and begin to attract a following for your brand, your opportunities for engagement and to gain actionable data from your audience will become limited only by your creativity.  You can crowdsource new product ideas directly to those most interested in purchasing, get feedback on making current products better and work to find out what it is your consumers really want.  Focus groups in controlled settings are out, real-time data “in the wild” is in.

7.  It’s nearly 2010 – consumers expect it

Last but not least, our world is quickly moving to a society where digital media is the dominant player.  A study by PEW confirms this:  more people say they rely mostly on the internet for news than cite newspapers, and nearly six-in-ten Americans younger than 30 (59%) say they get most of their national and international news online.  Also, the percentage of people younger than 30 citing television as a main news source has declined from 68% in September 2007 to 59% in 2008.  Digital media share of voice is only going to continue climbing while other channels lose ground.

Can you really afford to ignore the new medium of choice for consumers?