Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Failed Social Media Strategy

It's often hard to say what a company's goal is when using Social Media. We can assume all day long that the underlying goal is to make money. However, their actual goal may be to increase product awareness or find out what people really think about their business.

But in one case, I'd like to assume that an auto dealership in Tucson, Arizona, thought it was their last chance at survival.

I don't quite remember the day when this dealer started following me, but I decided it would be wise to follow them back.  I kept a close eye on what they were doing and saying.  The all too often tweet  looked like this:
If you own a Suzuki Equator in Benson, <company name> wants to be your one stop automotive destination.  Visit our FB page. 
And that was it.  In fact, minus the occasional video post, there was nothing but that same format tweet.  And the video posts were only URLs.  There was no information.  This is all I saw for months...

...and then:
The dealership was in trouble.  They announced that they would be closing their doors.  A week of tweets proclaiming the last chance to get 33% off of all new inventory was all that remained.

One thing that I would like to point out is that I have no idea why they were closing their store.  The owner could have had a medical reason, or just wanted to retire.  But as I have seen many times, Auto Dealers tend to have this notion that Social Media is a over night fix to their declining sales.

How You Fail With Social Media
Let's assume for a moment that Social Media was the owner's plan to save his dealership.  Where did he go wrong?

The key problem people face with Social Media is that they forget that it is Social.  You have to connect and talk with people.  Imagine you are at a party.  Everyone is mingling and chatting about life.  There are conversations about business going on, but that's not the main focus.  And then Steve shows up.  Steve stands in the middle of the room and starts shouting, "Now in stock at Steve's Auto Sales: a new Ford Taurus only $23,995!"

The room stops.  Everyone looks at Steve for a moment.  But nobody has anything to say in response.  The masses go back to their conversations.  Steve thinks he made an impact.  So, he waits a few minutes and then screams it again.  This time everyone just ignores it.  And so it continues for the rest of the party.

If you were attending that party, would Steve have annoyed you?  You bet he would have driven me nuts.  There's a good chance I would have left the party.  So, when this dealership continued to keep posting the same thing over and over, I began to ignore them.  And therefore their Social Media Strategy failed them.

Social Media Shouldn't be a Strategy.
When kings and queens ruled the world, their children were married for strategic reasons.  Every relationship was part of a strategy.  As business owners, we tend to think of relationships the same way.  "I'll play golf at certain country club so that I can meet the right people."  "I go to a specific church so that I can visit with people who can afford the cars I sell."

We do it all the time.  But people can see through that.  Social Media shouldn't be a strategy, it should be a meeting place to learn about your customers, find out how you can help them, and build a transparent business that people can trust.

Please understand that if you build a "Social Media Strategy" you're only building a "how to talk with people" strategy.  Social Media is an overnight fix, it's a way to grow relationships.

Don't believe me?  KLM (the dutch airline owned by Air France-KLM Group) decided that they needed to take a different approach with Social Media.  They wanted to get Social.  So, at their hub, the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, they started searching for people who were tweeting about flying on KLM and being at the airport.  They would research the person using Facebook.  And then they would buy a gift that matched the person, and hand deliver it.

Now that's being Social.  That's a strategy that will actually help create repeat customers.  If KLM had just constantly tweeted about how great their flights were, nothing would have ever happened.  Oh, and the impact that had?  They generated more than 1,000,000 impressions.

Lesson Learned: Social Media requires conversations with people, not your normal marketing hoopla.

But, hey, I'm just some guy who likes to look at airplanes, so what do I know?

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