Well, are you? It's a question you should ask yourself sooner rather than later, before you do though you should check your ego at the door and be honest with yourself. I ask because it's the difference between what's expected and the service given that will decide whether or not you are worth doing business with again. We live in a time when just meeting expectations wont earn you repeat business. You must make it a policy to continually strive to go above and beyond and do the things that your customers DON'T expect, of course that just the beginning...
Your Personal Brand
Your brand is who you are, it's about building an identity that will resonate with your customers and keep them coming back to you even when there are no other incentives, besides their relationship with you, to do so. Building your online brand starts with who you actually are, what makes you unique, what can you offer that others will be drawn too? In the auto industry its relatively easy to stand out from the stereotypical auto dealership or automotive sales person.
Being incongruent with what people think about our industry, without you actively saying you are different, will go a long way to increasing the worth of your personal brand. If you keep in mind that people will sometimes believe what they are told, but will always believe what you conclude you will start to see that it's better to show that you are different by your actions, not your words.
If you want to generate leads, increase your repeats and referrals, then you need to recognize that online branding needs to be a priority because it can help you to reach your goals by driving incremental business your way. Simply put, if you want to build more online business (the new networking) then you must first build your online brand or identity.
It all starts with...
Managing your reputation is as important as marketing your reputation. Word of mouth can spread like wildfire and it's in your own best interest to listen to what others are saying about you or your dealership. While you can spend money on professional social monitoring tools (such as Radian6 and Brandseye) there are some free ways to get nearly the same results.
Setting Up Social Monitoring
1. Sign up for Google Reader, it's easy, free and a great way to manage all your reputation management feeds.
2. Go to Google Alerts and put in keywords that relate to you and your dealership. Make sure "Type:" say's "Everything" and "Deliver to:" says "Feed." Preview your results before you click create alert, make sure that you stay away from broad terms such as Ford or Toyota because they will send a ton of results that don't relate to you or your dealership. After clicking create alert it will automatically go to Google Reader.
3. Go to SocialMention.com and once again put in the keywords that relate to you and your dealership. After clicking search you will see an icon and next to it you will see "RSS Feed." Click on that link and save the feed to Google Reader. You may have to change the drop down to Google before clicking subscribe.
4. Go to IceRocket.com and put in your keywords and click search. Keep in mind that doing all of this may give you duplicate results but will also let you know when somebody says something about you online. After performing the search, grab the feed from the bottom left.
5. Go to YackTrack.com and once gain perform a search and grab the feed.
6. Go to BoardReader.com , search out your keywords and grab the feed.
While there are many others, this is a good start and is very thorough, remember that there will be dupes and some things that aren't relevant but that's just the name of the game.
Where To Start Building
Your home base is your website or blog, while building you personal online brand you want it to be your blog. Your blog is your hub, it's your home, its where you send everybody to find out more about who you are. You home base should have a nice about me section, a contact me page and should be easy to make comments on. It will have links to your outposts (we will talk about "outposts" next) and will have a nice "clean" look.
Outposts are accounts, profiles or pages on other social networks and social media platforms. It's a way to extend your personal brand outside of your home base. Create a profile on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and actively grow and engage your connections.
Passports are spaces that you post information on such as posts and newsletters and could even be other social networks that you send your RSS feed to but don't actively engage on. Passports can turn into Outposts if you start to use those spaces to be social and to engage others.
The idea behind segmenting your personal branding channels into home bases, outposts and passports is to allow you to better understand your flow of information and to allow for maximum influence.
Create content on a regular basis. This could include videos, podcasts or blog posts. Remember that you can repurpose your content if you run out of ideas. Remember that the less you pitch the more you sell. Be humble and remember that the only thing you should be selling is you. When creating content don't forget to include a call to action, that call to action could be to sign up for your newsletter or to leave a comment, but every video you create, podcast you record or blog post you write should have some sort of call to action in it.
When somebody comments, respond. Ask questions to further the conversation along. The more valuable your comments the more it reflects on your brand, on your personality. Create content that is pertinent to the people that you are looking to attract. As an auto dealership you can write posts on detailing tips, how to replace wiper blades, how to set the clock or work the navigation system. The ideas are endless!
Spend the bulk of your time engaging the people on your home base and outposts. Get to know them, find out who the influencers are and spend more time engaging them. Use a service such as Klout.com to find your own influence score as well as the scores of those in your networks.
When engaging people there are 4 distinct "personality types" that make up your network:
Give Your Brand A Voice
Based on your research (ask your customers!) determine what your audience wants to hear and what messages you want to put forth, that will build the foundation of your personal brand. Keep The following in mind:
Inviting Your Customers
Create business cards that has links to your home base and outposts and invite your customers to join you. When you sell your customer a vehicle take a picture of them and ask if you can tag them in it on Facebook. Once you have connected with them check out their profile and learn more about them. Engage them, converse with them and get to know them on a deeper level than just customer/ salesperson.
While it won't happen overnight, developing your own personal brand will go a long ways to generating you more business. Think about all the big brands out there and how much clout they have. By building your own brand, your own referral network you make yourself harder so no to, so what are you waiting for, get out there and build and if you have an questions, comments or concerns along the way I'm just an email or comment away.
Speaking of comments what would you like to add to this post? I'd love to hear what you have to say.
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