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When I see an auto repair shop without a social media presence, it baffles me. To be considered a professional, the auto industry demands you to be savvy with technology. You don’t need a massive ad budget. You can reach potential customers without spending a cent.

According to the Pew Research Center, 81 percent of American adults have Internet access, and 75 percent of those folks are Facebook users. There’s no reason to be surprised. If you’re among the 75 percent, imagine how many exes, distant relatives, and former classmates have sent you a friend request. No one really disappears from your life anymore.

The rise of social media has tremendous implications for your business. Facebook is like a fun event where everybody you’ve ever met is invited. “Event” is a key word. If you went to an event that was advertised as a social gathering—and it turned out to be a sales presentation—how would you feel? That’s an instant turnoff for me. People aren’t very interested in sales pitches, especially on social media. Facebook is a place to chill with friends, catch-up on the news and unwind.

No one wants to hear about your $19.99 oil change on their daily Facebook feed. Even your best friend and most loyal customer will hide or unfollow you … and that’s the worst! Your updates will never appear in their feed again. Don’t go for the hard sale. You’ll lose an opportunity to connect.

I prefer transparent over salesy any day, don’t you? My philosophy is: “Service, not sales.” Sure, I’ll share a link to my workshops or PPA certification course every now and then, but timing is everything. For every promotional post, I share at least three helpful statuses; auto safety tips or customer service tricks, for example. Think of social media as a way to establish your reputation, and to ultimately build your business. However, this can only happen if people know what you do and where you are. If you’re in it for the long haul, then social is a great space.

You don’t have to close the sale right now. That’s too much pressure. Your goal is simple: do a great job and make sure everybody knows about it. If you’re able to communicate automotive concepts like preventive maintenance in a way the average driver understands, you’ll gain a leg-up on your competition (earn a prime spot in the feed).

This is where most folks ask, “Should I post a picture, video, or text updates?” I’ll answer with another question: “Are you a better photographer, speaker, or writer?” Be self-aware and play to your strengths! Regardless of the method, keep updates short—less than 100 words or 1 minute.

Attention isn’t freely given. You’ve got to earn it. After you gain some traction, experiment with different posting types, lengths, or frequencies. Observe how people respond, and act accordingly.

THINKSTOCKYou might be thinking, “Makes sense, Audra, but I don’t really understand the ROI of social media.” Remember: Facebook is a place where friends gather to bond, connect and share silly pictures of cats. Imagine a driver breaks down. They need to find a shop ASAP and ask on Facebook whether anyone know a good mechanic.

If you want to be the professional who gets tagged and recommended at this moment, you need to have a presence and make sure everybody in your network knows you fix cars for a living.

According to Nielsen, 83 percent of consumers trust personal recommendations more than any other form of marketing. Want to take advantage of word-of-mouth advertising? If so, you must position yourself as a professional in the minds of your network. Posting helpful hints and real-time updates about what’s going on at your shop is the easiest way to accomplish that.

Fun fact: The average person checks their Facebook feed 14 times a day. Only 10 percent of Facebook users update their status daily. In other words, most people aren’t producers. They’re consumers. They like and share status updates that agree with their worldview. Do you see the opportunity here?

Next month, I’ll share advanced strategies, plus how social media has made an impact on my business. For now, implement these two actionable tips:

1. Post a status similar to this template.
“Hey, friends! I’m about to start posting a weekly tip about auto awareness on Facebook. Applying my advice will help you drive safe, avoid breakdowns, and save money on repairs. Do you have any questions? Ask away in the comments or PM me.”

2. Share a weekly tip with your network.
If any of your customers ask a question, write it down and make sure to answer it with one of your tips. Pay attention to interaction—likes, comments, and shares—to determine what themes or topics resonate with your readers. Be a content producer, not a consumer.

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