Social Media Experts at 2022 NAPA Expo: Customers Want Relationships

July 22, 2022

NAPA's Brandon Walker, Facebook's Amanda Flippin, and Optimize Social Media's Jon Napoli educated shop owners on being more human online with customers and prospects.

July 22, 2022, LAS VEGAS—According to data from the 2022 Ratchet+Wrench industry survey, 17 percent of shop owners reported not using any forms of social media, while 35 percent reported self-managing their digital marking efforts with Facebook (82 percent) as their preferred network.

Brandon Walker, NAPA's strategic connections marketing manager; Amanda Flippin, automotive retail lead with Facebook; and Jon Napoli, relationship ambassador at Optimize Social Media shared insights at the 2022 NAPA Expo regarding shops and social media opportunities that are often unknown to shop owners or are overlooked.

Market to the Phone

People have an attachment to their mobile devices. While some may think it's limited to millennials and Gen Z, it's more far-reaching. He reported that consumers touched their cell phones 2,617 times each day and adults spend 7.5 hours a day on digital devices. Of those who are device dependent, 69 percent watch TV while scrolling on a mobile phone.

"It's not just a generational thing," said Walker. "That's important to realize with your customers."

Be Convenient

According to data presented by Walker, 95 percent of purchases will be done online by 2040. Shops need to be ready to adapt to this trend by bringing the point of point of purchase digitally. Customers, said Walker, want a more personal experience with the brands with which they spend their month. He pointed to consumers who overwhelmingly choose to consume content via mobile—a two-way communication platform—over television, a one-way method of communication from sender to receiver.

"We used to live in a one-way world. Now, we live in a two-way world. Our customers want to be able to talk to us and interact with our brand," Walker said.

And how do these customers want to establish these shared connections with repair shops? Through social media, Walker said.

Craft an Authentic Social Media Presence

According to data from Meta, Facebook's parent company, people spend 2.5 hours per day on social media. A more telling statistic presented by Flippin showed that consumers spend their time predominantly on Meta's two social media platforms—Facebook and Instagram. 

"People spend more time on Facebook and Instagram than YouTube and Twitter combined," Flippin said.

Using examples of three NAPA shops she entered into the Facebook Ads interface, Flippin demonstrated how a shop could reach customers with more focus by using the shop's location and incorporating variables reflective of the shop's ideal customer. One example was a NAPA AutoCare center in Holly, Michigan, to which Facebook revealed it could return an audience reach of 375,000 to the shop through Facebook Ads.

"You can use ads manager to put on your city, zip code, address and you'll see your reach," said Flippin.

She supported her position pointing to a pair of slides, one with data on which forms of auto repair are most often discussed on Facebook timelines by consumers, and the other revealing when throughout the year people posted regarding specific repair needs. 

"People talk about automotive on Facebook, and it has a seasonal pattern," said Flippin. "Work with your agency partner to develop your marketing around these seasonal patterns. People are talking about the services you offer."

Napoli, who agreed with Flippin, took it a step further, saying he's often had to remind shop owners that because you aren't on Facebook doesn't mean you aren't on Facebook.

"I ask customers, 'How active you are on Facebook?' They say, 'I'm not on Facebook.' Yeah, you are. Customers [who are active users] will check into your shop, and Facebook makes an unofficial page," Napoli said.

Both Flippin and Napoli encouraged weekly use as a bare minimum but pointed out that shops could use social media beyond the ways they're accustomed to using it: for posting offers. 

"It's your digital handshake," said Napoli, telling shop owners to be human to attract humans. "Show off your team, your good deeds. People want to buy from people."

He reminded shop owners to be different online than their competitors, but not in a goods and services way, which runs counter to how consumers want to interact. He asked shop owners to focus instead on creating competitive separation starting with the people in the building.

"What is the biggest point of differentiation between your shop and others in your town? Your people. Show your people," Napoli said.

Mapping Out Your Success Through Yelp

In what could be the biggest jaw-dropping moment in the session, Napoli revealed a stunning truth about Yelp, a platform with which some shop owners have a challenging relationship. Napoli asked if anyone used an iPhone for calling up maps. Hands raised.

"Yelp powers the iPhone, plus Google and Bing. The data that gets pulled up on Apple Maps comes from Yelp," he said, stating that shop owners need to ensure they get reviews added to the popular platform so thor shops show up on mobile-based maps.

Napoli also told shop owners they not only needed to capture reviews but to get better about responding to every review to scratch that two-way communication itch of relationship-focused consumers.

"When people spend money with you and post a review, thank them. If you don't communicate back, people will disengage," Napoli said.

"8 in 10 consumers consult online reviews before they visit a local business," said Walker. "It's important to connect to them through reviews and respond to them so they know they've been heard."

For shop owners still lagging behind in social media and for those who aren't fully engaging with customers using the platforms, Flippin concluded that shops stay focused on presenting a strong brand identity that consumers can identify with and support.

"Make sure when you do market, you're going with your brand forward and what makes you special and stand out," she said.

Bonus: Facebook Toolbox

Flippin says many people don't understand the full power of Meta's platforms, starting with the free tools baked in natively. She recommended shop owners go into social media with a plan by asking: What is my business objective, who am I trying to reach, and  how will I get my message across?"

Here are her tips for improved engagement using the free tools:

  • Use your Facebook page to represent your brand and your voice within your community.
  • Use your Instagram to appreciate employees, seasonal reminders for check-ins, etc
  • Use Pinned Posts: Update hours of operation, show off technician certifications, etc.
  • Try Stories and Reels: "Video consumption is growing like crazy," Flippin said. "Sixty-two percent of consumers say they engage with brands after seeing a video." She also recommends videos be short, branded, message forward, and authentic. 
  • Start a Facebook Group: Create a community around your services. Share exclusive offers, answer questions, and provide updates. "It's almost like a personal CRM that you create," Flippin said. 
  • Text Using Messaging (or What's App): Consumers prefer messaging over calls and email. "Eighty-two percent of customers expect a brand to message back after they message them. The behavior isn't only already there, it's an expectation," Flippin said.
  • Post jobs to show growth
  • Run Promotions. Use Facebook to run promotions, book service appointments, and create awareness around things the shop cares about. "You can run a simple awareness campaign to make sure your brand is top of mind once a week or twice a month so people know your shop is five miles down the road," Flippin said.
About the Author

Chris Jones | Editor

Chris Jones is the editor of Ratchet+Wrench magazine and host of its companion podcast, Ratchet+Wrench Radio, a weekly show featuring automotive professionals across the auto care landscape.

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