Wednesday, 04 February 2015 00:00

Instagram and Twitter Grow Up

I am not afraid to admit it when I’m wrong. I never thought eBay would work and that’s exactly what I said to the company’s Founder Pierre Omidyar one day back in 1995 in San Jose, CA. He’s now a billionaire and I live in a van down by the river. And I had a chance to be one of the first employees at Netflix many years ago, but I opted out--because I could not believe that people would mail the discs back to the company. Bad move. So, last year when I said that Instagram and Twitter were going to trend down and that they weren’t ideal for the collision industry, well-that too was a mistake. Now I’m willing to do my mea culpa…once again.

Instagram: The millennials call it “The Gram” and sure, Justin Bieber and the Kardashians post every day, but now small businesses such as body shops are doing the same. If you’re not familiar with Instagram, it’s an online photo-sharing and social networking service that lets users take pictures, apply filters to them and share those pictures in several ways, including through social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. Instagram is available as an application for iPhone, iPad and Android devices.

Instagram was the 7th largest US mobile app in 2013 with 33 million unique users, a 66% increase from 2012 according to Nielsen. About 40 million U.S. users accessed Instagram on a monthly basis in 2014 according to eMarketer. Instagram users represent 16.1% of all Internet users. It is roughly one eighth the size of Facebook, yet has 15 times the engagement and twice the engaged user base of its parent company. Almost 25% of U.S. smart phone users interact with Instagram at least once per month. Roughly 67% of U.S. Instagram users are between 18 and 44, namely millennials and GenX.

Body shops that are using Instagram are praising it for bringing them business and gaining more traction with their younger customers. Roger Henson, the owner of Advertising Business Consulting Associates in Silicon Valley has been doing marketing for automotive companies since 1979 and he’s excited about photo app for several reasons.

“Almost every week, one of my automotive customers asks me about one form of social media or another and most of the time I tell them no,” Henson explained. “If you’re using a form of social media that does not bring you business, what’s the point? Companies see their competition using Pinterest, for instance, so they want to do the same. But in the end, it’s a waste of time and the worst thing you can do is leave it dormant. Time is money and just because Joe’s Auto Body is using it does not mean it will work for you. We do an in-depth analysis of every form of social media that’s out there and right now Instagram is hot, hot hot! So, for shop owners or marketing people at MSOs who are against Instagram, I feel like they’re living in the dark.”

So, exactly why is Instagram so hot currently? “My clients use Instagram to educate their prospects by posting photos, videos, and hosting contests. We have one body shop that is giving away soccer tickets as a promotion and we know for a fact that they received at least a dozen jobs from it. The whole idea is use social media to stay in the public mind’s eye and then when they need you, they’re already familiar with your name. Visual social media is what Instagram is all about and I now recommend it to most of my automotive clients.”

Twitter: I swore I would never Tweet, but I also said I would never use Grecian Formula. You get older and hopefully you get wiser. Although Twitter isn’t exactly my cup of tea, I can clearly see it is strong and getting stronger.

With 250 million users, 80% of them using it via mobile devices, Twitter is here to stay. As an online social networking service that enables users to send and read short 140-character messages called "tweets", registered users can read and post tweets, but unregistered users can only read them.

H&V Collision Centers, with five locations in upstate New York has been using Twitter successfully for more than two years and Instagram for almost a year, according to the company’s Marketing Manager Rhianna Herring.

“We want to connect with our entire demographic and we know that Twitter and Instagram are helping us to reach all of our potential customers, not just the ones in their 20s,” Herring explained. “We have tracked the results and we know that we’re getting new jobs from Instagram and Twitter. Our success with both of them is based on the fact that we provide a lot of content and we try to keep it interesting. With five shops, there’s a lot going on and we try to distribute all of our content amongst all of the locations. Variety is key, because how many pictures of satisfied customers with their vehicles can we run? By constantly changing our message and keeping it fun, we’re able to keep our audience engaged on both platforms. We never spam our followers and we never try to hard sell them, and I think our audience appreciates that.”

So, if part of your New Year’s resolutions involves working harder and smarter at your marketing, maybe it’s time to add a few tools to your social media mix with Instagram and Twitter. If you get one new customer every month, why not at least give it a try and then re-examine them after say, six months? You might be pleasantly surprised with the results.

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