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Dispelling the Misconceptions About Massive Social Media Followings

A few months ago, we confronted one of our dealers that had our website solution about why they were putting a watermark of their logo on irrelevant pictures and posting them to social media. Apparently, their social media vendor had a theory.

It was a process, really, and it went like this:

  1. Find viral images on sites like Reddit, 9Gag, and Buzzfeed.
  2. Slap the dealership’s logo in the bottom right corner.
  3. Get it liked and shared by hundreds of people around the world.
  4. Sell more cars as a result.

The biggest challenge with a strategy like this (and there are many) is that it hurts the brand’s image. Most people on social media have a nice flood of funny and interesting pictures coming through their feeds. The idea that a dealership needs to fit into this is ridiculous. Dealerships have to stand out.

The goal should not be to take an irrelevant picture and get it exposed to tens of thousands of people scattered around the world in hopes that enough of them are locals who can buy a car. The goal is to take truly local, relevant branding messages and get them exposed to thousands of locals only.

Would you rather your brand be associated with an image of a car nicely placed in front of the dealership with a the sign glowing bright on local people’s news feeds, or would you rather have people in Singapore or Tunisia loving a funny image that has made its rounds around the internet?

Social media isn’t like other marketing venues. On search, it doesn’t hurt to have your message reach people who aren’t in your market. On social media, it does. You want to be as localized as possible. You want a bare minimum of 80% of your fans to be within driving distance to the dealership. When you spread out too far, you are no longer able to post high-quality localized messages that the majority of your fans will recognize and care about.

It’s not realistically possible to keep 100% of your fans localized, but you can get close. In the image to the right, you’ll see that this page is small. It had practically zero fans less than two months ago. There are a couple dozen offshore likes; the only way to avoid this completely would be to manually inspect every new like and kick out those who are not helpful to the cause which is a waste of time. If you keep it over 80% localized (and these guys over 90% local) then the out-of-towners won’t do much damage.

Perhaps the biggest reason that dealers and vendors like bulk is that they follow the misconception that you can only reach fans. There has been this confusion that has followed social media sites, particularly Facebook, since they became marketing venues. The thought is that since this page has hundreds of fans, not tens of thousands of fans, they can’t reach enough people. This misconception is completely opposite of reality.

When someone likes, comments, or shares your post, it has the opportunity to be exposed to their friends in their own news feed. When two people in the same circle of friends like, comment, or share a post, it becomes much more likely that their friends will see it. By “much more likely” I don’t mean twice as likely. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the chances increase exponentially, but it’s a dramatic increase.

For example, Bob likes a post on your Facebook page. His friend, Sally, also likes the same post. They each have around 200 Facebook friends and 30 of them are mutuals between them. Their friends have a chance of seeing your post in their news feed, but their mutual fans have a much greater chance. Now, one of their mutual friends likes that post, and the dominoes start falling. The reach potential from Bob’s first like was small. Once Sally liked it, the reach potential increased. When Tom, their mutual friend, also likes the post, now we’re getting into a post with the potential to be seen by hundreds just from the Bob’s like alone. That doesn’t include the other people who are already seeing your posts. For those people, the potential can continue to grow as well.

This localized expansion of exposure is impossible when you have too many fans from outside of the area. Those people outside of the area hurt the potential for locals to see it because they’re less likely to interact with it. This lack of interaction can damage your posts algorithmically. In other words, by having too many distant fans, you hurt the chances of Bob ever seeing the post in the first place, which means Sally would never have seen it, which means Tom would have never seen it, which means those hundreds of locals who might have seen the post never had the opportunity.

It’s a little confusing. That’s why it’s just easier for dealers and vendors to think along the lines of accumulating as many fans as possible regardless of why they liked the page in the first place or where they actually live. Perhaps the easiest way to understand it is to see the actual reach of the page example above.

These numbers are decent for a page that was reaching nobody less than two months ago. They’re not fantastic; localized reach should be sustainable at five-digits with spikes in the six-digit range at times depending on the area targeted. Still, it’s a good illustration that a properly managed page with hundreds of local fans can still reach thousands of of people within driving distance to the dealership.

The bottom line is this: social media strategies in general and Facebook strategies in particular fall victim to misconceptions about fans and reach. You want to reach locals. You want to post content that is relevant. You want to brand the right way. You don’t need to employ tricks or schemes to become the most popular kid in school. You only need to employ sound strategies to reach potential consumers who can actually make a difference to your bottom line.

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Article originally appeared on AutomotiveSocialMedia.com.

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