Best PracticesDealership Marketing

Dealers – Reaching Out with Instagram

[highlight color=”#fde1c3″ font=”black”]Let’s give a warm welcome to Aaron as we host his first article to the DealerRefresh community. For those of you that don’t know Aaron, he’s the Social Media Manager at Suzuki of Wichita. When others are talking about social media, Aaron is breaking boundaries and making it work for the dealership. Welcome aboard Aaron. Let’s get to the article…[/highlight]

 

The REAL details of using Instagram at the Dealership

I’ve read a lot about whether dealerships should use Instagram or not, so here’s my take on it.

Instagram is, in my opinion, an incredible tool to start new conversations with real people in your community in ways that the “Big 4” simply cannot touch right now.

Here’s why…

Instagram users generally WANT their pictures to be seen, liked, and commented on.

A large part of the popularity of the app lies in the ease with which you can turn an ordinary photo into something beautiful. There is a sense among Instagrammers that they’re engaging in a creative act by adding content, and who doesn’t like their works of art to be admired?

If they don’t, they can set their profiles to private and/or block anyone they don’t want to hear from. Out of the hundreds of people I’ve proactively followed, I have never once received a comment about how my liking a person’s photos was inappropriate–in fact, it’s often been rewarded with a follow back.

Hashtags allow you to instantly connect with like-minded individuals in your community and across the nation.

Start by searching for local organizations you are excited about. Colleges, sports teams, art museums, local bands–give it a shot.Remember that hashtags do not allow spaces, and often (but not always) are as obvious as they seem. As a bonus, if people have used a hashtag that includes the characters you’re searching and then some, Instagram will suggest these to you, as well. For example, when searching for #friendsuniversity, a small private college in Wichita, Instagram suggests:

Great! I’ve learned what their mascot is, that they might have an active jazz program (they do), and that students and faculty in the community are using Instagram to show off what’s going on on campus.

Hashtag suggestions

Uploading one photo at a time allows you to focus on creating a quality experience with every image.

People have grown weary of clicking through albums of pictures that aren’t very different from one another. It’s been well documented that uploading one photo at a time on Facebook has much greater engagement potential than many photos uploaded simultaneously, so make each picture count.

There is a “give and take” ethic on Instagram that is missing from most of the other social networking platforms.

In other words, when you like and comment on someone’s photos in a meaningful way, they’re inclined to do the same with your photos, provided you have something enjoyable for them to look at.Transparency is key, however. At the slightest inclination that you’re interacting with someone’s content to “lure them in,” they’ll probably pull away.

Provide a mixture of types of content to appeal to different types of users.

You’re going to have to be creative with this–Don’t just upload a bunch of customer delivery photos or pictures of your sign. Those are great, but the more different perspectives you capture with your camera, the more interesting the overall collage of your collection of content will appear.

Instagram’s outreach potential is huge.

On Facebook, your business page cannot proactively add personal accounts. On Instagram, there is no distinction between personal and business accounts. Make sure the photos of the people you follow jive with your organization’s values. That part is going to be up to you, and it will be easy to tell.

When following someone you’ve never dealt with before, you must maintain a strong line between “engaged follower” and “creepy spammer.” Don’t tag them in your photos about how low your prices are. Don’t leave irrelevant comments on their photos about how low your prices are. Taking a second to look at their pictures before liking or commenting will save you from doing something stupid.

Suzuki of Wichita Photos on Instagram
Suzuki of Wichita Photos on Instagram

Instagram is good both for dealerships who are inexperienced with social media, and a great addition to a well-oiled social media machine.

If your co-workers are uncomfortable being photographed (I’m going to write a post specifically about this topic), Instagram is a great way to ease them into a picture-taking routine. We’ve all seen people who Instagram whatever’s in front of them–their dinner, the exercise bike, the XBox Controller, whatever–You can start that way, too, and then work your way into including human subjects.

Does someone have an interesting collection of action figures at their desk? Did you order lunch from a locally famous pizzeria? Did you just trade for an obscure mid-90s hatchback that no one’s ever heard of? Is it raining outside? Instagram it up!

Soon, your co-workers are going to want to know what you’re up to, and the camera-ready leaders will start to emerge from the crowd. Birthdays, Christmas, and other gift-giving times are great opportunities for this.

Web use is going mobile at a dizzying rate, and Instagram is a popular mobile-only app.

Seems like a no-brainer.

All the spam on Instagram?

This seems to be one of the most common reasons for social media professionals to hesitate opening an Instagram account for their business. Most of the time, spambot Instagram accounts are harmless, and remember, you’re always free to block them, which I would highly recommend doing if their profile picture is obscene.You’ll know right away if someone’s for real. For example–is the following profile real or not?

Guide4Followers Instagram

Automatic sharing to accounts like Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, Foursquare, etc?

Use, but use sparingly. If you plan on uploading multiple pictures throughout the day (and you should), you don’t want all of those posts clogging up the newsfeeds of your Facebook fans. With Twitter, keep in mind that Instagram does not have a character limit, so it doesn’t take much of a caption before your Tweet looks incoherent.Twitter provides a link to your Instagram photo (and no longer includes it in your collection of Twitter photos), which can eat up your tweet’s character count, as well.

Hashtagging just to boost like count?

I’m sure you’ve read enough posts by now that talk about how big numbers of likes/followers/repins/views/subscribers/etc are no longer the ultimate goal of a healthy social media initiative. So, take a moment to think about how much good it’s going to do you to use one of the hashtags that virtually guarantee your photo to get 20 likes or more. IT’S TEMPTING, I know. You’ve got that photo you’re really proud of and you want it to be popular, but…resist the urge.

On the other hand, though, hashtags that have a more relevant global reach might be just the thing you need to start building your community of engaged, passionate fans from all over the planet. Why not start with the name of your brand?

Following everyone who follows you first?

So you’re starting to get followers–great! With everyone who follows you, click on their profile and make sure you’re going to get something out of interacting with them. When I see a user has hundreds of thousands of following/followers, I almost always avoid them, as the chances of personal interaction are generally very small.

You might also be the recipient of a “like dump” (someone likes 10-15 of your pictures all at once), but keep in mind that these aren’t always spam-driven.

The negative press regarding Instagram’s changes in their Terms of Use agreement.

Most of the people I saw complaining the loudest on Instagram (the ones who swore they’d delete their accounts before the new TOS took place) have quieted back down, and things are getting back to normal.I’m always amazed how people react when a social media network admits that they operate for profit. For the last time, Instagram isn’t going to sell the rights to your photos.

The Collage apps that let you stitch multiple photos together?

If you’re super busy, no problem. Apps like InstaCollage, which are available either for free or for a few bucks, will do the job, but I prefer to make collages in photoshop. Even if your Photoshop-Fu is lacking, personality will be communicated through your efforts, and with practice, you’ll be able to cram a lot of information into one square. You might even experiment with a comic-book style image or a step by step tutorial.

Remember…

Instagram deals with SQUARE photos.

On iOS, images are sized to 1936X1936, so when I’m working up a photo in Photoshop, I just set the image size to those dimensions, and it works great. Square photos are also ideal for your Facebook feed, UNLESS you intend to highlight them on your page–in that case, rectangular photos are better.Sometimes, though, uploading a rectangular photo into Instagram and then being forced to crop it down to a square will enable you to focus on the most interesting part of the photo, and some quirkily artistic results might occur.

Instagram is FUN!

Every hour or two throughout the day, I scroll through the new photos of the people I’m following and like their content. If a picture catches my eye, I’ll leave an appreciative comment or ask a question about it. I try to avoid always writing “love it!” or “great pic,” as this comes across as spammy. Instead, relevant commentary like “who is the artist who painted that?” or “good luck with your interview today!” is generally rewarded with a conversation, and often a follow back.

Finally…

I’m certainly not suggesting that Instagram’s importance should be elevated to the status of any of the “Big 4” (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Google+), but for me, it’s worth serious attention.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with Instagram, positive or not, and if I can be of any further assistance, use the comments to post your question. I’m honored to be part of the DealerRefresh community, and look forward to a fantastic 2013!

Questions:

Is Instagram part for your dealers social media MIX?

What success have you had using Instagram at the dealership?

Are you using Instagram on the personal level and if so do you see any advantages to using it at the dealership?

 

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    Aaron Wirtz
  • January 18, 2013
Coincidentally, the Wall Street Journal posted this blog post about how many users Instagram really has, info they've been previously withholding: http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2013/01/17/now-we-know-how-many-active-users-instagram-really-has/
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    MiketheCarGuy1
  • January 18, 2013
Great post! I started taking pics around the lot when I first joined Instagram and used the hash tag with the dealer name to create a board for the store. I even created a bourd on our Pinterest page for the Instagram pic we take. Now I have asked our employees to also post their own pics and have seen some really good ones get put up. In addition I have installed the Instagram app on the iPads that my sales staff use and encouraged them to take pics as they are out and about on the lot. Good info on the in's and out's of Instagram, thanks for sharing Aaron :)Look for us on Instagram at @ChinoHillsFord or #ChinoHillsFord
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    Aaron Wirtz
  • January 18, 2013
@MiketheCarGuy1  @ChinoHillsFord Thanks, Mike! I love those ideas about your salespeople's iPads. Do you feel like your customers enjoy interacting with you via Instagram as well?
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This is awesome i use instagram daily i might be addicted, but i do use it on my gas fill ups and delivery. I work for fernandez honda in san antonio my sales staff is old school but im trying to motivate them in to the new age of sales. My customers love it when they receive the photo i just took of them. Great article by the way
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    Aaron Wirtz
  • January 19, 2013
@jayrisk8 Cheers! Instagram is addictive indeed, but that's one of the reasons why dealerships should consider it. Do you encourage your customers to use any hashtags?
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@Aaron Wirtz you bet i have customers that do follow me and use hash tags to thank me for the service and car buying experience. At this point i might make one just for my work
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    Quinton Gentry
  • January 19, 2013
I am using Instagram and have had nothing but positive experiences and have gone to great lengths to get local followers. Works great for the sales staff that are willing to take the time to brand the dealership and themselves. Great article about the Instagram!
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    dealerrefresh
  • January 19, 2013
Aaron, as mentioned before - welcome aboard as a regular columnist here on DealerRefresh. Excited to read more from you.
I've been recommending to dealers that if you're looking to get started in social, the first and easiest way to start off is the sharing of photos of your happy customers. When I was on the floor selling vdubs, I took a photo of each and every new VW owner standing proud beside their new addition to the family. After some light editing, would then post their photo over on my website - vwrep.com. It was always the most visited page on my website. This was waaay before online social (as it is today) -facebook, twitter, blogging, were even a thought.
Point being, people like to see other people. We now have a tremendous way of amplifying this. Instagram not only makes it easy, but ads a level of fun and character to it. With the ability to post from Instagram to other social sites, it's like you said "a no brainier".
Why not use Instagram to take all your employee photos for the often overlooked and dry About Us page or Employees Page. Ad some character and engagement to these pages. From there, let the visitor know the photos were taken with Instagram and use a clear CTA, inviting the visitor to join you on Instagram and Facebook.
@Aaron Wirtz you mentioned a few examples of what to take photos of at the dealership using Instagram, what other suggestions would you have? What has really worked for you up to this point?
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    stefan821
  • January 19, 2013
How about Instagram Magnets? http://stickygram.com/ Take few pictures at the time of delivery, order some magnets and 30 days later mail them to your customers.
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    Aaron Wirtz
  • January 19, 2013
@dealerrefresh  @Aaron Jeff-- Thanks again! I'm super excited to be here. As for what to take photos of, a good one for us has been the various college team paraphernalia as it appears around the dealership. Wichita does not have any professional sports teams, so people show a lot of pride in either Wichita State, Kansas State, or Kansas University. Snapping pictures of someone in school colors or who brings in a vehicle with a team's front license plate is a good opportunity to engage with other fans of those particular teams, and perhaps with the social media departments of the teams themselves. In a market like Wichita, (pop. 385,000) large organizations still only have one person running the social media in many cases, so the opportunities to form alliances with that one person (and the brands they represent) are enormous. 
 
Other than that, I've Instagrammed the burrito dealer who visits us after every morning meeting, taken screenshots of video projects I'm working on in Final Cut Pro, ANY time one of our employees brings in a new baby, pets people have brought into the showroom, pics from the recording studio session where we tracked out some new radio jingles, awards for top producer and 20-Car Club inductees, updates from our owner's ministry efforts, and on and on. 
 
What has really worked for us? Right now, we're having an accessory sale to clear out our Suzuki accessory inventory, so I put an appropriately-hashtagged graphic on Instagram to raise awareness about it. It resulted in several out of state sales (we're always happy to ship), which was a big eye-opener for me.
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    Aaron Wirtz
  • January 19, 2013
@stefanprecup Love it!
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    Aaron Wirtz
  • January 19, 2013
@Quinton Gentry Thanks, Quinton. I like what you said about having nothing but positive experiences with it, as it seems to be an almost (emphasis on the almost) drama-free platform. Pictures have always been a universal form of communication, but I believe that the use of pictures is quickly developing into a language of its own (take the meteoric rise of Pinterest, for example). The more effectively we can communicate our personality, depth, and humanity in this new language, the more prosperous our businesses will likely be.
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    dealerrefresh
  • January 20, 2013
@StefanPrecup this is a great find. I'm going to be all over this. I have some great photos that would make for a great gift as a magnet. Thanks!
This is a great idea for anyone and everyone!
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    dealerrefresh
  • January 20, 2013
@StefanPrecup btw - just placed my first order.
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    EricaSietsma
  • January 22, 2013
I love this post Aaron - excellent!  I am the last person in New York City to not have Instagram. I took an instant disliking to it when every hipster in this town flocked to Instagram because it was "different" and "cool."  Which then of course made it the same for everyone and was no longer different and cool.  I am now however coming around - especially when I read posts like yours and see the comments from the other guys having a lot of success.    One site I have always thought to be cool is Pintacular.co (used to be Pinstagram, but the name was a little too close for comfort for the boys over at FB)- it's Pinterest-style layout for your Instagram so people can view your photos in a better layout on their iPad, computer.    I know there are a few similar - anyone using anything like that to showcase all your photos?
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    Aaron Wirtz
  • February 1, 2013
@EricaSietsma Thanks, Erica! Eric Miltsch turned me on to Padgram, which looks great on iPad, but I like the regular ol' Instagram feed, too. :-) I just taught our sales team how to use Instagram, so hopefully we can get a lot more content generated from many different angles!
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    dealerrefresh
  • March 6, 2013
Here's the latest and greatest on How to Enhance Your Instagram Web Profile for Improved Exposure or on Social Media Examiner
http://dlrfr.sh/ZrKevL
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