When customers purchase scooters from New Scooters 4 Less (NS4L), owner Collin Austin hands them a bright yellow business card with a welcoming selfie of himself, alongside his Snapchat account information.
Austin sits down multiple times a day to reply to customers’ snaps, even after hours. But, talking to his customers doesn’t end there.
At NS4L, social media is a priority. The NS4L team constantly interacts with
its thousands of followers via Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.
“Social media platforms give me the ability to engage and send direct messages to each (customer), unlike traditional media,” Austin said.
In 2008, 24 percent of Americans had a social media profile. Jump to 2017, and that number rose to 81 percent, according to a study by Edison Research.
“It has become an integral part of our lives
in the sense that people who didn’t have a voice now have a voice and can make real change in
their lives, cities and countries,” said Albert Quintero, founder of Smashel, a local internet marketing company.
What that means for businesses is that the best way to connect and build a relationship with customers is now online. One of NS4L’s customers, UF student Anan Lagana, said Austin’s use of social media makes the whole experience more personal.
“I will send him a snap if my scooter is making a weird noise, and he answers with the solution,” he said.
For Austin, social media came naturally. Facebook launched around the same time that Austin launched NS4L, so the company has always been social media-oriented, he said. Over the years, he has continued to grow his platforms.
According to Quintero, engaging with customers on social media hits three levels: sales, marketing and support.
“You want to engage with your customers to provide value,” he said. “If you can win a customer over and they love your brand, then they will essentially be an ambassador for your business.”
For Austin, serving customers trumps the importance of marketing on social media.
“Customer service fuels everything that I do,” he said. “I like to get to the point where customers feel like they are my friend and not my customer. And, the best way to do that is through social media.”
For platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, replying to comments is essential, Austin said. When companies prioritize answering people’s questions and providing valuable content, customers begin to trust them.
“When something comes up, they will reach out to me instead of going online and leaving a negative review,” he said.
Social media engagement is also important for marketing a brand because it allows companies to target specific audiences using sponsored advertising, Austin said.
“If I only want UF students that are female between 18 and 24 years old to see my ad on Facebook and Instagram, I can do that,” he said.
Social media is a one-on-one conversation with a customer versus blanket advertising, Quintero said, adding that the best strategy to ensure a company’s success on social media is what he calls the “three and one offer.”
“A company must provide value three times for every one offer they present,” he said.
In other words, for every two ads, a brand should post one non-ad. This makes it more likely for a customer to share a post, and then all of their friends will see it.
For Austin, providing value means posting troubleshooting videos or helpful information about scooters.
On top of its social media accounts, NS4L runs a blog and a vlog, where they discuss topics ranging from how to start a scooter to how to shop on a college budget. By including non-scooter topics, NS4L provides additional free value to customers.
“By doing that, we become known as the scooter dealership in Gainesville,” he said. “I just do it without the expectation of getting anything in return but knowing that in the long-term, it’s going to pay off.”
The vlog and blog also fill any gaps in reaching the target audience, Austin said.
“The audiences are in different places, so the one that watches the vlog might not read the blog. People are going to choose the platform that resonates with them the most, so that’s why it’s important to be on all of the platforms,” Austin said.
Putting out content just to put out content is a bad strategy, however, Austin said.
“(Saying), ‘Oh, I’m supposed to do social media because all businesses now do social media,’ to check a box — that’s a bad strategy,” he said.
Companies often try to spread themselves too thin and get on every single platform, Quintero said. Instead, it’s better to choose one that fits the business and do it well. If you can’t do the others, then don’t worry about it, he said.
Facebook is a good place to start, he added.
“When businesses first start out, they should focus on giving the best value to their five followers — in doing so, they are going to share that content and that will grow your following,” Austin said. “You can’t give up after three months.”
Always remember that every brand started with zero followers, Austin said. It takes time to grow a following.
Quintero suggests reaching out to other business pages your target audience might like and interacting on their pages so that their audiences will see you — just make sure your voice is consistent.
In Austin’s case, he does most of NS4L’s social media himself, so his voice online comes naturally. But, for larger businesses with many people working on social media, an established personality helps.
“You want to have humor, but you have to know when to draw the line,” Quintero said.
Also, including more images and videos will be better than just a written post, he said.