Is social media a good tool for dealers?

Social media is a great place to post photos of one’s cat, announce a kid is potty-trained or get a thumb workout clicking “Like” and “Follow.” But, for a boat dealer, getting involved with social media can suck up a lot of work hours. And that begs the question: is social media worth the time and expense?

Frist, as such media goes, Facebook is still the big dog in social networks, but its growth has slowed. Conversely, other platforms including Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn are seeing rapid growth, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center.

Specifically, the study indicates 71 percent of American adults that use the Internet used Facebook in 2014, essentially unchanged from 2013. Meanwhile, Twitter went up from 18 percent to 23 percent, Instagram from 17 to 26 percent, Pinterest gained 7 points to 28 percent and LinkedIn rose from 22 to 28 percent.

Notably, adults are using more social media. But check this out: A little more than 50 percent of the adults surveyed by Pew said they now use two or more social platforms. That’s up from 42 percent in 2013. In addition, Pew’s research found other interesting facts.

For example, women dominate Pinterest. LinkedIn has more than 50 percent of the college-educated Internet users. Instagram has captured more than 50 percent of the young Internet users ages 18 to 29.

Facebook has more than 50 percent of the adults 65-plus. And, although Facebook’s audience size didn’t increase, Pew found site use up. About 70 percent of the Facebook-using respondents reported they do so every day, a 7 point jump from 2013. Comparatively, daily use of LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest showed little change, and Twitter actually saw a decline from 46 percent to 36 percent.

Clearly, social media has enormous reach these days and users are expanding to more platforms. Some experts say that now dictates a multiple-platform approach. But for a marine dealer, effectively engaging in any social media, never mind multiple platforms, seems to have more downside than up. There is little evidence social media efforts can genuinely increase a marine dealer’s business.

That said, if a dealer is considering adding social media to their marketing plan, great suggestions come from Rhonda Abrams (www.planningshop.com), speaker, author of the “The Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies” and a USA Today contributor. She suggests: “To build your online presence with very little cost and figure out how to make social media work for your small business, hire a social-media summer intern.” (Make sure they are getting college credit and/or pay them.)

Abrams explains social-media interns can help you learn about programs and tools that can manage such online activities. They can get you started and devote the time to reach out to potential followers, building an all-important base.

More importantly, hire someone who is studying marketing, Abrams cautions, not just someone who spends a lot of time online. After all, this is a marketing program, not a social activity. Moreover, together with the intern, you can figure out which platform(s) is the most effective for your business. Don't try to conquer them all, she warns.

Finally, remember the intern will be going back to school or moving on. Accordingly, think strategically and only create things that are sustainable, that you can continue to do on your own or hire someone to do, because maintaining a social media program will require continued effort.


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