The Myth About Social Media and Your Car Wash
By Ryan Carlson
Have you realized how much press is being given to Facebook, Twitter and other social media? It sounds like this magical thing that is going to make people rich and if you’re not on the bandwagon, you’re missing out. The truth is that the only people making it rich from social media are paid consultants who claim to be experts, and Facebook and Twitter. I’m willing to step up to the plate and say that I consider myself an expert in social media, but I won’t take a dime from anyone because the proof is not yet in the pudding. The realm of social media is still very new and the business world is trying very hard to make money off of something that is typically a very personal and “social” experience.
The flip-side is that I remember business reaction to the Internet when it first came out - it was primarily very personal and a social experience. Businesses were either “on the web” or they got in much later in the game. Sure, there are some businesses that came in at the right time, had the right message, and figured out the format to turn some quick bucks. MOST businesses failed to do it right and spent tens of thousands of dollars on geeks that claimed to understand the Internet and “web sites” and “home pages” and only ended up wasting a lot of resources.
Considering what we know now about the success of the Internet, maybe trying something new isn’t a bad idea, right? Just make sure you go in with your expectations set correctly, nobody is going to be making a million bucks from social media except Facebook - OK? Keep your budgets on a shoe string and performance-based - so you only pay out when business is generated.
The reason social media should be getting some attention is that there are businesses that really can be taking advantage of it and should be taking advantage of it. The myth of social media is that “everybody should be doing it and you’re missing out if you are not drinking the kool-aid”. Just like businesses that were leveraging the Internet early on, only some of them got it right and most got it wrong and were doomed to fail to begin with.
There are three key things you need before you should consider getting involved in social media with your business.
The first and arguably the first reason companies fail with social media is that there is an investment of time (thankfully, money doesn’t come into play here - yet). If you can devote 20 minutes a day to making updates, reading comments, and making sure the gears keep turning on the “machine” you’ve overcome the first hurdle. The great news here is that if you’re an owner of your own business, you can create time by hiring somebody to either free up some of your time, or make this investment of time part of their job description.
The second hurdle to overcome is the genuine desire to run a social media marketing experiment. If you have no inclination to deal with tweets, walls, posts, friends, fans, yelps, and status updates you need to walk away now. I had a college roommate that paid to go to class, even had the time to do the homework and show up each day to his English courses. But he lacked the inclination to succeed and ended up wasting a lot of time, energy, and a lot of his parents’ money. There is no real work-around here, if you do not have the inclination to see this project through I suggest finding a PR firm that specializes in social media and they will handle everything for you, if you’re worried about ‘missing out’ on the mad social media cash to be had.
I’m not certain I really need to spend too much time here - but understand that if you still want to go ahead with a social media experiment you will need to know your way around a computer a little bit. This is the easiest of the hurdles to overcome since most business owners are good at picking up new skills or have young people at their disposal to teach new things. If you know somebody under the age of 30, you have somebody with the ability to show you the basics of social media. There are a lot of car wash owners that have the inclination to do something with social media but their time and ability is not where it needs to be - so they find somebody on staff that is looking for some additional responsibility and gives them a new job. Just understand that IF you give this job off to somebody else you will need to closely monitor what is happening. The employee you put in charge of your social media is now representing your business on the Internet. The Internet never forgets anything, it’s hard to take something back, and damage control involves more than just giving away a free car wash in some instances.
There is no shame in letting other companies with more time and money harness your social media. There are huge companies with entire marketing departments and millions of dollars in their budgets that are still trying to figure things out - just remember it’s the big companies that can’t afford to be blindsided by another Internet Revolution in case social media does find its legs. Until then, keep checking in on education seminars offered by your association, talk with other operators at networking events, and understand that if social media is the next big thing you won’t want to have your head in the sand having written it off during its infancy.
Ryan Carlson is the host of the Wash Ideas Weekly Podcast (washideas.com) and the Director of Marketing at WashCard Systems (washcard.com). You can reach him at email@example.com or at 952-232-5042.
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