Fleet managers and business owners are benefiting from new functionality.
Operators should look long-term when using social media strategies for their businesses, say experts in the industry. If operators merely compare the number of booked rides per Facebook or Twitter post, they’ll likely be disappointed, especially in the beginning. It can take months to grow a sizeable number of “likes” or followers, and it’s an ever-changing and continuing challenge to connect with clients on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn because of the different communication patterns and etiquette required for each.
As social media permeates the business world, operators are experimenting with new techniques to establish healthy, ongoing dialogues with their customers. Whether social media natives or newcomers to technology, all operators can book new business first initiated through a Facebook message, Instagram like, or Twitter retweet.
Learning Social Media Basics
Umut Aslan, head of marketing for MIB Transportation in San Diego, realized early on the value social media had for the company. Although he’s not a social media native, he enrolled three years ago in social media business classes at UCSD. “The best thing they told me were two things.”
1) You have to create a winning strategy.
2) You must listen.
“It’s no different than when you communicate with a person in real life,” he says. “The most important thing is to listen and don’t push the sale.”
Aslan implemented a straightforward social media strategy. He created an MIB Facebook and Twitter page, divvying up posting and messaging duties among staff. Aslan uses the ‘Jab Jab Jab, Right Hook’ strategy made popular by writer Gary Vanynerchuk, who advocates sending frequent, light-hearted social media posts with direct-sales and discount posts sprinkled in. “The girls are posting some funny things from time to time that are not business related, and sometimes I allow a couple of drivers to take a picture and post it,” he says. “But we’re getting responses. People are messaging us on Facebook and Twitter about our pricing and rates. We message them back, and sometimes this turns into a booked job.
Then, when we post our advertisements for a newly available car or discount price, we’ll have people comment underneath or call. It works out pretty well.”
Aslan plans to hire someone to handle social media full time while considering college students as interns. “We’d start with part-time interns and see how it works and see how much [business] we generate with that one person. I’m looking for people who have training, because it takes a lot of time. There are a lot of things we could be using with social media, but now we’re not yet using it to 100% of its full potential.”
Elisabeth Jachym, marketing manager for Deluxe Chicago Limo and a pioneer in industry social media marketing, has successfully booked business through SnapChat, a new instant picture- and video-sending message app that deletes each message upon viewing. Jachym first began experimenting with SnapChat earlier this year, creating a Deluxe Chicago Limo account and uploading quick, fun-hearted posts of downtown Chicago. “It was just funny stuff in the beginning; screenshots of the snow with the temperature. Then we started doing some ‘limo-confessionals,’ and people started adding us and snapping us back.”
She says initial return messages were mostly silly in nature, but believing “any interaction is good interaction,” she responded to some with Deluxe’s contact info, which led to them calling the company to book a service. “We’ve had a few group outings reserved and one evening charter for an aquarium trip. These [leads] originally came from SnapChat,” she says.
Jachym has even received Snapchat messages from people in Uber rides looking for an alternative service, but connecting with corporate travel clients she says has proven elusive. “I don’t know if it’s a stigma SnapChat has but I haven’t captured that [business travel] market yet. I think even if young professionals are on [SnapChat], it’s more for personal use and they’re not looking to mix it with their professional work.”
#LimoChat, Twitter Networks, and Affiliate Relations
During early 2015, a group of chauffeured transportation industry Twitter users would meet once a week on Wednesday nights for #limochat, a hashtag-centered discussion that served as a forum for industry pros to share business tips and insight. Started by Jachym, the chat was co-hosted by a handful of contributors including Alysia Morris of Absolute Transportation in Redding, Conn. “We tackled a multitude of topics during #limochat,” she says. “TNCs, marketing, staffing, vehicles, maintenance, you name it, all in a question and answer format. The highest ROI for us truly was the relationships forged.”
The weekly sessions brought Morris closer to her company’s affiliate partners and expanded her network by connecting her with operators from places such as Chicago, Philadelphia, Virginia, Massachusetts, and even Trinidad and Tobago. Although attendance at the weekly sessions has trickled off, Morris hopes the fall will bring more users back to the #limochat discussions. “It was a great forum for sharing, networking, and developing business partnerships. We would hear from single-car/owner-operators, brand new fleet owners, and seasoned professionals, all coming together to share information, tips, and insight.”
Trinidad and Tobago native Vesh Maharaj, also owner of Priaco-based Transport Solutions Limited, reports he has booked business through his company’s Instagram page. With short dashcam clips of time-lapse videos, the vehicles are shown traversing through tropical jungles and over coastal highways. Maharaj’s Instagram page for Transport Solutions attracts local clients and destination travelers researching the island from overseas.
“60% ask for more info and 40% are ready to book,” says Maharaj of the direct messages he receives from Instagram and Facebook. Maharaj uses the hashtags #limo, #trinidad, and #airport, and regularly posts photos of his limos being used in picture-friendly settings like weddings and beauty pageant events. “When new people send me messages I tell them my rates, and then email them for confirmations. It works out no problem,” he says.
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