The Golden Triangle of Community Engagement

[box style="blue"]In the following post I use the example of an auto dealership but the Golden Triangle of Community Engagement can be used in any business. How about yours?[/box] GoldenTriangleCommunityEngagement

We hear it all the time. Social media is about engagement. Social media is about building trust, communication and letting people get to know the real you. That’s all fine and good but let’s face it, you’re an auto dealership and there isn’t that much about you that’s all that exciting. True, each one of us thinks we’re the best thing since sliced bread but let’s face it, nobody wants to be “friends” with a car dealership.

Harsh words? Maybe, but I want to drive the point home that the way you are engaging now just isn’t working the way the so called gurus are telling you they should work. While I will be getting to the why in just a moment, better yet how you should really go about creating engagement, I first want to say that most of the info regarding social media isn’t going to work for the auto industry, not without modification anyway. The auto industry is a different animal, I don’t need to tell you that, and as such the way you go about engaging has to be different.

Engagement, for it to be truly effective must be based around something the community is passionate about. Sure, you can talk about the weather but if you talk about a social object, that is a cause, a passion or a lifestyle then you go a whole lot further with creating the type of connection that will lead to more sales and fixed-ops business.

Lets dive into that a little bit deeper. Dealerships have been trying for a few years now to create a direct connection with the community via social channels, but the issue with that is that most of the people in the community carry a negative opinion of the auto industry as a whole. Because of that, the engagement that is happening isn’t having much of an affect outside of the contests and promotions you are doing on Facebook.

So, how do you create a lasting impression? You do something that goes against the negative impression people have of our industry and leaves them thinking, “Whoa, wait, you’re a dealership?”

This is the real power behind the Golden Triangle of Community Engagement. Instead of trying to connect the dealership (A) to the community (B), connect the dealership to a specific social object (C). The idea is that because the community is also connected to the social object (C) a natural connection will start to take place between the dealership (A) and the community (B).

In fact this resembles the law of social proof which states that people will start to do things that they see other people doing. There is a subset of the law of social proof called conformity which is the act of matching attitudes, beliefs and behaviors within a group. I can talk on conformity all day and how it relates but it is not my intention to delve too deeply here but to impart on you that by connecting with a social object you are better able to connect with the people who are also connected to that social object.

Now, I’ve written about social objects before but let’s bring it up here again to get a better understanding of what I mean. A social object is a conversation piece that inherently generates conversation and action around itself.

All social objects has 3 things in common, they are:

  1. Conversational: people want to talk and have conversations with other people connected with the social object.
  2. Brings People Together: people want to be around other people that are connected with the social object. They feel part of a community, that they belong with each other.
  3. Talk Worthy: people feel the desire to tell other people, who may not know about the social object, so that they, in turn, become part of the community.

There are three types of social objects:

  • A Cause
  • A Passion
  • A Lifestyle

By connecting the dealership with a social object that is already inherently talk worthy, due to social proof and conformity, the community surrounding that particular social object will start to feel friendship for the people of the dealership.

Take homelessness as an example or even education or breast cancer awareness. Each one is a social object, people are always talking about and connecting with other people around these causes. Your dealership can also connect with one of these causes, or countless others, and really rally behind it. I’m not talking about just throwing money at it but getting involved both online and off. I’m talking about getting others involved and really making a difference with both your time and money.

Of course I don’t want you to do this just get attention but do it because it is something the people of the dealership are passionate about. Then I want you to talk about it on Twitter and Facebook, Your Blog and on Google +. I want you to post videos and images, write posts and get as many other people in the community involved. Then do a contest that people can enter by giving of their own time and money toward the cause.

At that point, after you have been doing it a while, announce a sale that whoever buys a car in the next 30 days a portion of the proceeds will go to helping the cause. If you have done it right and have been real, your community will want to tell everybody they know about the special you have going on because they are passionate about homelessness as well. Think about it…