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In the social media arena, Facebook and Twitter often get the most attention when it comes to marketing one’s business.

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But with the growing influence of online video – particularly with younger generations – should not be overlooked. To promote your brand, you don’t need a high tech studio and loads of editing software; you simply need a smartphone or basic video camera, a YouTube account, and a little creativity.

Getting Started

The first step on the path to video success is to create a YouTube account – actually, a ‘channel,’ to use the correct lingo – and fill in the information about your business. You also can link your shop’s YouTube channel to its Google+ account, which will provide your viewers with even more instant information about your business, plus a more streamlined way to comment and interact with both accounts.

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YouTube offers detailed instructions on all aspects of its site operations, from finding and watching content to creating and editing videos and managing your channel. There are in-depth guides to help interpret your channel’s analytics reports and optimize video content, plus lists of suggestions for promoting your channel and its content – and much, much more.

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With a channel created and a basic understanding of site operations, it’s time to develop a video strategy.

Delivering a Message

According to tire dealers who have seen successful with YouTube, there is some trial and error involved – but the most important thing is getting started.

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Ray’s Tire Pros, located in St. Augustine, Fla., used a social media marketing agency in 2011 to set up its YouTube channel, as well as Facebook and Twitter accounts. Because the shop didn’t have much video content at that time, it began by posting a locally produced commercial, according to Jacob Petty, general manager, who says that soon after, some informational and fun videos were posted “just to add content to the channel and allow people to familiarize themselves with us.”

Ray’s Tire Pros took a deeper dive in the last 12 months, adding more custom content videos and actively promoting them via social media and its homepage.

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“We have a playlist that we had inserted in a ‘YouTube Box’ onto our homepage; we edit and adjust the order of how they’re played,” Petty says, adding the shop also places video content on some of the “services” pages on its website.

“For example, if a customer clicks on our ‘services’ page, then clicks on ‘oil changes’ or ‘TPMS,’ we have custom video content on that page that customers can watch,” he adds. “Eventually, we’d like to have custom YouTube content for most of our services pages.”

When Ray’s started performing bodywork, the shop used YouTube to promote the new service. “We started doing auto body repair and painting at our commercial location and have made some pretty cool videos to show off our work,” Petty says. “We recently did a complete refinish to a limo and knew it would come out really nice, so along the way we took a lot of pictures and video in order to create a nice before and after video.”

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Petty says the main benefits of operating a YouTube channel are twofold: so customers can become more familiar with the shop and its message and to set the dealership apart from its competition.

“You can showcase work that you do or convey a message that is important to you,” Petty adds. “One message I always try to convey to customers who are price-comparing shops is ‘How much are you really saving if you can’t trust 100% what a shop is telling you?’ If you save $15 an hour on another shop’s labor rate, but they’re selling you a part that you don’t need or doing unnecessary repairs, how much are you really saving? You can try to convey a message like this to customers with a custom YouTube video that may make a customer stop and think about it.”

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Petty’s goal is to add new video content at least every few months, taking the time to add appropriate tags and push the videos to Ray’s Facebook page and website.

“I don’t think it’s realistic to have massive expectations for exposure of your videos,” he says. “My thought process is to create content that reflects what we do and provide information to our customers or potential customers. It’s hard to measure the success of putting time into your YouTube channel, but I think it does set your website apart and give customers a more personal attachment to your business.”

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Creativity Prevails

Gregg Caldwell, owner of G&C Tire & Auto Service, with locations in Chantilly and Manassas, Va., created a YouTube channel seven years ago because delving into video was a fun way to be on the cutting edge.

“I’m used to being out in front trying new things, and YouTube just made sense for us to be able to put some videos up about the services we offer and things we do,” he says. “It’s not always technical – because I think people get bored with that – some of it’s fun, some is general information, and some is related to what we do.”

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This fresh approach is unique, according to Caldwell, who says his competitors use an agency to handle social media and the result is a “boilerplate,” non-customized appearance.

“I went to an agency and they told me they didn’t like what I was doing, that it was too personal,” he says. “That’s why I decided not to go with that company. My feelings on marketing – including YouTube – are if I’m not offending someone from time to time, I’m probably not doing that good of a job.”

Because it’s a passion of his, Caldwell is very hands-on in creating and posting the videos. For more difficult projects, he defaults to an employee who is savvy with video editing. “I don’t think it has to be perfectly polished, just interesting and short and relevant,” Caldwell says. “There’s new video content going up at least every month. You have to be posting relevant content on a regular basis.”

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The shop has seen the highest amounts of views with videos that include “how-to” in the titles – how to change a bulb, how to check tire pressure, etc. – as well as content related to current events, even some spoofs.

The key is to keep content brief and interesting, according to Caldwell, who notes, “People aren’t going to stick with a video that’s three minutes or longer.”

G&C shares every video it posts on its Facebook page to drive traffic. The shop also creates and posts videos about other local businesses – which then, in turn, share the links on their social networks, as well.

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“For example, there’s a place that sells live lobster,” Caldwell says. “So we go and interview them and post the video on my YouTube channel. My customers find it interesting, and the business shares the video, too, so my channel gets the added traffic.

“People don’t get that excited about auto repair,” he adds. “So we give them extra content that interests them, and they remember our name for it.”
Regarding analytics and a return on investment, Caldwell admits YouTube is not clear-cut – as is the case with social media in general.

“It’s hard to analyze and say,  ‘I spend this and it makes me this amount of money.’ But what it does is keep your name out there.”

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He recommends using YouTube’s built-in analytics, which reveal how long viewers stick with each video before dropping off, among other statistics.

Tactics for YouTube Success

Whether your shop is new to video or seeking to improve its existing strategy, consider the following tips, culled from YouTube, the tire dealers mentioned above and online sources.

• Post often. Frequently updated channels rank higher in Google searches and give you more opportunities to push your content to other websites, notes Petty.

• Include calls to action. Think about how you want viewers to respond to a video (contact the shop for more information, leave feedback, share the video, etc.), and include that information in the video itself, according to a wishpond.com article titled “12 Tips for Using YouTube for Your Small Business.”

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• Monitor and encourage feedback. Rather than closing your channel to comments for fear of inappropriate or negative ones, set up a monitoring system and response strategy, says Caldwell, who adds, “You don’t ever want to block comments because that interaction is the whole point of social media.”

• Optimize search results through titles, tags and more. “Titles are weighed heavily in YouTube searches, so don’t give your videos boring, non-descriptive titles,” according to wishpond.com. Other tips include using the tags suggested by YouTube, as well as extra tags and variations (“tire repair,” “tire patching” and “tire plugging,” for example); writing a short and informative video description containing top keywords; and including a link to your dealership’s website.

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• Feature the right actor. According to an Entrepreneur article titled “7 Ways to Create More Engaging Videos That Rank Higher in YouTube,”  people who demonstrate passion and energy on camera are more likely to hold a viewer’s attention than those who are monotone and dull. “Try speaking a bit louder than normal and be a little more animated with your body language. It will feel strange in front of the camera, but can create a more engaging video.”

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