Social Media Victory for a Repair Shop

A recent article on the website Social Media Examiner explains how a privately owned auto repair shop in Minneapolis, Victory Auto Service and Glass, was able to use social medial to increase their customer base and maintain relationships while converting weak ties into strong ties. The owner of the shop, Jeff Matt, hired Stephanie Gutierrez back in 2010 to head their social media sites. After the business had experienced rapid growth by opening shops in new locations, Matt needed a way to reach out to his customers and “maintain the small-shop feel.” (Julig). Gutierrez created and followed a strong formula in order to accomplish Matt’s goal, and did so very successfully. Their social media activity is guided by three points, 1) think like a customer, 2) be friendly and tag photos, and 3) promote the community. 

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(screenshot taken by author 10/6/13)

1) Think Like a Customer

This step immediately brings to mind Michael Wesch’s concept of context collapse . The phrase refers to the collapse of conditions under which content is produced and consumed. In other words, producers are unaware of the context in which someone is viewing their product, and the consumer is unaware of the context in which the producer created the content. However, there seems to be no instance of context collapse within Victory’s social media campaign, a feat in itself. Gutierrez was already aware of who their online customers were and who they wanted to target.

“When she began managing Victory’s Facebook page, she asked, “If I didn’t work here, would I interact with this page?”

With this in mind, she was able to adjust the page and make it engaging for all car owners, regardless of their car knowledge. Papcharissi delves into the performative aspects of social media, and Victory Auto plays off this as well, presenting information in a very simplified manner. Even though the staff of the auto shop is a lot more knowledgeable about cars than its customers, it strives to stay on this customer level to promote relatability. 

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(screenshot taken by author 10/6/13)

2) Be Friendly and Tag Photos

Gutierrez really wanted to build a strong relationship between the customers and Victory Auto. In order to do this she created social transparency by posting photos and personal information of the staff “to help customers get to know them as people” (Julig). She even tags photos of customers that they interact with regularly. This goes hand in hand with Hawthornthwaite’s discussion of social ties. The strong ties present in this example are the customers that are tagged on Facebook and interact with the shop’s page on a regular basis. The weak ties are the customers that like the Facebook page but have little to no interaction with them on the site. And the latent ties are the friends of customers on Facebook who have the potential to see the Victory Auto page. The growth of their company is very dependent on the activation of those latent ties, so when tagging customers in pictures, Gutierrez admits that

The exposure gained “’absolutely depends on how many friends that person has,’ (Julig).

3) Promote the Community

Victory Auto proudly supports many community outreach programs, and they demonstrate this support by publishing it on their Facebook page with pictures and links. Like the varying social ties with customers, this action creates varying ties with local companies, further promoting their business. As Baym states, by making these friendships visible, “the architecture of social network sites facilitates the conversion of latent ties to acquaintanceships” (Baym 101). This instance provides an excellent example of a company taking advantage of the presence of all these ties and utilizing them to meet their needs, which are to acquire and maintain customers.

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(screenshot taken by author 10/6/13)

The story was presented in a very organized and informational format. As noted, the author very succinctly categorized the different tactics used by Stephanie Gutierrez and Jeff Matt to interact with customers via social media. Given that the story was posted on a website that discusses uses of social media, it could have been presented in a more analytical way, rather than just telling us what their social media manager did.

This story really is a great example of how social media can create and maintain different ties and bonds, even if it’s with an auto repair business. This story could have placed more emphasis on the “social ties” aspect of this repair shop’s online presence. I would have liked it if the story delved deeper into the different degrees of strength among the ties this shop shares with its customers. We would have been able to see the extent to which a customer would interact with a local business, which, in a world of big business and brand names, would be very interesting and refreshing. 

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