BY BILL FAETHWhile it seems like the whole world is on Facebook these days, there are some people who are not comfortable mixing personal interactions with their professional lives on social media. But even those who choose not to participate in an online community comprising more than one billion users should consider opening at least a business-specific account to benefit from the value that their peers are providing in industry Facebook groups.
Over the past few years, there have been a number of Facebook groups particular to our industry created with varying intentions in mind—but whatever their goals are, they all contain a degree of value that you don’t want to miss out on. Editor’s note—Bill Faeth has mentioned joining groups from vertical industries, such as wedding planning, corporate travel management, and event coordination, in previous columns. Much of the advice here can apply to participation in those industry groups, too.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE ON FACEBOOK
In my opinion, utilizing Facebook groups is invaluable to our industry, especially for operators who are still establishing their own affiliate networks. One of the primary benefits of posting to these groups is the quick, helpful replies you will receive from industry professionals of all stripes who have built, relied upon, and vetted their globally reaching circuit of affiliates for years.
For example, there is a tremendously active group simply called “LIMO,” which has more than 1,100 members. It’s also a private/closed group, which means the administrators must approve anyone who requests to join; all posts, comments, and likes are only visible to members of the group. You can safely ask for an affiliate referral without worrying that your clients will see it.
Additionally, you are all but guaranteed to receive many recommendations from operators around the world in minutes, as one of the best aspects of this Facebook group is that it yields a high volume of timely responses, especially when it comes to affiliate referrals. Most requests receive multiple answers within 10 or 15 minutes.
This leads to two very important caveats to consider when it comes to interacting with these groups:
1. When reviewing affiliate recommendations, be sure to consider the value of the source making the recommendation and how many recommendations are made for each affiliate. For example, if Bob (who you don’t know) was to recommend ABC Limo for you in Morocco, and Jane (with whom you frequently do business) recommends 123 Limo, you would most likely want to contact 123 Limo first because you know Jane’s recommendations are extremely valuable and you don’t yet have a trusted relationship with Bob.
2. You still need to do your own due diligence on insurance coverages, rates, vehicle types, communication, and processes prior to beginning a new affiliate relationship, regardless of who makes the recommendation to you.
MORE THAN JUST AFFILIATE NETWORKING
Facebook groups can be a great tool for growing your global networks. But these groups aren’t just for affiliate recommendations: You can ask operational, insurance, chauffeur training, policy, or marketing and sales questions. You can also obtain feedback from your peers and vendors who are experts in a particular field that may not be your strength.
There are quite a few industry groups to choose from. They include: the aforementioned LIMO and Limo and Life, two of the biggest and most active industry Facebook groups, which are open to any industry-related conversation that doesn’t err on the side of self-promotion; and more specific groups like Affiliate Manager Network and Minority Association of Limousine Owners, which foster dialogue pertaining to its members shared roles or association.
Of course, the most natural exchanges occur on individuals’ pages; however, all of your comments on another’s profile page are visible to their friends, so you may want to keep that chatter as light and innocuous as possible. While the Facebook groups are no strangers to occasional mistakenly interpreted comments or disgruntled operators who are understandably miffed about an affiliate who won’t pay, most group members are experienced and tactful enough to keep the most hot-button issues confined to private messages. Groups also have the benefit of attentive moderators who keep conversations both level-headed and focused.
You now have a number of professionally populated industry Facebook groups at your fingertips that help you find new companies to do business with while enjoying social media’s ability to get to know people as people—not just as a voice on the other end of the line or a flurry of cold email exchanges. And in this age of cooperative competition, developing a personal relationship with your affiliates is becoming more and more of an invaluable asset.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN POSTING IN GROUPS
These groups are all moderated and each has its own set of guidelines (primarily designed to keep members from advertising). Be sure to read the rules when you join so that you do not post a comment or question that violates a group’s etiquette.
You can create value for your fellow members by commenting, engaging, and helping when they have questions. Remember you have to “give to get.” Keep this in mind whenever you network within online forums or are selling your services to a new potential client.
I look forward to seeing you around our industry’s Facebook groups! [CD0516]
Bill Faeth is founder and president of Inbound Marketing Agents in Nashville and founder of Limo University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.