To increase your social media presence, setting up an account is not enough. A rental company needs to be regularly active on social media — but what are the right ways to connect and maintain engagement?
Twelve operators share tips that have helped them connect with social media users — from implementing creative contests to leveraging customer photos to producing YouTube videos.
To target its local market, Brooklyn-based AllCar Rent A Car has developed Facebook contests with a local flavor. “You want to do something of value where contest winners are local,” says Gil Cygler, CEO of AllCar.
With a grand prize of a three-day AllCar rental and a two-night stay at a local bed and breakfast, contestants entered by visiting AllCar’s Facebook page and signing up for AllCar’s newsletter. After AllCar chose the winner, the goal was to have that person take a picture in the rental car on the getaway and post it on AllCar’s social media pages, including Twitter and Instagram, says Cygler.
Silvercar uses photo contests to engage its users. On a weekly basis, Silvercar features a #SilverShots contest where renters are asked to post a scenic photo with their silver Audi A4 for the chance to win a free four-day rental, says Nicole Bodle, Silvercar’s marketing manager. Photos are posted on Silvercar’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.
This past February, Silvercar promoted a social media contest with a Valentine’s Day theme. Consumers were encouraged to #KissAndTell about their worst car rental experiences. Each week in February, up to 20 of the best “worst” stories earned a chance to win one free Silvercar rental day.
Fox Rent-A-Car has seen an increase in engagement with social media giveaways through its Facebook and Twitter pages. With one giveaway running at a time, giveaways usually last a month. But sometimes Fox runs flash giveaways lasting as few as three to four days, which are concurrent with other giveaways.
Once a user has entered the giveaway, he or she must post to Fox’s Facebook page for the entry to qualify.
“Currently, we are giving away a Garmin GPS, but we have given away iPads, a Jawbone UP, a GoPro camera, and a Kindle Fire,” says Donna Biroczky, social media and content manager for Fox Rent-A-Car Los Angeles. “We try to select items that are relevant to travel, make travel easier or more enjoyable and popular amongst our community members.”
Miami’s Speed Auto Rental launched a social media campaign around a local event. “In order to get more followers on Instagram and Facebook, we gave away some tickets for an upcoming soccer game and asked our followers to tag five friends and share our promotion to qualify for the tickets,” says Tatiana Da Cunha, co-owner of Speed Auto Rental, a luxury and exotics rental company.
Hertz Guatemala used a social media poll to let its users pick its mascot design. “We asked social media users to vote on which mascot they liked best: Horatio or the Hertz Bus,” says Charles Rogers, president of Hertz Guatemala. “We received 341 votes and the Hertz Bus won.”
Images up the Ante
Whether posting photos to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or Google+, photos can be a good way to bring more visual engagement with social media users.
For Jimmy Fitzpatrick at Leisure Car Rental in St. Maarten, a customer sent an email thanking him and his team for their rental service. In the email, the customer included a photo, posing next to the rental car.
With the customer’s permission, Fitzpatrick uploaded the picture and posted it on Leisure’s Facebook page. Soon after, “customers started telling us that they found us on Facebook,” says Fitzpatrick, general manager.
Now Leisure regularly posts photos of its customers with their rental cars and includes a “thank you for renting with us” note.
EagleRider, the motorcycle renter, and Silvercar encourage customers to post photos of themselves while “on the road” with their rental vehicles. “Social media is an ideal platform to visually tell a story that allows viewers to transport themselves to the many vacation spots that our renters travel to,” says Bodle.
When customers rent Harleys from EagleRider’s Los Angeles location, they will often post photos from their motorcycle trip on the company’s Facebook page, says Hal Oreif, chief technology and product officer. A few customers have even uploaded videos of riding the motorcycles.
Photos of vehicles can also generate “shares” and “comments,” especially when it comes to luxury and exotic rentals.
Sam Zaman, owner of Black & White Car Rental in Beverly Hills, Calif., has noticed that his company’s exotics usually get the most hype on its social media posts. “When we post photos on Facebook, we do the same posting on Twitter and Instagram,” he says.
When posting photos of its luxury and exotic models, Black & White uses language to encourage renters to envision driving one of these vehicles: “Get behind the wheel of this Bentley Mulsanne. Where would you take it?”
Speed Auto Rental not only posts images of its exotic rentals on Facebook and Instagram, but it also creates videos of the exotic vehicles to rent. By posting the videos on YouTube, it exposes the Speed Auto Rental brand to more viewers on another social media channel, says Da Cunha.
Become a Local Expert
When posting stories, the content doesn’t always need to revolve around car rental. It’s nice to get more creative and focus on travel, local news or other interests of a company’s markets.
To help promote travel to Turks and Caicos, Grace Bay Car Rentals focuses its posts on positive content about the island, including photos of the beaches and stories on local community service projects.
“For us, we use social media to remind our clients of their second home — hopefully encouraging them to book a last-minute trip or visit more frequently,” says Todd Foss, owner at Grace Bay Car Rentals, a Thrifty franchisee.
Posts are also determined by the interests of the company’s major markets. Because a big part of its market is from the Boston area, when the Patriots won the Super Bowl, Grace Bay posted its logo with a football and a congratulations message, according to Foss.
Hertz Guatemala has a similar approach to Grace Bay — it also posts stories to help promote travel. “We try to publish interesting stories to help people view Guatemala as a desirable travel destination,” says Rogers. “Our belief is that we need people to come to Guatemala first, and then once here we’ll get them into a Hertz car.”
During the Holy Week celebration in Guatemala, Hertz posted stories related to Guatemala’s Holy Week events, including travel tips to prepare for a Holy Week road trip in Guatemala and the top six Guatemalan destinations for Easter.
As a niche industry, Los Angeles-based MPG Car Rental — which rents only green vehicles (hybrid, clean diesel, all-electric) — posts articles and new stories that relate to the “going green” community — whether that’s a green vehicle or other ways to go green. Examples of articles include: “Top 5 Greenest Cars of 2015 Helps Eco-Conscious Drivers Make Smarter Buying Decisions,” “California Urged to Stay the Course on Electric Cars,” “Top 10 Tips for a Green Thanksgiving,” “Why is it Taking So Long for Psychology to go Green?”
“People in a niche tend to be more responsive,” says Steve Vahidi, owner of MPG Car Rental. “People who are going green are more likely to promote our page and share it with their friends.”
Hire a Professional
To help develop their social media pages, some independent operators have chosen to look to an outside source for assistance.
For Yaz Irani at Airport Van Rental, it’s been more cost-effective to contract out his company’s social media duties to a consultant.
“Working with a digital marketing manager, I get a report every month and can see the number of online visits for each of our social media channels,” says Irani. “It has opened my eyes to new social media strategies. By researching the market, the digital marketing manager is able to tell me the direction of where social media is going and how we should target certain markets.”
Avis Alaska hired a marketing firm to help maintain consistency with its social media plan. “We wanted it done right and consistently,” says Peggy Grigsby, chief claims officer at Avis Alaska. “It has to be managed daily with creative posts to get people’s attention.”