Why the next place you look for inspiration on social media should be a scooter dealership.

Credit: New Scooters 4 Less Facebook

I know what you’re thinking. Although you may not consider a scooter dealership to be a place for inspiration in social media and strategy, look no further. This past week I had the pleasure of participating in a zoom lecture with Collin Austin, the founder and owner of one of the largest scooter dealerships in the nation, New Scooter 4 Less. Austin’s dedication not only to his business but his customer’s experience on social media was something that inspired my own views on social media moving forward.

I want to share with you three major takeaways Austin imparted in his lecture, as well as few examples from his own accounts, but before that, I think it’s vital to set the stage a little bit for Austin and his journey with social media. When Austin started NS4L early in 2004, he found himself joining a little-known social media startup that had gone public earlier that year, Facebook. 16 years later, he’s been in the social media game for quite some time and picked up on the nuances of social media as a place for business growth and method for uniquely connecting with customers.

Sure, it’s simple enough to say your social media is on par with the competition and maybe your brand even has a few thousand more followers than the closest competitor. But, can you say definitively your social media accounts are a distinct competitive advantage for your business?

Collin and NS4L operate their social media with gaining an advantage over their competitors not just in mind, but as a goal. There are plenty of ways you can use social to gain a competitive advantage, but something that stuck with me from Collin’s lecture was his idea of the Ultimate Customer Experience.

This means being open to the customer 24/7, and with most of their target market being college students, that 24/7 is truly 24 hours a day. After each new scooter is purchased, Collin gives each customer his business card, with his personal Snapchat, and an invitation to reach out in case any problems or questions arise down the road. Of course, this isn’t viable for every business out there, but I think there’s a valuable lesson to be taken from it. Customers want to connect and be humanized through the purchasing process. Social media provides businesses that ability, but brands need to take a step back from the typical branded approach to social media and determine how they can really nail that customer experience.

Credit: NS4L

Knowing who your customer is, becomes the first step in building a relationship with them. Collin made it clear that relationships can’t be created overnight, and this is coming from someone who’s been advertising on Facebook and Instagram since they became popular. Collin mentioned that the very first day Instagram made advertisements available to business accounts on the platform, NS4L ran an in-feed ad. Currently, he most often uses his platform to post behind-the-scenes content on Instagram in order to humanize the scooter buying process for his customers. If you can stay connected with customers you can start to build brand loyalty and humanize your business that much more.

Another way Collin developed relationships through social media came through influencers and strategic partnerships. With the influx of influencer marketing as the end-all-be-all for social media marketing, Collin’s been able to work his way into college student’s days in a unique way. Through a partnership with the UFPD, NS4L cemented their dedication to caring for the consumer by donating helmets for students on scooters who either didn’t have one or couldn’t afford one. Relationships are about caring for others, and NS4L certainly does just that.

Credit: NS4L Twitter

This was some of my favorite advice from Collin, not just because of its importance but also their dedication and proficiency to all sorts of social channels. Of course, they have your usual Instagram and Facebookaccounts, but where NS4L really shines is their YouTube account. With YouTube operating as the internet’s second-largest search engine and billions of searches each month, it seems ridiculous NOT to be on the platform.

With COVID hitting most local businesses hard, especially one dependent on college students, NS4L utilized YouTube to make their buying experience as seamless as possible without the in-person experience. With multiple different models, they released around 15 videos making up their Video Showroom, with quick under one minute videos showcasing their inventory of scooters. With video content being so important in 2020, it’s a no-brainer as to why these videos are such an asset on multiple different platforms. See for yourself below.

Credit: NS4L YouTube

An increasingly key part of social media is channel demographics and understanding where your customer exists and engages on the internet. Of course, everyone can’t be present on every platform, so Collin makes it a point to follow the user and keep an eye on what college students are migrating to. Before the huge growthTikTok saw in 2020, Collin was already creating content designed to attract the future students of UF. He made the joke that most college kids laughed at him for being on TikTok as early as last semester, but now more than ever TikTok is a serious venture for brands looking to attract young, teenage consumers.

I think it’s safe to say Collin and NS4L have nailed their presence on social media, and it goes to show we can learn so much from places we never even thought to look. If there’s anything I can say I’ve learned and want others to learn from this, it’s this. If you can build an audience and stay on top of opportunities within the social landscape, social media truly has the potential to become anyone or any brand’s competitive advantage.

A UF Digital Strategy student.