Everyone today who’s not hiding under a rock or living in isolation in some remote jungle knows of the exploding popularity of YouTube. It seems more and more people are either watching or posting videos, for entertainment and other purposes. And today, when many people have a computer in their pocket and like to share videos they enjoy with their friends, these videos have become very effective at getting a message across quickly to a lot of people.
It seems the collision repair community has caught on to this trend, too. Almost every major equipment manufacturer has posted training, product or promotional videos on YouTube. And collision repair shops and post-repair inspectors have taken to YouTube to uncover bad repairs and educate consumers on their rights.
Sparking a Movement
One post-repair inspector, Billy Walkowiak of Collision Safety Consultants, posted a video online that sparked a movement. An elderly couple had their van repaired by a local body shop, but Walkowiak discovered that the vehicle was repaired incorrectly and was unsafe for travel. The couple then filed a lawsuit against the body shop, so Walkowiak decided to create a documentary about their experience in order to spread awareness about the importance of post-repair inspections. He approached AP Media, a company that had produced other YouTube videos for the collision repair industry, to assist with the production and distribution.
“It showed a lot of people how just a minor change in a repair could cause catastrophic damage,” he said. “You can’t really explain it to somebody, so the video showed a comparison side-by-side of a factory rail versus an improperly repaired rail. It opened a lot of eyes.”
The video’s popularity gained momentum when Walkiowiak placed it on his website and had it linked to Google Adwords. When consumers searched for “bad repairs” on Google, the video would pop up.
“A lot of the video we showed was inner structure, and a lot of that you can’t see in a photo or by looking at the exterior of a car,” he said. “No one gets up underneath their car when they pick it up from a collision repair. So our videos show cars that have been returned to owners that were supposedly fixed right and are perfect according to manufacturer specifications, but none of these cars were fixed properly.”
The Internet Impact
While the content in Walkowiak’s video is powerful in and of itself, it packs an especially big punch for another reason: it was posted and shared solely through the Internet. While TV spots still present great value for some body shops, YouTube is also an option with an arguably larger impact.
“It used to be that you’d have to create a TV commercial and spend thousands of dollars to buy airtime, and not a lot of shops have the resources to do that,” said Lee Emmons, vice president of the company that produced Walkowiak’s video. “But video content is very engaging for people, and you can distribute it for a lot less money online.”
But Charles Jessen, owner of PreFab ads, says collision repairers shouldn’t count out TV commercials entirely. They often work in symbiosis with social media.
“Video is important and works in different ways, depending on its objectives,” says Jessen. “Humorous TV commercials, for instance, can plant the seeds of awareness with hundreds of thousands of consumers, depending on the media weight behind it, and has the potential to ‘go viral’ on sites like YouTube and other social media avenues. Educational videos on sites like YouTube back up that initial awareness with an air of authority and expertise to those consumers once they’re in need of collision repair and in the decision-making cycle. The number of views for educational videos, naturally, is going to be much lower, often in just the hundreds. But both forms of videos work together toward the common purpose of customer conversion.”
In addition to the low cost, posting a video on YouTube also boosts a company’s search ranking on Google because the site is owned by the search engine titan.
“The fact is when someone does a search for a keyword, they’re likely to pull up relevant video in that return in the results,” said Michael Camber, marketing services manager for Kaeser Compressors. His company has posted a handful of videos specific to the automotive market with a primary focus on products and equipment. By posting testimonials of people who have had success with their equipment, Kaeser aims to expand its customer base.
Aside from promoting products and services, the underlying theme of collision videos seems to be consumer education. Michael Bradshaw, vice president of operations for K & M Collision in Hickory, N.C., has published videos that aim to educate consumers on a variety of topics, such as their insurance policy, steering and their rights after an accident. Similar to Walkowiak, he has posted “case study” videos of post-repair inspections – a category that Bradshaw says not only educates the consumer, but also insurers.
“We look at a vehicle that’s been fixed that was ultimately fixed incorrectly. That’s not only geared toward consumers but also the consequences of some of the actions by a lot of these insurance companies,” he said.
To further spread awareness, other shops and even industry associations have picked up and shared K & M’s YouTube videos, most recently one that serves as an open letter to the North Carolina attorney general, encouraging him and others in office to take action against steering and unsafe repairs. The video commends Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell for taking action against State Farm for “forcing inferior parts on cars and steering their policyholders to their preferred shops,” and urges others in office to do the same.
“There have been a few people who want to be negative about certain things, but overall [the feedback] has been really positive,” said Bradshaw. “We’ll have customers come in who say they saw something on video and ask about it, or they’ll tell us they like what we’re doing, so it has been worth it.”
Consumer rights aren’t the only focus for K & M – the shop also uses YouTube to educate its customers about OEM certification and what it means for them.
“I just felt like it was really the best way we could show our customers what our facility is really like,” said Bradshaw. “In our area, we’re really ahead of all the other shops as far as what our certifications are and our ability to repair high-end aluminum vehicles.”
“A lot of people really care about the message that a lot of these shops are putting out there about high-quality repairs, and some of the consumer safety messages actually get a big response,” added Emmons. “Those end up being some of the most engaging videos that these shops make. It really seems to work.”
Keep It Fresh
For members of the collision industry looking to tap into video, Emmons says YouTube is a great route. But the secret to success is to make sure content stays fresh.
“The key is to keep putting stuff out,” he said. “Not every video that’s made needs to be a huge production, especially with the interest people have in the consumer. Some of these can be in-house, and others can be more elaborate productions. I think it’s a really good option for shops.”