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It seemed really simple to me.  So in trying to make others understand, I wrote this great paper where I illustrated the idea, dissected it piece by piece, and gave step-by-step instructions as to how to make it work with detailed justifications and cost analysis each step of the way.  But still they couldn’t see how simple it really was…. Why, why, why?”


We seem to love to take things that are fairly simple to understand and work hard at making them more difficult to understand. Point and counterpoint…  If you squint real hard, you might envision the future, but with eyes wide open, you can see where we’re going right now.

I was featured in an article recently where I declared dealers should take Social Media on faith. It sounds naïve but it isn’t. It’s not a great leap of faith. It’s right in front of us. In fact, it’s not staring us in the face; it’s slapping us in the face. It’s only required to keep your eyes wide open, and accept what you’re seeing.

Traditional marketing, shotgun advertising, email blasts, or inbound marketing, push/pull marketing, conversion points, ZMOT… all great and interesting topics to explain what we should or shouldn’t be doing to get a customer in the door.  All are important, as are SEO and SEM and landing pages and calls for action. They are all great marketing solutions and ideas for today.  But they are tactics. What is the strategy and the long-term trend?

The long-term trend is a return to the very earliest basics, the most basic form of marketing, too traditional for traditionalists... it's word-of-mouth.  The true value in Social Media is in turning a global marketplace into a small town.  The small town created allows people to share their experiences with a product or company and recommend or reject them by word-of-mouth.

Definition: An unpaid form of promotion in which satisfied customers tell other people how much they like a business, product or service.

It’s the most credible form of advertising or marketing. The person recommending has no reward for doing so. 

Social Media creates word-of-mouth marketing in various ways. The most obvious is Customer Reviews and Testimonials.  But sites such as Facebook offer equally fruitful possibilities where a dealer can create social relationships with their customers and potential customers. They can become the experts that others turn to for advice and solutions.   They can show they are part of a community and gain referrals.

New ideas do require a bit of faith. Without it, nothing new would come into being. When I’m discussing a new idea or project and I’m asked, “Who else is doing it?” I answer, “I hope nobody!”

Do you feel more comfortable with studies and polls? Steve Jobs said, “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new…  You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”

So when staring at 800 million Facebook users, try having a little faith.  This is a new idea with hundreds of years of history.  Waddaya think?

Written by Tom Gorham

Editor, From The Trenches

Automotive Digital Marketing

Professional Community

Views: 433

Tags: Customer, Media, Reviews, Social, Word-of-Mouth, innovation, marketing, vision


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Comment by Tom Gorham on December 5, 2011 at 9:22pm

Cole, get ready everyone and hold on indeed!  I like your statement, "And those dealerships that didn't "get it" originally will very frustrated that the process of establishing an online identity is organic..." Yes, indeedy!

Silia, you amaze me.  I love the NASA quotes and the way you relate the learning process.  If we knew all the answers, we wouldn't come to places like ADM.  What a quandary!  Thanks to both of you for insightful comments!

Comment by Silia J. Hatzi on December 5, 2011 at 6:26pm

Here's what I think, Tom:

When in a quandary (start social media or not? when? how?) I like to look outside myself for the answers (because, duh, if I knew the answer myself I wouldn't be in a quandary.) And because I'm a perfectionist I like to look at what the most successful entities are doing, oft outside my immediate industry (otherwise I start critiquing on reflex). 

So, in answering "should I start social media?" "when?" "how?" I liked what NASA had to say on the matter (I mean, these guys do things like fly into space & stuff which in my mind is way harder than anything I've ever attempted to do. Besides, they're literally stratospheric geniuses. Plus, I liked the fact that there isn't a direct link per se on how doing a great job on Twitter can help NASA.)

Here is an excerpt from a Social Fresh article about what Stephanie Schierholz, NASA's Social Media Manager, has to say:

 “Just do it." “Don’t waste any more time. You learn by doing. Look for those who are doing it well and see what you can copy and apply.”

Embrace mobile - NASA understands the importance of mobile. There is a fully functioning mobile version of and they use HTML5 to make sure the videos render well on mobile.

Get visual - Photos and videos are critical to NASA’s social success.

Foster the community but don’t own the community. Stephanie explained that’s it’s important to foster NASA’s space community but it’s not good to try to own the community. To this end, NASA encourages and engages with non-NASA groups like the Space Tweep Society.

Stephanie's quote from David Rosen:

“You may not have a spaceship, but your company has a fan base. They won’t think of themselves as fans until they’re in a room with like-minded people. They won’t think of themselves as members of a community until YOU bring them together.”

Cheers to all.

Comment by Cole Matthew Mitguard on December 5, 2011 at 4:32pm

What's going to be interesting is a year or so down the line when social media is finally widely adopted in the automotive industry and dealerships are scrambling to figure it all out... mainly because the dealerships that have taken the time to establish themselves in their online community are going to have an incredible advantage. And those dealerships that didn't "get it" originally will very frustrated that the process of establishing an online identity is organic... simply throwing money at it isn't going to fix the problem (well... depends how much...).

I'm very excited to see what is going to happen in the next few months, I think that we all know social media is important, but the next few months is really going to be indicative of how the very fabric of the internet will be woven with a fine thread of social media. Get ready everyone and hold on!

Comment by Tom Gorham on December 1, 2011 at 3:28pm

Jim, like I said at the begining, "It seemed so simple to me." ;-) Thanks for the comment!

Comment by Jim Canto on December 1, 2011 at 12:28pm

Enjoyed this article, Tom. Thanks. 


I've been preaching this for years now... the value in Social Media is as obvious as the value of good customer service...and just as difficult to quantify. The value of good/great customer service has never been questioned (to my knowledge.) It's just that obvious. And, isn't "Social Media", fundamentally, an extension of customer service (a.k.a.; The customer experience)??


In short.. I agree with Tom. So why is it NOT that obvious to everyone?  

Comment by Tom Gorham on December 1, 2011 at 7:16am

Thanks Bill, I don't think it's takes much faith to realize that a billion people in Social Media have inertia.  You just need to figure out where that inertia is taking them (and us). I am bemused by people who say Facebook will crash just as MySpace did.  I'm thinking, "So what?"  It's not an individual site that matters, it's the movement.

Philip, thanks for the insightful comments.  I believe you're right that the greater your reputation, the easier it is to fail a customer's higher expectations.  This calls for true professionalism and attention to detail and customer service.  It can only improve our industry.

Comment by Philip Moore on December 1, 2011 at 6:27am

Great points Tom,

You have to ask yourself why so many people are broadcasting their opinions.  I think the motivations fall into three categories:

1) vanity

2) anger

3) surprise


I guess it's human nature to want to be acknowledged so vanity is probably not the right word, but it will do as a label.  People want other people to know they exist, so they put on makeup or wear snazzy clothes or drive fancy cars or become international clog dancing champions.  This is likely the strongest reason for the continuuing success of Facebook, etc.  This is important, because it means people want to share their opinions as long as the sharing makes them seem smart, relevant, in-the-know, caring, conscientious, etc.


So if people have a natural tendency to share their opinions and social media gives them a channel to fulfill that tendency, then all they need is content, e.g. something to say.  So anything out of the ordinary will get commented on.  Most people don't say "I went to the grocery store and they had groceries."  If something meets expectations, commenting on it makes the commentator seem daft.  So it's the unusual or unexpected that justifies the social media post.


This is REALLY good news for car dealers.  Thanks to the wonderful stereotype that movies, jokes, popular culture, and really bad dealers have perpetuated it is EASY to exceed customer expectations.  Unless you've already built a great personal brand through, Yelp, Dealerater, etc., most of your new customers are going to walk in hoping for a good experience rather than expecting one.  So take advantage of the negative stereotype and exceed their rather low expectations.  This will generate great WOW (Silia).


The one downside of being a well-known, well-liked, highly regarded auto dealer is that you don't have the negative stereotype to protect you.  If you already have a good online brand, then the negative stereotype amplifies any missteps.  Customers walking in the door of a dealer with 5-stars on Yelp expect a good experience.  If they get 1-star treatment they feel justified in calling you a "typical" car dealer.  We know the "typical" car dealer delivers great customer service and fair prices, but if everyone else knew that too, it would be much harder to exceed expectations and get good online ratings.

Comment by Tom Gorham on December 1, 2011 at 6:27am

Wonderful compliment, Mr Siddiqui.  Thank you!

Comment by Mohammad Siddiqui on November 30, 2011 at 11:32pm

Quiet Rightly said and buitifully potrait Mr. Tom Gorham this is really what the future effective advertisement is going to be, Social media have to be taken seriously by us around the world.

Comment by Tom Gorham on November 30, 2011 at 9:02pm

Thank you Silia!  Glad you appreciate.

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