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Should Dealership Employees Connect with Customers through Social Media?

It's a question that is raised from time to time, particularly by sales managers and internet managers. Should employees, in particular the sales team, be allowed to connect with their customers through Facebook and other social media sites? It's not a question of whether or not they should encourage their customers to like the dealership's Facebook page or follow the dealership's Twitter account. It's about a personal relationship. Should employees become social media "friends" with customers?

For some, the answer is a clear "no". There is simply too much turnover in the automotive industry and allowing connections with customers can be akin to allowing a book of business to walk out the door. This is silly for many reasons but it's not the type of opinion that can be easily changed, so we'll leave it as an opinion with which I disagree.

The other big reason is time and distraction. Some dealerships and businesses in general do not allow their employees to use social media on company time. It's a time waster, after all, and one that cannot be easily monitored or controlled.

The argument against that thought is that unless you're willing to take everyone's smart phone away during business hours, you aren't really taking them off social media. They're still checking. They're still updating. They're still "LOLing" the viral cat picture that's circulating on any given day.

If we can assume that the negatives associated with allowing social media to be used as a business tool by individual employees can be outweighed by the positives, then you can continue reading. If you are unwilling to accept it, then there's no reason to read on.

Here, we get into actual strategies...


How Employees Connect with Customers

The toughest question asked about connecting through social media also has the easiest answer. "How can my salespeople connect with their customers on Facebook?"

The answer: "They ask."

The action is easy. As long as they give them a reason and use their sales skills to make it happen, they'll be surprised at how well it works. Here's a sample talk track:

"Mr Customer, I follow up with those who buy a vehicle from me from time to time, usually just a few times a year. What's your preferred method of contact? For me it's Facebook."

"I won't bug you on Facebook - I know it's a personal thing and I treat it as such. You won't see much of me other than an occasional follow up message and some pictures of my kids. Can I add you as a friend?"

You'll be shocked at how often they say, "Sure."


We're Friends. Now What?

This is where the real magic can happen. First and foremost, the employee must follow through with what they promised. If they said they're going to follow up with them from time to time, they need to do just that. Don't send a message the first day of the new friendship. Wait a week. Wait two weeks if you're organized.

Just send a quick message, "Hi Mr Customer. I just wanted to check in and make sure that the Mustang was still cruising along nicely. Did you get your free oil change certificate in the mail yet?"

From there, it's a matter of acting normal and NEVER overposting. Two or three updates a day. All natural content. Thoughts, pictures, etc. - keep the business components away from your Facebook profile the vast majority of the time.

Once, maybe twice a month, put out a call for referrals. "It's been a slow month so far which is weird because we're loaded with inventory. Anyone in Cincinnati know someone who needs a car. We're dealing right now and I have some referral money to give you if you send anyone my way!"

That's it. Rinse. Repeat. Be a good social media user most of the time. Be a salesperson some of the time. Be a networker all of the time. Don't forget birthdays - Facebook tells you everyone who has a birthday today. Send them all messages. Post interesting content. Be real.


But, My Facebook Profile is MY Facebook Profile

Some people hold the sanctity of their social media profiles in high regard. If they love their Facebook and do not want it polluted with customers and promotions, so be it. Never force it. For decades, there are sales people who sell cars from 9 to 5 and there are sales people who sell cars anywhere and everywhere at any time.

You can't force one to become the other. It's inherent.

This stuff works. It's no different than keeping a rolodex of customers with pictures, birthdays, and the names of their kids on an index card. Facebook and social media in general can be your rolodex, but you have to be willing to make it happen.

Views: 305

Tags: Facebook, Media, Social


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Comment by David Johnson on October 19, 2012 at 2:08pm

I'm a huge proponent of sales people using digital technologies to build their own inbound marketing platform. Yes, that includes connecting with their customers on social networks and yes you are correct, that's when all the magic happens. I'm fond of saying that if you want to create the type of customer loyalty that equates to repeats and referrals then you must go past the point of the transaction and build the type of relationship with your customers that is deserving of loyalty.

There are two parts to the whole "social word of mouth equation" and that is both customer enchantment and customer engagement. Pour as much into those two things as possible and repeats and referrals will pour in.

Comment by jaime Block on October 18, 2012 at 10:12pm

I absolutely agree with you on this one.  I hear this often when I ask salespeople if they use facebook, Linkedin, etc... Many of them are on facebook and use it occasionally (I think this is because they work a lot), or they have removed a profile bc of a past relationships, and forget about Linkedin because 2% get the real value of that one.  For sales,  social media is the greatest tool in our toolbelt.  People work in so many different dealerships, maybe they move, they have connections from college, even high school... so why, in a needs industry, would anyone want to hide what they do for a living.  We have reached a monumental time in history.  THE SHIFT:  PAST - MATERIAL LUXURY ;  TODAY - EXPERIENTIAL LUXURY.  People are looking to elevate themselves through life changing experiences (Connections, Relationships, and Trust).  People buy from others they know like and trust.  If they don't know anyone in the industry, they will ask a friend or family member.  I have closed more deals using Facebook and Linkedin than by cold calling and prospecting.  That says a lot.

Customers are spending more money on function rather than decorative, engaging rather than watching, Meaning rather than materialism, VALUE vs Bling.  Every employee needs to simply ask.  It's so easy, but I believe if they understood the value, the would all jump on the bandwagon.

Comment by J.D. Rucker on October 18, 2012 at 9:36pm

I wholeheartedly agree, ASM. The challenge is threefold:

  1. Get the owners/GMs to buy into the idea that social media is not a threat to their showroom and that the sales team can use it to drive additional business
  2. Get the sales team the understanding to make it work and the willingness to make it happen
  3. Consolidate it all into a measurable activity, a la a social CRM.

Comment by Automotive Social Marketing on October 18, 2012 at 4:10pm

@0boy - This article asks the questions answered by the concept around "Social Media CRM", which I have been a proponent of for several years.  In many ways, the right use of social media marketing and customer engagement is much better positioned to deliver on the promises made by many CRM suppliers over ten years ago.  Think of it this way, Social Networks can be a CRM application that is chosen by the customer instead of the dealer.

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