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Auto Dealerships are now scrambling to use Facebook and other social media sites to gain a competitive advantage. In the rush to be the most connected and the most responsive, some dealers lose sight of the real power of social media. They focus on inflated Facebook fan counts and numbers of Twitter followers rather than on creating new, lasting relationships with individual customers.
So how do you do this?
Here are three basic strategies for Facebook page administrators to create real relationships with the truly engaged customers.
1. Start with What You Already Have
No matter the size of your dealership, really effective social media efforts are shared across the organization. Find out which employees are using social media, especially Facebook. Make certain that these employees have profiles that transparently state they work for your dealership. Have these employees invite friends to become fans of your page and post a message on their personal walls explaining the benefits of being a fan (information on your brand, community news, etc.).
2. Highly Personalized Direct Messages to New Fans
Direct messages thanking new fans can be a tricky method of cultivating a relationship. Facebook users are mostly technology- savvy and can spot a stock message a mile away. Make certain you only send direct messages to new fans that are engaging and highly personal. To give a clear example how to do so properly, imagine a fan who uses a newborn baby as his profile photograph. To make this a personalized message, you might write, “Jason, congratulations on the new baby! We appreciate your support of our fan page. Please write on the wall any time you have a questions, concern, or comment.”
However, this assumes that Jason is the father of this tyke. This may not be the case. Perhaps the baby is his nephew or maybe it is Jason’s own baby photo. A better way to frame this personalized message would be to write: “Jason, that’s a cute baby in the profile photograph. We appreciate your support of our fan page. Please write on the wall any time you have a questions, concern, or comment.”
Be sure you phrase these messages in a way that does not assume information you do not have. When executed efficiently, highly personalized direct messages show fans (your customers) that you care about them as individuals.
3. Listen, Listen, Listen some more
Social media is a conversation and the most important voice is the customer who just spoke. Businesses that treat their social media platforms as PA systems miss the point of these technologies. Never more easily can a business identify and address customer issues. It is rapid response customer service, but only for those who truly listen.
Commit yourself to spending time every day listening to what your customers say about you, what they say about competitors, and what they are saying in places they do not involve your business at all.
Listen when a customer has a comment or complaint about your business. You should respond as soon as you can, always providing support and admitting fault if appropriate. Listen when a customer praises or disparages a competitor and learn vicariously how your business can better serve her. And listen to what Bob has to say in a discussion about fly fishing. Later, when contacting Bob directly, you can ask him how the trout are biting this spring.
These are some ideas for how your business can cultivate real, lasting relationships with Facebook fan bases. Keep in mind that these are templates for action. Always use common sense and respect when interacting with fans and followers. They are a class of consumers more demanding than any in history.
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