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Recently, AutoTrader had Polk do a study titled, "2013 Automotive Buyer Influence Study". As it is always good to try to keep our finger on the pulse of the buyer, I read through my copy recently and have found something that surprised me a little.
The stat in question was this, "98% of car buyers polled stated that Social Media played no role in their, or had no influence on their purchase". I must admit that I am not the world's greatest at keeping my Facebook page updated, having said that, we do have an increasing audience there and are regularly engaging more people. However, after reading the results of this study, I wondered if it was just a waste of time. I mean, c'mon 2%! That's it, only 2% said that Social Media had any influence on their purchase? That seems crazy.
It made me wonder another thing though, how many of these people (the 98%, not the 2%) actually realized the effect that social media played in their purchasing decision? Remember when the movie theaters used subliminal messaging to make us buy a Coke and more popcorn? The people affected didn't realize that they were affected. Now, don't get me wrong, I am not saying that I am using subliminal messages in my Facebook posts (however, if someone knows how to do that, give me a call). What I am saying though, is that there may have been more of an influence on these consumers than they realized. Let me explain.
As my good friend Kathi Kruse says, "In order to measure success on social media, you have to know what you are trying to accomplish" (these may not have been her exact words, but it is what she was saying). I wonder how many of these "98% of folks who were not influenced by social media" are Friends with a local dealership or have one in their Circle of friends? It may very well be that, through the posts these "98 percenters" received from the dealerships, they were indeed influenced. Now the question becomes, "What were they influenced to do?"
I don't know about everyone else, but one of my main goals in social media is to interact with people and let them know that our dealership is more than just a bunch of money grubbing, golf playing, rich guys who don't care about their customers outside of the store. We want them to see that we are...wait for it...ACTUAL PEOPLE. I know, I know, it sounds crazy, right? In fact, very rarely do I post specific vehicles on social media because that isn't the goal we are trying to obtain. Now, you may question why I am not trying to sell to these people every time we have their attention. Well, I am, but what I am selling is that we care about their whole lives, not just when they are ready to purchase a car. We are interested where they go on vacation, we care about their new baby and we really do take an interest in their day at work.
Our goal on social media is to build relationships that stretch beyond the F&I office and actually move into their lives. In the short period of time that we have been really working social media with a purpose, we have been able to forge friendships with people in various walks of life and some who haven't bought anything from us yet. One of the most important statements that I have seen posted by a lot of people lately is that "People buy from people". That's a true statement. That is why, even though 98% of these consumers state that they weren't influenced by social media, I would really like to know the exact questions that were asked.
Were they asked if they have dealerships in their Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. groups? Did they get asked if they have interacted with a dealership in the way of social media in any fashion before purchasing? How about this one, if they do have a dealership in their social media groups, and if so, did they purchase their vehicle from this dealer or look at their inventory before purchasing? I think we would all agree that social media may not be the easiest way to sell cars, but I think we can also agree that if it helps us get an opportunity with a consumer, it is worth it.
So now it is your turn. I know that I am going to get torched by many who disagree with me and think that social media isn't an important factor in the car business. That's okay. But again, many dealers are successful everyday on social media without posting one photo of a vehicle. It all depends on what you are trying to achieve, do you know "success" is for your dealership on social media?