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JDPAIRT - Social Networking: Should it be More about Relationship Building than Selling Cars?

View From Inside The Panel

During the 2009 J. D. Power Automotive Internet Roundtable conference event in Las Vegas from October 14th through 16th I was privileged to have been invited to participate in the Panel Session chaired by Mary S. Butler from Razorfish titled:
"Social Networking: Should it be More about Relationship Building than Selling Cars?"
The basic mission assigned to the five panelists, including myself, was to examine the issues, pros and cons around the use of social media by car dealers as a means of building or maintaining relationships with people in the dealer's local marketing area who are customers or owners of relevant make vehicles... Alternately, we were asked to compare this type of "warm and fuzzy" approach to using social media with crafting a social media marketing strategy that is very similar to the dealer's advertising campaigns and focused on using social media to generate opportunities to do business in the form of leads, phone calls and showroom visits that result in new and used vehicle sales, or even service department business.

The phone calls, conference calls, online collaboration and meetings before and after the actual panel session that were coordinated by Mary Butler added a tremendous amount of value to the experience of participating in this panel session. I have participated in quite a few similar types of multi-participant panels over the years and cannot think of any that have been as well managed and rewarding to participate in. Hopefully, Mary reads this article and accepts my profound thanks and appreciation for the management and coordination she executed so well that provided so much additional value to all five of us who participated in the Social Networking Panel.

The Panel; "Social Networking: Relationship Building vs. Selling Cars" started at 10:05 AM on Thursday, October 15, 2009 on the main stage at the J. D. Power Automotive Internet Roundtable and as previously mentioned was moderated by Mary S. Butler who is the Senior Content Strategist at Razorfish, one of the world's leading interactive marketing and advertising agencies. Mary's background and knowledge were tremendously useful for all of us on this panel and I believe was reflected in the excellent flow of the 45 minute discussion on stage. Having been part of every J. D. Power Automotive Internet Roundtable to date, I appreciated the 38 written questions submitted to our panel, because I do not recall ever seeing so many questions submitted to such a panel during previous JDP Roundtable events. Mary stepped up to the responsibility in an amazing show of energy and organization skills by rounding up all of us participants immediately following the panel session and assigning the submitted questions to each panelist based on relevancy or the panelist identified by the audience member who submitted the question. The 5 Social Networking panelists are:

1. Christopher Barger; General Motors Director of Social Media (an all around cool guy new to GM)
2. Eric Miltsch; Web Director at Auction Direct USA based out of Rochester, NY and a long time ADM member
3. Jared Hamilton; CEO and Founder of (also a dealer's son and experienced car guy)
4. Tom Chisholm: Facebook Sales Director (no auto background, but probably owns Facebook stock!)
5. Ralph Paglia; Yours truly, the Director of Digital Marketing Solutions for ADP Dealer Services

I learned a lot from Mary and the other four panelists, but probably the most significant impact participating in this panel had on me is a greater understanding of the need to NOT be embarrassed or to hide from the value of building relationships between dealers, their employees and the people in the community that the dealership serves. Also, the understanding that automation has its place in facilitating efficiency, but is not a substitute for real people working at the dealership engaging with real people in the community by using various social networking sites and tools that make these connections easier to establish and more efficient to maintain... Sort of like what many of us have learned right here in the ADM Professional Community!

Find more videos like this on Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community (ADM)
In addition to the presentation slide deck embedded below, Mary has set up a blog site, Facebook event page and a Twitter account for the Panelists, session attendees and anyone interested in the topic we covered and the discussions that resulted from the research all 6 of us did in preparation for the J. D. Power event. Here are the relevant links:
1. Mary Butler's Headlight Blog for this Panel:
2. Social Networking Panel Twitter account:
3. Slideshare presentation download page:
4. J. D. Power published agenda showing this session:
5. Facebook Event page set up for our session:
6. J. D. Power Online Automotive Review Blog:
7. J. D. Power published bios on each Social Networking Panel Member:

Presentation slide deck used during the Social Networking Panel at the J. D. Power Automotive Internet Roundtable in Las Vegas on October 15, 2009:

Views: 57

Tags: #JDPAIRT, Relationship Building, Selling Cars, Should it be More about, Social Media Marketing, Social Networking, automotive social marketing


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Comment by M.S. Butler on October 19, 2009 at 2:05pm
Ralph, thanks much for this post -- quite useful to have all of the related links aggregated here! It was great working with you and the rest of the panelists on the Social Networking session. Now it's time to think about what will be important to cover in this space in 2010!

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