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Social Media Marketing - Beyond the Hopes and Fears

Is Your Social Marketing Strategy to Sell Cars on Facebook, or Are You Seeking Increased Customer Engagement?

Let's face reality, It’s no longer fresh news to car dealers that consumers have adopted Social Media at a record pace, with no slowing down in sight. Three-quarters of US Web retailers surveyed by the e-tailing group and PowerReviews in August–September 2009 for their “Community and Social Media Study” said they thought brands were accelerating their use of, and commitment to, social media marketing and online reputation management.

More than half of the retailers surveyed reported that they use five of the 10 Community or Social Media tools listed, and almost every retailers stated that they have plans to increasingly use Social Media, Syndication and Community gadgets and widget. The use of Facebook fan pages were the Social Media tool cited most frequently, followed by setting up Twitter account... AND driving customers to post customer reviews on targeted websites.

But fear of Social Media and Reputation Management is still out there... Many dealers tell me that they remain worried about their own competence at using social media and losing control of what is being said about their dealership brand. These are valid concerns and one of many compelling reasons to have a strategy that secures and manages both Social Media Marketing, and online reputation Management.

Their concerns show that dealers understand the importance of social media: One of the concerns I hear when proposing dealership sponsored online communities is that customers might abandon their traditional lead generating dealership eCommerce site in favor of the community sites that my team builds, since they are more socially engaging than any conventional dealership web site. When we discuss the pros and cons, most dealers I am working with decide that using social media might be scary, but avoiding it is becoming less of a viable or prudent option for car dealers.

The primary social media goal of the retailers surveyed was to increase customer engagement, followed by boosting brand loyalty and spurring word-of-mouth among brand advocates... The most successful dealers I have worked with over the past 18 months of implementing Social Marketing and Reputation Management strategies have been the ones that embrace customer engagement... AND, have the skills to communicate with their customers and the perspective that selling cars is all about building relationships.

Back to the survey... Responding retailers believed customer reviews were the best community tool for driving engagement—and also the best for increasing sales. I cannot possibly over emphasize this concept; the biggest, fastest and most noticeable impact on sales results that dealers who use my Social Marketing and Reputation Management system get, comes from cultivating, harvesting and distributing consumer reviews of the dealership and the sales and service experience consumer have at the dealer's facility.

“Customer engagement has become a metric to be reckoned with, where failing to engage consumers via community and social media will have brand and bottom-line implications,” said Lauren Freedman, president of the e-tailing group. “All merchants must test and understand how to effectively deploy it for their brands to retain customers, encourage sales and avoid abandonment to competitors who’ve better embraced its marketing potential.”

Data and conclusions in this article were sourced from eMarketer.
Check out eMarketer’s “Analyzing the Bing Effect.”


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The Automotive Digital Marketing (ADM) Professional Community website is built on a perpetually growing"Viral Expansion Loop" Networking Platform and serves Car Dealers, Dealership General Managers and their management teams, including Internet Sales Managers, BDC Managers, Marketing Managers, Sales Managers, Service Managers, Service Advisers, Parts Managers, Fixed Operations Directors and their teams. Launched at the beginning of January 2008, ADM has emerged as a valuable and proven resource for the entire spectrum of automotive marketing and Internet sales related professionals. Interactive Media and eCommerce Professionals at car companies (OEM) and tier 1 and 2 advertising agencies who want to see, hear and read what the best Digital and Interactive Marketing professionals in the automotive industry have to say about relevant and timely topics visit ADM on a regular basis or subscribe to the many RSS feeds and content syndication services available within the ADM community.

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ADM was created to serve as a resource for Automotive Internet Sales and Marketing Professionals working in the digital and interactive media space for dealers with automotive franchises, car companies and the associated suppliers and technology providers serving the auto industry. Both OEM and Dealer associates are among ADM's most prolific members.


To learn more about the Automotive Social Marketing and Reputation Management Solutions from Ralph Paglia and the ADP Digital Marketing Team, please copy and paste this sentence into the text box at the bottom of your completed online form available by clicking on the image below:

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Tags: Automotive Social Marketing, Beyond Hopes and Fears, Reputation Management, Social Media Marketing

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Comment by Keith Shetterly on September 30, 2009 at 9:55am
Social media, via the Internet, has flattened the ad space and drastically reduced the advantage of Big Pocketbooks. How? Why? As an analog, imagine trying to make consumer impressions on TV while facing this: DVRs for by-passing commercials, ratings from previous viewers AND live comments available as you watch, product placements replacing ads, customer service issues with the placed products AND with the cable service available live to viewers, the ability for viewers to chat live and tweet, the ability to forward snippets of the show you found interesting, as well as snippets of better shows you recommend, and your competition also being able to talk to your viewers about THEIR show, embedded products, better customer service, etc.

Social media is going to change marketing and advertising more in the next 5 years than in the previous 50.
Comment by Terry Holbrook on September 30, 2009 at 7:36am
Could Social Media be called "Engagement Selling"? If you goal is to sell something you have already lost in Social Media however nobody likes to walk into a place especially a dealership and not feel comfortable with who they are going to ask for. Therefore meaningful engagement will result in referrals and selling. I believe Social Media can end the days of an ISM exchanging 5 emails and 2 phone calls with a prospect just to have them come in the store and not ask for them.

The keys for me are to follow the 1/3 rule. 1/3 Meaningful Interaction, 1/3 Information Sharing, 1/3 Promotion.

Meaningful interaction should be self explanatory, Information Sharing: "If you are coming to the dealership this afternoon please take the following alternative route (link) the Cowboys have a home opener and traffic is expected to be very bad. And of course promotions, be sure to get service and parts involved.

A few rules that I train our dealers to follow:
Communicate – that is not just you posting, you must listen and engage your audience.
Always respond you customers
Relationship- the only reason a person will follow you or be a fan of yours is to have meaningful interaction.
Transparency/Sincerity- it is key

Just remember, Social Media is a low cost way to stay in direct contact with a customer. Treat them right and they will stay a customer. What more can you ask for!
Comment by Steven Moore on September 30, 2009 at 7:07am
A few month's ago Liz Strauss did a 25 words of Social Media wisdom and asked her communtiy to submit theirs and I put up mine- Selling is not a dirty word in the Social Media World it is how you earn the trust to ask for the business. I had about month before that tweeted out Selling is not a dirty word in SM it is how you earn the right to. It got RT big time- I even got a @ from Morgan Johnston of JetBlue that he wanted to co-op it for the back of his business card- He is the Manager Corporate Communication and the voice of JetBlue on twitter( they now have 3 or 4 folks to handle that 1.4 million followers, and are a shining example of SM done right.
Engagement, Content, Trust these are the keys I believe.. with sidewiki by google, brand pages by Seth Godin now is the time to get going .. the first thing dealers and brands now are starting to understand is that the message is not theirs to own control or spin those days are going going gone. It amazes me that Cluetrain is over 10 years old and this is old news.. Great Post thanksRalph.
Comment by Todd Vowell on September 30, 2009 at 6:18am
I think what is even scarier is the easiness of people to hide behind a wall and do or say what they want without fear of repercussions. Cyber bullying from people who just want to make everyone as miserable as them is popular. I have been attacked for over 3 years from a few cowards who are afraid to show themselves hiding behind fake IP Addresses and so on.

But Dealers have a legitimate fear of being concerned about what is being said about them online. No matter if they jump in social media or not, the comments will still be there. It doesn’t seem to matter what a Dealer does, they get a bum rap. They could give a car away and some consumer would write on-line about how they got ripped off. “Yes the car was free but they didn’t even put any gas in it for me…”

Scott, your analogy about the cocktail part is a good one. It is how it should be. Imagine a cocktail party where everyone had a mask on and their voice was changed so they could do and say whatever they want without being identified (hey that’s a good movie plot), what would happen? It is the same reason companies suggest not using email and/or text to discuss personal situations. People will say far more online than they ever would in person.

Social media is going to be very interesting in the next 12 months with regard to car dealers. Will they embrace it and if so, to what extent? I hope they do to at least break the ice and build relationships.
Comment by Sebastian James on September 30, 2009 at 6:09am
Good article, and a subscription to eMarketer's daily email is guaranteed to be a vital read.

I think the challenge of social is in what to say, and you kind of touched on it in the 2nd half of your post. Content relevance is always important, but with the launch of Google Caffeine, it's even more so (Caffiene search results will highlight the relevant copy snippet from the page, instead of the hodgepodge of meta info and page copy). Some (including myself) would say that if it's good enough for a blog post, it's good enough for a Facebook post. But that masks the purpose of the post. If the purpose of the post is to pass along innocuous information, a cartoon, a joke, new TV ads, then leave the blog/social post behind. We all get a lot of crap in our email/facebook, etc. Don't add to it.

But if you have something of substance to say (like the arrival of a new shipment of a certain vehicle, or a seasonal maintenance checklist, etc) then let fly with the posts. For me, "substantial" means information that positively impacts a readers opinion of you, provides reliable and unique information, and/or helps move the reader down the buying funnel.
Comment by Scott Monty on September 29, 2009 at 11:57pm
Ralph, we must be aligned. I just filed a blog post on the same topic.

You're absolutely right to ask the question as to whether the social media goal is sales or engagement. Of course, I'm of the school that believes it's engagement. But that doesn't mean it has to be scary or that it's going to replace any other tried & true methods of marketing. It's just as scary as going to a cocktail party or attending a community luncheon. Once you're there, you get a sense of what's going on and how people are interacting. After that, you use your personality and people skills to build relationships.

Scott Monty
Global Digital Communications
Ford Motor Company

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