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Social Media Marketing Wins Over Another Skeptic With Tangible Results

I just finished reading "Social Media Gold: Ratings & Reviews" by Lance Loveday and was struck by his article's conclusions, which correlate highly with several observations I have made about Social Media Marketing. Since early 2008 I have been saying that once you build your "Social Media Infrastructure", which in my case is generally a hub and spoke design, you then must work diligently at Reputation Management... Why? Because as I have been showing dealers for over 2 years, the consumer ratings and reviews when managed properly will drive more actual business, faster and more effectively than any other component of social media marketing.

In his article, Lance describes seeing the presentation embedded below at a conference... What really caught Lance Loveday's attention were the eye-opening statistics on just how effective ratings and reviews are. He was so positively impressed he took notes, which Lance claims is something he rarely does.

Here are the notes that Lance posted on his blog:
• NetShops research showed that products with reviews had 26% higher sales
• Letting users sort results by user ratings helped PetCo increase sales 41%
• Products with reviews generally have a lower return rate
• Bass Pro Shops indicated that users who viewed Top Rated products had a 59% higher conversion rate
• Including ratings & reviews in emails had a huge lift in email CTR
• Items with ratings on internal SERPs got a 100%+ higher CTR than those that didn’t
• Better SEO is a side benefit of incorporating reviews (more keyword-rich copy on the page)

In his article, Lance goes on to say that he can believe in results such as increased sales and higher web site conversion rates... From what I can tell, the presentation was some sort of epiphany for Lance which brought around another non-believer to see that social media is worth the effort. Actually, in my opinion unless you build the entire system out the way I have seen it done by a handful of dealers, even the ratings and reviews aspect of Reputation Management is pretty tough to drive business from... The key is to amplify the positive reviews so they are 100x as widely shown and seen than the negative reviews... But, to explain how that works is getting too far into the secret sauce of what I have been working on diligently for two years! If you are going to NADA, please be sure to attend my NADA workshops in the ADP conference room at the convention center so you can see exactly how all the pieces fit together. In the meantime, check out this slide show:

Your Users Trust Each Other, Not You: Why and How to Implement Ratings and Reviews
Ralph recommends for car dealers: Slides 38-44, 90-93
Lance Sees Social Media SEO Impact

One of the last treasures that Lance Loveday stumbled across is the significant SEO impact that a properly executed Social Media marketing strategy delivers... Like so many others that get blinded by the dazzle of search engine results, Lance was forced to reassess his opinion of social media marketing when he realized the SERP impact that it generates as a byproduct. Lance also found out the when user ratings and reviews are part of a web site's actual structure, they receive better organic rankings... This of course leads to what? More traffic (doh!). Lance does go on to admit that a lot of the SEO impact is intuitive (thank God) and simply makes a lot of sense. If a dealer has more social media profiles and account pages with relevant content, photos, videos and consumer reviews and ratings, well it stands to reason that searches for related topics may turn up more than one of these pages... It all seems quite annoying to me that people actually have to have the SEO thing pointed out to them. This is what makes me think there is always something smelly about anyone who asks for money to improve a dealer's SEO results... It is the sites and the content, stupid, not some black magic witchcraft... That's what drives the search engines... If you got more web sites with more good stuff that people find interesting, you get better search engine results.

Is there a science and methodology that can be used to emphasize or make your websites rank better? Sure there is... But more than half of what drives SERP rank originates from WHAT HAPPENS ON OTHER WEBSITES, BECAUSE YOUR SITE IS NOT CREDIBLE! It stands to reason that if you have created dealership accounts and profiles that are properly populated and proactively managed in accordance with the stated purpose of each of these social media sites, that those profile pages will get ranked (can I get another Doh!). Want proof? Go to the ADM Members section and start copying member names from their profiles, then open another tab in your browser, go to Google and search for those names... Uh huh... See what I mean? The ADM Community is just another social media site and it is relatively tiny compared to thousands of others that have more than an automotive professional focus. Yet, the biggest complaint I get is from members who cannot understand why their ADM Profile page ranks higher than their dealer's website which also has all their information listed within it. That's because social media sites are popular and when people search and find a social media profile page, they tend to click on it more than they do car dealer website pages, by a factor of several million to one! Do you still think your dealership should stay away from Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and the thousands of other social media sites? If you do, let me know who you are so I can send you my proposal to sell a very pretty bridge that goes to Brooklyn, NY... Chump!

As Loveday points out; "a page with more content will likely outrank a page with less." (f&%$ing brilliant). Loveday goes on to state his opinion that "pages containing ratings and reviews make better linkbait". Now why would that be? Common sense tells you that it is the same reason why people like to read movie reviews, or listen to the Republicans respond to a Democratic politician's speech... As humans, we love to see what other people like ourselves think about, and are willing to write or say about somebody else, their work or their products.

So like many other posts on ADM have told you for the past two years... Get proactive and start driving reviews and ratings from your happiest and most loyal customers. Then, the real question is this; Do you have more HAPPY and SATISFIED customers than the ones you manage to piss off? because the angry ones will find a way to spread that poisonous negative word of mouth... As a car dealership you must be proactive and effectively remind, encourage and remind your happiest customers (repeatedly) to send their surveys back to the OEM... Ooops, excuse me, I meant go to your ratings and reviews web page of choice and submit a top-box rating with a nice description of why they are giving your dealership that top box rating. Personally, I prefer DealerRater.com, but there are at least 3 others that get indexed by Google.

Views: 19

Tags: Marketing ROI, Social Marketing, Social Media, Social Media Marketing, Tangible Results, Wins Over Another Skeptic

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Comment by John Giamalvo on December 17, 2009 at 1:25pm
Ralph, Great post. IMHO, the interaction of social media with "Ratings & Reviews" and their implications on SEO are the task for proactive managers in 2010. Automotive ratings as they relate to sales are tiny, that will change this year. Big opportunity there. PS: Wanted to catch up, call me when you can. Happy Holidays! John
Comment by Ralph Paglia on December 15, 2009 at 9:36pm
Check out this slide show featuring Automotive Avenues Customer Comment Cards completed in the buyer's own hand writing at time of delivery!

Find more photos like this on Automotive Avenues Community
Comment by David Alpern on December 14, 2009 at 12:28pm
Online reviews are such a vital part of the social media recipe for dealerships. Those reviews show up on local search, Internet Yellow Page business profile pages etc. This is a different component of social media, separate from the community and networking and interconnecting functions of Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc.

DealerRater.com is probably the most important site, but I would also advise keeping an eye on Yelp, InsiderPages, and the new service Brain cited below - PrestoReviews.
Comment by Ralph Paglia on December 14, 2009 at 8:20am
NOTE TO ALL READERS OF THIS POST: The presentation embedded in the article titled "Your Users Trust each Other" is live and can be viewed by clicking on the slide advance arrows at the bottom of the image. It is well worth the time to get through the first half and take a look at the second half of the slides the presentation contains. Since there are 104 slides in this presentation, I recommend flipping through the first 37 as quickly as possible to get to the "good stuff" which starts on slide 38 (in my opinion).
Comment by Ralph Paglia on December 14, 2009 at 8:12am
In addition to the various Certification features that DealerRater.com provides to dealers, they also do not sell the leads generated. Their leads go to Certified dealers at no cost... This prevents DealerRater.com from becoming a "3rd Party Lead Generator" which (IMHO) interferes and reduces a site's value as a consumer review and ratings source.

There are several sites you can send customers to in order to attract positive reviews, including direct reviews placed in Google using your Local Business Profile. But, from my experience in making a Reputation Management system work well enough to be able to charge dealers for my team's services, nothing else comes close to utilizing DealerRater.com as part of a comprehensive system designed to amplify the voices of your most satisfied and loyal customers... Let's face it, the people we piss off are easy to get to write a review or send in a survey, but in order to get your happiest customers to post reviews it takes a focused effort and setting the stage properly. That's why I like building dealer sponsored "Automotive Communities", because when your most loyal customers and "Raving Fans" become part of a community, it is easy to display other reviews and through the power of social relevance and affinity, you are able to drive positive reviews from these best of the best customers without bribing or cajoling them... Ford of Kirkland's Community at www.Ford-Community.com is living proof of this... When you look at their DealerRater.com reviews displayed on their site, you can see how they come in clusters... Almost as if each customer is not willing to be "out done" by the other customer.... This sort of compelling force, which I call "Social Relevancy" and which I have seen others describe as "Social Evidence" can be a powerful ally to those dealers who really do give better service than what people expect.

Which brings me to another point... In working with dealers selling almost all makes of vehicles, I have become convinced that the brand a dealership sells partially determines the levels of service expectations that customers have. For example, when I went to work for Courtesy Chevrolet in Phoenix, my immediate prior work was concentrated on Honda and Acura dealers. And, right before my AHM assignments, I did a lot of work for Mercedes-Benz dealers. What I saw was that Honda/Acura customers were very leery of their dealers, although they were generally loyal to the Honda/Acura brand. Whereas Mercedes-Benz customers were often more loyal to the dealer than their loyalty to the MB brand itself. But, when I started selling Chevys, I was often times pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to make a Chevy buyer genuinely gush with delight over the way we treated them. For this reason, and many more I believe that some dealers will be able to drive customer reviews and ratings more effectively with a given amount of process execution than other dealers.... A Toyota or Honda dealer may have to work a little more diligently than a Ford or Chevy dealer at getting those positive reviews. Meanwhile, those same Toyota or Honda buyers may be more inclined to write negative reviews simply because of the demographics that the import brands attract.

All dealers need to get a handle on their Reputation Management Strategy, and I do believe that the smartest and most successful dealers will leverage partnerships with companies like DealerRater and ADP Digital Marketing, as well as consulting services such as what Pasch Consulting Group provides. ADP has several clients that use Brian Pasch's PCG Services in conjunction with various services from my team, ADP Digital Marketing, and they seem to be amongst the more successful clients we have.
Comment by Peter J. Di Stefano on December 14, 2009 at 7:54am
Thanks for all the great feedback and ideas. What about from a social networking perspective. I want to provide true value-add information, I want us to be credible. It sound like you believe the bad outweighs the good on the primary dealership site, but what about on our Facebook, blogs, etc?
Comment by Richard Roy on December 14, 2009 at 7:52am
Hi Ralph - great article. Reviews are one form of social media marketing that can generate great results for a dealership if managed properly. Here is the general problem I see with the term "Social Media Marketing". When you start talking about social media, most folks are drawn to Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc.

There are actually different categories and types of social media marketing. I raise this point because as I talk to folks in auto industry and other areas, social media seems to get balled into something generic or singular when it fact it is not.
Comment by Ralph Paglia on December 14, 2009 at 7:33am
@Peter - I agree with Brian about the risks of linking to sites whose primary means of generating income is churning visitors into multiple leads (such as Edmunds)... That's why I use DealerRater and have been successful with about 30 dealerships in the Ratings and Reviews space. However, I do recommend that you acquire a specific easy to remember URL that points directly to the actually DealerRater.com ratings page for your dealership... Since my home office IP is blocked from access to DealerRater.com review pages (my choice) I am not sure it is working, but check out www.RateAutoAves.com for an example. I also recommend that you have DealerRater.com block your dealership's IP address to prevent any allegations of bogus reviews. I do that at each dealership because if your people get caught filing bogus reviews, the penalty is a 6 month ban on any positive reviews being listed! I know it sounds bad, but it is one of many reasons why DealerRater.com has the credibility to be one of 4 ratings and review sites that Google displays.
Comment by Brian Pasch on December 14, 2009 at 4:35am
@Peter That depends on your degree of paranoia. Some feel that linking to Edmunds is a mistake since their whole site is geared around collecting leads and selling them to your competitors. If you believe that your customers are going there anyway, then the link is not concerning. Just understand that they may not come back.

I would suggest that you have a one page summary for each car that you sell that is content rich. It can summarize all the accolades and reviews the car has received from third party websites. It can list the specifications and colors and include great photos. By building your own "review" page, you provide value to the consumer and you increase your SEO content matches.

If you are going to create these pages, provide credit when you copy a quote or photos so that it adds to the credibility of the page. This strategy will increase the "stickiness" of your website and should increase your organic traffic.

I'm not a fan of linking out to lead collector websites.
Comment by Peter J. Di Stefano on December 14, 2009 at 3:57am
This was a great post. I have a question. I am working with my company to see how we would provide reviews for our dealership, but in the mean time, do you think it would be helpful to put a couple of links that provide reviews about our cars, i.e. Mototrend, Edmunds, etc? I know it is not specific to the customer experience with our dealership, but it does help provide some customer experience and professional experience with the cars. Let me know if anyone has opinions on this.

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