Automotive Marketing Professional Community for Car Dealers and their Managers
There was a promise back in 2007 and 2008 that was made to businesses, particularly those with physical locations. It was clear that there was something about social media sites like MySpace, Delicious, Digg, and the up-and-coming Facebook that could be used to promote business activity in the real world. Fewer people were on it and most businesses either dabbled, waited, or dismissed it, but for those who dove in and really gave it a shot, the promise was that it could eventually become the most important part of online marketing. Some even said that it would replace websites altogether.
Fast forward to today and many of the promises are still on hold. Facebook has emerged as the primary network, something that most who were watching believed would happen, just not to the degree that it has. Despite the broken promises of social media curing all challenges, it is finally, in 2013, ready to become the hub through which the real world and the online word can meet and grow as a result. Some people knew from the start the lesson that is becoming crystal clear today - social media can connect people to businesses, but it's much more effective at connecting people with other people.
That's the key to success in 2013. The sooner that businesses realize that they can and must let their humanity shine on social media, the better their social media strategy will be. Done right, social media can become the venue through which nearly every aspect of business can flow.
It can become the hub. I'll go over how in a bit, but first let's talk about why.
When I asked a dealership if they would be willing to offer a $5 discount on service to anyone who mentioned on Facebook that they were getting their oil changed or brakes done or whatever at the dealership and were pleased with the experience, she said she would not. When worded differently, it made more sense to her.
"Would you pay a happy service customer $5 to tell five of their friends that they had a good experience getting their service done there and you could verify that they did just that, would you?"
That's the minimum that can happen when people talk about your business on social media. The average Facebook user has 140 friends. Over 70% of these friends are within driving distance. Of those, 47% check their Facebook at least once a day and a post by an active Facebook user will reach 42% of those people. That means 19 local friends saw that Jimbob enjoyed his service and received a $5 discount for telling everyone about it.
Let's take a step further while staying in automotive. If Supreme Honda's Facebook page tells people that they have great deals, nobody will believe it. If Jimbob bought a car at Supreme Honda, felt he received a great deal, and was treated with respect, his friends and family will believe it when he posts that on Facebook. It will register with them. The brand. The name. The fact that Jimbob had a great experience. All of these things leave an imprint on the minds of his friends and family. If they're in the market to buy a Honda or a used car today, they'll likely check out Supreme Honda immediately. If they enter the market in six months, they will be more inclined to check out Supreme Honda whether they remember what made them check it out or not. It's basic psychology, but it works.
All of this is easy to understand once you're seeing it from the right perspective. The challenge is having the willingness to commit with such a murky arena. Social media has not proven itself to a good chunk of businesses and dealers in particular. This is our fault. It's the fault of the vendors out there selling products that didn't work or never achieved the goals. This is changing. In 2013, it must change. There's too much being left on the table. One of my goals in writing this fifth installment was to find real-world examples of car dealers that were truly successful at using social media the right way. I assumed that I would surely find a few. After looking at 229 dealership Facebook pages (yes, I counted them up in my history), I realized that I was mistaken. Nobody is doing it right as far as I'm concerned.
This will change.
This isn't a tip. It's not a collection of techniques, tricks, or best practices that a dealership can plug into their current social media strategy and expect success. It's a commitment. It's a paradigm shift. It's about understanding that when you center the online portion of your business around social media and enhance it with offline activities, that you can build a self-perpetuating marketing, branding, and communication system.
This cannot be stressed enough - if you want to be truly successful with social media, you will latch onto an individual at the dealership, preferably the owner or general manager, who can act as the representative of the dealership in all online activities. That doesn't mean that this person has to do all of the work. It means that they have to represent the communication centerpiece for social media, reputation management, and engagement activities such as charitable efforts. The majority of the most successful dealerships around the country have already done this with their advertising. Many do this at the dealership itself, having the "power personality" touch many of the deals and talk to a lot of the customers. This needs to translate over to social media as well.
You're building a local celebrity. You're branding the way that people crave in today's uber-social world, with real people and actual communication back and forth. It's where social media's power is derived. It's where the dealership's next level of success can be achieved.
Once this commitment is made and the power personality is selected, it's time to get them out to the social world. They should (through a representative managing the accounts) touch as many people as possible. They should be on videos, at events, participating in discussions, replying to reviews, and expressing opinions that align with the dealership but that add humanity to the way the dealership is perceived. People want to talk to other people. They want to interact with people who have power. They want to be heard, to be made to feel special, and to know that their actions are reaching the highest levels.
At this point, it's time for discussion. I have ideas about how this can best be accomplished, but upon learning that finding real life examples was a challenge, I decided to hold my specific recommendations for now and let the conversation center around the concept itself. What can dealerships do to truly become successful on social media through these power accounts? How can someone be truly elevated to the point that they are online and offline celebrities in the local area? What are some ways that this can be leveraged?