Back in the 90's my daughters were in high school and their time spent on AOL Chat Rooms would compete with today's average adult Facebook user. After my divorce in 1995 my desire to explore the offline singles scene was as close to zero as possible, so I began using online dating sites and continued to use them until meeting my wife-for-life in 1998... When people would ask how we met, there were many times we felt uncomfortable saying the Internet, because "meeting someone online" was usually perceived with mental images of chat rooms and individuals searching for "NSA" "Hookups". So, you can imagine my feeling of "Finally" when I found out that the Roman Catholic's Holy See, "The Pope" is using the Internet to get access to several Social Networks... I wonder what it would take to get him to become a member of the ADM Professional Community?
Yes, even YOU can connect with His Holiness (the Pope) via his website, or consider "Friending" God's ambassador to Earth on Facebook. As it turns out, and we all know by now, the Pope isn't the only one using Social Media and User Generated Content (UGC) sites -- We have all heard the sky high numbers for all Facebook users, but what I consider really overwhelming is that Facebook has over 150 million users who log in EVERY DAY!
Twitter, is the "Microblogging" social media that is most often described to me with statements along the lines of "I don't get it, what do people see in Twitter?". I use Twitter, and really like it for mobile phones and while at conferences and events because it is essentially more of a social networking site than a blog, which is what "Microblogging" may lead you to believe. Basically, Twitter is the first "Real Time" Social media site to achieve critical mass by allowing "Tweeters" (Twitter users) to connect with their "Tweeps" by uploading their email address book and creating a network of "Followers". As a "Tweetmaster" you can now keep your network of Followers informed as to what you are doing at any given moment, and in real time!
Of course, you have to be able to do that in 140 character spaces or less... Despite the 140 character limit, Twitter attracted 17 million unique visitors in the United States in April 2009.
Facebook and Twitter are only two of the 340 social media sites with over a million unique visitors each month. These 340 are out of thousands, with over a hundred new ones launched every day in a consistently growing universe of UGC sites and capabilities that are changing how car buyers and all consumers use the Internet. In the car business we have always known how important "Word of Mouth" is in promoting a dealership's business. So, it is logical to realize that with each social networking consumer's ability to connect with thousands of people easily and quickly, they have become VERY IMPORTANT to "Completely Satisfy" when they buy a car or get one serviced at a dealership.
Can the auto industry get a grip on the concept that there are certain people who represent thousands of local customers when they walk or drive into our dealerships? All of this Word of Mouth with Super Powers means that social networking has become one of the most valuable resources available for dealers and car companies... Ford has certainly figured this out, as have most other business verticals, but do dealers really understand how this impacts every local market?
Let's imagine for a moment that His Holiness (the Pope), in all his divinely granted wisdom, recognizes the potential of rejuvenating the devastated Arizona economy and decides to move the Vatican to Gilbert, AZ despite so many Mormons who live there (or maybe because of?). After the Holy See dispatches a flock of Cardinals (the most angry looking Priests with Red Hats) to study the current demographic trends and make a budget for advertising to attract parishioners that will give generously when the plate is passed. His Holiness, the Pope may realize his need for a cost-effective method of reaching young Arizona parishioners of Latino descent. That will be easy for the Man who has the ear of God... All the Pope will need in order to use social media marketing as a business tool is the following advice from Paige Havens, a managing partner at Spitfire Media Group in Buford, GA with color commentary blended in by Digital Ralph:
1. Sign up for your Facebook Profile using an actual person's real information... Not the business!
2. Create a Facebook Fan page that will become your "Fan" database, initially from your own profile "Friends" that you invite to become Fans.
3. Design an Advertising Campaign that uses Facebook's powerful targeting tools to reach the most likely customer prospects located in the area you geotarget... Then use the Facebook ad campaign to do what politicians do to get elected; Invite and bribe them to become your loyal Fans.
4. Establish a Twitter account and tweet about hot automotive topics to position your dealership as a thought-leader and a trusted source of information via the latest social media...
5. Use Twitter search and the Tweet Ninja search operators listed in a previous blog post on ADM to monitor and listen for your dealership's name, your own name, the names of your sales people, and your competition's name (scoop their heaters and turn them into deals... It feels soooooo good!) as local customers use Twitter to vent their frustrations to all those who "Follow" them. Identify these local customers who tweet their various gripes and complaints about car dealerships and reach out with a friendly greeting and an offer to help... Do it fast enough and you will sell more cars than you ever thought possible. If you can catch a customer tweeting their complaints while at the dealership, it is like winning the lottery!
6. Offer special service discounts and referral incentives to "Friends", "Followers", "Subscribers" and "Fans" to keep them coming back for more, and sending your dealership business.
7. Have the Dealer Principal, General Manager, Service, Sales, Used Car, Parts and other managers each create their accounts and profiles on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn to keep your dealership and its management team top-of-mind in the local market and positioned as community resources for those with questions and suggestions.
8. Use social media sites and "Open Social" based apps like "Survey Monkey" to embed surveys and polls into your social media profiles, blogs, forums and accounts to engage with local customers and better understand their hot points and the behaviors they use when shopping for cars and service.
The times they are a changing... Social Networks, Blogs, Online Communities and the plethora of social media sites and the applications that power them now provide incredible opportunities for dealerships to reach in-market car buyers, casual "Thinking About Its" and existing consumers in a variety of customer friendly and cost effective ways. The Ancira Auto group in San Antonio, TX has seen a steady stream of ROI producing business from their use of social media and UGC sites to empower their employees to engage with their most satisfied customers, and amplify what those customers have to say across a dizzying array of social media... Just go do a Google search for "Ancira Auto Group" and you will see what I mean!
When I first started working with the Ancira Auto Group, i kept hammering them about NOT SELLING CARS in a direct manner through social media sites... You know the drill, "Build Relationships" and "Have a Conversation" with the customer and all that warm and fuzzy stuff that the self-proclaimed social gurus like to talk about so much... Gimme a break, how many of you go to parties and hand out business cards while asking "are you in the market for a great deal on a new or used car?" OK, OK... never mind... Just Don't Do It on social media sites because everybody can hear you!
Despite my consulting, Gilbert and April Ancira like to make me smile by saying "We are selling cars by accident almost every day" because of their social media marketing and reputation management strategy. What the Ancira Auto group figured out early on was that social media is exactly what it is, which feels a lot more like a community than an advertising medium. Using social networks, blogs and their own sponsored social network "Ancira Community" connects their employee generated content to other social media sites to build the Ancira Auto group brand awareness, especially within the dominant San Antonio demographics. People who place a high degree of value on community, family and friends... The same people who drive "Word of Mouth", the best publicity a car dealer can get... As Gilbert Ancira likes to tell me "Accidental car sales might be better than the ones we do on purpose... They sure seem to have more gross in them!".