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Friends can take a lot of work. Any relationship can, really. So, relationships . . . are they what you want from social networking? Or do you want more sales? You want sales, of course. This post is more about asking you what you think, or feel you know, will work with social media (SM) and retail vehicle sales. How do we manage SM friends for our sales purposes? What is working for you? What are your success and failures? How do you handle the complaints? And so on.

I think the first challenge we all face is that the relationship of buyer and seller within social media is not the classic “friend” model. As an individual, inviting someone to get to know you as a friend inside a social network is really a way to interact with them more often, not less. However, infrequent car purchases (about every three years) or service needs (every few months) represent a different type of relationship that does not easily mold around the SM model. You have customers, not friends in the “normal” social media sense, and that difference is somewhat hard to bridge to sales.

And so we come up with new terms like “reputation management” and such, where our efforts are centered around the most visible company exposure within social media and, in fact, within the entire web today: Customers can say anything about you they want, and the whole of the Internet can see it instantly! We already know that disgruntled customers of retail sales or service are several times more likely to complain than satisfied customers, and the Internet now provides a complaint vehicle for them that for breadth and width of effect is unmatched in the history of customer service!

And the Internet Complaint Kiosk is open 24x7x365—via Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and more—so it’s not easy to monitor and respond promptly. And you’ve got to be sure that the employee to whom you gave the task of responding not only does so as quickly as possible, but also does not respond in some kind of “flame war” fashion. The Internet is renowned for highlighting mistakes in customer service, and any poor customer service response by you can be the subject of a viral video that just Never Dies. Search “United Hates Guitars” for a great example of that!

Historically, that's not marketing, however, but it may now be how we market from now on. More on customer service and less on one-to-many messaging that has been the staple of advertising for many decades.

So, again, what's working for you?

Thanks!

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Comment by Nick Cybela on October 19, 2009 at 2:56pm
Hey Keith,

Social media is really broken down into two pieces: networking, and reputation. From there, you can break it even further into listening, measuring, and engaging. It's worth noting that what works for one person won't work for everyone.

One of the areas where many companies fall a bit short of thought leadership. While the car business is definitely a B2C entity the B2B model of establishing expertise is still relevant-- as is becoming a neighborhood friend and both de-mystifying and de-monstering the car buying experience. The most successful dealers are the ones that keep their audience in mind as well as their message.

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