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I just read a great article on PR and Social Media “Social media mitigates public relations crises”. I have though a lot about what dealership or dealership group will be the first to have an online firestorm erupt around them. There have been small brush fires here and there. I was involved in one with a client of AIMData 3 years ago before social media got big in this industry. It was quickly put out with a communication.
Interestingly enough that seems to be the same tactic that many so called “social media experts” say to do, and I agree having used this tactic before.

The good news, if you find yourself being attacked thorough social media you can use social media to fight back. When doing so here are some good points to keep in mind.

1. GET INVOLVED – it is our natural tendency as car dealers to ignore or dismiss those who talk about us, unless they get to the dealer. You cannot afford that anymore. My favorite saying, I don't know who said it, I read it 10 years ago on the wall as I was waiting to get my hair cut.

“Goodwill like a war…is won by many battles and lost by one”

If you don't get involved and communicate the conversation will carry on without you and you will not like the outcome.

2. Respond to the issue quickly and honestly – be Transparent, Authentic and Genuine (TAG) in your response and work to resolve the issue. Do not try and defend your position or debate the issue unless you have overwhelming hard evidence you can share online with the community that supports your position. Ford Motor Company recently had the beginnings of a Social Media Firestorm that was quickly squelched by Scott Monty Ford’s Social Media Executive, proof positive that acting early and with transparent, authentic and genuine facts the community will rally around you against the naysayers.

3. Address the heart of the issue – do this first, if you're dealerships is in the wrong, apologize and fix the issue. Do not try and deflect the problem the community will see right through that.

It would be wise for everyone in our industry to read and study how others outside of our industry are dealing with these social media firestorms some dealership somewhere will fall victim to this, you just don't want it to be yours.

If you have any stories of your own social media firestorm battles…please share them here. The point of these blog posts are to learn from each other. The reason I put “quotes” around “Social Media Experts” is I don't believe we have any yet this medium, we can all make each other smarter.

Hope this helps,

Larry Bruce (@pcmguy)

Views: 171

Tags: Internet, SEM, SEO, communications, internet, marketing, media, social


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Comment by Josh Hixon on January 3, 2010 at 11:40am
I watched an episode of "King of the Hill" the other night (below) it was a good one. Basically an employee sets up a MySpace account for Strickland Propane, she was looking to go viral and gain a ton of fans/friends by using stupid videos of people getting kicked in the nuts and so on. There was nothing on their page about Propane and Propane accessories (which pisses Hank off). Obviously it was funnier than the link below makes it out to be, I couldn't find any video of it on-line.

I had to laugh at most of the show because she was doing what we are saying not to. Social Media is not your only way to reach customers and probably won't be for at least 5 years. You just need to use it to your advantage, reach a larger customer base than radio or TV ads. Don't shun away our walk-in customers and don't force people to contact you through Facebook, just use it as "Free" advertising.

Comment by Larry Bruce on January 3, 2010 at 5:15am
@Ralph & Josh,
My favorite saying "Goodwill like, a war is won by many battles and lost by one", it's going to take more than a Facebook Fan page, a Blog and Twitter account to establish what you are talking about here. You have to look to fulfill the promise others have made for the internet that customers by proxy are now holding dealerships to.

I (the customer) can get what I want - the exact car I am looking for, When I want it - quickly easily with all information, pricing and pictures transparent, and communication on my terms On or Off line, the way I want it -delivered to me, or pickup at the dealership (with no brain damage), meaning no surprises when I get to the store.

What social media will do for the above is give some customers a channel to find your process for serving - what I want, when I want it, the way I want it, give some customers the belief that the process is real, and give some customers the platform for telling others and you how they feel about your process.

YOU still need to create the process, drive that process through to every corner and person in your store and LIVE the process, or your efforts will end up like GM’s failed experiment with EBay.

Social media is just another communications channel one that happens to be 2 way and very public but will never replace, and we should never stop working on our email, voice, sms, direct mail, PPC, Banner / Affiliate, SEO, Chat and website communication and marketing, just understand each channels place.
Message Match is key here if the customers landing experience doesn’t match the promise that got the click and the mind of the customer you end up hurting your brand and loosing precious conversions.

Comment by Josh Hixon on January 2, 2010 at 8:15pm
@Ralph I completely agree with you! There are many websites/forums out there built to support one thing and one thing only, Talking S*** (excuse the language) about your local dealer. We are severely outnumbered, if we (as a dealer) can get on Facebook and reach everyone within our region and tell them our story, how we have survived for 50 years blah blah... People will pass that story along, people like to tell stories and buy things from people they trust... If the only information about you is the stuff on DealerRater, you are screwed.
Comment by Ralph Paglia on January 2, 2010 at 5:14pm
@Josh - That rapport building you mentioned, and the whole idea of cultivating a relationship gets back to the age old concept of creating value in both the services you provide and treatment that customers perceive they are getting so that the entire car sales process is more complete and not just focused on price alone.. In many ways, I see Social Media Marketing as a means of restoring balance to the entire automotive sales process that we lost when we focused everything on leads that were 90%+ "Requests For Quotes", and the promise we made in order to get customers to complete those lead forms was that they would receive our "Best Price" in the form of an email, if they would just give us their personal contact information.... With the right approach to social media dealers can finally restore some of the balance they lost with people who use the web by developing new relationships and keeping up with existing relationships in a very cost and time effective manner... Sort of like the web's version of CRM!

Comment by Larry Bruce on January 2, 2010 at 2:36pm
Mike thanks for joining in...perhaps we are spening too much time on Friel, we should get on doing what we do. It's likely that his dealership won't be arround much longer anyway.
Comment by Mike Warwick on January 2, 2010 at 2:21pm
If we just ignore Social Media, maybe it will go away and we can get back to selling cars....haha that's a good one. Salespeople don't need computers on their desks or annoying CRM programs either. Reputation Management is a waste of time too. Who cares what people are saying about you online. You are either part of the problem, part of the solution or part of the scenary. Come on Friel, we're past that point. Get with the program. Companies like Ford aren't spending millions on social media because it's a waste of time. Facebook has over 350,000,000 active users. Do you really want to ignore those potential customers?

Comment by Josh Hixon on January 2, 2010 at 12:06pm
Wow Friel may be off his rocker...You don't sell cars through Facebook you simply provide more information about your dealership to them through it. Building rapport is the most important part of any deal, thats what the Social Media is doing, building rapport.

Comment by Larry Bruce on January 2, 2010 at 7:01am
Thanks Ralph I had forgotten about that clip. It's a compelling story for social media for sure. It will be interesting to see if A Friel gets that. I will continue to do what I can.

Cya in Amsterdam
Comment by Ralph Paglia on January 2, 2010 at 6:55am
I think my favorite part of that video clip is the soundtrack... Love the way "Check it out" is timed perfectly for the graphic showing the check mark being placed in the box.
Comment by Ralph Paglia on January 2, 2010 at 6:52am
@Larry - No apology needed... I could use some backup on the raving response end of things... The problem that people like "A Friel" have is that anything described, set up, discussed or referenced that is not instantly familiar to them is a distraction and takes away dealership employee focus on doing their jobs... Damn it... Selling and Servicing cars!!! We don't need no stinking social, CRM, Internet, processes or whatever it is you people are peddling this week... We just need more focus on selling god damned cars!!!! Now, get back to work before I fire all your asses...

What I am impressed with, is the sheer volume of automotive cretins that have figured out how to get online and participate in communities like this one... When you think about it, doesn't the mere fact that someone like A Friel is participating in a forum like this one, make them a hypocrite?

But, my favorite is :"I have seen no real statistic that shows any significant solid trend." Has this person just crawled out from under a rock? Is their real name Rumplestilskin? Does this person read ANY market research or look at ANY consumer measurement data? Maybe they can just go take a look at a few ADM video clips...

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