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I keep hearing about an incredible number of different ways dealers are using social media, UGC and Web 2.0 sites to either promote their business or "brand" their dealership, and in some cases simply get a better handle on customer relationship management... I work with several dealers in this particular area and one of them is a store in Denver by the name of Automotive Avenues that has an interesting approach. I would love to see some feedback from ADM Professional Community members as to whether you think this approach has any value, or if there is something different that you would recommend.

Please take a look at the way Automotive Avenues in Denver has formed a Social Marketing and Reputation Management strategy that centers around their creation of two primary sites online... The first one (#1 below) is the traditional dealer website for eCommerce purposes and the second site (#2 below) is an online community focused on being the hub of their Social Marketing and Reputation Management efforts.

1. The traditional eCommerce site is: and when you visit, be sure to point to the menu tab that says "Social Media" to see the links to their Social Marketing and Reputation Management sites, accounts and profiles.

2. Their online community site is at and features close integration and syndicated content to and from their Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace and DealerRater review sites, profiles and accounts.

Automotive Avenues has secured several domain names and set up routing to make it easy for their BDC staff and customers to remember. These branded domain names are used as shortcuts to various social media, Web 2.0 and UGC sites, accounts, profiles, fan pages, etc. Here are a few of them to check out:

The Automotive Avenues marketing team, led by Candace Taylor and Bill Green have added nice touches like customized Twitter home page backgrounds and something that i will call "Logo Mashups" where they use an image of the Automotive Avenues logo combined with the Facebook, MySpace or Twitter logo to create a branded image that is then linked to their online social media profile or account within that particular social media... I like this because it projects an image, or customer perception of having put some thought and preparation into their embracing of social networks and UGC sites that their customers use, rather than a "gotta be on that too" type of impression.

The Automotive Avenues approach, strategy and tactics are well worth checking out and considering when you develop your own approach to Social Marketing and Reputation Management. Keeping in mind that they are pretty new at putting this effort forward, what's your impression after checking out some of their links?

Tags: Automotive Avenues, Reputation Management, Social Marketing, Social Media Marketing, User Generated Content UGC, Web 2.0

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Still trying to wrap my head around why dealers would promote (or any third party) as part of their dealer reputation management strategy. As a consumer I wouldn't trust an "independent" resource promoted by a business as being unbias. As a dealer, it seemed to me, unhappy customers responded far more than happy customers to surveys, polls and follow up calls. I do believe dealers should follow up with all their customers including unsolicited complaints, but wonder whether a third party provider is the best place to air their dirty laundry. (The double edge on this sword could be very costly as SEO ranks these consumer ratings heavily). Looking for an education here, not being critical. Good Selling, DTG

Since I have convinced several dealers to get Certified after lengthy discussions where they made similar statements and expressed similar reservations as you posted, let me just say that your questions and concerns are pretty much in line with those of many dealers... The answers to the questions dealers have about Reputation Management are not easy. There are actually some dealerships who deserve the poor reviews that seem to show up first, because they are poorly managed and the customers are mistreated. However, the vast majority of car dealers in business today sincerely want to provide great products and services at a fair price. And, they work long and hard to get their people trained to treat customers the right way. So, what it really comes down to is making decisions based on the dealer answering a few questions. Then, depending on the answers a dealer provides, the actions that follow are pretty much tactical in nature and could be done several ways. Here are the questions:

As a Car Dealer, do you choose to define and proactively implement a Reputation Management strategy designed to provide you with the ability to improve and enhance the public's perception of your dealership's product quality, customer service and employee integrity?

The acceptable answers are restricted to YES or NO... Period. No "what about...", no "but, but, but..." forget the hemming and hawing, just a nice simple YES or NO... It is OK to say NO, nothing wrong with that, it is a decision plain and simple. And, if the answer is NO, there is no need to go any further with the discussion...

But, if the answer is YES, well then... We need to move forward with a few more decisions that require answers or decisions to be made before we can construct the dealer's Reputation Management strategy and determine the tactics and actions required.

Reputation Management is subject to the very same universal principles that most other management practices require... For example, the age-old saying "You cannot effectively manage a business process that you do not measure" applies here as well.

So, in order to measure our Reputation Management effectiveness, the strategy must include a means of monitoring what consumers are saying about the dealership in public places... Primarily the online web sites that have become popular venues for consumers who want to either vent their frustrations and dissatisfaction with a business, or let their friends, neighbors, coworkers and relatives know about a business they want to recommend. In the case of car dealerships, people get pretty fired up, both in a good way and a bad way about the cars they buy, how they feel about the sales experience, and eventually the service and repairs they either need or want to have done to their vehicles. So, there are plenty of places where they can go to either "Rant" or "Rave" about their experience with a car dealer...

I could write a fairly lengthy article on the tactics and techniques for monitoring what people are writing on various web sites about car dealers... Heck, just take a look at the Twitter feed on the left side of the ADM Showroom page that monitors every Tweet that goes out from anyone on Twitter which includes the term "car dealer" in it. You will see just a glimpse of what I am referring to... Our strategy will need to measure as much of this type of activity across millions of websites, blogs, forums, communities and weird stuff like Twitter if we want to have any meaningful level of measurement and feedback on our Reputation Management effectiveness.

Now that you are thinking "what a bunch of crap, who want to listen to so much noise from all the idiots that are allowed to buy cars alongside regular decent people...", let me just ask your dealer a few more questions:

When something derogatory or negative in nature is posted, reported or published about your dealership, do you want to know what and where it is as soon as possible?

Would it benefit your dealership to have processes in place that are automatically triggered any time something that damages your reputation is published?

If a process is implemented and designed to result in your designated employee(s) responding to negative reviews, reports and ratings of your dealership, and the corrective actions taken, do you want a record of what was done and the outcome from the customer's perspective?

Do we want to proactively generate positive reviews, customer testimonials and sales referrals that we can leverage for marketing purposes, and as a means of promoting the dealership in a similar manner to what has been traditionally referred to as "word of mouth" advertising?

Would it make sense to take a different approach as an alternative to hundreds of web sites where our customers can go to report on the experience they have at our dealership by proactively guiding them to a specific consumer oriented, well established and nationally trusted dealer review and rating site where they can express their opinions regarding the products and services they received at our dealership?

We know that the customers we disappoint and piss off will find a way to complain and tell other customers not to do business with us, but what about the customers who are thrilled and delighted with us? Would it be more effective to put their testimonials on our own web site, or would it be more effective if their testimonials and positive reviews were place alongside any of the negative reports on our dealership... Offsetting the bad, and showing potential customers that there is another side to the story about doing business with our dealership than anything bad they might find on the web.

Now, what would be the impact of having an independent, trusted, credible consumer ratings and reviews website where there are over 100 reviews of our dealership, each published by a different customer, and for every review that is negative in any way, there are 15 to 20 reports from other customers extolling the virtues of doing business with our dealership? How would it look if every time a customer posted a negative review, one of our managers can be seen responding to the report with an apology and an offer to correct the mistake, or simply do the right thing?

We know that customers are turning to the Internet by the millions to figure out where they should go to buy a car... We also know they are actively looking for reviews and ratings about car dealers that are posted by other customers just like themselves... Does it make sense that we would seek a means of collaborating with a web site that they trust so when they search for reviews about our dealership on Google, they see that there are more reviews on the site we are working with, making that site the best resource to get information on how we treat our customers? Does it make sense to make it really super easy for our happy customers to rate our dealership? If we screwed up and a customer goes online to trash our reputation, doesn't it make sense that we somehow make it more likely that we will be alerted to the complaint, and have a means of responding to it and then showcase what we did to make it right for the customer?

I am worn out and going to bed, but hopefully you get the general drift of where I am going with this... The whole idea is to eliminate the random drive by shootings of our reputation in the absence of a real strategy to manage where people go to either rant, or rave about their experience with our sales and service execution. It is a choice... Random Chance or Controlled Guidance!

Personally, I would rather not gamble with chance when it comes to a multi-million dollar investment in a car dealership... I will take as much control and the ability to manage, over the chaos of the web any day of the week.
I fully endorse the use of Dealer Rater (DR) as a selling tool and as part of a Internet Reputation Management (IRM) strategy. I have witnessed my clients leverage DR for great consumer confidence. Of course, dealers who have ignored IRM and may have a few crappy reviews should not be discouraged, it's all about balance.

The impact on sales that negative online posts can deliver can be corrected in a very short period of time.

DealerRater is the most visible consumer rating platform for car dealers and will normally appear on Google Page One for your dealership's name search in Google. As a DR certified dealer, you are notified when anyone posts a negative review about your dealership. Certified Dealers have 2 weeks to resolve the matter before it goes online.

This is a tremendous value when you consider that most complaints can be worked out, as long as they are handled professionally. Once a negative comment is posted and indexed, it is hard to remove or displace.

Car Dealers who implement a strong IRM strategy will see that they can add dozens of positive reviews online per month. When a consumer sees 100 positive reviews for your dealership on Google Maps, and a competitor has 5, who do you think they will prefer to call first?

I can't encourage car dealers enough to see how IMPORTANT online customers reviews can be for sales.

Search in Google for: nissan dealers new york (link)

You will see that Google is rolling up consumer ratings and DealerRater is part of the mix. Take a moment to read some of these reviews. Click on the "reviews" link for Koeppel, Hudson or Nissan of Manhattan.

If you were considering buying a Nissan or a Toyota, what would you think if you had to deal with these local dealers? Toyota sales must be rockin'...

The key to Automotive IRM is to setup a system to get your happy customers to post so that when a negative post comes, it is balanced with 10 times more positive feedback. The Nissan Dealers in the New York area are asleep at the wheel with IRM and local competing brands are happy to keep them in the dark.

In addition to looking at IRM as a straetgy for customer reviews, consider that consumer like to research dealer ratings. When you travel, how many people go to or a similar service to see hotel ratings.

With that in mind, DR Certified dealers can take out banner ads next to the dealership listings of their competitors as well as the brand page for their state. DR banner advertising is the magic bullet for a number of dealers I work with once they stopped fearing sites like DR and used them to their advantage.

As an independent consultant I always look for ways to incrementally build traffic for my clients. On my list of the top 5 low cost, high return marketing investments, making your Google Maps listing "pop" with great consumer reviews is at the top. Google Maps is the Yellow Pages on this generation. (Add a unique tracking phone number of your Google Maps listing to see just how popular it is and watch calls increase as you add positive reviews!)

Best wishes for the Automotive Avenues team...looks like the ADP team has helped them hot the ground running with social media.
Brian failed to note that his team's work in supplying to Automotive Avenues in Denver has been directly responsible for guiding multiple dealership customers towards recording their positive experiences, providing positive ratings and recommending Automotive Avenues to other car buyers in the Denver area. A few of the results of Pasch Consulting Group services supplied to Automotive Avenues can be seen at

I am proud to say that both the ADP Digital Marketing and Pasch Consulting Group teams have provided components towards the successful overall digital marketing strategy deployed by Automotive Avenues of Denver. The dealership uses an online strategy that focuses attention to their eCommerce tasked website at and their social media marketing focused community located at Both of these sites were created and are maintained by my team at ADP Digital Marketing Solutions in conjunction with a variety of SEO and Reputation Management services supplied by Pasch Consulting Group.
> Ralph / Brian, Thanks for your very detailed feedback. I see the light better now on this issue and like the "two week" resolution period afforded to certified dealers. Controlling the uncontrollable as best as possible fits this mold. Thanks again for taking time out to clarify this issue. Good Selling! DTG
I more than endorse Dealerrater, I use it.
Having a strategy like this is great if you plan on being in
business, and doing the right things in your business and for your customers.
Getting a few so-so or even bad ratings will show transparency
not kill your dealership. Would you rather have 50 good ones and 2 bad ones, or
5 bad ones? Like said before, control your destiny and get proactive.
I have only been on this a short time and already shows great possibilities.
Plus, it is a great tool for using against your competition!
Question directed at customer,"You want to go down the street and check out the competition? Great, but look at what people say about them, and now look at what they say about me". Slam dunk..

Another nice feature with the DealerRater service is these testimonials HTML "code Snippet" which will scroll real-time positive reviews on any web page. This can also be inserted on a Wordpress blog page or a Ning blog post. The cool feature is that once you drop the code on the page, it is always kept up to date from DealerRater's latest reviews.

Here is an example WordPress blog with the DealerRater code snippet in place:

I firmly believe that a dealer's sales staff can be trained to leverage DealerRater reviews right inside the dealership as soon as a customer says that they will be shopping around for prices. If your dealership stands above the competition, you may be able to convince them that shopping around may not yield the optimum results by showing them a DR screen.
I agree, there is just no doubt about it Brian.

I do have the update snippet on a community site and hooked into my website, great stuff!
On a vehicle inventory page I also have a link to the local dealership reviews, by Dealerrater, so they can see for themselves where we all stand.
Plus, as Matt today pointed out to me, they are starting to show up on Google maps.

Like I said, just getting started but making ground.

You know it just makes sense that if we make buying decisions by looking at reviews of everyday items we buy, wouldn't most people check out reviews on dealerships and even salespeople.
Even if they didn't, if we stand out when they are looking we will be noticed. And they will take notice.
Very strong and effective dialog and teaching here. Great work Ralph/Brian. DTG - I'd strongly recommend that you get, read, and re-read the book "The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web." I'd call it the definitive and must read book for both new and experienced social web or web 2.0 entrants.

Tamar lays the groundwork in the first few chapters with an introduction to social media marketing, listening, reputation management, participation, objectives and strategy. No book on social media marketing would be complete without a nod to Cluetrain and Tamar does a great job explaining the “markets are conversations” principle.

Using numerous examples, the rest of the book emphasizes specific social media including blogs, microblogging (Twitter), social networks, consumer generated media sites, social news, social bookmarking and shared media sites (images, video, podcasts). The final chapter wraps things up with practical advice on putting it all together with process/workflow and thinking outside the social media box. (these last two paragraphs were excerpts from the Online Marketing Blog website...

Tamar's book along with the Cluetrain Manifesto has been must reading for the execs at ronsmap... I hope you enjoy it. I'd love to hear your comments.
Ron - The book you cited, "The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web." is one of three social media marketing books I have read in the past 30 days and I agree with you that it is well written, contains valuable insights and perspectives. I have used a lot of stuff from it in my work with dealers. However, the "Social Media Bible" by Lafko contains a lot more practical, implementation focused information, along with a special code to get access to a wealth of online resources that are referred to in the book. I do recommend both of them, they are quite different in their missions, and the New Community Rules definitely provides the correct thinking, strategy and framework, while the Social Media Bible i am finding to be a lot more useful for getting it done.


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