Automotive professionals keep talking about how influential they are within the industry, yet it seems that nobody is talking about who the influential people are within their own markets and local areas. We've made some progress with the reduction of the self-promotional klout score touting, now is your opportunity to focus the attention on local influencers and harness the power of their voice.
Influencer marketing is all about connecting with people who have a solid online presence and a voice others respect - we're talking true authority here, not just a an self-proclaimed web celebrity (a welebrity?) This can be someone who has purchased from you in the past or even just someone who can be an genuine advocate for your dealership.
65% of the top US brands took part in influencer marketing per a study by Technorati Media in Dec. 2012. I beleive the same opportunity exists for dealerships and their local influencers. We should all be aware of the fact that consumers care more about what other consumers say about their shopping experiences: 68% of consumers are influenced by the reviews they read about a dealership. (DAS 2012 Study)
Blogs are more likely to influence an online shopper's buying choice than any other social channels. What ranked higher than blogs? The brand and retailer's website. (Yes, all ranked higher than facebook)
So, what should you do?
(I did each one of these steps while at Auction Direct, and yes, it helped build greater awareness, drive traffic and ultimately influenced other in-market buyers to buy from us)
Step 1: Scrub your CRM for social media contacts and info, find out who has a blog, a large Facebook friend base, who has an active Facebook business page with a lot of fans and most importantly, who has a blog? Check their twitter followers, LinkedIn connections, Instagram followers and yes, even their klout score. Plenty of ways to gauge someone's online activity. Encourage your sales staff to get this info from your customers during the sales process. (Even better, educate your staff on these platforms and measurements mean!)
Step 2: Next, feature them in your own dealership blog. Interview them, feature their business, give them a link back to their website or any other web property they may own. (Reciprocity is a great thing - show them you care first, it'll go a long way)
Step 3: Ask them to write about their experience; include pictures, videos, screen shots of tweets. Give them guidelines about the specific links and call to actions to include - it'll make it easier for them and make their blog posts even more effective.
Step 4: Ask them to provide a long-term follow up post sharing their ownership experiences and anything else about their dealership activities.
Step 5: For those influencers who haven't bought from you, offer them a weekend test drive in exchange for a blog post review. If available, offer to buy advertising space on their blog. I would often buy banner space for $25/mo on influencer blogs - this is another great way to support their efforts and get ridiculously cheap exposure. (Plus, it's not as if this ad revenue is large enough to sway their overall view, it's just enough to help cover their hosting and build a relationship with them)
And of course, watch your Google analytics, use tracking URL's and manage the data to determine your activity and the overall social contribution of these activities.
There are plenty of ways to leverage influencer marketing - these are just a few of the methods I used, have you tried anything similar within your dealership? Share your ideas!