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AutoNation: How they generated 36,000 page views on Facebook

By Liz Presson on Sep 22, 2010

 

Social media is the dissemination of information through social interaction. The emphasis being on social, and not media. In a world where the line between offline and online is often blurred, social networks are the main hub for online social interaction.

As with any medium, there is a point where businesses and marketers will attempt to harness the medium to spread product or brand awareness, but with social media, efforts have often followed the same traditional routes of mass media channels like TV, radio or press. Social media is anything but traditional, as is the social media generation.

AN_casestudy_goso-1.jpg picture by drivingsales
 
This younger generation knows all of the advertising tricks. They have an ability to tune out advertising to a degree not seen in prior generations.

What’s a company to do to reach these customers? Those detached from the future, the less forward thinking of corporate executives assume social media is a passing fad that won’t bring the same return as their tried and true advertising mediums.

Then there are the innovators in the industry that know this just isn’t true. People like Gary Marcotte, Senior VP of eCommerce for AutoNation, who have accurately gauged the importance of a social media strategy at the dealer level.

Marcotte’s social media philosophy is to connect, entertain, inform, share ideas, and show everyone that AutoNation is the kind of company they can trust. If people can trust them, they will do business with them.

“Gary Marcotte is for automotive marketing, what Steve Jobs is to technology,” said Adam Boalt, President of GOSO.

GOSO, an automotive social media management company, has been working with AutoNation to create social media promotions that embody AutoNation’s philosophy of building trust and being the un-dealer.

Promotions have included an extension of Ford’ Fiesta Movement. 36 AutoNation Facebook pages were equipped with a custom tab for which all of the Fiesta Movement team feeds were piped into, making it easy for AutoNation fans to check in on their local team or just to see what was happening in their hometown.
 
AN_casestudy_goso_2-1.jpg picture by drivingsales

AutoNation’s next campaign was a little bigger and a little bolder. To celebrate the upcoming release of the Nissan LEAF, the first mass-produced electric car with zero emissions, AutoNation decided to go one step further and plant a tree for everyone that visited and liked their Facebook page. All new and existing fans were given the option of four locations around the world in which they could plant their tree: Haiti, Brazil, India or The Philippines. AutoNation committed to planting up to 50,000 trees.
 
AN_casestudy_goso_3-1.jpg picture by drivingsales
 
AutoNation’s next task was finding a way to reward current and future customers, while simultaneously showing them that they were AutoNation. So Mosaic was created.

The campaign was simple. Over the course of 30 days, give 300 gift cards from a multitude of national retail outlets, none of which were automotive related, to people that visited the Mosaic URL.

Visitors to Mosaic would log in through either their Facebook or Twitter accounts. Then a timer would count down to zero and the first person to click the GET IT button would win the gift card for that giveaway. After that their photo would appear on the page as part of a winner’s photo mosaic of the AutoNation logo. This happened ten times a day for thirty days.

AutoNation then personally called each winner to confirm their address, and to talk with them about their car buying experiences. After conversations with each of the 300 winners, AutoNation discovered a lot about the buyer’s perceptions in relation to buying a car and what they could do to improve the experience.

The burning question is, how will any of this drive sales?

Although the goal was to build trust and relationships, the future sales potential is very much there. Between Facebook wall posts and conversations with winners, dozens openly said the next time they bought it a car it would be from AutoNation.

One winner said, “I’m impressed with AutoNation. I feel like they’ve created a community through engagement and I plan to buy my next car from them in the next year or two.”

Another said they had planned on buying a car at one of AutoNation’s competitors, but after the personal touches from the campaign they were going to check out AutoNation instead.

From the inception of Mosaic on June 21st to the end on July 20th, there were over 36,000 page views. AutoNation Facebook likes increased by 44.7%, with an increase of 76.1% in Facebook interactions as compared to the previous month.

Mosaic was met with trepidation at first. What’s the ROI of an endeavor like this?
Unlike traditional marketing, social media isn’t about measuring of ROI. It’s about building trust and interacting with customers.

Mosaic was a huge success because AutoNation had personal conversations with 300 potential customers. They discovered who they were. One winner had said they were going to use their gift card on a date night with her boyfriend. So AutoNation wrote in the card, “Enjoy your date night!”

Conversations like those have limitless possibilities for future sales because when the buying cycle comes back around, customers will remember AutoNation for going the extra mile to connect with them.

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