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How Google Social Search Has Changed the Way Dealers Do Social

By JD Rucker on Feb 17, 2011

Every few months, we see a dip in sentiment regarding social media. It's been going on consistently since early 2009 and we know that it will continue. Dealers try social, see little reason to continue, and set things on autopilot or abandon it altogether. Then, something changes that makes social media more important and the searches for "Automotive Social Media" spike again.

Get ready to do the search. Social just got more important again. A LOT more important.

During the Digital Marketing Strategies Conference in Napa last earlier this month, I gave a keynote that highlighted Google's commitment to social media (as soon as Jared, Bart, and Arnold send me the video, I'll be happy to post it here... hint, hint). Google reaffirmed that commitment in a big way earlier today that will change the way savvy dealers do social media.

Google Social Search

Google Social Search is a game changer - even SearchEngineLand, a blog that is often conservative about the impact of Google changes, agrees. It will insert links into the natural search stream based upon social connections that share and produce those links. While social search itself has been around for nearly 2 years, it has always been a side-note buried at the bottom and likely unnoticed by most. Now, it has the potential to change the search results important to us with a single Tweet, review, or blog post.

With access to Beta, I did 2 searches for "Washington DC Chevrolet." The first, I did while not logged into Google, personalized search off and cookies cleared:

Washington DC Honda Organic Search

Then, I did the exact same search while logged into Google:

Washington DC Chevrolet Social Search

As you can see, a post by good friend Paul Rushing popped up at the top.

What does this mean for search and social? It means that social sentiment, which many dealers are paying attention to more regularly, just got that much more important. It means that dealers who are unprepared have the potential to see their search traffic drop, particularly if a competing dealer in the market is able to take advantage of this.

It means that YOU can beat them all to the punch and start getting prepared today before it rolls out fully.

I am in the middle of exhaustive research on the subject right now, but here are some key points to think about while you wait for our next version of the Automotive Social Media strategy guide:

  • - Tweets Matter. A Lot. - Imagine a potential customer doing a search for one of your makes in your metro area (the most common new car search; "Denver Ford," for example). They under one of the results close to the top your dealership's listing. It's not at the top, but something catches their eye... Co-worker Debbie tweeted your dealership URL. They click through and see that 14 months ago, Debbie bought a car there and tweeted about how good her experience was. Bingo.
  • - If You Thought Reviews Were Important Before... - As Google always does when they roll out new search features, we can expect expansion. While Facebook is almost completely out of the question for integration, reviews are definitely part of the equation. Same scenario as above, except replace "Tweet" with "RatePoint." Bingo again.
  • - That Pesky Blogger... - Remember the guy who thought he'd wreck your business by posting on his blog about how you low-balled him on his trade? You were smart and covered your Google page one results to keep his post off, but now it's showing up again for hundreds, even thousands of people who are either connected to him or connected to someone who shared his post on social media.
  • - Your Connections. - Now more than ever, having a strong and well-maintained Twitter account is important. Do you still have an RSS feed handling your Tweets, driving potential customers to unfollow you, or are you growing your account and being interesting? If the subtle, intrinsic benefits of Twitter didn't get your attention before, how about moving your website up to the top of hundreds of searches? Still want to automate?

I'm not going to sit here and say "I told you so." Not here. Not on Driving Sales. The dealers here represent the top echelon of automotive social media knowledge so you're probably taking advantage of social media in one way or another. Don't let up. Stay aggressive. Keep up with the changes.

And don't forget to bug Jared about getting me that video. It has some information that may further change the way you do your social media.


Great article JD, your keynote in NAPA was top shelf plus it turned me onto Klout which I've been investigating every night before I go home. Thanks for sharing.

Feb 18, 2011

My big question is how Google knows who I am friends with?

Feb 18, 2011

Klout is signing a big deal with a big company soon. Not Google yet, but pretty darn significant...

Feb 18, 2011

Your Google account can be attached to social accounts, blogs, websites, etc. One of the features of the new rollout is that when they discover something (such as a Twitter account) that they believe may belong to you, they'll prompt you to connect it to Google.

As people continue to integrate social media into different aspects of their daily lives, it makes sense that a good portion will connect. Many will avoid it like the plague, but others will embrace it like a cute little puppy.

Feb 18, 2011

My question: how many consumers actively have google accounts? Do many just have google as a shortcut and then search away?

No google account means social search doesn't show up, right? I think this CAN be a game changer where dealerships are concerned and I will continue to blog and tweet away to keep my competition at bay :) but not sure this is going to change things overnight...

just sayin'

Feb 18, 2011

Your presentation at the 2011 Digital Marketing Strategies Conference was an eye opener for me as well. Thank you for sharing and giving us another thing to consider for our digital marketing and social media strategy.

I've been thinking more since your presentation about how dealers can leverage social signals to increase their local relevance. I have also started some tests and as soon as I have some data, I'll be sharing it here on

The goods news is that know you will be sharing some of your updated research at the 2011 Automotive Marketing Boot Camp on April 16-18th in Orlando. I hope to see many members at the event.

Details can be found at

Feb 18, 2011

Definitely won't change things overnight, but as Google has declared "100% focus on social and mobile" we can expect much more people to integrate. Android has big benefits associated with connecting accounts and it's the fastest-growing email carrier.

They are pushing everything they can to be integrated. They extended the free GTalk phone service, superior to Skype, Google Voice, and literally hundreds of other services to encourage as many people as possible to create accounts and stay signed on.

Moving Marissa Mayer, the executive in charge of the $20 billion revenue hog at adwords, to mobile and social.

Google's only real competition Google acknowledges is Facebook. All of their efforts will be geared around keeping them down. Will they succeed at pushing their social agenda? Probably not, unfortunately. Either way, it will still be a game-changer, even if it only adjusts 30% of US searches. They're shooting for 50%.

Feb 18, 2011


Feb 18, 2011

JD - Is your NAPA presentation on Slideshare?

Nice post. This helps validate the efforts behind creating strong social profiles over the last few years.

As Google changes the way they measure relevancy & social influence, these tools will be part of the mix.

Speaking of of Google "products" to leverage - be sure to fill up your Google bookmarks using the new Delicious bookmark import tool:

Feb 19, 2011

Jared and Bart are the only ones apparently who have any remnant of the presentation. Tell them to send me a copy of the video, please! I've got tons of people who want (need) to see it.

Feb 19, 2011

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