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This is Part 2 in a 5 part series. Read Part I here.
As we advance in social media strategies, one of the biggest challenges is getting traction. The rise of social signals in search marketing alone is enough of an incentive to make it happen even if you don't believe in social media itself as a marketing tool. It is one, but now's not the time to make that case. For now, the undisputed truth is that social media can help your dealership rank better in the search engines by sending social signals (Google +1s, Facebook likes, Twitter retweets, etc) to content on your website.
The quality of the content is important and you can check out some tips on quality content on Social Media Today. The challenge isn't with building content. The biggest challenge facing car dealers is having the potent social profiles that are able to get the content blasted out there, to get the social signals flowing. There are companies (including ours) who have spent years developing and growing social media profiles, hiring experts, and enhancing content through the use of social signals. As a dealership, you will not want to rely on vendors (even us) to do all of the work for you. It's your destiny. It's your business. You need to have a hand in your own success. To do this, you need "power accounts".
In part one of this series, I mentioned two of the strongest accounts in automotive: Grant Cardone and Louie Baur. I'll be the first to admit that I am an avid fan of learning from industry experts, so I'm going to talk about what I learned from Ralph Paglia. My friend at ADM is the only guy in the car business that I know of who has been hacking around in social media as long as I have. We've had our share of clashes and disagreements but over the years I believe it's a fair assessment to say that we've both been wrong and we've both been right, and at the end of the day our understanding of how social media can work in the automotive industry is fairly close to lockstep.
One of the things that Ralph has excelled at is building up social media profiles for dealerships. He's the master of syndication and knows how to blast out content. Now, for the warning: don't make the mistakes that both of us made early on. It's easy to get lured into the "wide" approach to social, to start focusing on integrating every shiny new social program out there. If you're a full-time social media marketer for your dealership, this isn't a bad approach. If you, like most, are integrating social media into a diverse marketing strategy and can only put in a couple of hours a day at the most into social, stay focused on the networks that matter: Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
There's no punchline. It's a decision that needs to be made. If you're going to build up power accounts, first and foremost you have to understand that business pages are not the solution. They are important; having a strong Facebook page for your dealership is a must. However, a business page cannot become a power account. To become a power account, you have to be human. The hardest part is getting the right human to be the power account. That's right - the owner or general manager is the ideal person to be your dealership's power account.
They are (or should be) respected members of the community. Just as their touch is often enough to make a deal go through, their social media touch is more powerful than that of anyone else at the dealership. This holds true across the board. One study showed that a company's CEO could get more engagement on their Twitter account with 1/100th of the followers of the company account itself.
Take a look at Tracy Myers from Frank Myers Auto Maxx. You would be hard pressed to find an owner with more social media power than Tracy. It's not just that he's such an interesting guy (he is, but that's not important). It's that he's the owner. He's the decision maker. He makes things happen at the dealership. If he says it, they make it so. As a result, his social presence is stronger than the presence of the dealership itself.
The hardest part is convincing dealers that they can benefit from this. THAT is another blog post altogether. If he or she is willing, they are the right person to starting building the power account.
If not, you have two options. The internet manager, ecommerce director, or marketing manager could be the face. Jeff Cryder's story at Lebanon Ford has drawn attention across the country. Lindsay Lavery at Lavery Chevy is really starting to make a splash.
Notice something about all three examples: the profiles are named after the dealership but the individual is highlighted each time (note: since this article was written Cryder has changed the profile back to Lebanon Ford). On Twitter.com/lebanonford or /laverychevy, it's the faces of the individuals who are actually controlling the accounts that are getting the attention. Same thing with fb.com/frankmyersauto - Tracy is the account.
People don't follow brands despite what any social media pro will tell you. They follow people. They don't like logos. They like faces. They don't want to talk to an entity. They want to talk to a human. That's all there is to it.
The third option is for the few who simply do not want to participate in this way. If you absolutely do not want to be the face of your dealership, come up with a mascot. It could be a dog. I'm not going to go into details or offer examples because I really don't want you to go down this path, but if you must, you must. Try to get the dealer first. If not, use the manager in charge of the social profiles. Avoid the mascot if possible, but it's better than just pushing out the brand.
In the next part of this series, we'll discuss how to actually build the prominence of your selected power accounts. Until then, get your pitch ready for your owner or GM about why they should be plastering their face all over Facebook and Twitter.