I remember being told that I should seriously consider moving back to Australia if I truly thought I could sell cars on the Internet back in 1995, If you were a Clifford Stoll disciple you no doubt agreed, yet here we are 15 years later and how the world has changed. First I want you to read what Clifford thought in "95"... The Internet? Bah! http://www.newsweek.com/id/106554
Yet, has the attitude really changed in some of our dealerships...how many people do you know that have not embraced the viability of social media and how it should be used.
Social Media Marketing, what it basically comes down to for any size dealership is understanding what is really involved in launching a social strategy.
Success in social media requires some advance planning, as well as some fundamental shifts in marketers' attitudes toward online marketing. Following a few simple steps, a dealership can deliver a social media strategy that will provide a platform for refinement and success as we move forward in an ever changing consumer content driven world.
Take the time and do some research into where your customers are holding conversations about you, your dealership, and the auto industry. Your customers may be active discussing your dealership and personnel through Facebook, Twitter or on DealerRater. Build your profiles and ensure that you have someone monitoring and engaging them with relevant communication.
By taking the time to identify where your audience is active in the social media sphere, you can save yourself a lot in both time and aggravation. Going to where the conversation is being held is one of the fundamental elements to social media success. If you don't do the research to find out where your audience is engaged, you have no chance of connecting with them.
Launching social media strategy involves all departments within the dealership, and possibly some outside vendors or partners. A social media strategy helps you anticipate both the expected and unexpected in addition to getting all the key players on the same page, it brings all of your resources together and helps to make sure they are working with each other, rather than operating as separate silos.
Without an overall social media strategy, the potential for failure rises even higher. If one department is responsible for the social media efforts and they are just operating on the directions of "get us out there in the community," failure is right around the corner. Anyone engaging customers in any medium needs to understand the company's overall marketing goals, messaging, and customer service strategies.
All stakeholders in must communicate or you will eventually run into trouble when your social media efforts bear fruit. Without a cohesive strategy, major blunders are more likely to happen, and the risk of your social media efforts failing increases exponentially.
One of the quickest ways to fail in social media is to not be transparent about who you are and why you are "here." Social media is all about building relationships in communities and the conversations you have. Relationships are built upon trust, and if that trust is broken in any way, your efforts are wasted. Do not have a third party masquerade as a dealership management or as employees. If you do and are found out all trust will be lost and your reputation within the community will be destroyed, usually followed by a far larger PR nightmare as mainstream media becomes involved.
Dealerships can be very egotistical when it comes to marketing. For years, it's been all about getting our message out there so the customer will buy or service their vehicles with us . With social media, this kind of thinking will get you ignored, or could even cause a backlash against your dealership.
Social media is about building relationships, and it's about conversations. Conversations involve more than just you pushing your carefully crafted message onto the consumer. Social media is about a community sharing experiences, and dealerships listening to the chatter by the participants.
The old adage "God gave us two ears and only one mouth for a reason" speaks volumes for social media. Dealerships should be out there listening to the greater online community, engaging them in bidirectional communication, looking for feedback, and embracing new them as valued clients with a view to increasing customer interaction at all levels. Forcing your prefabricated marketing message upon a social media community will only generate resentment and ultimately failure in social media.
If dealerships take the time to work on some of these elements with their efforts in social media, they will build a solid foundation of valuable consumer feedback that provides an on-demand source of information from your best prospects of future revenue.
Social media can be a very effective and successful tool, but only if companies take the time to strategically plan for it and not just rush into it head on without first putting in place the right structure, process and marketing.