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Beth Latta

Beth Latta Sr. Product Marketing Manager

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The Dark Arts of Automotive Reputation Management

By Beth Latta, ADP/Cobalt Product Marketing Manager

We all know the Internet gives the “masses” incredible powers to impact an individual’s decisions on whom they choose to do business with.  The review revolution is in full combat mode, which means every dealer should be fully prepared and equipped with the real rules of reviews (say that five times fast).  As professional businessmen and women, the last thing you want tied to your dealership’s reputation is a trail of dark art tactics, because today’s savvy consumer will call you out - or even worse the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will.  Today’s consumers want to do business with legitimately engaged, customer-centric dealerships that genuinely care.  But I probably don’t have to tell you that, many of you are engaged either in-house or with a vendor to manage your online reputation.  But it’s what you may not know that could hurt you.  Here are a few predominant tactics that are less than legit.

Six Dealer Reviews Tactics to Avoid in Reputation Management

  1.  “Just throw money at it” - incentivize customers for positive reviews.  I believe the Mafia calls this “the price of doing business”; but the rest of us call it corruzione… or just plain bribery. Incentivizing customers may seem polite, but it actually can be in violation of FTC guidelines.  The guidelines state: “The post of bloggers, or word-of-mouth marketers, who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product, is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service. And a paid endorsement…. is deceptive if it makes false or misleading claims.”
  1. “Keep it in the family” - have staff and family members post positive reviews about the dealership.  It’s great if your staff and family love your dealership, but unfortunately their vote doesn’t count.  After all, they have to love the business; otherwise they don’t get their bills paid.  According to Google Conflict of interest: Reviews are only valuable when they are honest and unbiased. Even if well-intentioned, a biased review can undermine its credibility.”  So it’s best to stick to bona fide customers.
  1. “Trust me, I’m a certified re-poster” - having a third-party repost a customer’s review.  No “vicarious living” allowed in the world of reviews.  A legit review should be posted by the individual who had the actual experience. Steer clear of “review posers” who could earn you the wrong reputation with the general public.  Need a quick gut test? “Misused colloquialisms and syntax are often the sign of outsourced dummy-review writers from other lands,’ says Christine Frietchen, editor in chief of the merchandise-review site ConsumerSearch.com.  
  1. “This dealership sucks…” - blasting the competition on their review sites to tank their reputation.  It’s not a presidential election; keep your business relations professional even if others don’t. It will speak volumes about your character.  Google frowns on it too; saying “….don’t post fake reviews intended to boost or lower ratings.”
  1. “Technically, they did say it…” - taking the same review and just posting it over and over and over again.  Got “review déjà vu”?  No spamming allowed.  Just because a customer posted a nice review on your dealership does not give you carte blanche to go and repost it elsewhere.  According to Google, this is grounds for removal.  “Don’t use reviews for advertising or post the same or similar reviews across multiple places.”
  1.  “Picture perfect” - just pay a fee, do nothing, and five star reviews will somehow miraculously appear on your sites.  I believe the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Refer to all others above if you aren’t yet clear on how this is a definite “don’t.”

Now that you are fully versed on the tactics that could make you one with the Lord Voldemort, what now?  Well, it’s time to choose; sear the symbol of death on your digital arm, or join the “Order.”  Stay tuned for a new article installment on how to protect you and your dealership against the dark side for good.

Marc McGurren
Great article Beth! I whole heartedly agree on all 6 of your points. There is no "magic bullet". It takes total buy in and a solid process to make it happen! looking forward to next installment.
Jim Radogna
Great post Beth! The FTC has been quite active in enforcing these rules lately and several companies have been hit with six-figure fines. Car dealers are a favorite target of regulatory agencies and I feel it's only a matter of time before there's a high profile case against a dealership. The industry doesn't need another black eye.
Beth Latta
Thank you for the kudos, hope the next installment coming soon hits home too.
Jim Radogna
Looking forward to it!
Bryan Armstrong
Awesome article. Thanks for the post and timely reminders in a fun way!

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