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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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David Johnson

David Johnson Social Media Aficionado

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Be honest, where is your dealership at with social media? Don't worry, this isn't a test and the only person that's going to know your answer is you. It's time, before you get too far down the road, to analyze what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong. Keep in mind that what's right or wrong for your market isn't necessarily what's right or wrong with another market. That being said I see a lot of dealers duplicating what they saw another dealer do in their dealer 20 group, with the hopes of duplicating some of the success the other dealer had.

I'm not saying this is a bad idea, but it may not be the BEST idea for you and your dealership. A lot of dealers start a fan page on Facebook or grab a Twitter account with the thought, "Let's see what happens." They are, in effect, putting the cart before the horse. They are choosing a platform before they design a strategy or even choose what their objectives are. What they aren't realizing is that they are limiting the scope of their creativity to that specific platform. How can you think out of the box if you've never explored what lies beyond its sides?

To see the value of social marketing you must first research your market, define your objectives, design a strategy, then find platforms that will aid you in reaching your objectives. In essence, finding the right platform is last, not first.

Below, you will find the three phases of dealership social maturity, which phase is your dealership in?

Phase 1: Platform-Oriented - This is the most common phase, its defined by a dealer that has a Facebook Page, a Twitter account, maybe a YouTube channel and is playing the 'wait and see' game. They are using new media the same way they used old media and that is as a one-way communication tool to talk about themselves, they have no real strategy, objectives or goals put into place.

Phase 2: Transitional - Dealers in this phase have had some luck with phase 1 and are starting to see the benefits of social marketing. They have begun to implement a few strategies here and there but aren't really following them 100%. The dealer in this phase has the "lets dip our toes in, the water looks nice" type of mentality but are still a ways off from seeing the true potential of adopting an iron clad social media strategy.

Phase 3: Strategy-Oriented - This dealer gets it. They understand the power of building social influence and adopted a strategy, they've even put specific people in place to ensure that it's carried out 100%. The dealer in phase 3 enjoys massive amounts of word of mouth advertising by building a loyal community around their brand, they employ both online and offline strategies and are only using social networking platforms to further their strategy, not the other way around.

I ask you again, where is your dealership at with social media?

Do you know everything there is to know about Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube? If so how are you getting your fans, followers, connections and subscribers to engage you, what are you doing to build community? I ask you these questions because they are all very important and ones that you should be able to answer on the spot.

I encourage you to challenge your strategy, or lack thereof, and ask yourself the tough questions. What can you do better to engage more people, where are the holes in your strategy, what can you do to build awareness around your brand?

Social media is more than a platform, social media is more than just Facebook, it's about networking on a massive scale, it's about word of mouth by the masses and for the masses. You can use it to get your community to help you market, you can even use it to work people into such a frenzied state surrounding your brand that they will even stop people, in the checkout line at Wal-Mart, when they hear the person in front of them talking about buying a car. Of course, the choice is yours, it's always been yours to make and whether or not you adopt it, this whole social media thing is only going to get bigger, the only question is, are you going to get bigger along with it?

David Johnson is the Digital Marketing Director for PersuasiveConcepts.com and Next Generation Dealer Services.

Jeff Cryder
David, Thank you for the post. What you’re describing is fundamentally the most important aspect of transitioning your dealership into a social media juggernaut. We as dealers need to move away from asking "what questions" and start asking "why questions" the difference being when you start to ask why questions, that's when you're talking strategy. What we need to ask ourselves is "why are we on Facebook or Twitter (you can input any social media channel)". Is it to gain brand awareness or to add transparency? If you cannot answer those questions for yourself, how do you expect your customers to do the same? We need to understand social media isn’t a tactic, it’s a philosophy. Once you treat it as a marketing tactic you will immediately lose your audience and will find yourself back at square one searching for answers.
David Johnson
Agreed. A lot of dealers look at it as a way to get their inventory on another site, they use social networks as an extension of their offline advertising and by doing so are missing the mark completely. To be truly successful with any social media strategy it must be woven into the very fabric of who the dealership truly is. But of course I'm just echoing what you said, thank you so much for the comment!
Jared Hamilton
I think the most important nugget of info here is "They (dealers) are choosing a platform before they design a strategy or even choose what their objectives are. What they aren't realizing is that they are limiting the scope of their creativity to that specific platform." Different web assets are best suited for certain results. Thus, just like a financial adviser recommends that you invest in real estate for certain reasons, stocks for certain reason and annuities for certain reasons (Different assets yield different TYPES of returns). So should a dealer choose to invest in different online assets depending on their goals as a dealership. Set your strategy, determine what you want out of it, how you are going to measure it, then get in and chose the platform best suited to achieve what you want.
David Johnson
Thank you for the comment Jared. Setting a concrete strategy IS the first, most important step to a successful social media campaign. A lot of dealers are saying that social media doesn't work for them because they haven't outlined clear objectives or even decided what metrics they are going to use to track it.
Jeff Cryder
I agree with both of your arguments that strategy is crucial for any success to be had. However before you even think strategy, you should start to become active on a variety of different social media channels. This will help you understand the in's and out's and the do's and don'ts of each one. But more importantly you’ll build a better understanding of how to effectively use each of those channels to facilitate your well thought-out & strategic social marketing campaigns.

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