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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.