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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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David Johnson

David Johnson Social Media Aficionado

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I was forwarded a blog post by a colleague of mine the other day, thank you Rob, it was titled The 3 Types Of Social Media Strategy, I encourage you to read it before reading this post, it is spot on! In summary, the author of the post, Tac Anderson, talks about 3 different types of social media strategies, they are:

Bolt On
 
Bolt on, or what I refer to as Phase 1, is where most businesses are. It's the stick your toes in the water form of social media strategy. Most auto dealers are here, they create a fan page on Facebook or sign up for a Twitter account with the intention of doing nothing more than talking about themselves. Of course, those that learn from their mistakes and start to see some success will move on from here but the only reason they are on social networks in the first place is because everybody else is.
 
Optimizing Social Media For Your Business
 
In this strategy you have clear decision makers and goals put into place. Certain people have certain responsibilities and you have the right resources allocated to optimize social media for your dealership. While this is a more advanced strategy and you have done some internal adjustments they are mostly tactical in nature and have nothing to do with the overall culture of the dealership.
 
Optimizing Your Business For Social Media
 
Tac Anderson says that this is "Holy Grail" of social media strategy and one that no business has yet to reach. He says, "A business strategy that is optimized for social media will use social technologies to build collaborative relationships across all company stakeholders." Stakeholders being customers, employees, shareholders, partners and competitors.

Optimizing Your Dealership

While the author states that there isn't any business that is optimized for social media I think it's one that, as an auto dealership, we need to take a closer look at. To better understand what I mean by that take a look at the current relationship the general public has with auto dealers. Lets face it, they hate us. We're the enemy, they loath having to go through the process of buying a car and break out in hives with the thought of having to deal with a car salesperson. While that last sentence may have been a little dramatic I think you get my point.

In order for a dealership to really use social media, and I'm not talking about the way it's used now, but in such a way that the entire culture of the dealership is one based on transparency and trust, then a huge cultural shift must occur. What that means is that the way auto dealers are doing business today goes against everything social media is.

We've heard it time and time again, auto dealers are late adopters of any new technology. But, it's this newest technology, social media and web 2.0, that is going to cause the most trouble. You see, it's not the technology itself that will cause the problems but the cultural shift behind it. Take away social networks, the internet and computers and you are left with people, in fact the ONLY reason why social networks are so huge is because it allows us to do what we've wanted all along and that to be social.

This shift in our culture is one that was started by and ran by people, not businesses. Any dealership that continues with the old ways of conducting itself runs the risk of becoming irrelevant. In order to stay relevant a dealership must have an equal shift in culture. Just take a look at Madonna and her ability to stay relevant for so long, how is she able to it? She does it by changing her style when the culture shifts, she understands that in order to stay on top that she must adapt or she runs the risk of dying, professionally that is.

Culture is constantly shifting, whats true and correct today wont necessarily be true and correct tomorrow. The challenge then is to be aware of, and understanding the moment when the shift happens. Because, if you don't, then you run the risk of being irrelevant. In fact, auto dealers have been irrelevant for a long time and the ONLY reason they are still in business is because the need for an automobile is so profound that it transcends the shift of culture. That's isn't to say auto dealerships are immune to the passage of time, quite the contrary, what that means is that because the need for an automobile is so powerful that people will put up with the "crap" only because they have to, trust me, if there were any other way, they would.

I know this post has gotten deep but it's in the value of knowing when the shift is occurring, where the forward thinking dealership can ride the shift and be part of the new dynamic. Simply put, it's time to change the way we think. It's time to change the normal, adversarial relationship we have with our customers and turn them into one built on mutual trust and respect.

Takeaway

If we are going to change and influence a new way of doing business then we have to change ourselves before we can ever influence the change that is needed. Always remember that you can't give what you don't have. In other words, embrace the chaos, embrace the changing times and adapt along with it. Imagine if yours is the dealership that optimizes themselves for social media, what do you think that would do for your business?

What do you think, what do auto dealers need to do to stay relevant?

It's important to take a careful and planned approach to social media. I am constantly saying "Listen, Engage, Influence" as my recommended approach. It's important to listen to consumer, then engage them in a way that you become PART of their conversation (be relevant, helpful, upfront), which in turn will help influence them. The two most common mistakes I see is trying to do too much without having a social strategy (start a blog, posting inventory feeds to social sites, etc.) and trying to control the conversation. People are social beings - they use these social sites to share opinions, get advice/recommendations, and share with friends.
David Johnson
So true. Too many dealers are getting into the tactical part of social media without having a strategy to direct them. This post was meant as more of a "get your thinking straight" sort of post, this is the kind of stuff that dealers need to think about before they run the risk of become extinct... past blog post! LOL
Stacy Mueller
David: First and foremost, good post! It's important for everyone...including dealers...to understand there has been a major sociological shift in purchasing behaviors and processes. Though I firmly believe that dealers should actively engage in social media, they shouldn't forget the importance of having a "hub". Therefore when the technologies change and social networks shift, the hub will still be in existence!
David Johnson
Thank you for the comment Missy! You're right, what dealers, and other business owners need to realize is that technology is the cause of the shift but not the reason behind it. When you first look at social media you think technology, but it goes much much deeper than that and as you look at WHY these tools were created in the first place you start to see the bigger picture. Thank you again Missy!

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