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Eric Miltsch

Eric Miltsch President

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Exclusive Interview: GM Director of Social Media by Hugh Macken Live

You'll definitely want to tune into this exclusive interview with GM's Director of Social Media, Mary Henige.

The interview is courtesy of two highly respected marketing communications professionals Hugh Macken and Deirdre Breakenridge. Be sure to follow them on twitter & check out their blogs - top notch quality. (I had the pleasure of meeting Deidre last year at an RIT symposium where she delivered an excellent presentation) 

Listen to internet radio with Hugh Macken Live on Blog Talk Radio

Here's an excerpt of Hugh's blog post: 

Henige, a 25 – year corporate communications veteran at GM and award-winning corporate communications professional, outlined the company’s approach to social media as it relates to both internal and external stakeholders. In doing so she stressed the importance of an empowering corporate culture that has provided the foundation for strong levels of internal communication. It’s that internal communication and collaboration that have been key to GM’s recent social media successes according to Henige.

“It’s not magic,” said Henige. “What we do in social media is a lot of hard work, it’s engagement, it’s building relationships and that’s something that people in corporate communications and media relations are particularly skilled at doing.”

What struck me as most interesting was the willingness and ability of Henige and her counterparts in marketing to take a collaborative approach to social media rather than one based on a turf-war mentality.

What’s even more interesting to me is the nature of that collaborative relationship. Indeed, one of the most important roles of the social media team led by Henige in relation to social media appears to be that of a trusted internal social media consulting center of excellence.  According to Henige, ”Because we serve as a resource to our internal…colleagues, our expertise is sought after all the time.”

Citing GM’s sponsorship of the South by Southwest Conference as an example, Henige stressed that the collaboration between GM corporate communications and various departments within the divisional brands like Chevrolet have been key to GM’s success.

“Increased collaboration is the way that you win…[Responsibility for social media - related initiatives] should be shared. If you really want to do [social media-related initiatives] well, you need to leverage the expertise of each team…We’ve made great progress this last year.”

Read the entire post here

The collaborative efforts Mary spoke of are a vital key to any social program - especially given the size of an organization such as GM. The layers upon layers of people offer an endless supply of internal feedback, ideas and support when the concepts are positioned correctly. If a company with 32k employees can wrap their head around this strategy, why is it so difficult for dealerships with only 50 employees? 

We often talk about the disconnect between the OEM's and the dealerships, both new and used. I hope the success GM, and other manufacturers, can use this momentum to help push the boundaries of their collaboration to the dealership levels as well.

I often wanted the ability to reach out to the OEM's for an extra boost of relationship marketing to the used car buyer as well. Shopper loyalty doesn't just apply to the new car market. Brand loyalty can be created and retained at the used car level. How many times have we seen that loyal buyer who loves his Chevy Silverado and is perfectly happy buying used? Now imagine GM connecting with that segment all the way down to the independent dealer as well. Possible win-win-win for OEM's, franchises & independents. 

Lofty goal? Sure. But someone like Mary sure seems like she could tackle that task. 

Thanks again Hugh and Deidre!

What are you thoughts about GM's efforts and your experiences at the dealership level? 

Hugh Macken's Blog: VMR Communications

Deirdre Breakenridge's Website: DeirdeBreakenridge.com

Hugh Macken
Eric - Thanks for featuring this on your site! The issue of the disconnect between OEM's and dealers is an interesting topic. Pushing the collaboration to include the dealers is a brilliant way of describing the next frontier. I'd imagine that's on the radar for Mary's colleagues in marketing and PR at the brand level. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if they are making inroads already in this already. I'm curious as to what sort of joint OEM/dealer initiatives might arise? Can you give an actual or theoretical example of a joint campaign that might come out of such OEM/dealer collaboration? What social media platforms might be used for such a campaign? For example, Foursquare Day is coming up on April 16th. Could GM coordinate with dealers to encourage customers to check in at local dealers for special Four Square deals that could be unlocked? Is that the sort of campaign that would arise from such collaboration that you have in mind? How about more of a training-oriented initiative for the dealers teaching them the basics of inbound marketing best practices - which are closely linked to social media outreach. For example, how many dealers understand the importance of inbound links - often created by social media / blog mentions - and customer reviews - to search results in google? For kicks, I ran an inbound link report for an Austin Chevy dealer, Henna.com ( http://bit.ly/henna-il ) What's interesting to me are the blogs with high Domain Authority are helping Henna ranking higher in google when someone does a search for "Austin Chevrolet." And of course, GM.com links to Henna.com which helps them too. Do they realize that they'd rank even higher if they, for example, had more customers review their dealership online. In this example, even though Capital Chevrolet has a SEOMoz Domain Authority of 28, they rank higher than Henna.com - likely because Capital has had 14 Google customer reviews vs. 1 for Henna.com as you can see here: http://bit.ly/austinchevy-serp So I think explaining some of these concepts to dealers would be very helpful. I imagine GM and other OEMs offer this sort of training themselves or by way of vendor partners but I'd be curious to know the specifics of what they and are doing and what sort of help the dealers are looking for from OEMs.
Eric Miltsch
Hugh, Our pleasure, glad to have to this type content shared. A Foursquare Day promotion powered by GM is a wonderful example of how a campaign created at the top could trickle down to dealerships. I'd love to see something like this as I'm one of the biggest evangelist for LBS usage within the industry. This would obviously raise the awareness level of the platform to the dealers while creating more unique interactions for car shoppers. I've positioned Foursquare as another method of helping dealerships track foot traffic - a metric that is very difficult for many dealers to measure. The training issue and the specific activity and understanding of SEO best practices is also a hot topic among the community. We have a lot of excellent resources for dealership training, such as our our DrivingSales University (http://DrivingSalesUniversity.com) and vendors such as TK Carsites: http://www.drivingsales.com/ratings/products/tk-seo The issue of the SEO activities dealers can/can't do based on the OEM's expectations is a very hot topic indeed. Another great example of the disconnect between the layers. We'll definitely need to extend this conversation. Would love to hear from others here as well.
Hugh Macken
Correction: Henna actually has 55 customer reviews vs. Capitol's 13. So other factors in addition to # of customer of reviews are obviously affecting the relative rank order of these 2 sites. One factor that may help to explain the difference: user-experience. In May of last year, Google reminded webmasters to "focus on delivering the best possible USER EXPERIENCE [Hugh's emphasis] on your websites and not to focus too much on what they think are Google’s current ranking algorithms." (http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2011/05/more-guidance-on-building-high-quality.html) Some believe bounce rate and time-on-site metrics can be useful in quantitatively assessing U/E. Our example here seems to confirm this. According to Alexa (http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/capitolchevy.com), the bounce rate for CapitolChevrolet is a mere 8%. That means a mere 8% of visitors left the site after viewing only one page. That's quite good. Contrast that with 39.1% for Henna - not as good. (http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/henna.com) Also, average time on site for Capital is higher than that of Henna. No one knows the details behind how google's search ranking algorithm works but we certainly do have guidance from google (such as http://bit.ly/HW06Ne ) and general principles to go by based on analyses like these. Search is complex. There is no silver bullet. Are off-site social media - related links important? Yes! Listings from the OEM's website? Of course? Customer reviews? Yes! Low bounce rates? Most likely, yes. Dealers need to be clicking (no pun intended) on all cylinders. They - and their web design vendors - need all the help they can get. I think an initiative by a company like GM or one of its brands - like Chevy - to train - perhaps even setting up a formal training program for the dealers - would be a smart way forward - rooted in the dealer / OEM collaborative approach that Eric alludes to above. To be sure, such an initiative would require not only the expertise of communications professionals with the OEMs but also marketing professionals at the brand and corporate levels as well.
Dennis Galbraith
Great post! It's wonderful to hear from someone knowledgeable at the OEM level talk about things that matter to dealers. The social media audit was very interesting to me. My experiences with GM from 2003 to 2009 was a world of territorial bureaucracies. It sounds like social media has done a great deal to change that in the post-bankruptcy GM.

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