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Dealers Want to Spend More on Social Media, Willing to Sacrifice Traditional Media; Peer Recommendations and Ratings Critically Important in Vendor Selection

Las Vegas, Nevada  - DrivingSales (www.drivingsales.com), the auto industry's leading B2B social media platform and largest online community, today announced key findings from a recent study revealing social media's diverse and growing influence on the auto dealer industry.  Released at this week's inaugural DrivingSales Executive Summit in Las Vegas, the study proves that while dealers continue to embrace their website and SEO as their most critical marketing tools, social media is gaining in both importance and effectiveness as part of their marketing mix. Dealer respondents not only plan to boost their spend on social media as their marketing budgets increase, but many of those who have already undertaken social media initiatives report effective lead generation and overall positive ROI from their campaigns.  Furthermore, the study indicated that with the importance dealers place on peer recommendations and vendor ratings, auto-industry-focused, B2B social media sites are set to play an increasingly powerful role in their assessment and selection of vendors. "It's exciting to see dealers discovering the power of social media - not only as a critical tool for improving their business and vendor decisions, but as an effective and cost-efficient way to reach consumers, generate leads and enhance their marketing ROI," said DrivingSales.com Founder Jared Hamilton.  "The dealer industry has lagged others in adoption but as new social media technology specifically targeted to the auto industry continues to emerge, more and more dealers will adopt these new platforms as part of their marketing strategy. Social media is poised to become as much of an industry game-changer as the Internet was 13 years ago." The Dealership Marketing Study, the first in a series of surveys on dealership strategies and best practices, was deployed as part of DrivingSales' overall mission to provide dealers, dealership managers and other industry professionals with a vendor-neutral, online environment where they can collaborate, share and discover best practices, industry trends and news. Social Media Poised For Significant Dealer Spend Gains Study data around future dealer marketing budgets provided the most powerful indication that social media may have a very bright future: when survey-takers were asked which specific advertising options they would invest in if their budget was increased by 10% or more, social media ranked in the top three, following dealer websites and SEO. While 43% of those surveyed intend to hold steady on their marketing budgets over the next six months, 36% are planning an increase. The data suggests this bodes well for social media but, not surprisingly, the picture is not so pretty for traditional media, which is clearly waning in importance.  When asked to identify the first three media they would cut over the next six months (in the event of a 10% budget cut), print media ranked first, at 66% - followed by radio at 57% and television at 44%. Even more alarming for traditional media, over 40% of dealers surveyed no longer use television as an advertising medium. Additionally, over 88% rate their dealership websites as the marketing investment delivering the top ROI, and over one third of those who've adopted social media report they're experiencing a 'good' or 'excellent' return on investment.  Again, while dealers rank their websites as the most valuable source for generating sales leads, 56% reported that social media is a valuable source for generating leads from previous customers. B2B Social Media Poised to Play Increasingly Important Role in Vendor Selection The marketing study findings also reflect the increasing importance the dealer industry's adoption of B2B social media has - and will have - in their business and decisions. 60% reported that real-world customer ratings for dealer solutions now rate as the most important factor in their vendor selection, while 64% indicated that peer recommendations represented the #1 influence in their vendor choices. According to Hamilton, with more and more dealers turning to B2B social media sites like DrivingSales.com to help them make decisions on service providers, the real world evidence clearly indicates that B2B social media is impacting  how dealers make their vendor decisions, while dealer enthusiasm for consumer-focused marketing strategies continues to grow. "Seeing the enthusiastic response by dealer attendees to social media gurus Chris Brogan, Will Travis and Aaron Strout, among others, this week at the DrivingSales Executive Summit - and the number of fingertips tweeting on keyboards during the Summit - I think it is safe to say that dealer adoption of social media as part of their marketing mix is well on its way," concluded Hamilton. The DrivingSales Dealer Marketing Study was conducted over the past 6 weeks to provide a snapshot of dealer marketing spend and strategies to the DrivingSales community.  88% of respondents listed themselves as decision makers or decision influencers. To read realtime reports from the DrivingSales Executive Summit, visit (and join) the DrivingSales Automotive Twitter Directory at http://www.drivingsales.com/home/twitter or search #dses at Twitter.com. About DrivingSales DrivingSales.com (www.drivingsales.com) is the largest and premiere online community for the auto industry, where its thousands of members, including dealers, dealership managers, manufacturers, industry experts and vendors, collaborate and share best practices in a 20-group style setting. At DrivingSales, members create profiles and communicate with each other; build their networks and knowledgebase; share and rate proven strategies, and have access to relevant content contributed by fellow industry experts, including blogs, videos, interviews, a social news feed and more. Dealer members rate and review vendor products - sharing their experiences with the DrivingSales community - while vendors have the opportunity to provide feedback on reviews and showcase their products and services. DrivingSales was created and built from the ground up in 2003 by Jared Hamilton, a third generation auto dealer, as a private automotive business community to network his NADA Dealer Candidate Academy class.  The site opened nationally in 2008 and is the auto industry's leading social media custom platform. Media Contact: Melanie Webber (Melanie@mwebbcom.com), mWEBB Communications, (949) 307-1723

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