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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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Jared Hamilton

Jared Hamilton Founder - CEO

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Dealerships across the country are jumping into Social Media, and that’s a good thing. However, as I talk dealers around the country many, perhaps even most, are not seeing any ROI from their facebook pages, twitter participation or any other social media assets. Chances are if you are not seeing ROI from social media it is due to one of two reasons:
 
1. Dealerships are not leveraging their social assets properly
 
The genesis of social media is user generated content, so naturally to be involved means that you need to join the communities where your customers are, or create your own destinations, and share quality content. This is a problem for dealerships because historically the only content dealerships have created are their marketing collaterals such as TV and Radio spots. 
 
Most dealerships are not geared up to be content producers so they do what comes easy, sharing inventory and sale information. This is bad, in fact, its akin to SPAM. Unless a customer is specifically looking for a used Dodge Durango, they don’t care that you just took one in on trade. Furthermore, when you broadcast every “super clean, low miles vehicle” that you take in on trade and nothing else, it becomes annoying and you will loose fans. Your dealership MUST learn to create content that customers want and need. Your success in social media is directly proportionate to your ability to create good content. Chances are if people are not engaging you in social media its because your content is not worth engaging.
 
Hint: Your dealership fixed operations is your greatest opportunity to engage customers in the social web.

2. Dealerships are looking for ROI in the wrong places.
 
There is an old saying that “unless you define what success is, you wont know when you have achieved it.” This is very true of social media and most dealers do not see social media ROI because they don’t know where to look. Often dealers simply look for leads generated directly from facebook or twitter, after all, that is how we judge our website and other marketing. Lead gen is not the primary benefit of social media and thus we have to look in other places if we want to make our efforts pay off on paper quickly.
 
Rather than looking at social media ONLY as a direct lead generator, look at its traffic value to your other properties. Use tracking URLs and analytics to see which how much traffic you are generating from your social activities. This will also help you learn which content resonates well with your audience.  Let your other properties be the lead generation machines, use the social web to stay in touch with customers and move them down the funnel as they are ready and click to visit your other properties.
 
Use social media sites to help you dominate the search engines by getting your profiles, blogs and ratings to rank well. In addition, use advanced SEO tools to track the value of the links you drop in social media back to your sites. Links on the web are like votes, and when done properly can help “vote” your other web sites to the top of the search rankings. 
 
Use social media to connect with and create loyal customers.  Educate the customers on how to get the most of their vehicles, connect with enthusiasts and make your dealerships the hub of their experience with their car. To judge your effectiveness here watch you friend/follower numbers and match them to how many return for service, based on your CRM system. Watch who shares your content with their followers and you can learn who your most influential customers are, then cater to these people and make it easy for them to share
 
The social web is amazing. It mirrors the real world on the computer screen. Think of how you would act at a social event, representing your dealership, and act that way online. Remember some VERY good advice from Seth Godin, “Revolutions are frightening because the new benefits often lag behind the old pain.” Social media is a revolution and it takes an investment of time to get through to the really good ROI. Start with the end in mind, execute your strategy to build quality content and be consistent it will pay off. 
 
I welcome your thoughts and additions... please add them in the comments.
Brian Pasch
@Jared You bring up a good point that car dealers do not have experience with content writing strategies that add value in social media. That would be a great webinar to run for members of DrivingSales.com to coach them how to write more effectively on blogs and social media sites. Let's get one setup! Secondly, posting car specials and individual inventory on your wall will turn off consumers who are looking to engage with the dealership. I find a nice balance is to add a Facebook Tab to your Fan Page that has a car inventory research tool available IF the consumer chooses to engage and shop inside of Facebook. An example of this concept can be found at http://www.facebook.com/Marlboro.Nissan?v=app_360836281011 . This is a clean way to have the dealership's inventory one-click away but not in their face or in the stream of content on the Wall. As these types of apps develop, Facebook Fan Pages will be multi-purpose and a significant sources to promote your brand and sell more cars. As you have stated, the key is to create the content, articles and commentary that makes people want to follow your posts and grow attached to your brand. Then it comes down to the basics of human interaction and communication.
VJ VJ
As I said just last week in my last WebEx seminar, Social Media (and it doesn't matter if we are talking about Twitter or Facebook here) will help these dealers, who see their Social marketing followers in the MIDLLE of the purchase funnel, and not at the end - the consumer all ready to make a deal. As we all (should) know the MIDDLE of the Funnel is when our possible prospect is in the mood to find out more about a product or service and uses the time to make her research and observation "whom to pick as TRUSTED vendor". In my opinion, and as Jared has stated absolutely right, the huge chance to convert an "opportunity" begins with a car dealers fixed operations. Show your potential, future what made you the No.1 go to service department in the city, who is frequently holding "free car clinics" every first Wednesday in a month and the customers are receiving free Technician advice how do change oil filters, tires, air filters and so on - and the best thing is, the parts you possible need to perform the just taught are ON SALE the same day, and beats the price of the in-town AutoZone store. These clinics also should be YouTube(d), tagged with the right keywords and also posted on your dealer's URL under the tab "do it yourself" or similar. This is valuable content is what Social Media Marketing si all about and you need to share on all your Social channels - it is active, informative, vibrant content which directly points the interested Social Media consumer into your direction or even better into your store. There are far more ideas and Tips I would love to share, and I promise I will with one of my next posts. Jared, Brian let's work together on the strategy for the next Bootcamp ;)
Erin Zaborac
I am currently an Internet Manager at a small rural GM dealership and we have really worked to make our Facebook page an itegral part of our marketing mix. We currently have over 750 fans, and while many are friends and family members of staffers, we actively invite our customers. I take the email address of each person who buys a car (and most who service with us) and I seacrh for them on Facebook. If they have a page, I use the "Share" button at the bottom of our dealership fan page to sent them a nice message inviting them to become a fan. I have sent hundreds of these and received only 1 message back from an unhappy customer. We try to post fun local events and specials, and have gotten a pretty good response. By no means do we expect to sell cars off Facebook, but I have found that the fans who have posted comments or pictures on our page are now loyal for life. That's just my two cents. You can't expect people to just stumble onto your fan page - you have to be active about inviting them,.
Brian Pasch
@Erin I agree...to grow your Facebook Fans requires innovation and hard work. That work will be rewarded over time...dealers just have to be patient and NOT measure results in terms on days or months.
David Johnson
Brian, you bring up a very valid point and is the reason, I believe, why most social media attempts by auto dealers end up going awry. Auto dealers are always thinking about the return they can make today, not what they can cultivate for future returns. Having said that, that's the reason why we are seeing so many abandoned social media attempts, with fan pages that get updated once a month if we're lucky, or twitter profiles that haven't been updated in months. Even if they are updated they fall into one of the two categories that Jared talks about in his post. Dealerships need to realize that social media isn't the big splash that they are looking for, rather the ripple that takes time to grow.

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