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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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Jared Hamilton

Jared Hamilton Founder - CEO

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Top Reasons You're not Seeing ROI from Your Social Pages

Dealerships across the country are jumping into social media, and that’s a good thing. However, as I talk to 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're not seeing ROI from social media, it's 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 easily, sharing only or mostly inventory and sale information. This is bad; in fact, it's 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, it's because your content is not worth engaging with.
 
Hint: Your dealership's fixed operations department is your greatest opportunity to engage customers on the social web.
2. Dealerships are looking for ROI in the wrong places.
 
There's an old saying that “unless you define what success is, you won't know when you've achieved it.” This is very true of social media: 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's how we judge our websites and other marketing efforts. Lead generation is not the primary benefit of social media, though, and we thus have to look in other places if we want to make our efforts pay off on paper.
 
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 and how much traffic your social activities are generating. This will also help you learn which content resonates well with your audience.  Let your other properties be the lead generation machines, and use the social web to stay in touch with customers and move them down the funnel as they become ready and click to visit your other properties.
 
Use social media sites to help you dominate 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 websites to the top of the search rankings. 
 
Use social media to connect with and create loyal customers.  Educate customers on how to get the most of their vehicles, connect with enthusiasts, and make your dealerships the hub of their experience with their vehicle. To judge your effectiveness here, watch your friend/follower numbers, and then use your CRM system to match them with how many return for service. 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, as well.
 
The social web is amazing. It mirrors the real world on the computer screen. Think of how you would represent your dealership at a social event, and then act that way online. Remember this 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 share them in the comments.
 
Stacy Mueller
@Jared, wonderful blog and quite thought provoking. Frankly, it appears from my interactions with the automotive industry professionals that many just aren’t used to NOT selling. But the suggestion provided by @Brian to have an inventory tab on FB is probably the best option, as it’s not intruding on their daily Facebook experience but available to those interested. Ideally, social media can be used to position a dealership as an industry expert, act as a real-time customer service forum, and educate customers and general public. Instead of the hard sell, dealers MUST think of ways to help customers and general public better understand the car buying process and how financing works, the reasons behind various service requirements, ways to enhance the driving experience, how to improve or better maintain their car and other types of insightful and useful tips. Tidbits about car care, maintenance, and driving tips are usually well received. Those topics are ENDLESS. The important thing is to remember - as @Brian mentioned - is patience and perhaps dealers need to alter the way they are measuring the ROI. I wrote a white paper a few months ago that may be helpful, please check it out and let me know your thoughts: http://www.fullcirclesolutions.com/downloads/hiddenlink.php
Eric Miltsch
Many dealers run the risk of simply creating the same run-of-the-mill page & which becomes the digital equivalent of the boring, ineffective weekend display ad in the newspaper. The average FB user goes into a new "user-mode" that is unlike their behavior on a typical website; think about your own usage - you're seeking fun, new, interactive things to click on, like, try-out, add to your page - you're not there to be sold the old way. (Why do you think Farmville's founders are wealthier than a small nation?) whatever you do, it needs to be different. Here's one small example of how I'm trying to mix it up - and it's got people asking questions: http://www.facebook.com/AuctionDirectUSA?v=app_331973405870&ref=ts
Gary May
Jared, Great post and one more in a very deliberate path that our valuable dealer base in the US can read. And then hopefully put into action. And the points made above by everyone adding are very valid. To understand social media's place in any retail you must look at how that business operates. Social media, while very natural to us as people that generally network, is very unnatural to the essence of automotive retail. This has been very evident since the mid-90's with everything from online pricing, invoices, listing of dealer "trunk" cash and other intentional transparencies that the dealerships (mostly) have despised. Everything is fought. Any item that shines a light into how dealers sell cars is frowned upon. This may sound off topic but it's not and I've known this from being in the industry for a mere 10 years. Not decades. And I'm not from a line of automotive superstars (my parents, in fact, hate dealerships because of how they've been treated over the years). Social media, as well as other associated activities, is an extension of your brand. Pure and simple. If you don't have a brand and experience that you'd tell EVERYONE about, social is probably not your cup of tea. Success is nearly always top down and if a store's management is not on board, you'll either have to be a renegade or deliberately ignore their frustration with being involved. There are a few missing points in section 2 about ROI. Social is about engagement. Yes, content is hard enough for dealers, especially when a lot of people in the "Internet" departments have a hard enough time with writing emails to customers (both timeliness and content). You have to be on your game in social media and not just for customer service opportunities. First is that engagement via the content shared and commented on DOES drive traffic no matter what part of the 'funnel' they're in (let alone the funnel concept has been blown apart in the past three years due to the social web). This means you have to look at your FB analytics, for example, to see how people are using your content before they even hit your website, if they do at all. Second is process including making sure you go out of your way to engage influencers. Erin made a great point about this. One, she has a process. Second, she looks at the person's profile (and likely how many friends they have) when inviting. And this is no different than what you need to do with the recommendation sites like Yelp, DealerRater, MyDealerReport and more. As a matter of a fact, social reviews are proving...proving...to deliver more leads than any other social media. Also, while I'm not suggesting that anyone and everyone becomes SEO experts, social media done right is part of the equation in dominating Google rank. Again, important to point out done right. And just because you get 2,000 fans doesn't necessarily mean you'll have your FB page show up on page 1 of Google. But with the right traffic, links, interaction, events and more, there is a good chance that you'll have one more portal or dealer fall off of GP1 when your social media does well. IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE Dealers, providers, vendors, consultants: PLEASE stop setting up friend pages. You MUST set up Fan pages. Number one, by having a business as a friend page, you're in violation of Facebook's Terms of Service/Use. Second, you don't get to have analytics/dashboard when you have a friend page. Third, you don't have as much control over the engagement with your page. The list is too long of other things to do and not do but please start with those. DON'T SET UP FRIEND PAGES FOR BUSINESSES!!!!!! (yes I'm yelling after being ignored for the most part of two years). SECOND IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE Because, as pointed out by everyone here, content is king it is important to remind everyone that there is nothing social about inventory, price or automation. If you have an API set up to feed inventory to your Twitter page, you might as well stop. If you have an API set up to post well-followed content into your Twitter page, you're part of the way there. If you don't answer mentions and important follows or take note of what people are commenting about, you might as well not use Twitter because, well, you're not being social. People that use social media, want to be social or are in consideration of using/interacting with your brand and will become social. Don't continue to make the mistakes that most dealerships are making today with not realizing the power, and potential for huge mistakes and misses, that social media not done right allows for. Too many dealers use automation for content, auto follow backs and retweets, get 10,000 followers and think that helps them. To use an oft used Twitter hashtag: #FAIL (if you don't know what a hashtag is and you're in social media, you definitely need to get help). And to Eric's point about people asking questions, that is what social media is all about folks. Stop trying to sell in social media. Stop ignoring opportunities in social media. Stop thinking by having some networks up that you're in social media. Use social media as a tool to drive consideration, retention and information. That is all.
Stacy Mueller
Love your comments Gary...so true. Especially about "Friend" vs. "Fan" Pages. Fan pages are the way to go. And they drive SEO! Missy
Brooke Jensen

Loving this discussion! A few things: has anyone read "The Conversion Code" by Chris Smith? AWESOME tips on using social (particularly Facebook) to do social selling the right way. And yes content is key...but dealers I know don't have time to create hundreds of whitepapers and videos for different consumers. That's why the best strategies tend to advertise specific pieces of content, even "salesy" content, to specific users on Facebook - like pet adoption events to pet lovers, military discounts to active military and veterans, and even particular types of vehicles to shoppers who are In-Market for those specific makes & models. But heads up: since Facebook's organic (unpaid) reach has gone down immensely since 2014, Page fans and Likes hardly impact your reach when it comes to getting your message seen - another likely reason for not being able to measure ROI! According to a study by Social&Ogilvy, Business Pages that had more than 500,000 Likes were only achieving an organic reach of 2%. Even if you had 10,000 FB fans, only 200 would see your posts! When it comes to your dealership FB Pages, your Business Page and your "salesly" content need to be very different entities. That's what Facebook advertising is for - so anything sales oriented sits behind-the-scenes, not on your Page (which should be culture and content driven) - and no, “Boosting posts” doesn’t count! Lastly, another quick comment regarding ROI...if you do decide to run paid ads, you can use Offline Conversion Events (what we call Sales Matchbacks over at Dealers United) to track actual vehicle sale attribution to every ad you run. This is extremely useful when running vehicle ads, so you can see which styles are getting the most VDP views & sales every month, and help you plan your floor accordingly. (More tips can be found on our blog: http://www.dealersunited.com/blog/category/social-media/)

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