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.