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From: Jared Hamilton
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Lindsey Auguste and Dennis Galbraith

Lindsey Auguste and Dennis Galbraith Investigative Reporters

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Automotive Social Media: Influence vs. Action

Social media is an incredible platform of influence.  People’s opinions are more influenced by what their friend’s are saying and doing than what marketers are telling them to say or do.  This has never been more apparent in our own industry than through the recent research conducted by Dealer.com, in collaboration with DriverSide and GfK Automotive Research.

Opinions are one thing, but actions and considerations are what bring people into your store.  In essence, while social media has a dramatic potential to influence the car shopping and buying experience both positively and negatively, people are actually more influenced into action based off positive posts than negative ones.

It’s understandable why dealers would be nervous about the online conversation because it can go in any direction.  People can post anything under the sun about your cars or your store and their friends will read it and think twice about it.  The study showed that, of those who used social media in the shopping process, 61% said a favorable post would positively impact their opinion of a brand or vehicle, while 59% said critical post would negatively impact their opinions.  That’s a lot of influencing going on, both positively and otherwise.  Those percentage points increase when those posts are orienting toward your dealership in particular:  69% said a favorable post about a dealership would positively impact their opinion of it, while 61% said a critical post would negatively impact their opinions.   In other words, people’s opinions are equally influenced by what their peers say whether it’s a favorable or critical sentiment.  

                      

These stats give substantial reasoning for why dealers might be hesitant to engage in social media when people are so heavily influenced by what their peers are saying, both positively and negatively.   But the statistics for potentially influencing the car-shopping process are not equal to the actions that define the steps of that process.  People might have their opinions influenced, but how does it impact their actions or behaviors?  A definable action in the car-shopping process might be consideration:  Is the shopper considering a particular make or model vehicle, or are they considering purchasing one at your dealership?  The study demonstrates that of those who use social media while shopping, 41% said they actually saw a post that caused them to add a brand or model to their consideration; however, only 6% said they saw one that caused them to remove it.  That means people who use social media while shopping are almost 7 times more likely to include a vehicle model in their consideration set, as they are to remove it based on the opinions of their friends.  The same trend is even greater for dealerships in that people are almost 10 times more likely to include your dealership as a place of purchase than they are to disregard it (28% said they saw a post that caused them to add a dealership to their consideration, while only 3% saw a post that caused them to remove it).  Ten times!

                        

The benefits of participating with social media far outweigh the risk, as demonstrated by the research titled “The Rise of Loyalty, Advocacy, and Influence:  Social Media and the New Automotive Purchase Cycle.”   And with a little knowledge and know-how, maintaining that reputation online can take your store to a whole new level.   Don’t be afraid to jump into the conversation.  And if you’re of the group that sees the benefits, use this information to enlighten those around you.  You can’t argue the facts:  Social media isn’t just influential, it's even more (and more likely) positively actionable.

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We'd like to thank Dealer.com, DriverSide, and GfK Automotive for their research titled “The Rise of Loyalty, Advocacy, and Influence:  Social Media and the New Automotive Purchase Cycle.”  All graphs in this article are directly from the report, which you can find in full here.

Eric Miltsch
Thanks for expanding on this portion of the study Dennis & Lindsey. Knowing "...that people are almost 10 times more likely to include your dealership as a place of purchase than they are to disregard it..." leads to the next logical question: What's being done to ensure your dealership is even being considered in the 1st place?
Chris Costner
Great post Dennis & Lindsey. This study is huge. There is risk in anything but dealers need to get in the "social conversation" immediately. I think Eric's question is one everyone should be asking themselves, "What's being done to ensure your dealership is even being considered in the 1st place?"
Jim Bell
Very interesting stats. Thanks for sharing the info. Guess this will be something that we all will have to keep a pulse on in the years to come since it is so important and we as dealers all have to become engaged with the customer via social platforms.
Lindsey Auguste
Thanks, Eric. Excellent question. One could argue that, in addition to traditional marketing techniques, it is essential to get involved in the social conversation. They're happening out there whether dealers are in them or not, so by participating in them and getting involved, dealers have more opportunity to generate conversations and opportunities for those conversations to venture on to people's status bars and comments (where we see the action is). And as this section of the industry grows, so will dealership awareness among friends and friends of friends. What are you doing to be considered outside of the Facebook world?
Bryan Armstrong
"the next logical question: What's being done to ensure your dealership is even being considered in the 1st place?" I see many Dealers that will take photo's of their customers with their cars and post them to a variety of Social Networks. It is MUCH more effective if you get the customers phone from them, take a photo with it and have them tag your FB page in it. Even better is if they are on Foursquare or Yelp: check them in, take the photo, share to FB, Twitter etc. and rate all at the same time. Pushing customer testomonials at people will not produce the type of influence these polls suggest, but creative processes will.

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