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Who do Americans trust more than car salespeople? Basically, everybody. Car salespeople are trusted slightly more than members of Congress, according to the latest Gallop poll ranking honesty and integrity among professionals. In contrast, the Edelman Trust Barometer shows that globally, the automotive industry falls just behind technology, which is the most trusted industry in the world.
People trust auto manufacturers but not those who sell their products. This is nothing new. If you compare both the Gallop and Edelman reports for the past several years, you’ll find similar results.
What are we doing about this discrepancy? Not much from what I can see.
If global campaigns controlled by manufacturers are not helping build trust at the dealer level (and apparently they’re not), it makes no sense for dealers to ignore relationship building to focus instead on gimmicky marketing tools and superficial messages. Yet what I observe on social media—the great cocktail party of the Web, where two-way symmetrical conversations are expected—looks like this:
These types of posts (particularly if they’re overused) are pretty much another way of saying, “Look how great we are!” To be blunt, vanity marketing is a turn-off, and therefore does nothing to build relationships in a venue full of people who are there because they expect conversations and entertainment. And when vanity marketing is presented in the same social space as ignored bad reviews and negative comments, the problem is compounded.
It’s time dealers become smart about relationship building through social business. It’s strategic with measurable and time-sensitive objectives that are based on business goals. And the technology you choose should be the last thing you consider. “Because all the cool kids are doing it” is not a good reason to use Facebook.
To get started strategically building relationships on the social Web, I recommend the POST method. It's not new, but it’s widely unknown to those outside the public relations profession. Here's the breakdown, but Google it to learn more. Forrester Research offers a decent explanation that goes into more detail than what I'm offering here.
P is for People
Know your key audiences. What are their behaviors and expectations on the social Web?
O is for Objectives
Do you hope to build relationships through customer support? By energizing them? Through collaboration?
S is for Strategy
This is where you determine specifically what you’d like to accomplish so you can measure results.
T is for Technology
Choose technology that’s best suited for your people, objectives and strategy. If you hope to energize your audience, for example, a traditional blog might not be the best choice. A more conversational tool would probably work better.
We can’t expect to say, “I’m trustworthy because I’m successful,” and build meaningful relationships to that end. We must plan, build engagement and measure results that matter. Let’s help customers get to know more about us than just the manufacturers we represent. I think the POST method can help.